Leslie Hooper

All Things 37

This morning when I opened my eyes, I awoke as a 37 year-old woman. The photo attached is a picture of my unedited face taken just a few short weeks ago.

Photography by Justin Steele
Photography by Justin Steele

According to the pressures of society, the wrinkles beginning to take shape around my eyes, nose, and mouth should be horrifying and something that I’m ashamed of, but they’re not. They’re actually my favorite thing about this photo.

You see, 36 was a particularly gnarly year for me. I wrestled with a lot of hard decisions, both personally and professionally, that I couldn’t have seen coming.

Stuff like:

Walking away from a secure corporate career of ten years to go all-in on my coaching business, discovering a new love in jiu jitsu, dealing with emotions of inadequacy as my daughter decided she wanted to “see what life was like” living with her Dad and his family in Utah, helping my Mom piece her life back together after losing her home in the Baton Rouge flood, hiring both web design wizard, Slyvon Blanco, and business coach John Romaniello, and most recently uprooting my life and accepting a job offer working alongside Jordan Syatt in NYC.

And, let me tell you, all of this shit has been scary on some level.

Big life-changing decisions often are. Particularly when we throw all of our chips on the table, make a bet on ourselves, and let then let them fall where they may. Sink or swim; the outcome is completely on us.

The grey area of life can be a hard place to exist. So hard, in fact, that many people go their entire lives without accomplishing anything of significance to avoid the discomfort of the unknown.

Turning 37 might sound kinda old to some and kinda young to others, but to me — it feels just right. Like the comfort of slipping into an old familiar shoe, the older I get, the clearer my path comes into focus and the more enjoyable life becomes.

One of the most valuable lessons I really tried to embrace this year was the belief that I am responsible for everything that happens in my life…yes, everything. All of it. The good, the bad, the hurt, the pain, the accomplishments, and the failures.

Thinking of life in this way has freed me from feeling discouraged, and instead, allowed me to discover the true joy in navigating my own way.

When we take responsibility for everything that happens in our life, we no longer look to others or circumstances for our source of happiness. Every single day, we get to create our own.

Of course life will continue to throw punches, but how we decide to handle those hardships is completely up to us — duck and weave? Run away? Cry in the corner? Or, take the hit and continue throwing punches?

This year, I’ve tried really, really hard to embrace the hit, learn the lesson, and keep swinging.

But to be completely honest, I’ve never been one to fall victim to the mentality that life loses its luster as we age; that once we hit some arbitrary moment in time that somehow it loses its meaning or becomes less rewarding.

We’ve all heard the horrors of aging — aches, pains, lethargy, and in my case, banished to a life of lonely cat hoarding.

But we seldom hear anyone singing its praises.

So, today, on my 37th birthday, I am choosing to stay out of the darkness and embrace the joys of aging gracefully.

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