Today I turned 27 on the 27th. I call this the “golden birthday”. I’m no expert on life, but I’ve thoughtfully written out some of the important lessons I’ve learned thus far. If you read to the end, I hope you’ll also share lessons you’ve learned over the years, or perhaps a lesson you’re currently learning.
ONE. Friendships change. Embrace the friendships that once were, and rest peacefully in what they are now. Hang onto the friendships that surpass time, distance and life changes. Those are the friends who will be there for the long haul.
TWO. Your relationships are extremely important and worth pouring into. When people are on their deathbed, they never say they wished they’d worked harder — they always wish they spent more time with loved ones. Your relationships are the biggest treasures you have and the more time and effort you invest, the more you will reap. (Oh, and call your parents whenever you think of it. They’re probably worried about you.)
THREE. Travel often while you can. Before you start a family, before your career gets in the way. Explore the world; spend your money on adventures rather than new clothes. When you start having kids the overseas adventures get harder. And when you’re 60, they aren’t the same. Buy that plane ticket to another country and stay up late partying with the locals. Immerse yourself in the world while you can.
FOUR. People will deceive you, cheat you, and often mislead you. Do right by them anyways. Revenge is not worth your energy and in the long run it taints your character.
FIVE. Your job isn’t everything. I worked at my previous job for four long years. And when I say long, I mean it literally took everything out of me. But your company won’t be crying at your funeral (and in fact, they may push you off the ledge), and your boss/company aren’t going to sacrifice themselves entirely for you, and you shouldn’t either. A job is just a job — an output of skill, an exercise of ability. Do your best, but that includes being your best. And there’s more to you than your job.
SIX. Getting fired doesn’t mean you failed. In fact, getting fired may be the best thing for you. I’m one of the only people my age who has navigated through the difficulties of applying for unemployment, and during this process I also learned that people aren’t always who you thought they were. Looking back, I was never going to quit my job no matter how much I wanted (or needed) to, out of fear of the unknown. Being fired opened up so many new doors and options, all of which I never would have stepped into if it wasn’t for the push of being let go.
SEVEN. Forgive frequently and often. Holding onto past grievances only hurts YOU.
EIGHT. Educate yourself about politics, starting closest to home. Your biggest influence starts with where you live. Get to know your city officials and learn more about the issues in your district, region, and state. Rather than only voting for president, make voting for your representatives a priority. Change starts from the ground up.
NINE. Adulting is hard. There will be days you have no idea how to adult. Why is health insurance so confusing? What is my ‘desired salary’? HOW DO I FILE TAXES? I learned none of this in almost two decades of school, but I’m sure glad I know the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.
TEN. Pouring a drink on someone will feel really validating. But you will also never be able to go back to that bar ever again. And not only will you look like a crazy b****, there may be some real-life consequences like dealing with the law. So decide whether or not it’s worth it and commit. (Secret — it’s not worth it).
ELEVEN. You are never 100% in control of situations, people or things. You are 100% in control of the way you think about situations, people and things. You control your behavior and reactions. You control how you feel. Choose to respond in grace, rather than negativity.
TWELVE. Flaking on people is not cool. Let someone know when you aren’t going to do something — even if it’s just because “you don’t want to.” Don’t bail on people last minute. It will always make them feel like shit and you don’t want to be responsible for that.
In a similar vein, don’t ignore texts or calls (hi, I’m the worst at this). Its frustrating when you’re waiting for someone to respond, especially when you know they’re by their phone all the time (who isn’t), and know it’s not dead (hello green vs. blue messages). Just respond. Stop causing people anxiety. On that note…
THIRTEEN. Put. Down. Your. Phone. Your phone isn’t a gateway to the world. Seriously. Try going without it for a day, an hour, or 30 minutes. Maybe work up to a day. Find out how much you miss when you’re looking at a screen all. freaking. day. One of my favorite things to do is to run errands without my phone. Even if my car breaks down, I know how to be resourceful. Going without your phone is FREEDOM.
FOURTEEN. Mental health shouldn’t be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. You go to the doctor if you have the flu, and you go to a doctor if you have depression. It’s not shameful, and medicine helps those who truly need it. Some days I think “if only people knew how many pills I have to take to function,” when really, why would that be a big deal? If it weren’t for medicine, and a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t be here today. Lately, I’ve struggled with anxiety on a daily basis. It’s not easy, but with the help of therapy and medicine, I can function in a semi-normal fashion. Get the help you need, don’t suffer in stoic silence.
