Wednesday, August 11, 2010
10 things I've learned in my 20s, Part 1
I've been thinking a lot about life lately. Normally I'm quite the thinker anyway, but most recently I've been musing over the past years of my life, taking inventory of the great people in it, and contemplating a lot of different things. Perhaps it's a symptom of pregnancy, although I'd say it's most likely from the overall huge change I'm about to go through. With all of these thoughts milling around in my head, I started to think about all the things I've learned while on this wild ride of my 20s. I think it's safe to say that this decade has included some of the most defining years of my life. I'm not quite done with it yet- I won't turn 30 for another two years, but I'd say that being 28 and looking back is quite the trip. With that said, I'd love to share the top 10 things I've learned (so far). And I invite YOU to make a list on your blog, and link back here. It's such a good exercise to evaluate where you've been; I think that's the only way to see where you're going. So, without further adieu, here is the first part of things I've learned during these life-changing years, some big and some small. I'll publish the second installment one week from today.
1) Never let anyone else make you feel bad about your choices. Throughout both my college years and afterward, I've never really been one to go along with the crowd, even though I've often surrounded myself with those who are more middle of the road people- nothing too extreme, nothing too "out there." And that's not a bad thing at all- I'd consider some of my closest friends to be like that, but throughout my life, especially in my 20s, I've made choices that don't always follow the normal grain of what "everyone else was doing." I've done all sorts of things that people haven't understood. When I was vegan right out of college many of my friends and even my family thought it was very strange. I found myself defending my choices more often than not, and I would often let it get to me. When I decided to get tattooed it was a huge issue, not only with some of my family, but some of my old friends. They didn't understand, or would pretend to, but call me their "tattooed friend," which to me was more offensive and annoying than anything else. Some of them are still this way and it is incredibly irritating, but at this point I couldn't care less what anyone thinks about it. Back then I DID care though, and I would get uncomfortable when we'd go on girl's trips, being the odd one out amidst my completely untattooed sorority sisters. It took me a long time to realize that people questioned decisions I made that went against the norm because it made them uncomfortable. It really had nothing to do with me, but it was more so about themselves, and their judgments. I had to let go of not only worrying about what people thought, but also accepting that judgmental people will never, ever change. And because I will never be a "normal" person who always does the easy thing, who takes the safe or quiet route simply to fit in, I will never fit into these kind of people's lives. I don't need to let them affect me. I don't need to let their uncomfortableness with my choices bother me. That's giving them too much power. So I simply choose to not allow people like that into my life. Lesson learned.
2) Get into the habit of working out. This is something I already knew, and always had done, both from being around my athletic parents, and also being a competitive athlete myself. It was ingrained in my from day one that activity equals happiness, whether it be dance or sports or just getting outside and taking a walk. And because I already know this and have always done this, I feel extra qualified and to say that this is something I have learned to be true even more, from seeing others NOT do it. I'm telling you, it only gets harder the older you get. It's not even about losing weight- it's about building a healthy body for your later years; making sure you have strong bones that age well, and a million other beneficial things for you mind, body, and spirit. If you aren't someone who was an athlete or who worked out when you were younger, it's never too late, but with every passing day you are losing one more day of getting healthy. I feel that fitness is one of the most important lessons I've learned throughout these years, because I've felt the positive effects of it. It's helped me with depression issues I've had, it's assisted my immune system in helping me rarely get sick, and it's given me confidence in my body. Unfortunately, I've also seen the negative side from older people I know who never worked out. As you get older you will start to feel those negative effects if you're not active, so I say why not get started in your 20s? Go for a walk, pop in a pilates dvd...do this for YOU. Build that healthy foundation for the rest of your life.
