Here is the second part to my "10 things I've learned in my 20s" post. You can view part one by clicking here. And don't forget to leave a link in the comments if you make a list of your own; I'd love to read it. This was so fun to write, and it was definitely an introspective, self-growth kind of process. Thanks again for reading!
Just to recap- and again, see part one for the full write up- here are my first five lessons:
1) Never let anyone else make you feel bad about your choices.
2) Get into the habit of working out.
3) Don't be flaky.
4) Do not, do not, do not change yourself to suit a guy.
5) Not everyone will like you.
and the final five...
6) Don't rush. I can't tell you how many times over my teenage and college years I would be thinking of what's next, what's coming in the horizon, what I could look forward to. Looking back, I feel like I always had my mind on the next milestone, plan, weekend, etc. and although I do feel this kind of thinking can be great...I think if you're too caught up in the "next" thing, you're bound to miss a lot. I remember when Hank and I first moved in with each other, in 2005. We rented the tiniest little apartment right downtown. I've mentioned it before, but it was basically a studio, but had a small, closet-like space that fit only a twin bed, with room for nothing else. I can remember in the beginning of that experience I kept talking about our next place, the next thing...and I can remember Hank saying to me, "Just take this in NOW, this is the beginning of us, and we will never be able to go back to these days again." That reminder was all I needed to be more present, and I cherished every single day we spent building the beginning of our life together, twin bed and all. It became our tiny little love nest, and we both look back so fondly on that adorable little apartment every time we walk or drive by it while downtown. I'm lucky I have someone who is so in tune with the important things in life because I would have been so sad had I missed all of it, hoping for the next thing to come along too quickly. And I think that can be applied to anything in life. I'm so happy I followed this advice, and slowly took in the many stages my life has had since that realization- falling in love, getting engaged, moving into different places, planning a wedding and getting married, many trips with my girlfriends and family, milestones for my loved ones, the process of buying our first home, and being pregnant. I feel like I've been so present for each thing, and I am beyond thankful for that.
7) Every single day is a choice to be either positive or negative. This has taken me the longest of all of my lessons to master, but luckily I am pretty much there. There were so many times over the past ten years or so when I would almost choose to be in a bad mood. I knew exactly what I was doing, made the conscious effort to just "give in" to feeling like shit, and instead of trying to cheer myself up I would just fall deeper into negativity. The older I got the more I realized that I control quite a bit in my little world- and although I can't control other people, I can control my reactions to them, in in turn, my mood. I can wake up and decide to have an awesome day, or I can wake up and let little things annoy me and in turn have a bad day. It's all about that first decision.
8) It's okay to let go; people change. Over the past decade of my life I've had lots of friends- high school friends, friends from different places I've worked, college, etc. It's hard when you've been friends with someone for a long time, and then life goes on, and you move on...and the friendship isn't what it once was. It can cause a lot of grief and upset feelings when friends drift apart, but I strongly believe that this is a natural thing that happens and it's best to just let things be as they will be. That's not to say to stop making an effort and let that fall to the wayside, but more so in the case of the "natural drift" (I'm sure you know what I mean). There's a lot of people I care for deeply, but we just aren't as close as we used to be. There aren't hard feelings, there's no weirdness, it's just a mutual understanding that at this time in our lives our relationship has a bit of a different definition. It's funny because sometimes friends come into your life, and then out, and then sometimes they come back in. One of my closest friends, let's call her S., was my best friend for a long time, at the end of college and for years after. We drifted apart a bit, but after I got married we came back into great touch and although we don't talk all of the time, she is one of the most important people in my life and will be an Auntie to our son. I really believe that it's okay for this to happen with friends. I feel like we try to hold on a lot to "what was," or what a relationship used to be, but in reality, everything is always changing- people, circumstances, friendships...so it seems only natural that if two people don't change in the same way, things will shift. You can accept it, keep loving your friend, and know that in time everything works itself out just as it should. Everything has a season, and whether that season is for a year or a lifetime, it's okay.
