This Saturday, I turn 25 for the third time (so weird how that happened, right?!). Actually, I’m turning the big 2-8 and while I would normally be freaking out just a little bit, I’m surprisingly pretty chill about that fact that I’m inching ever so closely to my 30s and…ohmygoshimgettingsooldhowdidthishappen?! OK, I’m maybe slightly, possibly freaking out about it. But ever the more reason to celebrate, right?!
Right. So celebrate I will, damn it! But before I put my party hat on and dig into the cake, I wanted to take a second to reflect on not only this past year (which has been pretty amazing, if I do say so myself), but all of my 28 years thus far. I like to think as you get you older, you get wiser. You experience new things, you make mistakes, you learn, you grow.
Through all of my experiences, I’ve changed, I’ve evolved and weathered some pretty crazy hair styles. Here are 28 things that I have learned in my 28 years so far:
1. Mom really does know best.
I’ve always been close to my mom, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a whole new respect, admiration and love for her. She is the strongest woman I know and I can only hope to be like her one day. And those things she has always told me (always carry a jacket with you just in case it gets cold, listen to your heart—it will never steer you wrong, and all you need is a little faith) were absolutely right!
2. Do what makes you happy.
As long as it’s not a felony, basically. Life is too short to miss out on all the chances to be happy, to experience new and exciting things, to live the most kiss-ass life ever.
Because dental hygiene, people.
4. Plans will change.
According to the plans I made in my early 20’s, I should be married with 2.5 kids, living in a cute cottage on the lake somewhere while working on the follow-up to my award-winning novel right now. The reality is that I’m about as close to living the direct opposite of that life as humanly possible. Cue ironic laughter. But you know what? That’s OK. Where I am right now is pretty alright. Things don’t always work out the way you planned them, and not just the big stuff—sometimes you will be handed a chocolate chip cookie, when all you wanted really was a peanut butter one. It’s important to embrace what comes, unexpected or not, and just roll with it.
5. Tell those people who are important to you how much you love them.
You will never realize how important they are to you until it’s too late. Let them know now!
6. Love your body.
‘F’ fashion, ‘F’ photoshop, ‘F’ the media. If you treat your body well, move it, put good things in it, care for it–it doesn’t matter what it looks like. You only have one body, there’s no use in hating on it because (in case you didn’t get the memo) you’re literally stuck in it. Embrace what you have and shake what your momma gave you!
7. The truest beauty is found from within.
It’s really not that hard to be a good person. It mostly just means being considerate of other folks and not being a jerk. Being a jerk actually takes more effort than being a good person, because you have to actively do jerk-like things, and nobody appreciates that.
8. There’s always room for dessert. Always.
And if there isn’t (which is highly unlikely), make room, especially for anything beginning in “cup” and ending in “cake.”
9. Read for the sake of reading.
Don’t do it to be smart or to impress anyone. Do it because you want to get lost in a story, you want to feel all the feelings and see what it’s like to live in somebody else’s shoes. It doesn’t matter what you read; just read. Also, you can never have too many books. Take it from someone who owns a ton.
10. You’re never too old for blanket forts and Play-Doh.
This whole adulting thing 24/7 can be exhausting. There is a time to be serious, of course, but there should also be a time for fun, for simplicity, for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Be sure to take a moment, every once in a while, to look at life through the eyes of a child.
11. Pizza is never a bad idea. Have another piece.
And a third.
12. Life doesn’t necessarily ever get better.
There are good times and there are bad times. Always. You just get stronger and learn how to laugh at yourself.
13. Never miss an opportunity for car karaoke. Ever.
The louder, the better. And if you happen to start car-dancing in the process, even better! You will get strange looks from the drivers next to you, but don’t worry—they are just admiring your mad skills.
14. The only thing more crippling than the fear of failure, is the realization that you’ve missed opportunities.
Do. Try. Make as many mistakes as you can. Another piece advice from my mom (see above) is that you will never know how things will turn out, unless you put yourself out there and just go for it!
15. And if you happen to fail. . .
…that’s perfectly OK. Dust yourself off, get back up and try, try, again.
16. Make pantless Saturday nights a thing.
You have not lived until you have lived pants-free on a Saturday night. Trust me on this one.
17. This is the best show in the history of ever. Do not even try to fight me on this.
Two words: Hello Newman.
18. You’re never going to be able to make everyone happy. And that’s OK.
Be honest, open to new experiences and opportunities, and dedicate time to activities that make you happy. Worrying about what others think is not going to enhance your life or propel you forward. So, just do you.
19. Laugh hard, laugh often.
Laughter has healing properties.
20. Travel hard, travel often.
And the only thing better than laughing, is discovering this amazing and beautiful and unique world we live in. Bonus: Traveling with someone who makes you laugh is better than anything else on the planet.
21. If someone doesn’t look at you the way you look at a burrito, then move on.
This whole love thing is hard. In fact, it’s a battlefield. But one of the things I’ve learned is that it really shouldn’t be. If it’s good, pure, true love, it should just come naturally—it should be easy. I don’t think I’ve found my burrito yet, but I know that when I do, it will be amazing and wonderful—and it will put Chipotle to shame.
22. Pick up the phone and call your friends/family.
No texts, no instant messages, no emails. Just talk. Every once in a while, real convos with the people who mean the most to you are just what we all need.
23. You’re allowed to say no.
One thing that I have learned over the last few years is that it’s OK to say no, if you’re not comfortable with something or someone. You are not a bad person for taking care of yourself, for doing what feels right in your gut. You know what’s best for you.
24. But you also shouldn’t be afraid to say yes.
I have also learned that saying no shouldn’t be a crutch. If the only reason you are not doing or saying something is because you are afraid, then that is the exact reason why you should say yes! Be brave, take chances, take a leap of faith and go for it!
25. Giant, suffocating bear hugs are the best.
When I was younger I used to hate hugs. Like, really hate them. Family get-togethers always turned into a game of hide-and-seek; me hiding from my great aunts who were seeking to suffocate me with their heavily perfumed and marathon-long hugs. For whatever reason, I now now not only appreciate a good hug, but I actually look forward to one. Giving and receiving a good hug from a old friend, a family member or even a kind stranger can turn your whole day around.
26. Banana, stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate, wrapped in tin foil over an open fire.
27. Don’t you dare give up. Ever.
You are going to be challenged. You are going to feel like throwing in the towel and calling it quits. But those are the moments when you need to look at yourself in the mirror and say “I can do this. I will do this.” Your goals and dreams are out there for the taking. You just need to keep going.
28. Life is crazy.
It’s unpredictable and weird and absurd and completely bonkers. You will meet amazing people and see incredible places. You will fall, get back up and fall again. You will have your heart broken, only to have someone walk into your life and put the pieces back together. You will wonder, you will dream, you will inspire. Life is crazy. But it’s also pretty damn amazing.