Today is my 29th birthday.
When I opened my eyes this morning, there was a brief moment in which I wanted to let my 29 year-old-self linger in bed and avoid the 64 Facebook notifications, cementing in the fact that I was no longer 28. Out of habit, I didn’t. I got out of bed, put on clothes, drank the coffee, drove to work, and then even let the nice folks at my office serenade me with their rendition of the ever famous “Happy Birthday” while I awkwardly stood next to an over-sized cinnamon roll. (I’ve made it, baby!)
I’ll be honest: 29 is annoying. It’s a weird number that is basically 30.
HERE I AM WORLD!!! Basically 30.
29 is a weird number, but let me give credit where credit is due: This past year was one of immense change, growth, and SO MUCH HAPPINESS.
In honor of 29, here are some things I learned this year…
- You can not control someone else’s feelings, no matter how hard you try.
People are going to feel the way that they feel, in the same way that you and I do. It is one of the more frustrating parts of the human condition. Has your boyfriend or girlfriend ever told you to “calm down” when you were having a moment? How did that end up? Exactly. Let people feel what they want to feel.
- It is okay, (and totally normal) to feel sad.
I used to think that I had to resist immediately when I felt any sense of un-comfortability.
This year I have learned that the kindest thing we can do for ourselves in those moments is to honor what we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it.
We live on earth. Sad things happen. If you are never sad, I don’t think you are paying attention.
Let me be clear, this is not permission for you to sit in your own shit for too long. It is just permission to feel something other than unicorns and rainbows occasionally. We experience happiness and joy because we also experience pain and sadness.
This is also a reminder that if you feel sadness, you are ok. You are normal. You are feeling. You are living. Go easy on yourself.
- Drink ALL THE WATER – put it in a cute water bottle if that helps.
This is self-explanatory. Drink the water. Once you think you’ve had enough, drink some more. Your skin, your hair, and your attitude will thank you. No one likes a Dehydrated Debbie.
- The person who cut you off in traffic may not be an asshole, they may be scared and late… or an asshole. Either way, you don’t have to be one too.
This was a big lesson for me this year.
I live in Naples, Florida. Between the tourists who don’t know where they are going 98% of the time, and the fact that 42.3% of the population here is over the age of 68 (real statistic), there is a general lack of turn-signals and common decency out here on these streets. I used to get ENRAGED at the drivers in front of me going 15 under the speed limit while simultaneously weaving in and out of their own lane. You would be surprised at how many times I have had to navigate around a driver driving on THE WRONG SIDE of the median in this town. (Yes, into oncoming traffic.) I HAD to let this go. I HAD to be more diligent while on the road.
It wasn’t until I came up on and stopped at an accident after the driver had had a stroke behind the wheel that this lesson sank in: You never know what someone is facing in the confines of their own vehicle.
I PROMISE when someone cuts you off, it isn’t a personal attack on you and your Ford Taurus. They could be on their way to the hospital, late for a job they need to feed their family, or maybe they really are just an asshole. No matter what their circumstance, it doesn’t have to take up any more of your head space.
Slow down. Move over. Move on.
- Stay in your own lane.
I’ll say it again: STAY.IN.YOUR.OWN.LANE.
Is it your business? REALLY your business? No? Your input is not wanted nor necessary.
I do my best these days to not give my opinion on anything unless directly asked. People truly do not want it. I can promise you that. This is also true when it comes to us humans feeling the need to talk about our fellows when they are not around. If you feel compelled to pass on bits of information about someone else that aren’t positive, practice a bit of roll reversal before you begin to speak. How would it make you feel if someone was sharing this type of information about YOU if you weren’t around to give some context to the story?
Remember that we are all doing the best that we can with what we have. We can’t control what people tell us, but we CAN control where the game of telephone ends. Ask yourself two simple questions. Is this necessary? Is this Kind? I promise you will sleep better at night.
- Your parents are humans too.
Shocking right? It was for me at least.
Go easy on your mom and dad. They experience the same pain and frustrations that we do daily. They can not be everything to everyone all the time. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, they just can’t.
- Not everyone is going to like you. That is okay.
If every single person that you come across likes you, you aren’t being authentic.
- You don’t have to like them either. (But you must be nice) If you are being authentic and honest, not everyone you meet will be “YOUR FAVORITE”. That is okay. That doesn’t make you an ass hole. You are an ass hole if you aren’t respectful and kind. (EVEN IF the idea of spending a night alone with said person makes you want to throw yourself in front of a bus, you must be nice.)
- You aren’t owed success.
You won’t get anything that you don’t work for. (And in the rare case that you do, it won’t feel as good as you thought it would.)
- Flowers die. So do people.
This is a hard one.
I have always felt that there was something utterly unfair about the fact that the only certain thing in life is the most painful. Death. Nonetheless, this is the truth.
The most painful times of my life have been the days and months following a loved one’s passing, whether it was expected or not. For instance, when my beloved Nona passed away when I was a young girl, I was riddled with confusion and anger.
I thought I had gotten better about processing death as the years went by after she passed and I had ultimately experienced more of it, but when I was 23 and my best friend died an unnecessary death, I went into a dark depression like I had never known.
