As I look towards saying a final goodbye to my 20s, I can't help but reflect and ruminate on everything I learned over the past 30 years. Here are 30 important life lessons I learned over the past 30 years of my life. (Let us also appreciate how adorable tiny ginger Tiffany was!)
1. It's okay to be different - Embracing the person I am and being able to live as the most authentic version of myself is a lesson i’m so thankful i learned early. Being quiet isn’t a bad thing, just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have to have children and just because I'm different doesn't mean I'm less.
2. Buy Good Shoes - I'm 30 and my feet suck. I suspect I have plantar fasciitis (which causes intense heel pain) and I need an insole in every pair of shoes I own. Spend the money, get good quality shoes and keep that foot pain at bay for as long as possible!
3. Boundaries are necessary - It is up to us to decide what is or isn't allowed in our lives. We are the gatekeepers for positivity and negativity. Boundaries aren't saying 'you don't matter', they're saying 'I matter too.'
4. Boundaries are hard - For people who have been used to taking advantage of your kindness or generosity boundaries will be difficult. It will be just as difficult for you to enforce them and put your own needs above others. Always remember we don't need to set ourselves on fire to keep other people warm.
5. Not all friends are forever - This lesson for me was a hard one to learn. I've had close friends disappear from my life without notice or reason and others slowly drift away. We must accept that all friends won't be around forever. As a popular quote states "You don't meet people by accident. There's always a reason. A lesson or a blessing." Maybe temporary friends are here to teach us a permanent lesson.
6. Busy isn't a badge of honour - It's hard to be still, alone with your own thoughts. Staying busy is staying distracted, and once you slow down you're forced to finally look inwards. Busy isn't something to be envied, stillness is.
7. Self care isn't selfish - Self care is a term used pretty loosely these days, but true self care is vital. I don't mean face masks and a new pair of shoes, I mean caring for your mind, body and spirit. You can't pour from an empty cup and in order to show up well for your people, you need to show up for yourself first.
8. Travel is worth every penny spent - Travel is an opportunity for growth and awakening. Seeing how others live, slowing down, getting out of your comfort zone makes you return home as a slightly better version of yourself, whether intentional or not.
9. Your brain needs exercise - Studies have shown that things like meditation actually changes your brain –– like your actual grey matter changes. With the constant barrage of screens and activities that require next to no brain power, we need to remember to exercise the most important part of our body as much as everything else.
10. Forgiveness is for you - Forgiveness and reconciliation can be independent of each other. We can forgive someone without reconciling the relationship. Most of the time forgiveness is for us, not for them. "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
11. You aren't "behind" - I admittedly struggle with remembering this lesson. At 30 I keep thinking, "I should be further ahead, I should have something more to show for my past 30 years." Here are some fun facts: J.K. Rowling was in her early/mid thirties when she started writing Harry Potter, Julia Child released her first cookbook at 49 and Bob Ross became our favouriting painting teacher at 41. We never know where our path will lead and it's going to be different for everyone.. you are not behind.
12. Worrying means you suffer twice - I am a pessimist and riddled with anxiety, so if anyone is a habitual worrier, it's me. I don't claim to take this advice well, but it is a lesson learned. Things will happen whether we worry about them or not, so save yourself a bit of heartache and let that be a problem for future you.
13. No one thinks about you - We have a tendency to worry that people don't like us, that a group across the room is talking about us or someone is mad. Humans can have up to 60,000 thoughts per day, even if they did think about you at one point it's likely been drowned out by the 59,999 other thoughts they've had. People are so often caught up in their own lives they don't have time to think about yours.
14. Blood is thicker than water, or is it - If someone is a toxic influence or is mistreating you, cut them off. It sounds harsh, but we often give family a free pass because "they're family". Biology doesn't give anyone an excuse to act like a garbage person. Surround yourself with friends that love you, coworkers that support you and cats that will always be there (as long as the food bowl is full.)
15. Cats are the best pet - They snuggle, they play, they're quiet, they're adorable and I can leave them alone for an entire day without worry. Cats are the best pet and you can never convince me otherwise.
16. You shrink or expand to your space - Did you know that houses in the 70's were an average of 1300sqft and houses now are an average of 2000sqft? We've added 700sqft to our single family homes and still "need more space". A family that upsizes will accumulate more things and a family that downsizes will be able to let go of many things they don't actually need. Choose a space to fit the life you want, not the life you have.
