Short, simple and to the point: 10 important things I’ve learned in (almost) 27 years.
I. Love is a fairytale…And also a full-time job. Anyone that thinks it isn’t also work probably has never been in a long-term relationship. Yes, there’s sparkles bouncing off of your insides and fireworks behind the eyes and break-dancing butterflies in your stomach and, if you’re lucky, those will last beyond the first few years. You know you’ve found Your Person if you find yourself not just excited when thinking about your wedding, commitment ceremony, future children, etc but when you’re filled with an indescribable happiness thinking about the little things too – Going for a walk and watching the sunset. Taking a day off of work to explore the city together. Watching a movie and making popcorn on a snowy night. I’ve learned that love isn’t finding that perfect match – Because chances are, that person probably doesn’t exist – but it’s about letting yourself fall madly in love with someone worthy and working to build and live a happy life together (hip-hop butterflies and all). You shouldn’t be the only one giving and you shouldn’t be the only one taking, either – It’s a precarious balance but it can be maintained when you’ve met your match.
II. You must be open to positivity and love to receive it in your life. It sounds simple, but it’s crazy how many people don’t get it. It’s crazy how long I didn’t get it – I never let myself stop and think long enough to realize it because I was too busy reacting to emotions and situations and not considering the larger picture. If you want love, you have to be open for it. If you want positivity, you can’t be wrapped in negativity all day, every day.
III. Biology doesn’t always mean family. I have to be honest, this was probably the hardest lesson to learn in life so far. Shared DNA and similar blood does not automatically equate to “family”. Learning that just because someone has the title of a family member doesn’t mean they should be allowed to get away with hurting you is difficult. Having to sever that relationship completely is painful but sometimes necessary. The saying goes that you can’t choose your family…But you CAN choose whom you will maintain positive, loving relationships with. I’m lucky – The family members that I do have loving, enriching relationships with are some of the most amazing people I know. They have helped shape me from the very beginning of my life and always encourage me to follow my dreams and my heart – Just like family should.
IV. The world doesn’t owe you anything…You owe yourself a good life, because ultimately you are the only one that controls it. I’ve learned the hard way that when you walk around angry at the world, the world doesn’t take kindly to it. And will, in general, boomerang that shit right back at you. Being accountable for yourself instead of blaming others all the time was a huge step for me through the years. For example, I used to dread and moan about having to get up and go to my college classes – Until I volunteered in West Virginia and met a lot of local peers. They thought it was wicked cool that I was “actually getting to go to college” and told me all about their hopes and dreams for the future. Needless to say, there was no more groaning about waking up early and sitting in traffic to go to class and eventually get a piece of paper that says I have a Bachelor’s degree. It hit me hard that I was lucky and I had an opportunity that not everybody did – My perspective had changed and I found myself becoming involved, enjoying my classes, soaking up information and becoming passionate about projects, knowledge and even learning from the myriad of different professors from all walks of life. And the last two years of college, my GPA skyrocketed, my grades were awesome and, even though I was no longer a kid, my mom finally had those report cards to proudly display on her fridge.
V. Spiders are still scary. No matter how old I am, how big they are or whether they are outside or indoors. They are consistently terrifying, evil creatures no matter which direction life’s pendulum is swinging. That is all.
VI. Don’t just think outside of the box…BE outside of the box. Embrace differences. Soak up every ounce of weird, odd, wacky sunshine outside of that little box, and don’t ever be afraid to seek it out. Spending time being anything but your awesome, weirdo self is a disservice to yourself and all those who love that little oddball that lives inside you (and there are more that love your true self than many people think). Rock those Doc Martens and ripped jeans if you’re 40 – I know I will be. Go dancing if you’re 75, create art and indulge in your passions even if people say you can’t/shouldn’t, dye your hair pink, realize you’re not Gwen Stefani and pink hair is atrocious on a regular person (like I did) – Love yourself. And, if you can, laugh at yourself once in a while too.
VII. You can’t force people to love you. And, dammit, sometimes you can’t force them to hate you either! This one was a difficult lesson to learn, because I’m the type of perfectionist (again, Virgo) that likes being everything to everyone. But learning to let go of those relationships in which you receive significantly more negativity than positivity is something we all have to grudgingly learn to do, no matter how difficult it is. Sometimes you just can’t force people to love you, and learning that that’s okay – It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and doesn’t mean they’re a bad person – was a huge step in my own personal growth. Sure, sometimes your feelings might get hurt but how you react to that hurt is what I’ve come to recognize as the ultimate litmus test for class and maturity. Hurt feelings are temporary – You can’t let them become permanent. Once in a while, you just have to wish people peace and love in their lives and then move on and instead focus on those which enrich your life with happiness and positivity.
VIII. You’ll never “find yourself” because human beings aren’t stagnant; we should be constantly evolving. Life is a journey and we should always be reaching, evolving and learning until we stop breathing. Times change, and we should too. While I am firmly rooted with certain values, my perspective is constantly changing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If your eyes and mind are open, you can learn from everything every day. I don’t believe that there is ever one big “finding of yourself” – Rather, we are on a long journey with significant stops along the way. I think we are all filled with brilliantly colored layers that are slowly revealed over our lives; some people will only see a few but a few lucky people will see them all.
IX. Once you start spinning, it’s a good idea to stop drinking. No matter how awesomely cool you feel at the moment. Because you’re going to feel like shit in the morning. You
may probably will do or say something that will make you cringe later. You might even throw up. Everybody loves being social, having a good time and being the life of the party, but knowing your limits (at least when it comes to alcohol, bad food and other things that could adversely affect your health in excess) is part of owning yourself and taking responsibility for your health. It’s important to have friends and a partner that are there not only for the wild party, but also to simply hang out, eat ice cream and watch a movie with too. Oh, and alcohol is one of those instances where you get what you pay for. I’ve learned the hard way (a few times) that splurging on the $40 bottle of vodka is FAR preferable than trying to chug down the $10 bottle. I’m seriously sitting here grimacing as I typed that – Early college memories. Shudder.
X. You. Only. Live. Once. At least, as far as anybody knows. Self-explanatory. You only live once, so live it up and enjoy every minute of every day. Realistically, that won’t happen but as long as you remind yourself to look back, learn from your mistakes, own yourself – craziness, past, present, future, oddities and all – and love yourself and, most importantly, look forward, you’ll continue to navigate this crazy path called life just fine. Because you’re only as old as you feel and there is still SO much to look forward to.