Some of life’s most important lessons have to be learned in due time. We can be taught so many things by our parents before we’re even old enough to appreciate the lessons, but other things are simply beyond our reach until we get further along in life. I wanted to write a 27 things I’ve learned in 27 years post to reflect on what I’ve learned so far and share it with you all. But it will also be a sort of time capsule to look back at several years from now to see how well these lessons age as I do!
27 Things I’ve Learned in 27 Years:
1. Strike when the inspiration does
I cannot even tell you how many things I haven’t done because I didn’t follow this rule. Inspiration is a real kind of magic that is inexplicable and can make astounding things happen. But you have to ride the wave!
I’ve had tons of ideas for poems and short stories I want to write, and I think that I’m so excited and inspired that the ideas will definitely still be flowing when I get around to writing them later. WRONG.
The inspiration goes away, and I’m left staring at a one sentence note in my phone a week later that doesn’t inspire anything in me and feels like I can’t do anything with it. Feeling inspired to hang up all your art on the walls? Do it right now then! Otherwise you’ll have stacks of frames leaning against the wall in the corner for 7 months because you’ll never feel like doing it again. This rule applies to pretty much anything I can think of. Inspiration is extremely fleeting, so seize it whenever you can!
2. Time already wasted is not a good reason to waste more time
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve got to stick with something (or someone) that’s not working just because you feel you’ve already invested too much time to quit.
Investing more time into something may seem appealing because you don’t want to feel you made a mistake or squandered time you’ve already spent, but it’s not a way to magically get that time back or to make it all worth it. The hard truth is there is literally nothing you can do to get that time back. It’s gone. You don’t have it anymore.
What you DO have is the time ahead of you, and sometimes the best thing you can do is cut your losses and regroup. Don’t waste another minute on something that isn’t right for you. I had invested a year and a half and a bunch of money into classes for nursing school, and then I quit because I decided it wasn’t right for me. I was tempted to finish out the semester of the class I was in (I’m a person who always wants to be a good student), but I decided that would be a waste of my time because I knew I didn’t want to pursue that career, and my time is way too valuable.
This works for money too – money already spent is not a good reason to spend more money on something that isn’t right. This works for relationships too! One of my biggest regrets to date has been staying in a relationship that wasn’t working for WAY way too long. Trust me. Don’t be afraid to cut your losses and move in another direction. Make sure you’ve thought it through and are sure about your choice, but once you’re sure, don’t waste any more time or money.
3. When you’re old, you’ll remember how much fun you had, not how much money you spent
Money is money – it doesn’t really matter how you make it, and you can always make more. Not so with time and opportunities. I’m not advising you to be totally reckless and impulsive about money you spend on trips and experiences with friends, family, and your partner (or even by yourself!), but if you’re on the fence about doing something fun with people you love, it’s often best to go for it. Chances are you’ll remember a trip with your friends for the rest of your life, but you won’t remember how much money you spent on it or the stress you felt about making ends meet at the time. Similarly, if you DON’T go on a trip or go skydiving, you may always regret that. You probably won’t regret the $400 you spent on a trip or experience well into your 80s. The regret will disappear as soon as you make a little more money.
4. Know your weaknesses
Insight into yourself is super valuable. It allows you to I know how to anticipate problems before they happen. I know I cannot stick to a meal plan/diet if I feel too restricted. So I make sure any meal plan I follow has wiggle room. And desserts. I know I have a tendency to focus on what’s lacking. So I try to counter that by actively noting things I DO have going for me or that I’m grateful for.
I know I tend to get super jealous. This helps me not give so much credence to things my jealous voice says, and to tell it to STFU when I know that this is just something I do. It’s like having a friend who just complains about things nonstop – you recognize they’re operating in the only mode they have, and frankly you’re really tired of it, so you just dismiss what they say, because that’s just how they are. I know I tend to self sabotage, so I make adjustments to my planning (see #5). I know I feel so much more positive when I get some exercise, so I make sure I at least get a walk in each day, if not a run or some weight training. When you know your weaknesses, you can do things to compensate. It also helps you have more allowance and compassion for yourself when you can name and know your flaws.
5. Under-promise and over-deliver
No one likes letting people down, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to promise more than you can reasonably do. If you promise to do more than you can and fall short, you’ll have disappointed yourself and whoever you made the promise to. If you set the expectations up differently and only promise the minimum you KNOW you can do, you’ll either meet or exceed someone’s expectations, which will make you and them very happy. I’ve learned it’s always better to be able to go to someone and say you did what you agreed to do or did more than they expected than to have to go to someone and tell them you didn’t do what you said you would. Under-promise and over-deliver is my foolproof way to avoid the latter.
