-Original post published on September 20, 2015-
Today is my birthday.
Back in high school, I decided on scary ages, a.k.a. ages at which I would objectively be old, and my life would officially begin ending. 27 was the first of those ages, and today I have met it head on.
But I was an idiot in high school. I don’t feel any older, and I’m in no way scared.
26 was a year full of successes and excitement, and as you age, those exciting things don’t end, they multiply. I still have lots of excitement ahead of me. In fact, I would argue, most of the more exciting things I will experience as a human being on this earth are still ahead of me. 27 is going to be an even better year than the last.
I know this will be true, because each year I learn something new, something that will make me happier, healthier, better, and every year after, I live that lesson.
For some people, it takes living through mistakes to learn, but in case you are one of those people, like me, who enjoys listening and learning from advice others give you, listen up. As Mary Schmich wrote and Baz Luhrman made famous, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”
Indulge me as I do just that.
27 Pieces of Advice from my 27th Year
- Wake up early enough to see the sunrise. It’s a sight most people don’t get to see, and among the most beautiful sights available to us. From there, the day is yours.
- Learn to ask for help without shame. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength.
- Be confident in yourself. In your life, you will have many cheerleaders on your side; however, you are the only cheerleader who will never quit your team. Treat yourself well, so you can keep your strength. Never stop cheering yourself on.
- Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Whether it is writing, singing, dancing, painting, playing an instrument, or reading… find something. Otherwise, you’ll waste half of your life bored, watching the same shows over and over again, and admiring “interesting people,” who are really just “passionate people.”
- Understand that learning never stops. If I had known this in high school, I would have tried a lot harder. Learning is not about getting a grade and moving on. It’s about questioning and applying, it’s about living. Learning never ever stops, embrace it.
- Let people know you appreciate them. You never know when someone will need to hear that, or even a simple “thank you,” and it takes little to no effort for you to do. You have no idea how many notes of appreciation I still have from people over the years, and I read them when I’ve had a bad day. If you can give someone that, why wouldn’t you?
- It’s okay to make mistakes. You learn faster when you make a mistake, because you create a memory with that information. Feel free to try and be wrong. Again, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
- Just as you should be passionate about something, try to be a huge, unapologetic nerd about something too. Do you think I ever feel bad about loving The Hunger Games or YA lit? Nope. I take pride in it. It’s a badge I wear every time I put on my mockingjay pin, and I love it. Think I’m weird for it? Oh well, it makes me happy, and that’s more important than what you think. That should be your thought process every time you second guess your nerdiness. Who cares what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy.
- Admit to your parents that they were right all those years. Growing up, you’re learning everything as you go. Your parents have already lived it and learned from it. When they tell you you can’t do something, listen. Chances are there is a story behind those words, and if there isn’t, I guarantee they are said out of love, not anger (even if the tone suggests otherwise).
- Study abroad. It is likely going to be the last chance you will have to live outside of the U.S., unless you’re very lucky. The U.S. is great, but leaving your comfort zone and entering into unknown territory awakens aspects of your personality you would have never dreamed existed before. It may even awaken a passion, as it did for me.
- Try to understand people before you judge them. I didn’t give a lot of really amazing, interesting, brilliant people a chance when I was in middle or high school, because they weren’t in the same cliques as me. Ignore those social boundaries and get to know as many people as you can. You will learn something new from each of them.
- Put your phone down. Or better yet, leave your phone at home. Sometimes you need to disconnect (says the girl posting on her blog). When I was studying abroad, I didn’t have an international cellphone. I use home phones and Skype to contact my friends, I made plans in advance, I took the time to talk to people and look at everything around me. Some days I wish I could go back to that, like how it was when I was growing up. Some days I miss having only a home phone, books, and dial up.
- Tell people what you want. Being an advocate for yourself and your dreams is crucial. A lot of people don’t do it, because they see it as a sign of entitlement or selfishness or greed. It’s not. Just as you are your own cheerleader, you must also be your own spokesperson. Besides, it’s more than likely that people will want to help you achieve your goals, but they can’t if you never express them.