3) Don't be flaky. I used to be such a flaky teenager it was horrible. And I'm probably giving myself too much credit- I was the same way throughout my early 20s as well. The minute I would make plans I would start to feel just a little uncomfortable, and more often than not I would find myself breaking plans and finding something "better" to do, spur of the moment of course. I'm not sure why I hated feeling so tied down back then, because now I love and thrive on planning. But it was bad. I would flit from one friend to the next, constantly busy but never really committing. In high school, one of the year-end senior awards I received was "Social Butterfly" (another was "Party Animal" believe it or not but let's not even go there). In rose-colored hindsight I'd like to think it was because I was friends with everyone and was always happily getting along with many different groups (which I was), but it had more to do with the fact that I probably appeared to be a little butterfly because I hate-hated being too tied down to anything, person, plan or group! In my 20s I learned how rude it is to make and break plans, or to make new friends and then move on to a newer, "shinier" friend when the occasion arose. When I met my dear friends Autumn and Shirley, who are probably the most reliable people you'll ever know, I realized how great it is to be able to have friends you can always count on, and that's when things began to change. Sure, over the next few years I would revert back to being a bit flaky, but as time went on, I became more dependable, and around 21 or 22 I was someone you could count on. And this, I felt, was something to be proud of. Lo and behold, I met Hank right around that time and he was the most dependable guy I'd ever met, helping me become who I am today.
4) Do not, do not, do not change yourself to suit a guy. Oh goodness. I think we've all made this mistake before, but luckily I made them early enough that I learned my lesson in the early part of my 20s. I realized though, that if you are not yourself from the get-go, any hint of a charade that you put on will absolutely wear off, and where does that leave you? Who does that leave you with? I'll tell you who: with a guy who doesn't even know or like the real you, and you resenting yourself for not being yourself! If you aren't your true, authentic YOU from day one when dating, you cannot expect any relationship to ever work out. There were too many times when I was younger where I would date someone and slightly tone myself down a bit- maybe I'd dress a little more this way, or not do this or that...but it would be a slight variation of myself. UGH! What an embarrassing mistake. When I met Hank, I had already learned this lesson. The year before I had dated a guy for about 6 months and in a way, I think I "lost" myself. I didn't realize it until we broke up, but it had definitely happened. Before Hank even came into the picture I had already resolved to myself and to my girlfriends that that would never happen again. So with Hank I was my quirky, silly self from day one, and guess what? He loved the real me...and still does. ;)
5) Not everyone will like you. Oh, this is such an important lesson. And a hard one for me to swallow, but I've definitely learned it. It's important to understand that it is absolutely impossible for every single person to like you or enjoy your company. Just like some people rub you the wrong way, it can go the same way for others when they think of you. Like I said, this was a hard one for me to learn because I inherently want everyone to get along, and I of course want to be liked, like anyone else. It wasn't until I was out of college and into the "real world," that I experienced someone disliking me for no reason. I luckily had never experienced "mean girls" throughout my entire life, so this was something new to me. There was this particular girl, and she just hated me. She would call me fake, snobby, the list went on and on. She would talk about me to others, say things about me online. And the kicker was, I didn't even know her. It would baffle me to no end. Why was this acquaintance, this mutual friend of a friend, so enraptured with disliking me? I would try to be nice to her when I saw her, but to no avail. Finally I had to realize that wow, this sour, negative girl just doesn't like me. And IT'S OKAY. From there I realized that there were probably other people who really disliked me, and I began to accept that that that is just the way of the world. I also observed that the happier or more successful I became, the more that "those" type of people disliked me! I'm sure it's the same way with you, and it's often just the way it goes. Negative people exist. And that's okay. I just had to learn that they won't change, and being a people-pleaser is NOT good. In the end you have to do what is best for you. Trying to be liked, trying to play all sides of the field, this is not a good way to live your life. And bringing this into the present, since I've been blogging I've of course received various rude comments, both via this site and formspring. It doesn't bother me at all anymore, because I know that it's just the way it goes. Not everyone will like me, and that's quite alright. Definitely a good lesson to be learned.
So, those are the first five "things I've realized in my 20s," with 5 more to come in a week! Like I said above, I'd love for you to make your own list on your blog, and link us here in the comments. Maybe you're 20, 25, 35, etc. What have you learned so far in your life that you've found profound? It can be something small, something huge, or anything in between. I'd love to see your list, so feel free to share, and be sure to check back next week for the second part.
Have a great night everyone! So much love. xoxo