This fall, I am turning 26 years old. I’m more than halfway through my twenties. How is that even possible?!
While I’m freaking out just a teeny bit, I have to admit that I’ve learned more in the last year than I have at any other age.
I want to make the rest of my twenties the best yet. So I’ve been reflecting on what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, and what I still don’t have an effing clue about.
I’m here to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with you guys. Yes, some are obvious, but it’s a pretty amazing feeling to finally reach these epiphanies on your own. I know I have so much more to learn, and that I’ll still be working on these lessons in the years to come, but the best part is that I’m ready for them.
So, second half of my twenties:
Bring it on.
Lessons from my 25th Year
- Say yes & figure it out afterwards
- This has been a particularly difficult one for me. I love plans. I prefer a verrry long heads-up before doing anything. I worry…a lot. But I am proud to say that I’ve become so much more spontaneous lately. Am I going to leave my life behind and hike the Pacific Crest Trail like Cheryl Strayed in Wild? Hell, no. But I am saying yes more often—to weeknight adventures with friends, to hopping on a train to the city, to booking that weekend trip, to going on dates with strangers. Tina Fey was onto something when she said “say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” It’s true…you will always figure it out. You may need to take a nap after work or grab an extra babysitting shift to make up for saying yes, but it’s always figure-out-able.
- You know just as much as anyone else (and sometimes more)
- In my first year of corporate work life, this was a big one. There are always going to be a lot of people “above you.” In status, in pay-grade, in age, you name it. But none of those labels, real or imagined, mean that these people are above you in intelligence or decision-making. In fact, a lot of them seem to really suck in those areas. We spend most of our lives being told to take the word of our teachers, parents, and elders as the word of God. So it’s a really weird feeling to step out of that environment and realize, wait a minute, I’m actually smarter than this person. In fact, this person is dead wrong! So my advice? Follow your instincts. They’re usually right, no matter what ‘big-wig’ is trying to tell you otherwise.
- Not everyone deserves your time
- Ahhh, the lesson that keeps on giving. I think I’ve touched on this before in different blog posts, but I’ve always had trouble removing people from my life. Even when they treat me poorly, I tend to let people back into my life over and over…and over. I’m finally changing that, though. I’ve realized that letting go of these negative people isn’t actually all that hard. You don’t need to have a “talk” with them and literally cut them out of your life. All you need to do is let time take its course. Don’t put effort in to keep the friendship or relationship alive when they aren’t doing the same. There are so many amazing people in my life that I’ve realized I don’t want to waste time on the mediocre ones.
- Stick up for yourself
- No. Matter. What. I’ve always been pretty good at this, actually, but I’ve definitely gotten much more vocal. I stick up for myself to friends when it’d be easier to let things slide. I stick up for myself to strangers that try to take advantage of me. And I stick up for myself at work, even to people that are way higher up than I am. It doesn’t matter who you’re dealing with—if you’re not being treated the way you should be, you have every right to vocalize that. In fact, you actually have a duty to yourself.
- Say what you feel
- This piggybacks on the previous lesson, but goes even further. I have always had strong opinions, but I haven’t always vocalized them. The “new me” took that and ran 1748 miles away and did a 360 degree turn in the process. Basically, I say a lot. I’m sure this is much to some people’s chagrin, but I don’t really care. If I have something to say, I’m going to say it. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly. (And oftentimes it’s good! I swear!) One of my favorite quotes by Madeleine Albright sums it up: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”
- Confrontation is sometimes necessary
- One of my biggest fears growing up? Not monsters under the bed. Confrontation. Gosh, the thought of it makes me nauseous. And although I’ve realized it’s a necessary part of life sometimes, it’s still hard for me. But if it’s ultimately going to help you or someone else, it needs to be done. I’ve had to confront friends about the way their boyfriends treat them. I’ve had to confront bosses about work issues. I’ve had to confront guys I’ve dated about WTF they’re doing. And honestly? I haven’t regretted one confrontation yet.
- Here’s another one I’ve talked to you guys about before. I know this is something I’ll be working on for my whole life, and I know tons of people are in the same boat. I’m talking about loving and accepting both my physical appearance and my inner self: all of my flaws and quirks, including the ones you can’t see. I’m working on it, though. I’ve realized that the people who love me do so because of everything I’m made up of. They embrace my eccentricities. So I just keep reminding myself that my weird ticks of OCD and my panic attacks aren’t preventing me from being loved. Nor are my scars and bruises from my insulin pump and my extra rolls of pudge. If I realize that I am lovable, other people will follow.
- It’s ok to love being alone
- I fully admit it. I LOVE being alone. This always shocks some people, because I’m so cheery and talkative most of the time. But in order to be that way, I need to recharge. Often. I need full days of not interacting with anyone but my bed. I need to sit on the floor and read, or frolic around town with my headphones in. I need to go to museums by myself sometimes. And none of this makes me a loner. It just makes me human! Never feel bad about spending time with yourself.
- It’s ok to be sad…and ok to admit it
- You’re not going to be ok all the time. And that, in itself, is ok. We are humans. Humans get sad. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes I feel like I’m on top of the world and life is just the way I want it…but the next day I feel lost and alone and unsure what the hell I’m doing. Most of the time, my sadness doesn’t even have a specific trigger. I just feel sad. But that’s part of life. You can’t enjoy the ups without experiencing some downs. I know that’s cliché, but clichés exist for a reason!
- It’s ok to cry…even at work
- Yup, I’ve done it. This past winter, there was some work drama and I sobbed. For quite a while. In front of people. Was I fired? Nope. Does anyone look at me differently because of it? Nope. Again, I am HUMAN. Humans cry in life. You spend most of your life at work. Do the math, people! Why is crying so frowned upon, especially in the workplace? One of the senior leaders on my team came up to me and said that my tears showed him how passionate I am about my job, and he respected that I let my feelings show. Now, I’m not suggesting you spontaneously cry over an ex-boyfriend or a deleted file, but when things go really freaking wrong, a good cry can work wonders.
- Being irresponsible can be good for your health
- Sorry, Mom! Just kidding. “Irresponsible” to me is going out on weeknights or agreeing to “one more drink.” I’m not talking unsafe, risky behaviors here, ok? But being wound so tight all the time is not good for your health. I can speak to that firsthand. Sometimes, you have to procrastinate that pile of laundry and that list of groceries for another day. I promise, it’ll all still be there when you return from having fun. If you don’t let loose every once in a while, your springs might just break.
- No one else has their shit together, either
- For real. No one. Spoiler alert: the people that seem like they have everything figured out really don’t. We’re all just trying to figure this life out as it goes. No matter how old we are, what our careers look like, how epic our social lives are…none of us have it all together. And oddly enough, that’s a beautiful thing.
- Being sensitive is a good thing
- I mean, I already admitted that I sobbed at work. So you probably deduced that I’m a bit sensitive. Ok, maybe a lot. I’m an emotional person. It’s like all of the normal feelings people have are heightened before they reach my brain. I let other people’s problems affect me really deeply. If empathy were a feeling that could be measured monetarily, I’d be a billionaire. Is being sensitive the most convenient thing? No. But it is a good thing. I think it’s the opposite of being weak; I think it’s pretty darn brave to feel everything so deeply. A few months ago, I texted my mom that I was embarrassed how quickly I had let myself fall for a boy. Her response will always stick with me. She said: “You can be sad, sure. But embarrassed? Never. You have a huge heart, and someone is going to appreciate that someday.” Moms really do know best, don’t they?
What lessons have you learned this year? I wanna hear!