For some reason it is never the milestone birthdays that I freak out about. I’m usually taken by surprise by having a mini crisis prior to turning some random age. On Monday I turned 34 and I spent the six weeks before my birthday having a freak out. It isn’t that I’m unhappy with my life, but it was the realization that turning 34 puts me squarely in my mid-thirties. When and how did that happen?
Now that my birthday has come and gone, I am no longer struggling with it. With age comes experience and maturity- and that is not a bad thing!
In honor of my 34th birthday, I have written a list of 34 things that I’ve learned throughout life that I wish I could tell my 15 year old self. These are lessons that I am still learning and by no means do I have all of them mastered!
So without further ado, I present the list in no particular order (except #34- that is my biggest life lesson as of late).
- Don’t start smoking. Just don’t.
- Stop being in such a hurry to grow up. You have no idea how fast the years will go by. I know how badly you want to be able to do whatever you want, but that isn’t how the adult world works. With age comes responsibility.
- When you are 16 and your Spanish teacher suggests that you be tested for a learning disability tell your parents about it and get tested. You have ADHD and will struggle for the next SIXTEEN years until you are diagnosed.
- You own yourself. Period. End of story.
- You’re a natural born Anarcho-Capitalist. Look it up.
- When it comes to friendships, quality trumps quantity. You have no idea how much you will treasure the friends who are in it for the long haul.
- Be happy when good things happen for others. Jealousy will get you nowhere.
- Forgive those who have hurt you and move on with your life, even if they’ve wounded you to your very core. Holding onto that anger and resentment isn’t worth it. You only end up hurting yourself over and over again.
- If you get dumped let them walk away. It’s their loss. Why fight to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?
- Actually being alone is less lonely than being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone.
- All change is terrifying, but embrace it. It’s one of the only constants in life. You may not know where it will lead you, but it could be somewhere amazing. Even if it isn’t, you will not have any regrets because it will always be a learning experience.
- Speak up for yourself and be your own advocate. No one else will do it for you.
- Stop caring about what other people think of you and start caring about what you think of yourself. The only person who will be in your life from beginning to end is YOU.
- Some people will be judgmental and cruel. Those people are assholes.
- The common denominator in every one of your romantic relationships is you. If it never works out, it’s time to look in the mirror.
- You cannot control other people. You can only control yourself and how you react.
- There will be circumstances that are sometimes beyond your control. Learn to identify these and make the best of it. Wallowing only hurts yourself more.
- Despite what I said in #18, the reality is that most of the time the things that happen to you are your own fault. Playing the victim only makes it worse. Take control of your life. You’re in the driver’s seat, not the passenger.
- If your job is killing your soul then get the hell out, even if it means a pay cut. It’s not worth putting yourself through hell day in and day out for a little extra money. If you hate the field you are in, it is okay to switch career fields. Even at 32.
- Treat every job interview like you are the one doing the interviewing- because you are. You want to work for a company that treats their employees well and has values that match your own. When you find that environment it allows you to be passionate about your job. It no longer feels like “work” and becomes something you enjoy and take pride in.
- Don’t jump to conclusions about situations and people. Allow others to explain and tell their side of the story.
- When you make a mistake admit it and take responsibility. Do what you can to rectify the situation. Conflict sucks, but avoiding it just makes the situation worse.
- Don’t fall in love with the idea of love and marriage. Never marry someone who is good on paper, yet doesn’t make you weak in the knees and never has. That spark and weak in the knees feeling is what will sustain you through the bad times and challenges in marriage. You cannot rekindle a spark that was never there to begin with.
- Drive down the freeway with the windows open and the music blasting. Bonus points if you’re car dancing to a 90’s boy band!
- Learn to be comfortable doing things alone. Go to that movie no one else can make it to. Eat out at a restaurant alone. Take a vacation by yourself. You won’t believe how empowering that feels.
- Deliver more compliments than criticism.
- Tell the important people in your life how much they mean to you on a regular basis. You never know if it could be your last chance to do so.
- Give back. If you can’t afford to financially, donate your time. You may be shocked to realize that you get as much out of it as you give.
- Remove yourself from unhealthy situations, if at all possible. It isn’t worth the stress to stay miserable.
- Treat others how you want to be treated. Very cliché, I know, but even if you don’t receive the same treatment in return, you can hold your head up high and know you did the right thing.
- Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This applies to all situations in life.
- It is okay to not be okay. Emotions are natural and every emotion you have is valid, even if it is due to a mental illness. There is a huge difference between feeling an emotion and ACTING on an emotion. You cannot control how you feel, but you can control how you react. Listen to your emotions because they are there for a purpose. In some cases they are trying to tell you that something is horribly wrong.
- Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy and reduces stress. Set aside specific time for this. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day grind, but if you let yourself burn out you are worthless.
- DO IT AFRAID. It doesn’t matter what it is, but push through the fear and do it no matter how terrified you are. I need to remind myself of this so much that I tattooed it on my wrist as my 34th birthday present to myself.