It’s the eve of my 35th birthday, so I’ve been taking a moment tonight to reflect on the last twelve months, but also on the three and half decades that have passed since I made my entrance into the world back in 1981. It’s kind of my birthday ritual – I always get very reflective at this time each year. I think that’s what birthdays really are for; a chance to stop and take stock of where you’ve been and ponder where you’d next like to go.
I found a book of old photos in my garage yesterday, so I’ve been sifting through them all and taking a walk down memory lane. In amongst the piles of photographs, I found this one of me and my Mum, taken when I was just a few weeks old. It spins me out to realise that Mum was ten years younger than I am now when this photograph was taken; a new mother holding might grow up to be. It’s a strange feeling looking at the image of that little baby in my Mother’s arms and knowing that child is me. I look so tiny, so helpless, so innocent. Times really have changed!
Seeing this photo got me thinking about the enormous influence my mother has had on me over the last 35 years, and the way she has carried me through so many difficult chapters of my life, just like she is carrying me in that photograph. In so many ways, Mum laid down her life time and time again so that I could have what I needed to prosper and succeed. She was my stepping stone; all the wisdom she had attained in her life she offered freely to me so that I could “stand on her shoulders” so to speak, and go further, climb higher, reach farther… Everything I am, all that I have achieved, everything I have done, it all was made possible because I was lucky enough to have a Mother who was willing to allow her life to be my stepping stone.
I realise that this milestone I’m about to celebrate tomorrow is not really just about me. It’s about all of the people in my life who – like my mother – allowed their life to be my stepping stone. Those who allowed me to stand on their shoulders, and borrow their platform as a jumping off point for my own success. When I blow out the candles tomorrow, I’ll be thinking about them. I’ll be celebrating them.
But in an even bigger way, I realise that the measure of how I judge success in my own life has nothing to do with how many dollars I’ve earned, or how many houses I’ve bought, or cars I’ve owned, or anything like that. When I look back and reflect on my life, I’m starting to judge my success by how many people have been able to use my life as their stepping stone. How many people have I helped? How many people have I allowed to learn from my life so that they can go on and do better, strive harder, climb higher and win bigger? It’s not about what I’ve managed to gather for myself in the last 35 years, but more what I have given away. When I look back over the last year, and over all the years of my life, I’m choosing to measure my worth by how many people I have allowed to stand on my shoulders so they can reach upwards to their own success. When they win, I win too. I share in that success. That’s the joy of being a stepping stone.
So while tomorrow the candles on that cake may appear to be for me, I’m going to be blowing them out in honour of my stepping stones – good people like my Mum, without whom I would never have become who I am, and would never have done the things I have done.
Here’s to the stepping stones – may we have them, and may we become them.