Last week I turned 27…and let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite birthday of all time. This one probably was:
Of course, the army has something to do with that — Aaron’s been away at a training and we haven’t been able to speak, which is always just a bummer.
But honestly, that is whatever. It sucks. But, I’m used to it.
This time, it is something more than that.
I’m a planner and a perfectionist to a fault. And as I spent the last week reflecting on what it’s like to be another year closer to 30, I couldn’t help but feel I’ve fallen short of some life plans and goals I’ve set for myself. This inevitably led to sleepless nights, and lots of “black hole thinking” — you know, the kind of thinking where you literally get so lost in thought you don’t even know how you wound up there, or how to escape it?
I know we’ve all been there.
But all those hours of thinking and talking, and thinking and talking some more, I came to the expected conclusion: I may not be where I want to be, but I’m right where I need to be. And if I want or need to be somewhere else, I’m in total control of that.
Now, this wasn’t necessarily a revelation. But it did make me realize that even though I am not checking every box on my “life goal” list just yet — I have learned quite a bit along the way…and I think it is worth sharing.
So, here’s my top 27 things I’ve learned by 27.
1. Self-doubt is the quickest road to failure. There is power within you. You just need to believe in it. I first learned the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” from my high school AP English teacher, Mr. Trimmer, and have kept it close to my heart ever since. When you doubt yourself, you don’t give yourself the courage, power, and drive to succeed in life, at work, and in your relationships. Rather, you give yourself the power to fail.
2. The only person you should be in competition with is yourself. It’s okay to draw inspiration from the world around you, but don’t compare yourself daily to those around you. Not your co-workers. Not the girls you follow on Instagram. Not your siblings. There is only one YOU, so if you try to compete with outsiders, you’ll only feel self-doubt, and maybe a hint of jealousy. In that case, please re-read life lesson #1.
3. Life lessons #1 and #2 are difficult and need to be practiced daily. Unfortunately, self-love and satisfaction feel nearly impossible in a digital world saturated by admirable bodies, vacations, weddings, relationships, and even careers. I’ll be the first one to admit that I often compare my successes, achievements, and lifestyles to those around me (and of course, on social media). So, it is often a lot of work to focus on your goals, and how you can achieve them. But when you focus on you, you will feel a lot less overwhelmed.
4. Trust your gut. We always know the truth deep down. And in 27 years, my gut has never steered me wrong.
6. People always remember how you treated them. Treat them well. I promise you, there is never a reason to be mean to someone.
7. “Good-bye” is the one routine you’ll never get used to. Whether it happens suddenly, or you have plenty of time to mentally prepare…no matter how many times we say good-bye…no matter how routine it is for us…it never, ever gets easier.
8.When you rely on external sources to make you happy, you’ll never be happy. I spent a large chunk of my life depending on material things, as well as my friends, family and significant others to make me happy. And while of course those people (and things) can make you happy, and will absolutely make you happy throughout your life, it is much more important to be happy with yourself, because there will be moments throughout your life when only YOU are available to make YOU happy. And if you don’t know how to be happy in those lonely, quiet moments, life is going to feel a lot longer and harder.
9. Let the work speak for you. When you work hard, people notice. Your boss notices. Your significant other notices. The world notices. There is no need to announce it.
10. We all spend way too much time on our phones. Really though — how often have you accidentally ignored what someone was saying because you were scrolling through Instagram? Guilty (sorry Aaron). But, I’m working on it. And if you actually keep track of your use, you’ll find yourself thinking the same thing I am: “I wonder how much of my own life I waste admiring others’.”
11. Always check your grill, oven, and microwave before turning them on. Otherwise, you might accidentally light one of them on fire.
12. If you have to force it, it probably isn’t a good fit. The relationship. The friendship. The dress. The job. Hard work is one thing…forcing something to be that isn’t, is something totally different.
13. You determine your success. Not society. Have the baby when you’re ready. Get married when you’re ready. Forge your career at your own pace. Don’t less societal standards make you feel like you’re not far enough along. Your story has a different page one, and a different ending, than every other person in this world. And I think that’s pretty darn cool.
14. It’s better to have a few close friends than many acquaintances. In high school and college especially it feels like the more friends you have, the more you’re worth. Your network does not equal your net worth. It is so much more important to surround yourself with a few people who empower you, love you, support you and inspire you. (Hi, friends. you’re great!)
15. All relationships are work. Even the great ones. Even the amazing ones. Even the once-in-a-lifetime ones. They are all work. They take compromise. They take listening.
17. You put good in, you get good out. Into your body. Into your work. Into your life.
18. And likewise, you always feel better after a good cleanse. A juice cleanse. A people cleanse. Rid the toxins, baby. This is totally in your control.
19. Declare and foster traditions, even they’re simple. I remember when I was a kid, going to Blockbuster was an event. It was a weekly tradition. We didn’t sift through movies on Netflix until we fell asleep. We rushed to the store the day new releases came out. We got popcorn and sour straws. We cried when the VHS tape didn’t work. It’s little moments like that…that we remember…that we hold on to. So, make lots of traditions like that. Don’t replace them with convenience. You’ll be happy you did.
20. Your significant other can’t read your mind. So if you want pizza for dinner, say “I want pizza.” Or, on a more serious note, if something is upsetting you, express it. Communication is the foundation of every good relationship.
21. Save your money. Whether it is 10 months from now or 10 years from now, you’ll look back and say, “I’m glad I did the 401k,” not, “I’m glad I spent $138 on that Free People shirt I wore one time.”
22. Everyone should do yoga. Enough said. It is literally life-changing.
23. People will fall out of your life without any explanation. And sometimes without a single text. And sometimes they were your best friend for 10 years. Don’t chase them…and more importantly, don’t lose sleep over the “why.” Your energy is much too precious.
24. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Let people know they are loved by telling them, and of course, staying true to your word.
25. Moms are the best. Really though.
26. Time is the one currency we’ll never have enough of. Don’t waste it carelessly.
27. I’m still a work in progress. We’re all works in progress. And I’m putting in effort every day to absorb all the information, experiences, and lessons I can because change is a must.