I remember when getting older was something I looked forward to with much-anticipated joy. Among my friends, it was always the eldest one of the group who had the most bragging rights. So much so that we liked to add a precocious “and a half” to whatever age we were so that we could be just a little bit closer to getting to our fantasy idea of “adulthood”. There are a few somewhat challenging birthdays in our lives, they call them milestone birthdays sometimes… but I honestly wish they weren’t called anything special, it adds to the pressure. When I think about it, I often find that the birthday before the dreaded milestone birthday is usually the most torturous. At 9, you’re just about to go into double-digit ages and you know that soon after that you’ll be a teenager, which if compared to childhood sounds horrific. At 19, you know that the next year your parents won’t be saying I have a “teenager” at home anymore, you can’t say you’re something-teen, your awkward phases better have passed because you are supposedly shooting straight into adulthood and everything after that is nothing but bills and age…old age. But now comes 29, this month I’m turning 29. All I can think right now is how on earth am I turning 29? It doesn’t hurt that the other day they asked me if I was old enough to sign for a package (yet again), but 29? Really? It doesn’t sound right. The thing that gets to me the most is that I’m a year (only a year) away from turning an age that I honestly don’t know how to act or prepare for and it’s pending there like the balance on your bank account for that purchase you shouldn’t have made but did.
I guess all of my life I’ve had this idea of what 30 looked like for me, I’m sure we all have those ideas. I guess I really felt that turning 30 would feel a lot more grown, a lot more prepared, stable, and definitely a lot more adult and further away from feeling like a kid or a teen. The thing is, I don’t feel that way. 29 is a step away from 30 and it often feels as if I’m somewhat regressing into childhood. We all have ambitions and dreams, and so it’s very easy to get stuck thinking about all of the things you haven’t done, all of the things that you can’t quite figure out how to start. I’m very well aware that I’m not prepared for this to be the last year of my twenties, I’m aware that I don’t really want to be older but that as the saying goes the only alternative to getting old, is dying young. This post is about the sincere and honest life lessons I believe I have learned in these 29 years of life, focusing mainly on the things I learned in my twenties. I thought I’d share these things for some reader to bump into, maybe someone who is out there feeling awful about the age they’re turning, maybe someone who wonders why on earth time is passing by so fast. Or like me, they just can’t figure out exactly what to do with their life anymore, at an age where they thought everything would make absolute sense. So here it is, the 29 serious things that I’ve learned so far.
1. Stop caring so much about what your critics think about you, they don’t actually care.
For a long time I thought that what other people thought about me, about the way I looked, the way I acted, talked, etc was super important. I thought someone was actually going to get affected or feel hurt because I looked a certain way or dressed a certain way, the truth is… nobody actually cares. People are just annoying. I find that just as we find distractions and ways to entertain ourselves, there are people who will focus on you as their distraction from their own insecurities. Those people who tell you to change something about yourself, who tell you that you’re not good at something are probably distracting themselves from a huge elephant in the middle of their own mental rooms. It’s not you, it’s them, move on.
2. Don’t spend so much money on trendy apparel, find a style and fit you like and stick to it.
I can’t begin to explain how much I’ve spent on random things and encouraged purchases in my 20s that I honestly would give away within the next four months after purchasing. Just because it’s trendy or even cute doesn’t mean it will look good on you or fit your lifestyle. Just because your friends or family are telling you to buy it because you look great in it or should wear more colour doesn’t mean it’s for you. All my life I thought I had to buy high heels and pumps because it’s an important shoe to have in your wardrobe, especially for interviews. I’ve learned that it completely depends on who you are. I honestly rarely wear heels and when I do I find that owning one pair is good enough. I have never again worn those purple 6-inch heels that I bought at Selfridges in London because a friend said I should wear more heels, it isn’t going to happen either. This brings me to lesson number
3. Be Yourself in every aspect.
I’m not a heel wearer, I’m not a fake lashes, mac conturing, highlight getting, nail manicuring, spandex dress wearing type of girl. I get that you’ll have friends (as I have had) tell you that you don’t dress sexy enough, or that every once in a while you should wear something short and skimpy, or even that you should get your make up done at Sephora. I’ve heard it all, but it isn’t me. There’s nothing wrong with trying it and believe me, I’ve tried. But the few moments when I’ve tried to be that person it has failed miserably because the heels don’t match my Meg Ryan/ George Jefferson from The Jefferson’s walk nor does the conturing make up match my Lucille Ball facial expressions. I’m okay, I’m happy.
