I’ve looked forward to my 26th year with somewhat anticipation and trepidation that I’d be a lot more grounded in who I am. Having gone through twenty six glorious years of big changes and moments, I’m excited for what feels like is going to be an even better season of life simply because I know so much better now what I want and what’s important to me. Birthdays always put me in a reflective mood, and in an attempt to remember that I’m wiser now, here’s 26 things I’ve learned in 26 years.
1 | Everyone feels nervous and awkward around new people. Be the person to break the ice.
I know, I hate it, I start sweating thinking about it, but everyone will appreciate it and you will get better the more you try.
2 | No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.
I mean that as in don’t let what you think other people think about you decide what you do. In a lot of cases, everyone is so caught up in thinking about how others think of them that no one is actually thinking about each other- how you dress, what you buy, what kind of car you drive, how clean your room is, don’t do it for other people. The good ones don’t care about that stuff and stick by you no matter what.
3 | Success ultimately comes from maintaining good habits and routines.
It’s the daily somethings and nothings that get you where you want to go, everything from eating right, sticking to a schedule, exercising, being punctual, picking up after yourself, getting enough sleep, good manners, keeping promises, everything that makes you happy, productive, and cool to be around.
4 | My parents are cool.
I really should have known this all along, but in recent years I’m understanding more the advice they gave and the decisions they made, and feeling very grateful for it all.
5 | Be nice and expect nothing in return.
This is one of the best recipes for happiness. Give generously.
6 | Following your passion isn’t the end all be all.
It’s amazing if you can make your passion your job, but just because your job isn’t your passion doesn’t mean you’re not reaching your full potential, and just because your passion is your job doesn’t mean you’re impervious to bad days and self-doubt. Most things boil down to our circumstances and priorities, which are so personal and different for everyone. Don’t let the idea of “following your passion” doubt a life you are already happy with, but also make room to explore that side of you. And don’t let anyone convince you you’re not living your life if it isn’t dedicated to your passion, because it can be more complex than that.
7 | No matter how wronged I am, I will do everything I can to act right.
Even when I play out in my head punching someone in the face who did something mean to me, I end up happier knowing that I could let it go and move on. You can’t take back hurtful words or actions, so don’t recklessly throw them at people.
8 | Working out is SO much more than working out.
Four life lessons that exercising has taught me:
1. It’s hard and it sucks a lot sometimes, but it gets easier. The hardest part is staying consistent, but you will get stronger.
2. When past goals or benchmarks are no longer challenging you, set new ones.
3. You are more capable than you think.
4. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
9| Be curious, not judgmental.
Pointing fingers and criticising a situation you don’t know anything about doesn’t help anyone. Ask questions and prioritise trying to understand before anything else.
10 | You know that saying that goes like things don’t happen to you, you have to happen to things? It’s true.
I spent years of my early 20’s pouting about my life, dissatisfied with how things were going but I did nothing about it, so guess what? Nothing happened. I had this fantasy that someone or something would come and save me, that I’d get lucky and get catapulted on an exciting path, but what took me years to learn is that you have to go and do it yourself. It takes hard work, time, and some really, really shitty days, but if you believe in what you’re chasing and stick with it, you will get somewhere or at the very least, learn a lot about yourself.
11 | Everything you do is practice until it isn’t.
Always always always always always do your best, even if you don’t enjoy it.
12 | You can travel if you prioritise it, like anything else.
The details are different for everyone because obviously everyone’s situations and obstacles are different. For me this has meant planning at least one big yearly trip about 6-8 months in advance. In that time I research, save, and get affairs in order. Put in the effort to figure out what works for you because you NEED to give yourself time off, even if it’s a staycation (love those).
13 | Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish yours.
We need to stick together, lift each other up, and be happy for other people’s happiness. Jealousy is an unhealthy and ugly monster that is never beneficial and none of us need it.
14 | If you’re not sure what to order at a restaurant, ask the waiter for their favorites and always go with that.
This has never failed me, but I like being adventurous with food. Be adventurous with food!
15 | Surround yourself with positive people.
I’m hard enough on myself and don’t have any room for someone else to be hard on me in a negative way. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, especially people who have a way of bringing you down. Do not give them your time, and stay close to those who make you feel happy and supported.
16 | One of the best gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention.
It’s a fail-proof way to make them feel loved and important. Always strive to prioritise this.
17 | Record your life.
Photos, videos, journals, you don’t have to record everything to the point where you’re missing the moment, but have something you can look back on later and smile about. I’m thinking years from now it’ll be fun to look back on this list or really anything from this blog.
18 | Don’t hold grudges.
You don’t have to let that asshole back into your life, but you can forgive them and be cool. Grudges have a way of breeding other rotten feelings that are better to let go of. This isn’t the same as getting over it. Some things we may never get over, but the point is to not let it eat you.
19| Absolutely nothing is worth the price of your health or peace of mind.
Never ever sacrifice these things for anything. You can’t live without either of them.
20 | Please eat your vegetables.
I wish this one was more fun but I feel passionately about it. I’ve reached a point where I love and crave them, but it wasn’t always this way. There’s a moment of passage into adulthood when you accept that there are things you don’t want to do but you have to because the benefits far outweigh whatever your individual feelings about them are. Veggies are one of them (going to the dentist is another). They’re so so so good for you pleeeeeease don’t skip them!!
21 | Everything gets better once you stop trying to change yourself.
Isn’t it crazy to think that much of your younger life is about wishing you looked like or were someone else? Granted a lot of this is driven by trends, but I truly felt my own once I decided I’m not going to hide what I look like or who I am.
22 | Invest in good bedsheets.
You spend the most amount of time in closest proximity with your bedsheets, more than any other thing you own, for an activity that can single-handedly improve the quality of your life (sleep, we knew that, right?) They need to be comfortable, beautiful, and high quality. This is a necessary treat to yourself. We could also say this about mattresses, add that too.
23 | Never hold back a sincere compliment.
It makes both sides of the interaction happy and is always worth it.
24 | Friendships change and that’s ok.
High school especially defined friends as the people you talk and hang out with constantly all the time, but things change, geography gets in the way, and life makes it harder to continue making that kind of time for each other. It used to bum me out, but I needed to look at it differently. A lot of friendships have been fleeting, but I’ve also had the same handful of people I can reach out to any time and it will feel like nothing has changed between us no matter how long it has been since our last talk. That’s nothing to be sad about.
25| Open up.
You’re not burdening others with your story. I’ve found they usually want to hear it and even more, to be there for you.
26 | Speak up.
I have a small story that made me see the bigger picture on this. We’ve all had them – the traumatising haircut. At the time it looks great, until you get home and ball your eyes out because it’s not at all like the picture you showed them. I have a fear of speaking up, confrontation, and upsetting other people, to the point where I’d rather take on harm to myself. That haircut wasn’t cheap, I take it as a very serious treat for myself, and I was well within my right to tell them I didn’t like it. Like other things, we need to ask for what we want and express our expectations. It isn’t mean, it’s communication. It can also mean standing up for others who need our help, like maybe help a sister out if you see someone come out of the hairdresser with a pink perm!