6. Under-plan and over-achieve
The method in #5 can be used on yourself too! I have been super guilty of sabotaging myself in the form of setting goals and commitments that are way too high for me to reach. Then, when I don’t reach them, I feel deflated and worthless, and I give up on the whole endeavor. Hardly productive. Lower the bar and set goals you know you can achieve. Make your goal the bare minimum. That way, when you DO the bare minimum, you’ll be happy and motivated to keep going because you’ll feel accomplished and like you’re right on track. Your motivation will sustain you for much longer. If you exceed your goal and do more than the bare minimum, you’ll feel ecstatic and unstoppable!
7. You’ll regret not talking to your grandparents more
Things change a lot with each generation, and having the ability to learn about what the past was like from a primary source is a precious opportunity. I know I certainly regret not talking to my grandmothers more before they passed, so if you still can, talk to them! Better yet, record some of their stories on audio or video so you’ll be able to hear them tell stories in their own words and voice in the future.
8. Learn to make peace with your body
Okay, look, I’ll admit right away that I’m still working on this one, but I sure have come a long way in the last few years. I have been hyper critical of my body and very unloving in the past. The thing is, that behavior will never end until you decide to break the habit, because the likelihood of your body becoming perfect in your own eyes is virtually zero, and living in a way where you spend so much time and energy directing hatred and criticism toward you body that you see as a problem that’s not likely to be fixed is EXHAUSTING. Not much has changed with how my bod IS, but how I am WITH my body has changed tremendously. I’m happier and have a lot more energy for more important things.
9. Your student loans are not monopoly money
I know you know this literally, but what I mean to say is it’s incredibly easy to sign up for a lot of loans for your education because paying off those loans it Future You’s problem, and you won’t be Future You for practically forever. It can also be easy to take on a lot of student debt if you also got awarded a lot of grants and scholarships. Owing $50,000 when you’re getting $150,000 paid for seems small by comparison, but at the end of the day Future You is still going to owe $50,000, no matter how much of the rest you got someone else to cover, and $50K is a big deal. Think about how much it’s going to suck when you finally earn that $50K and then it disappears to your debt collectors instead of being deposited into your savings account. Education is super valuable, but don’t trick yourself into thinking that Future You that is gonna have to deal with student loan problems is farther off than she is. Trust me, she’s not.
10. Know your partner’s strengths and weaknesses
After knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, the next most important thing you can do to support the health of your relationships is to know the people who are close to you. Especially your partner, who you spend the most time with and likely get into arguments with the most. If you know your partner’s modes of operation, you’ll be much more able to be patient and compassionate with them and their flaws. Knowing yourself as well as your partner can help the two of you recognize and name what dynamics are created between you and why. This allows you to analyze what both of your strengths and weaknesses means for your relationship. I’ve learned that this mutual understanding paired with gentle reminders about our modes of operation and ESPECIALLY how we are fundamentally different in the way we perceive and react to certain things can go a long way in resolving conflicts.
11. Do the hardest parts of your day first
This is advice for major procrastinators, coming from a master procrastinator herself. If you keep putting off a task you know you have to get done that day, not only will you feel unproductive, but your ENTIRE day will be affected by having that task hang over you from morning to night. Trust me on this – just get it done first when you have the most energy, and everything after that will feel like a breeze You’ll probably feel motivated to do more because of the boost your accomplishment gives you!
12. Create morning and evening routines
I cannot understate the importance and positive effect of having a morning routine and an evening routine. It took me a long time to realize the value of having them, but for me a morning and night routine is such a treat because it’s the perfect blend of productivity and self care. Spending my morning with intention sets a positive tone for my entire day. Doing a few little things to care for myself at night and set things up for the next day makes me feel like all is right with my world. Try it–seriously! If you need ideas, check out my post about how to create a night routine.
13. Resist the urge to make your whole life about someone else
I have been SUPER guilty of this in the past, and it’s something I’ve improved on a lot, but it still takes conscious effort to maintain, because I have some codependent tendencies. I tell myself I like alone time – and I do – but particularly with my partner, it’s all too easy for me to always like being with them a bit more than I like to be alone. And I have made the mistake of planning the next steps in my life – whether it’s what I decide to do for the week or for the next year – based on what my partner is doing/wants to do. This is in part because I’ve been brought up to be a very accommodating person, and also because focusing on what someone else wants to do with their life is easier than you having to figure out what you want to do with your own life when you’re not sure. Now, obviously, when you’re in a partnership, there has to be SOME consideration of what the other person wants, but the approach needs to be less “I will mold my life to fit whatever my partner wants” and more “My partner wants X for themselves, I want Y for myself — how can we make both work simultaneously?”
