Today I turned 35, which could be considered a milestone birthday in some ways. Depends on who you ask, I suppose. (Many women consider it to be, and if you’re not sure why that is, ask one and prepare for an earful!)
I’m honestly quite happy to be spending it in a low-key, comfortable environment this year, and I don’t have really any negative feelings about turning another year older. That’s the thing: you realize as time goes by that you’re less bothered by the number or the years that go by if you’re really living your life in the most authentic way you can while squeezing as much joy out of it as is possible. Isn’t that what this is all about?
Anyway, here’s a list of 35 things I’ve learned along the way. I just wrote these out as they came to me, and are in no special order. Some random tidbits from me to you. Enjoy!
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
2. Bananas are better cold. Don’t believe me? Take a just-almost-ripe banana, throw that guy in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy it at breakfast the next day. Delightful.
3. Always pack one more pair of underwear and one more pair of socks than you think you’ll need.
4. Learn the difference between ‘wisdom’ and ‘life experience’. Sometimes they’re the same thing. Sometimes they’re not.
5. Life is uncertain: always bring snacks. Ain’t nobody got time for the hangries.
6. Go to the bathroom if you have the opportunity, even if you don’t think you have to go. You might surprise yourself (and thank yourself later!)
7. Your family is yours, and nothing can change that, for better or for worse. Love your family unconditionally. Chances are you’ll need some unconditional love at some point.
8. Be a good friend. Show up, pay attention, listen, celebrate their victories and cry with them over their losses. Invest in your friendships, for they pay huge dividends over time.
9. Good bras that are in your proper (read: professionally fitted) size are absolutely worth the money. It helps your posture and makes everything you wear look that much better.
10. Work hard for what you want, but don’t forget to be grateful for what you have.
11. Drama: great for TV, awful for relationships. Just say NO to on-again, off-again, fiery, yelling into the phone, knock-down, drag-out fights and crazy passionate make-ups. It’s just not healthy for anyone.
12. Brand loyalty is pretty ridiculous. That brand cares nothing about you. Shop around. Keep your research going and your options open.
13. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
14. Inaction can speak much louder than action.
15. Saying “no” is hard, but it gets easy over time and with practice.
16. Empathy is also something that requires practice.
17. Getting older isn’t the tragedy I thought it was when I was younger. In fact, it’s really a lot of fun.
18. Life is too short to be miserable at work. Or miserable at all. If you’re unhappy with your circumstances, start taking steps towards positive change.
19. It’s OK to say no to the cake/pie/candy/whatever junk food is being offered. You’ll eat it again some time, I guarantee it.
20. On the other hand, having cake for breakfast every once in a blue moon never hurt anyone.
21. Start saving for retirement early. It’s easy to think of retirement as some practically nonexistent destination in your twenties, but you’ll sure be glad you started saving back then when the time to retire gets closer.
22. Have a hobby. Any hobby. Meet people and go places through that hobby.
23. Never stop learning new things. Read, do puzzles, talk to new people… keep your brain plastic and moving.
24. Don’t wait to start getting serious about diet and exercise. Good habits that are formed when you’re younger will stick with you as you age.
25. Go to bed. Nothing good ever happens after midnight anyway.
26. Mail paper letters and cards. It’s a cathartic, almost meditative activity, and the recipient will be just delighted to get something in the mail from you. Win/win!
27. Change is inevitable: you can embrace it or you can run from it, but it’s going to happen anyway.
28. Keep up to date on things like regular wellness checks, dentist appointments, car maintenance schedules, etc. It’s going to cost a whole lot more if there’s a problem and you keep ignoring it.
29. Integrate fun into every aspect of your life. No exceptions.
30. Comparison is the thief of joy. I forget whewe I first heard this, but it’s absolutely helped me in looking at myself and my life more objectively.
31. Losing the weight does not necessarily make you happier. Take it from someone who’s lost about 100 pounds and experienced some of the worst depressions of their life *after* weight loss.
32. Being childish and childlike are two different things. Know the difference and be the latter.
33. Solo international travel is one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Learning how to navigate an unfamiliar situation, figure things out and then sit and enjoy alone has made me value my independence and crave solitude from time to time.
34. Don’t rush to get married. Just don’t. You’re not even a real person until you’re at least 25, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself to find someone to spend the rest of your life with while you’re still so young. Relax, live your life, meet some people, date some inappropriate people, and figure out what you really value and cherish in a partner before settling down.
35. Smile at everyone.
I’m sure I’ve learned a lot more than what’s on this list, and I have so much to learn yet. But that’s why life is so beautiful and amazing and frustrating and tedious and delightful and agonizing at the same time. Thanks for being a part of my own journey of learning: it just keeps getting weirder and funnier and better.