"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years," said Abraham Lincoln.
This quote summarizes how I feel about my life as I approach 30 at the end of June. I should have died at the age of 23 following three massive seizures due to failing kidneys.
As I approach the fourth decade of my life, I can't help reflecting on the things I've learned so far.
Whenever we are about to celebrate a milestone birthday, many of us become reflective on the decade that we are about to close the chapter on.
Check out the top 15 things I've learned to date.
1. Treasure your true friends
The true friends that stick around throughout your life are yet but a handful. These are the people that you always turn to and are always there no matter what. When you're younger, you think you'll have dozens of friends but just give it time. Some of these people will move on to jobs, school, relationships or just become too busy for you. Life is about priorities.
2. Life is terribly short so love what you are doing
I spent the first three years of my twenties fighting for my life. I was diagnosed with Alports Symchrome when I was 4 years old, which meant I would someday need a new kidney. At the age of 16, my condition worsened and forced me to take medication and change my diet. Then at the age of 20, I started kidney dialysis every night for nine hours a night.
My condition got increasingly worse until I had three massive seizures one night in late November 2009. I was in a medically induced coma for five days and in hospital for 10 days. The doctors told my family that I may not survive and if I did, a kidney transplant may not be possible.
I should have died at 23, but I didn't. It was after this event that I started living my life to the fullest potential. I was attending a conservative evangelical church at the time but after this event I came out of the closet. I came to the realization that time is too short to be anything but entirely who you are.
My birthdays are largely made possible due to my kidney donor, Tanya Tait.
3. You will find love -- I did.
Sometimes in our 20s we question whether we will ever find true love. I grew comfortable being single but then I met my dream man. Now I'm marrying him next May. Don’t get too skeptical about love, seriously.
4. Life isn't black and white - you'll have grey decisions to make.
Shit will happen in life, deal with it and move on.
5. Actions speak volumes
People in your personal and professional life will say things but often actions speak louder than words.
6. Actually pursue your dreams
Your 20s is the time to pursue your dreams, make mistakes, and find out where you belong; so do it!
7. Health should be cherished
Never neglect your health because it is central to everything you do.
8. Whether you believe in God or not isn't the point, it's what you do with what you believe
Bono said recently said that his words may not impress but his actions will.
9. You will have to fight for everything you have
We want to hear that life is what we imagine it as kids but life is a fight that is worth it
10. You will have some monumentally terrible days but it all works out.
11. You will be scared but use that to motivate you.
12. Money will come and go but when you pursue what you love the money does come.
13. Happiness doesn't come from stuff but from experiences and giving.
14. Take the time to discover who you are. If you're younger than 26, you really don't know yet. Trust me.
15. Parents actually have important lessons to share with us.
I respect and value my parents opinion more now than I ever have because I finally recognize that they have more experience than I do. Imagine that! My mom - Debra Hauptman - she has taught me the values that I live everyday.
Birthdays should be a celebration of your life and what you're accomplished. I've made mistakes, I've had bumps in the road but now as I approach 30, I am more confident than ever that the best is yet to come.