9) It's not that big of a deal. Have you ever been through something terrible, and while it was going on you thought to yourself, "Oh my god, this is the WORST. How am I ever going to get through this?!" I'm sure you've had moments like that, I've had my fair share like I'm sure everyone has. This lesson is only learned after going through this horrible, bad thing, and coming out on the other side. I can think of so many instances that seemed like it was the end of the world for me. In my early twenties, I can think of some seemingly life-changing moments- breaking up with a boyfriend, having drama with a friend, getting into a fight with my parents, failing a "huge" test...and guess what? In the span of things, time goes by, and all of these instances that seemed so big and life altering are just bumps in the road, lessons to be learned, and memories, as your present becomes your past. It's good to live in the moment and to feel those emotions, but always keep in the back of your mind that you've been there before, and you'll be there again...this too shall pass. Thinking this helps me see the big picture when I think that things just can't get worse, or when I feel down in the dumps. For every up there is a down, and vice versa. It's just the way it goes. Accepting this, and knowing that it WILL get better is key.
10) Don't let anyone else's definition of happiness/success/life make you question your own definition of those things. This is the last lesson on my list, and I think it's the most powerful lesson of all that I've learned. Similar to my number one lesson, but still different in its own right. No matter what you do in life, no matter who you surround yourself with, there is always going to be someone who doesn't understand why you choose to do what you do, why you've chosen a certain career, partner, passion, or life path (hell, you can even add to that list outfit, tattoo, or sandwich at lunch!). Sometimes these people can be your parents, your friends, or even someone you don't know at all. Maybe you're a musician who has a dream of touring around the country in a van, with four of your best friends. Maybe you want to be an artist, but your parents think you should be a doctor. Maybe you are happy working, and college isn't for you. Or maybe you want to GO to college, but your friends think that's lame. Who knows. But someone will always have an opinion and someone will always NOT understand how on earth you could be HAPPY doing what you're doing. That's because they are imposing their definition of happiness onto you, even though you are totally different people with totally different goals and hopes and dreams. Even at this point in my life, when old classmates or friends find out that I won't be "using" my Bachelor's and Master's degree and will instead be staying home to raise and take care of my family, they are shocked. They don't "get" how I could be happy doing that. And they don't get it because again, it goes against THEIR idea of happiness. Hank traveled in and out of the country right out of high school with his band Life in Pictures, and a lot of his family didn't get it. When I started dating Hank and he was gone for months at a time, and some of my friends didn't get it. They were appalled that he could "leave me like that," but again, they could never really get it because they have different ideas of what happiness is. Believe me when I tell you that if you worry about what ANYONE thinks when you are making big life decisions, you will never be happy. You can't go to law school to please a parent, and you shouldn't not join the Peace Corps, start a small business, or fall in love with who you love just to please another person. How are you supposed to live an entire life (hello, you only get one!) for someone else? You have to follow your idea and definition of success and I guarantee you will find happiness in whatever that may be. Granted, the journey of actually finding your happiness is another topic for another day, but following your heart is a good start. ;)
I also thought I'd include 10 "smaller" things that I've learned along the way -
1) People really are the company they keep.
2) If someone talks shit about everyone, it's pretty probable they talk shit about you too.
3) Negativity is contagious.
4) Follow your gut, it's usually right.
5) Mean girls are just sad, insecure girls. Don't let them affect you.
6) Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, luckier, etc.
7) Quality over quantity is a good rule for most everything.
8) It's NEVER too late to make a change in your life.
9) The grass isn't always greener.
10) Do wild and crazy things/take spontaneous trips/fall in love a million times while you're young, you'll be in a different place in your life before you know it, and all of these things either a) won't seem appealing or b) won't be possible. And experiencing a multitude of these things are important things to learn from and to be able to look back on as you build your life in your late twenties and thirties.