4. Do things you actually like, not things you think you’re supposed to like.
Okay, so I know I’m going to get a few stares for this one, but for the most part I’m not someone who enjoys grueling workouts and heavy gym sessions. I feel sick, I feel tired, and even when I’m in shape, I’m awfully unhappy. For a long time, I felt that I had to do exercises I didn’t enjoy because I was supposed to like that, just like I thought I was supposed to like socializing at parties. I don’t. I hate it. That being said, fitness is important, but fitness you enjoy is more important. I’m still on the path to finding workouts I enjoy. So far I’m a relapsed zumba class taker, a runner, a weight-lifter, a cardio bunny, a spinner, and sadly moving into a Pilates relapse as well. I still get excited about long walks and hiking though, and indoor rock climbing is something that I want to do more often. I also would like to swim. But I’m done pushing myself to do things I honestly hate doing and worse, paying money for it.
5. Don’t feel bad about not being a ‘go-getter’ or an aggressive person.
I think once I turned about 25 I realized something about myself, I’m pretty laid back, I know what I want, but I’m definitely not going to go kill anyone for it. I’m just not such a fighter when it comes to opportunities or ambitions. I see a lot of people getting ahead and hustling left and right, sometimes I wish I was more like that, but the truth is I’m not, I’m pretty peaceful I prefer to let things flow. I may be ambitious in my own way, but I don’t sacrifice my sense of peace for anything.
6. Read things you enjoy and that give you a good feeling.
I like to read, but I don’t read things just because they’re best sellers or because all of the big book-worms of my circle are reading it. I serendipitously find books that give me happiness and joy, and I read them, enjoy them, devour them, and quote them. I’m currently reading a book about a woman who decides to have a sheep as a pet in her Paris apartment. I’m obsessed with sheep, I loved the cover, and honestly, it’s an enjoyable book. If I’m going to spend time reading I better enjoy it.
7. Push for happiness.
As someone who can struggle with bouts of blues I can’t stress enough how much I’ve learned to avoid things and even people that I know can trigger those thoughts and feelings. I realize that unlike the general public I actually have to push myself to be happy sometimes. I have to watch a happy and hilarious comedy after watching a dramatic film to make sure I’m cleansed of sadness. I have to concentrate on happy positive events to keep my mood up. I have to actually put in the work and sometimes even frustrate and fight with myself to go out and socialize, do something, but not be stuck in depressive solitude. The other day I was feeling low and I literally obligated myself to go get a drink at Starbucks. Happiness and positivity don’t come easy for some, sometimes you have to fight for it. The good thing is It’s always worth fighting for.
8. You honestly don’t need that many friends.
I mean… you really don’t. Like I told a good friend once: “Would you rather have 10 decent quality Zara suits in your closet you barely wear or one epic quality Tom Ford?” I think we all know what the answer to that one should be.
9. Don’t tell people your crap.
I’m literally flinching as I type this one because holy halibut is it true. Just keep quite about things, your plans, your ideas, your goals. Stop telling people your crap! You don’t know who will steal your ideas, who will be envious of your successes and your goals. Especially when something is in its initial stage just… Shhh! This brings me to point number 10.
10. Chill out with the over sharing on social media.
When I entered my twenties we were just coming out of ridiculous personality quizzes on Myspace and fights over people being moved on the infamous “Top 8”, soon after that, Facebook became the thing. I cannot tell you how many break-ups have turned vicious because of social media, how many rumours have started, how much cheating has gone on, how much drama has been created. Social media can be a great tool, but is it honestly necessary to update everyone on your constant life changes? I think not. I get sharing pictures of those you love most, posting a nice quote, but I find that the few moments that I’ve over shared my emotions on social media it has been a dumb thing to do. These days I stick to instagram and pinterest, I feel safer there. But also, I don’t have to give lengthy explanations about my life and where I am, to nosey family and friends who are just looking for a bit of distraction.
11. Be weird.
Do odd things, not odd creepy things but just odd things. Get up randomly at 5am to watch the sunrise while eatings peanut butter from a spoon. Dance alone in your bathroom, go pet animals at a petting zoo, try on gowns randomly at a department store and pretend to be an old Hollywood actress or actor, imitate accents, just be a quirky person. Don’t fit in so much, you’ll blend into a wall one day and become a brick. (btw I’ve tried and tested all of these and I approve)
12. Make a blessing jar.
Write down blessings and happy things that have happened to you throughout your day, everyday. You’ll see how awesome it is to read them at the end of the year and see that you have a lot to be grateful for.