In March of this year, I was the shoulder to lean on when G and his family grieved the death of his grandfather. G’s grandfather was very special man and was very loved by everyone he knew. He had been sick for quite some time. It was such a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone involved. It was heartbreaking to witness and experience their pain alongside them.
Here’s the hard truth about death: We can be prepared for something that we know is going to happen, but we can never be prepared for how it feels.
Let yourself grieve. Show up for the people that need it the most. Take a nap if you need one. Go easy on yourself.
- Invest in some solid oven mitts, the cheap ones will fail you. I bought the cheap oven mitts. I got burned. This is a life lesson if you look close enough.
- Apologize. (and mean it)
* Cringe. *
I know saying sorry is HARD, y ’all.
However, learning to sincerely apologize will change your life.
You are not right 100% of the time. You aren’t. I promise, you aren’t. Neither am I. No one is.
Learning the art of saying those three little words was one of the best gifts I have ever given myself. Try it. Your relationships will absolutely be better.
- Stop apologizing.
I know. I just told you to START apologizing. Stay with me.STOP apologizing for things that don’t require an apology. If you know in your soul that you have been respectful and kind, you DO NOT EVER, I repeat, DO NOT EVER have to apologize for something that does not require an apology.
Stop apologizing for your beliefs. Stop apologizing for taking care of yourself. Stop apologizing for feeling feelings. Stop apologizing for taking up space.
- Move your damn body.
I don’t care what you do. Just move.
There was a period of this year where I was just OFF my workout game. Most of us have those phases, am I right? But let me tell ya, EVERDAY that I woke up, I felt like the damn Tin Man who needed oil. Have you ever seen a bike that has been left in one place to rust? Yes, that was me. I woke up unmotivated, tight, and cranky as hell. I was the sad bike with no one to ride it, FOR REAL. I decided it was time to make a change.
Every morning I had to legitimately FORCE myself to get up and walk the dog or do yoga before work. (G really welcomed the 16 alarms I set for myself each morning… not. Ha. Nonetheless, I did it.) Then, when I got home from work if I had the time, I would do a more intense workout in the afternoon. I started feeling the results IMMEDIATELY. RIGHT AWAY. DAY ONE.
I do not mean that I was instantly back into my “skinny jeans” (WHY DO WE EVEN WEAR THESE?!), I mean that I was instantly happier. It’s science, y ’all. Your body will thank you if you just MOVE it.
- Listen to your body.
Myself and SO MANY of my friends are feeling that metabolism shift that happens when you are suddenly not 21 anymore. Ugh.
I hear us all say things along the lines of “I’m going to lose 10 pounds this month” or “I HAVE to get in shape”. I feel you guys in a very real way. I am also very proud of you all for setting a goal and sticking to it.
Here’s the BUT…. NOTHING is worth sacrificing your health. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING.
If your shoulder is in legitimate pain, do not do shoulder presses. If your knees are really bothering you, maybe its time to utilize the elliptical instead of going for a 6-mile run. This is just a lesson in listening to what your body tells you.
Also, along these lines, if you have a social event scheduled and you feel like just can’t do it because you are exhausted from life, you have my permission to politely reschedule. Be honest and sincere, and let yourself REST.
Health is wealth, Baby! It’s all we got.
- Listen to other people.
While we are on the topic of LISTENING, lets talk about what that truly means.
When you are in the presence of another human, stop thinking about yourself when they are speaking. Just stop. Now. Right now.If you already know EXACTLY what you are going to say the SECOND that the other human takes a breath, then you are not having an authentic conversation and you are not being an authentic person. (Or a polite one, for that matter.)
We all have this issue to a point. We are all human, and we all love to think about ourselves. That is just the hard truth.
However, I have a woman in my life who takes this to the EXTREME and has taught me this very valuable lesson in a very real “here is what not to do” type of way. (This is a woman who HAS to be in my life.)
Often, when talking to her I would be very aware that she wasn’t listening to a damn word that I was saying. She is the type of woman who is so self-involved that I could literally say the world is coming to an end, and she would gloss right over it and start talking about herself the minute there was a natural pause in my sentence. She NEVER heard me. I used to get SO FRUSTRATED. Honestly, just made me feel small and unheard.
Today as I type this, I am grateful for this person. It wasn’t until I knew how it felt to be honestly ignored in the midst of a mutual conversation, that I realized just how important it was to hear people when they speak.
How often do we ask the person behind the counter, “how are you?” and not actually listen to the answer? People will tell you what you need to know if you slow down for just a second and practice the art of listening.
Try it. You will have more meaningful conversations and more meaningful relationships.
- The only way to get the merry-go-round to stop spinning is to get off it.
Narcissist’s and perpetual “victims” can be complete ENERGY SUCKS if you let them. Spend too much time around them, and you will begin to wonder if it is YOU who is crazy.
The biggest lesson I learned about people like this recently is that you simply cannot get involved, and you simply cannot react. (That is, if you want to stay sane.)We teach people how to treat us and if you want to stop spinning along with someone, it is your responsibility to get off the damn merry-go-round.