FIFTEEN. It’s possible to love two people at once. But when you do, it brings a wealth of heartache for all involved. Just trust me on this — it never ends well.
SIXTEEN. Learn to say no. Say no to extra projects that don’t benefit you; to the person who calls you out of the blue for design work with a 3-day turnaround; to hanging out with friends on a Friday when you really just want to Netflix & chill (but literally chill). Saying no takes courage, but learning how and when to say “no” will keep you from spreading yourself too thin.
SEVENTEEN. Wear what you want. I have had the best jobs that allowed me to wear nike shorts and big t-shirts every day. I may look like a college kid, but if my clothing is comfortable, I feel better at the office. So again this year, I’ll be the 27-year-old wearing Nike shorts to work and I’ll laugh when people assume I’m 22. Wear what you want regardless of what others think.
EIGHTEEN. Pursue time with your parents while you can. This year I’ve come face-to-face with the reality that my parents are aging. Some of this has to do with retirement plans being put into place, but I have also realized how time is speeding up. My mom was in her mid-30s when she had me, so my parents have often been older. This means I may not have as much time with them as I’d like. As you age, your parents age as well — go figure. So get to know them. Record their stories. Invest in them. Call them and let them in on your day-to-day. It would mean the world to them.
NINETEEN. Don’t be a slave to money. If money wasn’t important, you wouldn’t be working 40+ hours a week. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys freedom and opportunity. Money also frees you from the stress and worry that comes with being poor. Start today. Start small if you have to. Learn everything you can about personal finance. Make saving and budgeting a priority.
TWENTY. Life is too short to say no to Taco Bell. Health and exercise are important, but just eat the crunch wrap if that’s what you want. Who cares.
TWENTY ONE. Listen to your mother. She’s almost always right. I hate admitting this. I actually HATE admitting when I’m wrong in general, but especially when it comes to my mom being right. Truth is, I don’t give my mom enough credit (do you?). She’s lived a whole life ahead of me, and 9/10 has been dead on about anything she’s given her opinion on (mostly unwanted opinions). She may need help setting up a Facebook account, but if she tells you to bring a jacket because it might get cold, listen to her. It will get cold. (mom - don’t let this go to your head)
TWENTY TWO. Remember the past fondly, but know time changes memories. We all wish we could relive some moment in our lives. I have frequently wished to reconnect with people from my past, sometimes ex-boyfriends or friends I was once close to. But after reconnecting, I realized once again why the relationship was severed in the first place. Your brain plays tricks with your memories. So if you choose to live in the past, which many of us do at times, we can’t move forward in a healthy way.
TWENTY THREE. Empathy is an important skill. I’ve heard the words “you feel too much” countless times during my life. And perhaps I do feel too much. But this year I learned more about myself and this whole “empathy” thing, and found out that my ability to absorb emotions from other people has a name — Empath. While being an empath is extremely rare, I now have a name for what I once considered as a negative part of my character. Learn to listen to others deeply, to try to feel and experience what they are going through, to let your feelings guide you when it’s appropriate.
TWENTY FOUR. The more we know about ourselves, the more power we have to behave better. We all have an infinite capacity for self-deception — countless unconscious ways we protect ourselves from pain, fear, uncertainty, and responsibility — often at the expense of others, and of ourselves. Frequent introspection can turn into self-indulgence, but by deepening our self-awareness we free ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.
TWENTY FIVE. Love freely and deeply. Love is always a risk, but a risk worth taking. Getting your heart broken or facing the loss of someone close comes with deep pain, but looking back on life no one wishes they would’ve loved less to avoid the pain. And if you feel as though you can’t go on and the pain is too strong — call your mom to take care of you and know this will pass. I promise.
TWENTY SIX. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. If a relationship is toxic or brings you down, it’s time to step away. You only have so much life to live, and it’s worth living alongside those who are life-giving, not life-taking.
TWENTY SEVEN. Always take the day off on your birthday. Or any day when you need some self-care. I celebrate my birthday by getting my nails done, picking up my free starbs, and doing things I wouldn’t normally do. So, take the day off work if you need it. Celebrate yourself when you feel worn out.