10 Things You Should Know by the Time You Turn 25.
I remember the days when I knew for sure I’d have it all figured out by 25.
I’d have a husband, kids, a white picket fence, a retirement, and all of the stars would twinkle my name as I taught the rest of the world how it should be done. I would have bet my life that all of these monumental life milestones would have occurred by this date and time.
And here I am, on my 25th birthday, sitting alone in my room at my parent’s house, drinking wine and pretending it’s social drinking because I can hear my parents talking downstairs.
I thought by now I’d be certain of everything; however, I’m learning quickly to hold steadfast to the things I know, and openly accept the things that I don’t.
Here’s what I know:
1. Happiness is a choice: All too often we get stuck in this I’ll be happy when… mentality.
I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds.
I’ll be happy when he takes me back.
I’ll be happy when I get that job.
We set so much expectation on these future moments that haven’t even occurred yet that we fail to realize that we can be happy right now. Happiness isn’t a place where your skinny jeans fit and the dishwasher unloads itself. Happiness is a state of mind.
I’ve learned that I can choose to be happy even in the midst of all my troubles. I can choose to love myself, flaws and all, even when I don’t necessarily like what I’m seeing in the mirror at the moment. I can choose to step back, take a deep breath, and try again tomorrow.
I can choose happiness.
2. Life isn’t (ever) fair: If we spend our days worrying about situations that didn’t play out fairly, we will spend our entire lives worrying. I have learned very quickly that sometimes nice guys finish last, and everyone will deal with unfair situations at some point in their (everyday) life.
The point isn’t to ridicule the unfairness; the point is to focus on our reactions. We can’t determine how those around us behave, act, or even treat us. We can, however, determine our position in the matter and choose to handle a situation with maturity and dignity.
3. There’s no such thing as the right time: I have learned that if we wait until the time is right, we will spend our whole lives waiting.
Quitting the job, enrolling for classes, ending the relationship, chasing that dream we’ve placed on the back-burner for far too long — none of these things are going to happen unless we make the first move.
I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to our heads and our hearts. I’ve also learned that sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same, but we must do it anyway. The timing will never be just right. Do it now.
4. I am more than the shell I’m contained within: I spent many years attempting to perfect my shell. Weighing, obsessing, measuring, pinching, poking, prodding — the list goes on and on. I learned very quickly that the more I focused on my outsides, the more I neglected my insides.
I learned that the people who love me don’t care about the shell I’m contained within. I also learned that someone’s shell can be absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, but the inside doesn’t always match.
I also learned that looks, tan lines, and fashion trends fade, but inner beauty never goes out of style.
5. Being out of school does not justify me to stop learning: I’ve always loved school. In fact, I’m writing this as I near the end of my graduate school journey.
The past few months I’ve been having mini panic attacks when I think about the fact that I will no longer have anything to study for. The other day, my fears were calmed when I read the saying, Make the world your classroom.
Just because I am out of school does not mean I will stop learning, studying, and growing. Similarly, just because someone doesn’t have a formal education doesn’t mean they don’t have something to teach you.
I am a firm believer that every person, place, and situation has a story to tell and a lesson to teach. It’s up to us to decide what we take from it.
6. Material possessions do nothing but hold us down: I think one of the most liberating (yet terrifying) situations I’ve been in was when I decided I was going to condense my life down to what could fit in my VW Beetle and move to Arizona for graduate school.
I purged to the point of no return, packed up my small amount of belongings, and hit the road. I thought that getting rid of material things would be difficult, but it was actually one of the most freeing and liberating feelings I’ve ever experienced.
I know that someday I will settle down, and I’m sure I will acquire many more tangible items than what could fit in a Bug, but I will always be thankful for the experiences that taught me that the greatest things in life are not things, and that material stuff only weighs us down and holds us back.
7. It’s important to give attention to the significant few, not the insignificant many: Social media has changed all of us over the past few years, in both good ways and bad (hell, if it wasn’t for social media, you wouldn’t be reading my words right now.)
There are many aspects we can use to enrich our lives, grow our passions, and connect with like-minded individuals. There are also many parts of social media that can cause us to forget about the things that truly matter.
All too often I see a table full of people staring at their magical iPhone boxes and neglecting the fact that they have an opportunity to connect with the real world for once. I’ve fallen victim to this as well, and I’ve made it a conscious goal of mine to break the habit.
I’ve also seen so many people claim fame, thanks to a few click-happy fingers breaking a record number of likes. It’s nice to be known, but it’s more important to be nice.
To take time to connect with the people who were there long before social media stardom, and the people that would still exist in your life if your magical iPhone world suddenly exploded.
I’ve loved having the chance to connect with so many incredible people through online opportunities; however, it’s most important for me to make sure the people in my real-life, tangible world know that they still matter the most.
8. Living a life of extremes is easy, finding balance is the hard part: I used to think that extremists knew the ultimate act of self-control, but becoming one helped me learn that it’s actually the opposite.
I’ve learned that we must feed and nurture all aspects of ourselves in order to understand true balance and true fulfillment. I’ve also learned that balance is a made-up word that only exists in imaginary utopias. In fact, striving for balance can often result in another form of extremism.
I’ve learned that the most important thing is to be present, feel the directions in which I am being pulled, and allow my head and heart to make a harmonious decision of which aspect of my life needs to be fed.
9. We are all in this together: I have learned, over and over, that one of the most powerful connections is seen as a mirrored reflection within another.
The moment when you truly believe you’re going through something alone, and a voice on the other end of the phone/keyboard/coffee table remarks, You too? I thought I was the only one!
I’ve learned that women can build each other up or tear each other down, and I’ve also learned that if we all looked out for one another, there wouldn’t be nearly as much pain, suffering, and heartache.
I’ve also learned that pain, suffering, and heartache is inevitable, but that there is strength in numbers and sometimes sharing the load makes it a little more bearable.
I’ve learned that it isn’t weak to admit I need help, it isn’t strength to attempt to carry everything alone, and that, at the end of the day, we are all fighting the good fight just to survive this crazy world. Joining hands, hearts, and hopes makes the ride worthwhile.
10. My voice matters: Boy, if I’ve learned one thing over the past 25 years, it’s this. I think we’re all born writers; it just takes discovering your story (and voice) to find the words.
I lived for 20 years of my life with my voice buried deep within a backpack that I lugged around everywhere I went. It wasn’t until I allowed the aching words to escape my body that I realized the power my story held.
Memories from my past clawed my insides until I cried tears of crimson blood, threw rocks at my window at 3 in the morning, and weighed me down until I couldn’t help but fall to my knees.
I never knew something that used to drag me down to the depths of hell could lift me higher than I’ve ever been before, but that’s what putting words to my story did almost instantaneously the moment I discovered my voice.
Sometimes it’s a whisper and sometimes it’s a roar, but it’s there. It’s always there.
If you would have asked me ten, five, or even probably a single year ago, I would have told you that by this time today, I would have it all figured out.
I’m learning that we don’t always get what we want,
but I’m also learning that we almost always end up receiving so much more.
Cheers to 25.