Get off. Stay Quiet. Walk away.
- Always dance if you’re feelin’ the beat.
There is a reason that people have been dancing since the dawn of time. Our bodies were meant to move. It doesn’t matter if you are a “good dancer” or are like me and look like you are trying to get a rock out of your shoe whenever you even start to SWAY, (for real y ’all, I can’t dance) dancing is FUN.
If you feel moved, well then, MOVE.
- Your only true responsibility is to not make anything worse.
Are you a “fixer”? Me too.
I used to think that if something was off, or if another person was feeling any type of uncomfortable, that I had to FIX it. Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but most situations cannot be fixed and often, do not need to be.
If we did not cause the pain, our only responsibility is to show up, be there, and do our best to not make anything worse.
For instance, if a loved one is experiencing a break-up, you don’t have to run in there, talk a bunch of shit on the former partner and then try to find them someone new immediately. The person in question probably just needs some time to heal. LET THEM HEAL.
Be there. Listen.
You do not have to “fix”.
- Medical issues are scary. For everyone. Be sensitive. Act accordingly.
Okay. So, you go to the doctor. The doctor tells you that your body isn’t operating the way that it is supposed to. How do you feel? SCARED. Am I right?
Every single person is going to have this same response. Everyone. Remember that when you are interacting with others.
EVEN IF nothing is wrong and it is just your run of the mill checkup, doctor visits are HORRIBLE. Often, they make you wait an obscene amount of time, just to pay an obscene amount of money, just to be poked and prodded and asked invasive questions by complete strangers.
*“No, Nurse Karen, I still am not married, and I still haven’t lost those 5 pounds. Thanks for asking though.”*
Not only is the whole experience always THE WORST, but they compound it by making you FREEZE the entire time you’re there. I have literally started padding my wardrobe in preparation for my upcoming Gyno appointment. I live in SW Florida, there isn’t much need for a hefty sweater frequently, but YOU BET there are still a couple in the back of my closet for when I am forced to endure the agony of my yearly PAP.
When anyone that you know is dealing with a health issue of their own or someone they love, PLEASE be extra sensitive.
Spending anytime whatsoever in a hospital or feeling the helplessness of someone you love being in the hospital is, in my humble opinion, the most stressful thing a person can endure. Honor that. Know that. Respond accordingly.
(And if your girlfriend had her yearly PAP today, bring her some damn flowers, she has just been traumatized)
- Invest in the nice sunglasses You only have one pair of eyes. Protect them. Also, life is just better through polarized lenses.
- Anger is just fear that you don’t know how to process
Are you angry? Ask yourself these two questions: What are you scared of losing? What are you afraid you won’t get?
Emotions are much easier to diffuse when we know why we’re feeling them.
- When you stop learning, you start dyin’. You are never too old to learn something new, and it often comes from the most un-expected sources. Open your ears and open your mind.
- The wisdom comes from the mess.
If I am being honest, these days I RARELY ask advice from people who haven’t been through the ringer. I don’t have time for any other type.
I have found that any semblance of wisdom that I have in this brain has come from the messy portions of my life, and I know that is true for most others.The people that have been through some shit and came out alive on the other side are my favorite kind of people.
How did you overcome depression? How did you beat your drug addiction? How did you recover from the loss of a child? How did you handle being on the receiving end of infidelity with grace? What keeps you up at night? What risks have you taken that have failed?
THESE are the types of questions from which we will grow. So, if you are in a messy season of life, keep going and get out alive. God is teaching you something even if WHAT may not be clear right now. Hold on and think of all the people you will help.
- Fresh paint will change your life. I am a creature of habit, but I also get BORED very easily. Sometimes all I need to re-charge is new paint. It will make your house, and your outlook completely different.
- If it takes less than one minute, do it right now.
That dish that needs to go in the dishwasher? Laundry needs to be switched over? Smudge on the glass? E-mail needs a short response?
If you just keep handling these little tasks one minute at a time, you will have fewer piles, less clutter, and more time. Give yourself this gift.
- Set goals. Achieve them. Clap for yourself. Repeat.
What is it that you want?
To achieve our goals, we must live with intention. It is easier than it sounds. All we must do is the next right thing, one thing at a time until we build a life that we are proud of.
You are NEVER too young or old to set a new path for yourself.
Be warned: Achieving goals will take actual WORK. (For instance, my goal for today was to finish this list. I’ve had to restart the computer 4 times and I am on my 8th cup of coffee. I did not say it would be easy.)
Start each day with intention. Do ONE thing that will get you closer to your goal, watch your life change before your very eyes.
- Be nice to your partner even when they don’t deserve it.
We are humans and sometimes we are not worthy of love. Give it anyway. There will come a day when you aren’t very worthy either and hopefully your partner will show you the same Grace.
I love the quote “Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?”. I WANT TO BE BOTH, DAMNIT. But that quote is famous for a reason. Sometimes to keep the peace, and keep our relationship intact, we must swallow our pride and let our partner “have this one”.
In the difficult moments, attempt to think of all the reasons why you chose them, because you did. You chose them.
- Love. Love in any and every way you know how. Be kind. Always. In anyway you can.