April 23, 1994
I am trying to get used to this new jacket I was given: the year of 23. It seems a little big and roomy and it is not one that I have quickly clung to like I did the year of 22. 22 was a sparkly coat, fun and exciting with some swanky slacks to pair with it. Perhaps 22 was portrayed to be the “cool year” and Taylor Swift is to blame for it. My former 21-year-old self quickly embraced the twin digit number with open arms. But 23? 23 seems grown up, serious, has all its ducks in a row.
At some point, replying with “23” when my age is asked will not feel weird. And if I am lucky, maybe I will get over the strangeness of calling myself a woman instead of a girl. Or maybe, I will find out that there is no “a-ha, I have arrived” moment in womanhood.
But before I get too carried away with my introspection, I want to share with you 23 lessons I have learned in the past 23 years.
1. The only problem that can’t be fixed is a blank page. Generate stuff. Be creative. Write, write, write (in a journal. In a blog post. In a blog post draft that never sees the light of day. On a napkin). Paint. Read more books. Make a scrapbook. Start any new project. Allow it to look like crap. Creation is not meant to be perfect.
2. Practice patience and trust the process. You don’t need all of the answers at once; you just need to end up in a position that fulfills you and makes each day feel meaningful. And if the road to getting to that place turns out to be bumpy and difficult, invite patience.
3. Say “no” to things you don’t want to do and say “yes” to things you want to do. STOP saying yes to things out of obligation, and wasting time doing things, or seeing people, that don’t interest/stimulate you. START saying yes to things that will help pull you out of your comfort zone from time to time.
4. Diets suck. Calorie counting will suck any joy from your life. Don’t trust a word that starts with “die”. Diets will not make you happy, healthy, or improve your self-confidence. Health is not determined by weight, but by how we nourish our body through self-care, mindful eating, and movement.
5. Go outside every day. A little bit of sunshine and a breath of fresh air rejuvenates the soul and awakens the mind!
6. You’re the only person who will always be around no matter what. You can love that reality or hate it, but it’s a lot more fruitful to learn to be okay with yourself. Be good to yourself in multiple dimensions. It takes time to love yourself, sometimes a lifetime, but if it’s hard then think of the person you love the most and what you would do to make them happy and reflect those actions onto you. You deserve the best and you deserve to be happy, with others in your presence or on your own. Distinguish between loneliness and solitude; one is a cage and one is a treasure and you can profit endlessly when you reap the benefits of your own company.
7. You deserve a love that is centered around kindness, compassion, sincerity, and warmth. Do not stick around for a relationship that is anything but tender, giving, and pure.
8. This exact moment is your life. Put down your cellphone and live in what’s real, in what’s right in front of you. When you are with your friends, family members, strangers, on the bus, driving in your car, in a work meeting, trying something new, eating dinner, relaxing before bedtime, or celebrating something momentous, put down your phone. I worry that pretty soon we will have lived a life of moments captured, but not truly enjoyed, and we will be left with a life that is unlived, unnoticed and unappreciated.
9. Be thankful more often. Enjoy the small things we take for granted. They are life’s little gifts to us.
10. You are enough. Exactly as you are.
11. You are doing to get criticized no matter what you do, so do your thing. If you listened to every piece of negative feedback, you’d be like sitting in a dark cellar counting flies on the wall, drooling. We’ve all been criticized at one time or another. You gotta do what you gotta do, and either way someone, somewhere will have something to say. If you don’t want to be criticized, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
12. If you want something, you have to work hard for it. If you want something to happen, you have to get off your ass and make it happen. Life doesn’t owe you anything, so don’t expect it to. Don’t expect a million dollars to show up at your door, don’t expect to wake up with a rocking body, don’t expect to get your dream job if you don’t ever put work into it.
13. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness, let alone anything. Only take advice from experts.
14. Drink a lot of water…seriously. I used to go an entire day with drinking one cup of water. You can’t produce the best work if you don’t have the best insides, so get it together and drink up.
15. Don’t take life or yourself too seriously. No one gets out alive.
16. Your parents are people too. They are not only your support system, but real people who feel real things and go through life with your best interests in mind. Give them the chance to shed some light on whatever you’re going through.
17. Burn the candles; use the nice sheets; wear the fancy dance. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
18. Worrying is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Worrying is pointless. Pointless. What’s the point of worrying?
19. Part of developing quality is about being selective. Choosing how you spend your time and whom or what we give it to. Decide what will add value to your life, who will enrich your worldview, and what will bring happiness and then do these things. Gently let go of the rest.
20. Never go to bed angry.
21. Smaller is not better. Throw away that pair of jeans. Don’t buy clothes that don’t fit or anything you don’t feel comfortable in, even if it’s a trend. (Screw body suits). You may not be “small enough” but the world needs more of you, anyway.
22. A day without laughter is a day wasted.
23. Do not let the harshness of this cold world snuff out your fire. You contain the little light that is left on this planet. Treasure it. And from me to you, I am so glad that people like you are still here.
I’m 23, graduating and ready to take on the “real” world. Any other valuable lessons you’ve learned in your twenties? Let me know in the comments below!