14. Some people will not understand your choices, and you need to get okay with that
This is another one of those that I consciously recognize as true, but am still working on actually feeling it. This blog is a great example. I haven’t been telling my friends and family about it because I’m afraid people will mock me and not understand what I’m trying to accomplish, or they won’t understand why I would want to invest so much time and money into something like blogging. It’s not a “real job”. And knowing that people are going to laugh at you or not take you seriously is scary, embarrassing, and cringe-worthy. But I also know that you can’t let that keep you from doing the things you feel you need to do. Not everyone will get it. But you have to do what you feel moved to do.
15. A trick for not letting jealousy consume you
Jealousy has been one of my major struggles in life, and the battle continues, just like a great Star Wars epic, or the Trojan war, but I’ve done a lot of work on it. In the last year or so, I’ve really had to figure SOMETHING out, because I was driving my partner (and myself!) crazy. It boiled down to this: when I think of my ultimate goal in my relationship, it’s to make my partner happy, want to be with me, and want him to feel lots of positive feelings toward me/feel like I was adding so much love and positivity and fun and joy into his life that I make myself indispensable to him. Sounds lovely. Then I had to take a hard look at whether the choices I was making were helping or hurting that goal. When I asked myself that simple question, it became painfully clear that my choices to indulge and voice my insecurities, ask all kinds of questions about things I knew would just upset me to hear about, and need constant reassurance from him definitely HURT my goal. Basically torpedoed it. So I realize that I just can’t continue on in the same way and have ANY hope of meeting my goal, and meeting that goal is WAY more important to me than having a pity party and indulging in insecure feelings.
16. Stagnation leads to destruction.
This is basically the foundation of my entire blog. I have come to learn that you don’t have to know what you want to do in life, but it can’t be nothing. If you have any tendency toward depression, you will sink down into a deep hole if you do nothing. You have to be willing to be “wrong” and invest time into figuring stuff out. There’s a quote by Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”. I’ve found this to be extremely accurate for me. Things get dark and scary fast if I feel aimless and have nothing to occupy myself with. It’s okay to try things out that you’re not sure about — even if you decide something isn’t for you, it absolutely has not been a waste of time. It has kept you in motion, and more often than not leads you somewhere else, or at the very least eliminates a possible path or interest, narrowing the field for you.
17. People love you more than you think
They’re just busy and self centered, and easily distracted, like everyone else. I’ve learned not to take it as a sign of my unsatisfactory company when I haven’t heard from someone in a while or it feels like nobody ever reaches out to me. To think that way is also self-centered – 99% of the time the reason I’m not hearing from people has nothing to do with me at all. People are just living their lives, and there’s a lot to be distracted by in the world. Friendships take some effort, but not that much. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to reach out to someone, and don’t sweat it if you feel like your phone isn’t blowing up enough.
18. Don’t feel you need to finish your plate
As kids we’re always pressured to eat everything on our plate, often being prevented from leaving the table until we’ve done so and/or being guilt tripped into eating more than we feel comfortable eating through comments made about the starving, less fortunate children of the world. The thing is, parents do this because children are not always the best eaters, and they don’t yet understand the concept of having 3 meals and eating enough at each one to last you until the next one. Parents don’t want to have to make a second dinner for their kid one hour after the first dinner and right before their bedtime.
It makes sense – but the problem is so many of us carry this sense of duty to always clean our plates into adulthood without much thought at all. It’s just something you feel compelled to do, without ever consciously considering it. Here’s a tip: split dishes at restaurants with someone. Eating alone? Split it with yourself. Mentally or physically set aside half the dish to take home for leftovers before you even start eating. If you’re REALLY hungry enough to eat the whole thing, you can assess the situation halfway through, but more often than not, with the portion sizes so many restaurants dish out, you’ll probably be full by the time you eat half.
19. If you’re not thrilled with a piece of clothing exactly as it is the first time you try it on, for the love of god don’t buy it!
If the conversation you’re having in the dressing room with yourself goes anything like this: “It doesn’t look bad. This would look great on me if I just lost a few pounds. The dress is a little short, but I could easily just add an inch of cute fabric to the hem! It’s a little tight/restrictive, but I can deal with that for a day, in the name of fashion!” Etc, etc, etc. DO. NOT. BUY. THE. THING. You won’t get around to hemming it, you don’t want to put pressure on yourself to lose weight (and not have anything flattering to wear until you do), and if it’s too restrictive/uncomfortable, trust me, it will never leave your closet. These kinds of comments are what make us lack confidence in ourselves — how can we feel confident in clothes that aren’t right for us? — and also what leads to a closet full o’ “nothing to wear.”