13. Take time to keep up with your interests.
I can’t stress enough how sad it is when a musician or an artist just doesn’t take as much time to enjoy (not work on or improve) but simply enjoy their talent. It’s easy to forget that you are a musician because it is your passion when you have to learn a song for an event, or when you’re studying music, but to enjoy it is the thing that makes you good at what you do. To have time to be passionate and happy when you draw, or paint, or play an instrument is what makes you a true artist.
14. Don’t give so many second chances.
This was a hard one to learn, but the truth is that person you’ve been waiting on to change is probably not going to. If they are, it’s best they do it on their own and not while you are hanging on and getting blasted by all of their constant storms. Being sorry means change, not constant repetition.
15. Search out your ancestry.
Seriously, please do! Just do it. It is the greatest thing ever to know who your ancestors were, what traits you have in common. Not only this but it is interesting and moving to know that we are the living proof of history. It helps you appreciate your family so much more.
16. Find your anthem.
Now this is pure musician advice, find your anthem bro. Find the song, or the few songs that describe you, move you, give you goosebumps, make you think of hope of adventure and everything good in between. Think of the last songs you’d ever want to hear and make them yours. Dance to them, sing to them. Tell people “this is my song”. Get excited about them, freak people out with them, find your anthem(s).
Always write, you don’t have to be a writer to write, just write. Sometimes your writing is the best advice you’ll ever receive, strangely enough.
18. Travel anywhere, even if all you have is a car or a bicycle.
People think that travel is this huge and luxurious thing sometimes, it doesn’t have to be. Explore your city, get lost man, actually get lost. Ask for directions, be a wanderer, it doesn’t have to be a gold-plated vacation that you manicure perfectly for instagram. It can also be something you do for you, somewhere you go to just be.
19. Take yourself to a nice restaurant.
This is something I have found some people think is uncomfortable. Dining out alone, I find it enjoyable and often times very inspiring. People watch, eat slowly, savour your food and close your eyes while you eat it. Be a foodie, make people jealous of the relationship you have with the piece of glorious food on your fork.
20. Don’t try to fit in, and don’t feel bad if you don’t.
I don’t fit in. I have this blog because I’m probably the most outcast, left out person who still manages to have great people in her life that exists. For a long time I felt horrible that I’m just not Miss Congeniality, I’m not the popular girl, I’m not the girl who gets hundreds of collages and best friend shout outs on social media, for the most part friends forget my birthday. People never post about me. I’m the behind the scenes friend that gives you the raw advice you need to hear, I’m the one that’s there for you at 3 and 4 in the morning, but that no one ever invites to “girls night”. But, I’m also the one who goes to snobbish art openings, the one who has much older, wiser and incredibly talented friends who quote Salvador Dali and know about wines and ancient Greece. I’m not the one who gets the friend collage, but I am the one who gets handwritten letters and christmas cards from people who have done incredible things around the world. I don’t have a group of girlfriends that I go get my nails done with, but I do have incredible musician, writers, poets who I have long lunches with and go 6 months without seeing only to come back to the same lovely conversations. What I’m trying to say is, I’m an outcast, but I have found other outcasts to be anti-socially social with.
21. Don’t invest so much of yourself in situations and people who are not doing the same for you.
This one was tough to learn, but at some point I looked around and realized that I was always concerned and stressed giving advice, losing sleep and money for people who were honestly not my friends. I don’t regret being a nice person, but I do regret investing so much time and money into people and situations that were doing more harm than good. I’ve realized it’s not wrong to sew and expect a harvest, it isn’t wrong to do good and expect good back. There’s nothing wrong with being kind and expecting kindness in return anymore than there is nothing wrong with turning your back when that kindness is not reciprocal. I don’t go by an eye for an eye, but I certainly don’t think sticking around for a parasitic relationship is healthy nor is it right.
22. You’ll never stop being afraid, just do it.
I’ve always been good at facing my fears, but what I wasn’t good at was acknowledging that they would almost always be there. Every time I’ve moved I’ve been a bit afraid, but I’ve done it. I think if there’s anything I don’t regret in life is facing my fears, whatever the outcome, facing my fears makes me feel like a hero. Like Mulan… always like Mulan.