17. You need less than you think - We downsized (temporarily) from 2000sqft to 565sqft. People pitied us due to the minimal space for all our things. Turns out we actually don't need tons of space. We've made this work comfortably for us and if anything have made our life a lot more streamlined.
18. Success is subjective - Success is defined as 'the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.' To some success will be a large house, a fancy car, a happy family, or a respectable career position. Some people will view their volunteer work as success and some will view raising good kids as success. Figure out what success means to you, and work towards that.
19. Communication = Happy Marriage - A few things I've learned over my 6 years of marriage is setting very clear expectations and knowing where limitations lie. At Christmas I make an extensive Amazon wishlist and he picks whatever fits in the budget, when I want laundry folded, I ask "Can you fold the laundry?" and set a time expectation –– the next 10 minutes/at some point today etc. We communicate clearly and not assume the other person knows anything, ever.
20. You can't please everyone - You will never be able to be all things to all people. Dita Von Tesse said “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches." Accept that some people just won't like you and there's nothing you can do about that. If you like the person you are, that is what matters most.
21. Always wear sunscreen - 1 in 3 people get skin cancer, it's one of the most common cancers and it's preventable friends! You don't need to be tanned to be 'pretty' and you definitely do not need to risk your life for beauty. Be the nerd, wear the sunscreen and don't subscribe to looking like an old leather handbag.
22. Start saving early - You are never ever ever ever too young to start saving for retirement. My husband is in finance and we see so many people come in, later in life, and only begin to think about retirement when they are 15 years away. Start early, soak up that compound interest and ease the pressure later in life. Even a $25 monthly contribution can add up to big savings!
23. He is not the sun, you are - A successful relationship requires sacrifice and compromise, but it doesn't require you to sacrifice yourself. Christina Yang told Meredith "He's very dreamy, but he is not the sun, you are." She wanted to remind her that we can easily get caught up, easily get distracted, and easily forget that our dreams are just as important.
24. Be happy now - Don't wait until you get your dream house, or until you graduate or until you're married or 10lbs skinnier. If you keep waiting until life is "perfect" you'll never be happy. Our journey to those big goals is part of life and we need to see the joy in the little everyday things, otherwise we are wasting our time chasing something we'll never reach.
25. Don't settle - For anything. Don't settle with a crappy boyfriend, a crappy job or crappy friends. We choose what we allow in our lives and we decide what we are willing to tolerate or what we deserve. I'm telling you right now that you deserve someone who loves you, a job that fills your soul and supportive and loving friends. Wait for the things you deserve, I promise it's worth it.
26. People love differently - At the beginning of our marriage we read The Five Love Languages discovered each of our 'love languages'. It opened our eyes to how we can love each other better, and recognize when the other person is showing us love. My husband's love language is acts of service, so I try and take note when he fills my gas tank or hangs a shelf. He is showing his love by doing an act of service, even if it isn't my ideal way of receiving love. We need to take notes of those small acts of love, whatever they are.
27. You can't control others - You can control how you respond. We can't force other people to act a certain way or do certain things but we can control how we react and respond to them. We choose to allow ourselves to be mad, hold a grudge or stew over things we needn't. Choose your respose.
28. Be sad - For some reason we've moved into a society that is afraid of feeling bad. We have a 'celebration of life' instead of a funeral, we are encouraged to 'look on the bright side' when something bad happens and smile through our pain. Acknowledging our pain and really feeling it is the only way to process through it. Without the bad, we will never appreciate the good. Without sadness, we will never know joy. Embrace the pain, disappointment, and sadness when it comes.
29. Don't live life with regrets - We go through life and make the best choices we can at the time. You don't know what you don't know. The best we can do is learn from our past actions and move forward without repeating them. We can never change the past, but we can always change our future.
30. Aging is so beautiful - Society pushes us to "Look 10 Years Younger!, Buy This Anti-Aging Cream, Say Goodbye to Fine Lines!" Wrinkles and loose skin and grey hair is demonized as a tragic flaw and it honestly breaks my heart. Wrinkles to me tell a story. Laugh lines show a life lived full of joy, crows feet a face that smiled, weathered hands show the history of hard work and perseverance. So many are robbed the luxury of aging, never getting to find their first grey hair nevermind growing an entire crown of it. I am choosing to embrace my age, embrace my grey hair and every single wrinkle that comes across my ginger face. To me growing old is something to be desired, not avoided. Model Linda Rodin was quoted saying "You can't chase youth. You'll just look older with a face lift." and I think those are some pretty wise words.