João Silas / Unsplash
Steph Barnes
May 14, 2017 3:53 pm

There is no shortage of those “X things you should know by Y age” articles online, but this isn’t one of them. I am by no means trying to tell you what you should do or what you should know at any stage of your life, but I am sharing the things I know for sure after 27 years of learning and unlearning. Life holds different lessons for everyone, and we’re all moving at different paces. But ultimately, we will all arrive at the same fundamental truths.

There are some things I know, but there are still many things I have absolutely no idea about — and for that, I am grateful. I am grateful for the not knowing, because it means there’s still a sense of wonder, and a lingering sense excitement that the best is yet to come. And if we’re lucky, we will spend our lives in a continual state of change and evolution.

But for now, here’s what I’ve got.

1Love is not something to be earned.

You don’t suddenly become deserving of love because you’ve “worked” for it or done all the “right” things. You are deserving of healthy, unconditional love simply because you are.

2Some people are just trying to love you.

Let them. Our insecurities are constantly playing tricks on us, making us think that there is no way the wonderful people in our lives could really love us as we are. But it’s important to allow people to meet and love you exactly where you are.

3Forgiveness is key.

Forgive yourself first for breaking your own heart, and for the choices you made that weren’t always in your best interests. Accept that everything you’ve learned as a result of those choices was exactly what you needed. Then forgive the ones who’ve fallen short and the ones who couldn’t love you how and when you needed them to. Forgive it all.

4Being alone is wonderful.

Learning to enjoy the sweetness of solitude will change your life. In the words of Warsan Shire, “My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.”

5Surrender and surrender deeply.

Sometimes fighting against the riptide is pointless.

6Be gentle.

You are going to fall apart, completely, and probably won’t even recognize yourself. But be gentle with yourself as you rummage through the pieces and put things back together.

7Celebrate your tribe.

When you find those amazing people who are willing to shed light where you can’t and help you get out of your own way, hold on to them.

8Death will come…

And you will lose people you love. But you will breathe through it all.

9Pain can be useful, but not suffering.

Pain is unavoidable. It will come with lessons you need to learn or it will come to indicate it’s time for change. You will feel pain but you don’t have to suffer. Take the lessons and let the pain pass.

10You might never feel *really* ready.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote, “All the ‘not readies,’ all the ‘I need time,’ are understandable, but only for a short while. The truth is that there is never a ‘completely ready,’ there is never a really ‘right time.’ You won’t always feel ready but do it anyway.

11Claim your flaws.

Identify, then name and claim your flaws and weaknesses before someone else thinks they have a right to.

12“God” can be different things to different people.

There is no right way to connect with your higher self. My God might not be your God and your God might not be someone else’s, maybe they don’t even use the word “god.” But whatever you believe in, whatever comes to you in the stillness, and leaves you feeling closer to the divine…hold onto that.

13Past hurt shouldn’t dictate your future.

Make peace with your past and thank even your most painful teachers, because they, too, are gifts.

14Things might not be ideal, but it’s all temporary.

Understanding that nothing lasts forever and half the things we’re currently losing sleep over won’t matter in five years makes life a little bit easier.

15Crying with a friend is better than crying alone.

Few things are more healing than a good cry with a good friend. Preferably with lots and lots of wine.

16Parents are not immortal.

Understanding that the wonderful people who’ve raised you are in fact human beings will bring you closer. Take the time to learn all they’ve got to teach — the recipes, the lessons, the traditions. They’re the things that will keep them alive long after they’re gone.

17Figure out your taxes.

Self-explanatory.

18Vulnerability is your greatest strength.

When practiced with safe and genuinely good people, vulnerability can strengthen relationships and heal emotional pain. Being vulnerable invites people in and allows them to relate to you on a much deeper level. This doesn’t make you weak, ever.

19Say “no,” and say it often.

“No.” is a complete sentence. Protect your energy and time by learning to say “no” without letting the guilt take over.

20Slow down.

Life will unfold as it unfolds. There’s no need to rush, slow down and stay present in each moment.

21Hangovers will just keep getting worse.

Trust me, at 27 bouncing back from a long night of drinking is no easy feat.

22Invest in yourself.

Take the time to find the things that work for your body, your skin, your hair, and invest! Treat yo’ self.

23Quiet moments are your friends.

There is no need to fill every quiet moment with chatter. Sometimes it’s okay to be still and just enjoy someone’s presence without force.

24Life isn’t always fair.

But you will always be able to find a little bit of goodness to keep you going.

25You will outgrow friends.

Don’t feel guilty if you seem to be outgrowing the people closest to you, it’s perfectly okay to lose people on your journey to self-discovery.

26Growing old beats the alternative.

At least, I think so.

27Stay informed.

But not at the expense of your sanity.

I’ll admit, I’m surprised I made it to 27 things. But aren’t you glad I did? Don’t forget, what works for me, may not work for you. Hell, sometimes it doesn’t even work for me. Take it all with a grain of salt and a little bit of magic.

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