23. The thing people teased you for when you were younger always becomes your shining feature.
This, this is an important one. I’ve learned that the things about me that people teased me the most about are always the thing that makes me stand out and I end up loving the most as time goes on. Listen well kids… if you’re being teased because you’re “too” short, you’re going to love being a mini little cutie when you’re older. If you are teased for having curly hair like I was, you are going to be complimented non-stop for having big luscious curls. It’s the way life mysteriously works. I used to be constantly teased for my height, and now, I don’t even like how tall I feel in heels. I was teased for my hair, and it is the one thing people compliment me the most on. Start loving it now, and stop wasting your time agreeing with your critics.
24. Never let anyone make you feel bad about how you mourn.
When my eldest sister passed away, a lot of people criticised that I kind of didn’t show much emotion. I simply couldn’t react and don’t process emotional things at the same speed as others may or may want me to. I simply plow through in the moment, I keep going, and somehow one day it hits me… this person isn’t here anymore, this relationship has ended, you have lost this opportunity. Later is when the tears start flowing and I come to a realization of the things that did hurt me. However there are some things that will make me cry on the instant, they will touch a nerve that no one knows about, a wound that maybe hasn’t healed 100% and the tears will start flowing. I’ve realized it’s okay. I shouldn’t feel guilty about being sad, or about how I deal with it. I try my best and that’s all that matters.
25. Be an eternal student at whatever cost.
Says the girl who is studying for a PhD and slightly freaking out… but seriously, it doesn’t have to be a lengthy doctorates but always study. Learn a new language, learn to sculpt, to sew, to sing, whatever! But always keep studying. There is so much endless knowledge out there, I guess I keep studying because I’m afraid to miss out on any of it.
26. Be careful with the idea you have of someone, versus the reality.
I think if there’s something I did throughout my twenties is get a general impression of someone and form an idea based on it. Later on I was crudely surprised when they were nothing like the idea I had developed. Ideas are great, but there’s an idea and then there’s the reality of what things and people are like. Don’t confuse the two.
27. Learn to love your body.
People say this a lot, but I’m going to add a little more to this. Learning to love your body for me, doesn’t necessarily mean learning to love a weight or health level you aren’t happy with, but loving your body enough should push you to want to be healthier so you can enjoy your life better. What I mean by loving your body is loving the things that aren’t perfect to you, your shape, your one random leg dimple, your strangely shaped tummy or your extra toe. Whatever it is that you came with you have to love it. It’s the thing that transports you through life, the thing that gives you an image people remember you by, and to go around hating it and cursing it, saying negative things about it… well, it’s just like beating your car and putting bad chemicals in it.
28. Learn to trust God’s timing.
Ahhh… this one. This one is hard. There have been things in my life that I have been late for which I can’t comprehend. Things I cried over, screamed over, went into depression over, and yet, it just wasn’t the right time. When the right time did come, I realized that had I not been held up at life’s security line I wouldn’t have met people who would later on be there for me when the timing was right. If things hadn’t gone wrong and launched me on a completely different path I wouldn’t have realized that different was better. I’d say this lesson is an ongoing one because patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m getting better. I’ve realized that if something doesn’t work out it honestly wasn’t supposed to, because God knew that it would probably take me further away from perhaps meeting a specific person I was supposed to meet, at a specific time and place. Had everything worked out earlier… the dream doesn’t come true. It’s all a little supernatural that way. Suddenly you’re standing at a metro exit a year later looking at someone you wouldn’t have met if things had worked out earlier like you wanted and then you smile and say to yourself: “but then I wouldn’t have met you”.
29. It’s okay to change and to be sad because you do.
I’ve changed. I’ve changed dreams, I’ve changed attitudes, I’ve changed as a person. I used to be so adamant about not changing my plans. It’s a difficult thing because sometimes life changes you, and you’ll have no idea it is even happening. The moments when I realize that I have lost interest in something I loved to do are always quite hard, sometimes those changes mean that you don’t feel the same about certain people, or certain situations. I have gotten used to changing location, but not so much to changing my mind. When I started out in my scholastic journey I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer, I was sure of it. But as time and the economy changed, I saw it wasn’t as easy or even possible. I had to adapt, but as I adapted I also changed. I have grown detached from the fashion world in the way I used to be. I’ve let go of a lot of dreams throughout my life, but I’m trying to see that this only means I get to find new ones. Different ones. Greater ones.