There are a million books out there about how to be happier, get more out of life, increase productivity, etc., and if I had to summarize them all for you it would be with 2 words: Carpe Diem, which is Latin for seize the day.

Most anxiety stems from worrying too much about the future, and depression from dwelling too much on the past, so try to spare yourself all this grief and just enjoy the moment!  Staying present takes effort, but with practice, it can be done, and when you get there try to pay attention to those special moments when certain life-changing opportunities arise, and then don’t freak out or psych yourself out, just go for it.

They say people benefit from real life examples that help illustrate various theories, so I’m going to share 8 significant moments in the last 30 years that changed my life completely, and it was all about being at the right place at the right time and then seizing the moment:

1. Gymnastics- At age 11, I happened to walk by the YMCA gym during a rhythmic gymnastics exhibition, and I was struck by the beauty of the ribbon and the dance movements.  I went home that night and begged my mother to let me enroll in their classes.  By age 18 when I retired from the sport, I was an Elite Class I national gymnast, ranked among the top 20 in the U.S.

2. Andover- At age 13, I was minding my own business in homeroom at JHS 185 in Queens when I got called down to the principal’s office.  There was a recruiter from the Oliver Scholars Program that wanted to meet with me about the possibility of a scholarship given my test scores, which had me at the top 10% for students in NYC, and the fact that I was a minority in honor roll.  Again, I went home and begged my mom to let me apply, and this is how I wound up with 3 free years of tuition at one of the country’s best private schools in New England.

3. Marriage- I came home from a year in Spain, and by chance met a man, who is 5 years older than me, in New York the summer before I was returning to finish my studies at Georgetown.  We stayed in touch, and 4 years later he became my husband.  We stayed together for 12 years and had a child together, and even though the marriage did not last, I am eternally grateful for all those years and our experiences together.

4. Legal Career- It was not until after I graduated from GW Law that I realized how much I really wanted to pursue a career in family law, and while I was awaiting my bar results and working at a general practice firm, I happened to write a letter to Robert Liotta, who was considered among the best DC divorce lawyers, requesting a meeting.  As soon as I got sworn in by the bar, I started working for him, and he became the best mentor I’ve ever had the last 15 years.

5. TV & Radio- I never dreamed of having my own tv show or doing radio for a year, and yet when these opportunities presented themselves, there was this strange feeling that came over me, and I just had to go with my gut.  It turns out, this was the best way for me to share my ideas about a kinder approach to family law on a much broader scale than ever before.  This week, I just aired my 50th tv episode, and most of the shows I’ve done related to my field are on Youtube, which can be viewed by anyone around the world.

6. Social media- I never intended to sign up for Linkedin, Twitter or become a blogger– but my friends all encouraged me to do so, and it turns out these have all become great ways for me to further share my ideas about healthy relationships, the challenges of dating, and work-life balance.  With over 900 contacts on Linked In, I’ve had some of my blogs go viral, with a very recent one about Top Ten Signs You Are Falling Out of Love reaching over 650 viewers.  I guess people like to know that I feel their pain.  Yes, indeed I do.

7. Finding Family- In Jan. 2011 I happened to find my uncle’s contact information, which was on a tiny business card that I’d been given 20 years ago.  I instantly tried the number on the card, and by an amazing act of grace, he happened to still work at the same place, and he agreed to help me reconnect with my father, who then flew to DC in Feb. 2011 to meet me.  Since then, I’ve been blessed with the love and warmth of this amazing extended family, and it is this part of my journey that has brought me such peace in the last few years.

8. Children’s Book- Gina the Gymnast was my son’s idea, and it would never have fully come together without my chance encounter of my co-author, Pia, who is a fellow Georgetown alumna.  We both volunteer a lot for our alma mater, and at a recent event I was sharing with her my frustration at all the challenges I was facing with the publishing world and finding an illustrator.  Having just gone through this herself with her own book, she agreed to help me, and this is the only way I was finally able to release the book last month.

I am eternally grateful to all those that helped me along the way the last 40 years.  No doubt, it has been a wild journey– especially the last few years, and let me be totally honest if someone had handed me the script 30 years ago and said this is the role we want you to play, I would have probably said “no way- it’s not possible.”  But by not focusing on the entire journey, and just taking baby steps each and every day, it’s all worked out okay.

Who knows what the future holds for any of us?  All I can tell you is that the hardest game to play is the one you have to play inside your own head– you have to psych yourself up for challenges and not allow yourself to wallow in self pity whenever you suffer a setback.  You need to learn to ride the waves yourself– it’s not something anyone can actually teach you despite all the great works out there.  Until you put the theory to practice, it’s all useless information.

Now go have some fun, and seize the day!

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.