Last weekend I turned 25, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I thought I might feel anxious, or stressed, or depressed. But instead, I found myself looking forward to 25. I found myself in a completely different space than I was a year ago, and that does nothing but give me hope for this upcoming year.
So instead of stressing about what I wish I had achieved by 25, or where I thought my life would be, I looked at the most important things I’ve learned (or at least, am trying to learn) in this quarter century.
1. You Can’t Change Anyone. That guy who never seems to have time for you. Yeah, that won’t change until he decides it will. That one girl who makes you feel bad about yourself with comments or looks or whatever– she’s not going to stop until she decides to. You can’t change people; you just can’t. People have to change for themselves. So stop trying!
2. …But You Can Change Your Reactions to Them. All of that energy spent worrying about things you can’t change, can and should be put into worrying about how you respond to them. Dump the guy who doesn’t have time for you– you deserve better. Look at why that one friend makes you feel that way, and if it is just your insecurities, take note. Adjust where you put your energy, and work on changing what you can.
3. Some People Just Won’t Like You. Co-workers, dates, your barista– some people just aren’t going to like you. That’s ok! Keep doing you, because plenty of other people will like you, and that’s what is important.
4. You Just Won’t Like Some People. And that’s okay too. Don’t feel bad if you don’t click with someone, or if someone just makes you insanely angry for no reason. Some times things just don’t click. Move on, don’t feel guilty, but always be kind.
5. Never Stop Learning. The farther I get from college, the more I realize how hard it is to keep learning. Join a book club, listen to podcasts, read the newspaper, take a class. Never stop investing time or money into knowledge.
6. Challenge Yourself. Every day, in some way. It can be physical, mental, spiritual, financial. But the second you stop challenging yourself is the second you stop growing.
7. Saving Money is Important. I struggle with this every single day, but I fear I am past (ok, way past) the age where not having savings is “quirky,” and it’s just straight up stupid. Saving sucks, and it’s hard, and it’s boring. But the earlier you start, the easier it gets… So I hear.
8. Never Stop Searching for Your Passion. There’s nothing more boring than a person who has nothing they are passionate about. The world is filled with things to love and to work hard for and to invest your time in. If you haven’t found what yours is, keep looking! You’ll have a lot of great stories along the way.
9. Take Baths. Especially when you don’t have time.
10. Never, Ever Stay in a Relationship that Isn’t Filled With Love. I’m not sure if this is something that can be learned until you’ve experienced a loveless relationship. A relationship should fill you up, it should make you float, it should make you a better person. It should never bring you down, it should never change you for the worse, and it should never be the only thing in your life. Pay attention to this. Being alone is better than being in a relationship that doesn’t fill you up. I promise.
11. The World Doesn’t Give You Time Outs. Even when you’re at your very worst– things don’t stop. You still have to work, to feed your pets or your kids, to function. So you shouldn’t stop either– at least, not for long.
12. “Anything or Anyone That Does Not Bring You Alive is Too Small For You.” I have this quote in my cube, and on several prints in my room. I read it every morning, and I try to live by it every day. You are big– you deserve big things, and you deserve to feel alive. Accept nothing less for yourself.
13. Find Friends You Don’t Have to Compete With. Never feel like your friends are your competition– for best bod, for guys, for most money– whatever it is. Your friends should want great things for you, and not be jealous or compete with you. You’ll know the difference when you have found your people.
14. You Have to Ask Questions to Learn About People. The older I get, the more I learn how important it is to ask questions. Every single person has an amazing story to tell– because it’s different from yours. But you’ll (mostly) never know until you ask.
15. Nobody, NOBODY, Knows What You’re Thinking. So never assume that they do. Are you so angry at your roommate because they didn’t wash the dishes? Tell them! Feeling terrified of a new relationship so you distance yourself? That guy won’t know what you’re doing. People can’t read your mind, so don’t expect them to, and don’t get upset when they can’t intuit what you’re feeling.
16. Being Thoughtful Goes a Long, Long, Long Way. Write a post card. Clean for your roommate without expecting anything in return. Pay for a round of shots without assuming someone else will do the same. Be thoughtful, and it will come back around.
17. Some Things are Worth Being Broke For. If I suffer for a couple of weeks or rack up a little credit card debt to rock a juice cleanse, or pay for yoga, or travel, or for weddings– it’s really not the worst thing in the world. Some things are worth it. Don’t beat yourself up too much.
18. Two Day Hangovers Are REAL. You guys. This is not a joke. No, you don’t have “allergies” on Monday after a Saturday rager– you’re just still effing hungover.
19. But Sometimes, Worth It. Just not all the time. We are not 21 anymore.
20. Don’t Stop Reading. Young adult, non fiction, biographies, sci-fi– there’s literature for everyone. Find what you love and keep reading. At the very least you will always have something to talk about on dates or at work when you’re reading a good book.
21. Your Life Probably Looks Nothing Like You Thought it Would at 25. And that’s okay. And you aren’t alone. 25 used to feel so old. 28 used to feel even older! I used to think I’d own a house and be engaged and not still be a hot mess at 25. Some people may have these things– and good on them if that’s what they wanted! But most of us are realizing that where we thought we would be and where we are, couldn’t be farther apart. I kind of love that.
22. Play. In the ocean, in the snow, in the rain, in the living room with your dog, with your friends on a kickball field– PLAY!
23. You Absolutely MUST Have Healthy Stress Relievers. At least one. Something that isn’t eating macaroni and cheese from the pot, or drinking a bottle of wine, or sleeping through the day. Whatever that looks like to you: journaling, long walks, yoga, bath time, cooking– you must have one. And you must use it!
24. Take Care of Your Space. Your cube, your bedroom, your car, your shitty studio apartment. No matter what it is– make sure it’s a space that makes you feel good. There are enough Pintrest boards and DIY projects that you can accomplish this on an itty bitty budget. If your environment is sad and gloomy, your mood will reflect it.
25. Choose to Be Happy. It’s as big a cliche as it is difficult to actualize– but happiness is a choice. Bad things happen, they do. They will not stop happening. But you can still choose to be happy. When you go through a break up, you can choose to live in that pain, or you can choose to find happiness again. When you are having a really rough week at work, you can choose to take that home with you, or you can choose to find healthy outlets, and actively work to leave that stress at the office the best you can. Happiness doesn’t just happen. You have to make good decisions, and you have to consciously choose it. Be happy today.
[Lead image via Shout It Out Design/Shutterstock]