- Treat your body well. I’m still learning to do this in many ways. It’s one of the things I hope to work toward doing better in the future if I want my bones and joints to all work still in 50 years.
- Become part of a community. Whether it is with a religious organization, a sports team, a club, or even a writing group, it’s important to have a support system around you. The older you get, the more you’re going to want this in your life, trust me. Start building it now.
- Save your money. You will be thankful you did. It may not seem appealing now, but trust me, it will when you’re older.
- Keep a notebook. Jot down anything in its pages, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer. It’s important to document your thoughts and your life. How else will you remember how awesome you were when you’re memory starts to fade?
- Speak up for yourself when you’ve been given the raw end of a deal. I never used to speak up for myself, because I didn’t want people to think I was a “bitch” or needy or high maintenance. I feel like women especially are so easily branded with one of those adjectives, but you can’t let those labels stop you from being treated fairly. Let the waiter know politely that they got your order wrong. Tell someone when you have been overcharged for something. Chances are they made a mistake and they will want to fix it for you. Don’t let fear stop you from letting them.
- Learn how to do nothing. Sometimes you need time by yourself to meditate or just relax. We are so quick to grab our phones or turn on the TV… stop. Just don’t do anything. Just sit and be. Not all the time, but every once and a while, be still.
- Be patient. They say good things come to those who wait, and they are right. Not everything is going to happen overnight. Work for goals, work for people, work for yourself, and soon, you’ll be glad you did.
- Never give up on something you truly want. I gave up on wanting to be an actress, but I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m thankful I did, because what I truly wanted for my life was to one day have a cute little home, a small family, and a group of close friends. With acting, I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of that sort of stability, because I would have to travel and I would have to work constantly to maintain my income and any benefits. I didn’t want that. I do want to be a great teacher and a published writer, and the more I work toward those dreams, the closer I get to reaching them.
- Learn self-discipline. You will accomplish more than you ever imagined was possible if you can only discipline yourself enough to stick to a plan or a schedule or a regimen. You may even find it energizes you, as it does for me.
- Help others. This can look different for everyone, but as long as you are spreading kindness, you’re repairing this earth and making it a better place to live. That’s what matters.
- Keep a clean house. It will reduce stress and allow you to do what you want in life, instead of furiously cleaning every time guests come over.
- Learn to work through anger by understanding its source. All anger comes from something else, something that you want from your life but aren’t getting, which makes you angry. You’re not really upset with your roommate about using your shampoo again without asking. You’re upset, because that action shows a lack of respect, and you want to be respected. Once you figure out that source, you can calm down, and have a real, productive conversation about it instead of an argument. It helps you realize what is most important in your life, so you can work toward it, and it helps strength your relationships with others. One of my friends taught me this one.
- Find a way to stay in touch with people, even if they are far away. I have loved many people in my life, and I have only been able to stay in contact with some of them. That is a huge regret of mine. We are able to remain so connected to each other nowadays, so find a way to use technology to your advantage. And don’t feel weird to be the one who reaches out after years… chances are if you’re reaching out, that people has missed you too.
- And finally, understand that you are on a journey that will last your whole life.Don’t feel upset if you’re not at the place you hoped you would be at your age, or if your journey took you on a detour. Everyone’s journey through life is different. Love yours. Be happy with the path you’ve chosen. There’s no turning back, so if you find yourself on a path you don’t like, cut through the forest to a different one, plant some flowers, find companions to join you on your journey. It is never too late to get to a station along your path, and it’s never too late to find a new path along the way. Just don’t stand there, looking back the way you came, and wishing you could start again. It won’t help. Move forward, make new goals, and find new adventures, appreciating everything around you on the way. Your journey is what you make it.
So there they are: my 27 pieces of advice, my 27 lessons learned.
Thank you for indulging me and for reading. You are among the many good things I have been blessed with in my 27 years. Your support has given me more strength than you can imagine.