20. “When I have the time” does not exist
We never have more or less time than any other time. There are always 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year (except for leap year). What it really comes down to is responsibilities and priorities. You spend time doing the things that are most important to you at any given time (or you should!). Your responsibilities are things you HAVE to do. Your priorities are things you are choosing to do, but very often we convince ourselves we have to do things we are choosing to do. Don’t confuse these things. Think carefully about what is actually most important to you and then MAKE the time for it. If you don’t, and you just figure you’ll “get around to” that thing you say is important to you when you have spare time, it’s just not gonna happen. I’ve learned this the hard way.
21. Growing never feels good.
Sure, it feels good in retrospect. But it almost always feels uncomfortable, scary, risky, embarrassing, and painful while you’re going through it. If you’re not feeling those kinds of feelings, you’re probably not growing. That’s the simple truth.
22. Learn how to make something that will make people love you
My thing: locally-world-famous Honey Cookies from my great grandma’s recipe. It’s the only recipe I know by heart and can whip up in literally a few minutes. It’s my go-to thing to make when I need something to offer to new friends, a new boss, new neighbor, whoever I’m meeting that I want to show goodwill to and encourage them to like me. I have never come across anyone who has ever had a honey cookie before I provided one (outside of my family, of course), and I get requests for more of them all the time. It’s a good tool to have in your back pocket to help grease the wheels of friendship.
23. It’s okay to admit you don’t know something.
It doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look curious, which is an extremely good quality to have. Nobody can know everything about everything. What makes you look stupid is pretending to know something you don’t and then having it become obvious that you lied about knowing about it.
24. Random acts of kindness will make you very happy
Seriously. Spreading goodwill to someone you owe nothing to and don’t even know will make your heart swell like the Grinch. I promise.
25. You’ve got to learn to stand up for yourself, if it doesn’t come naturally
Boy did I learn this the hard way. I spent 2 years in a living situation with a room mate that made me so unhappy that I literally avoided going home as much as I possibly could, and was causing me significant stress every day even when I stayed somewhere else. It was a situation where I had complete authority to ask this room mate to leave, but I felt I couldn’t. Why? Because I didn’t want to inconvenience her. And I was too intimidated to have a direct or confrontational conversation with her, because I wanted to be liked. I didn’t want people to be mad at me or think I was a beyotch. So instead I just lived a miserable life for two years. Totally worth the trade off, right? Um, NO. It really wasn’t. I’ve had to learn by practicing how to speak up for myself, communicate my needs and boundaries, and communicate when I have a problem with something in a respectful but firm way. If you’re an over-accomodater like me, you need to hear this: your needs are just as worthy as everyone else’s.
26. Make drinking water a regular habit
When I drink enough water on the reg, I feel like I have the life force flowing through my body (because I do!). Water is life. It’s easy to forget to drink enough, but when I do, I feel amazing. This is especially important when drinking alcohol. I try to follow the “one glass of water per drink” rule, but let’s be honest: that rarely works. What I CAN usually accomplish is to drink at least one full glass of water before going to sleep, and drinking another right when I wake up.
27. Learn to be more direct more quickly
This last one is definitely a way that I can see most clearly one of the ways I’ve matured over the years. I used to waste SO much time sulking before finally revealing to my partner what was the matter when something was bothering me.
It’s hard now to say exactly why — it could be in part that I wanted him to read my mind )to show that he knew me so well or was observant enough to realize exactly the chain of events that led to my withdrawl?). It could be in part because I wanted attention bestowed on me. Or that I’m just a Droopy sort of person and I feel comfortable hiding in the withdrawn place. I think it was all of those things. Hand in hand with #25, I think the accommodating part of me or the part that told myself I wasn’t worthy of consideration or having people go out of their way for me was making it hard for me to say something out loud that was bothering me that somebody else might not want to hear.
But it used to take me literally two hours to finally speak what was on my mind. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’ve worked on this a lot and still have more to do, but I’ve gotten more comfortable just being straightforward from the get go because I don’t want to waste the time, and it’s a real drain on relationships. It’s a skill I recommend working on if you haven’t mastered this one yet 🙂
Those are my jewels of wisdom from where I’m sitting at 27. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way? Anything you wish you knew when you were 27? Let me know in the comments!
And, as always,
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