As my countdown begins with only a few days left before my 40th birthday, I cannot help but look back at the past decade in awe at how much changed in my life during the last ten years. Among the many things I learned, here are some of the most important ones:

(1) Don’t make work your entire focus in life. I did for many years, but law firm life is not all that I imagined it would be at my level– each attorney needs to be prepared to understand the business of law, marketing, and find a way to make it rain. Rarely do firms care about the individual human being, they are mostly just focused on the bottom line. Competition is tougher than ever, and the pressures are immense. It is no doubt a survival of the fittest mentality out there in the shark tank. Harsh realities, but true, and I now understand why over 40% will leave private practice. So here is my bottom line- take care of yourself. Do not pour your heart and soul into one single endeavor. Enjoy other aspects of life, which will yield you a far greater return on your investment of time.

(2) Becoming a parent can completely transform someone. I finally learned through my son about unconditional love. The gift of parenthood has taught me more than any other experience in life. Taking on the task of being someone’s protector and teacher is an amazing responsibility, but when you see your efforts payoff it is the greatest reward you will ever have in life.

(3) Don’t lose sight of what really matters. There are many fun things to entertain us out there– and I definitely enjoyed many wonderful trips, shows, restaurants, etc. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone that truly cares about me cares about the car I drive, the clothes I wear, or where I live. These material things do not define me– not at all. Furthermore, it is impossible to please everyone, so just make sure you are happy with your own choices. That has truly been the most liberating ephiphany ever.

(4) Things will not always work according to plan.  Sometimes you have to let your plans go to live the life you are destined to have. I never wanted to be a divorced, single mother, but I have learned so much as a result and found an inner strength I never would have otherwise discovered. I also was not planning to become a blogger or social media star, yet somehow I fell into this specialty, and as a result now have my own tv show and frequently get to comment on radio and other media sources. The ability to share ideas and influence others is an incredible honor that I never anticipated having at this stage of the game. Finally, I never intended to reunite with my father and his entire side of my family, but miraculously it has happened, and the joy of being with them is beyond anything I can describe.

(5) Friends will come and go. Some will just enter your life for a season; some will cross paths with you for a specific reasons, but very, very few will ever be life long friends. Those that can’t deal with disappointment or have unrealistic expectations will fade out fast– don’t take it personally. We have such limited time, and we all have to focus on our priorities. In our 30’s and 40’s most of us are focused on our careers and kids, which consume an incredible amount of time, leaving little room for much else. We need to be secure in our relationships, even if we may not see our loved ones often– and this further emphasizes why I believe you need to marry your best friend. If you are going to live and die with one person by your side, make sure you have chosen that person wisely.

Ultimately, the things I did not get to do in my 20’s, I more than made up for in my 30’s. It has been quite a ride, and I want to thank everyone that played a part in it– particularly those who stuck around through BOTH the highs and lows. Not sure what the next decade will bring, but at least the blinders are off, and I’m going in with a clearer and more open mind, together with a heart with an expanded capacity to forgive and love.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.