Today I turn 26. Wow, TWENTY. SIX. I think this is now officially considered “late twenties”….cue the anxiety attack! Last year I sat down and came up with 25 lessons I had learned over my past 25 years of life. I went back and read them and they are all still so true. I decided that each year I would add another lesson that I had learned throughout the prior year. Over my 26 years of life, I have learned a lot of lessons; some of which came fairly easy, and some were learned in excruciating painful, long and difficult ways. All in all, I am thankful for everything I have been through and for everyone (good and bad) who has taught me life lessons along the way!
1. Family Matters Most: This is first for a reason. At the end of the day, your family is all that matters. I have been blessed with the most amazing parents (who have taught me 25 million good lessons) and a wonderful sister that I often take for granted. It seems we often take our anger and frustration out on those who love us the most, and I am guilty of this a lot. My family has taught me that friends will come and go, but you can always rely on family to be there for you.
2. If you don’t know something, ask!: I used to be really shy and awkward when it came to asking questions. But I quickly learned this lesson at the Harris Teeter when I had to start shopping for myself. Mom is not always near her phone when you’re scouring the aisles for fig or cumin. Sometimes you have to just ask. This is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned. There’s A LOT I don’t know, and there’s a large chance someone else was wondering the same thing. I’ve never been embarrassed once finding out the answer.
3. Always include the date: My Grandmother always included the date on everything. And my Dad also passed this lesson down to me. You’ll be glad you did when you want to look back on that diary entry about your middle school crush, or NSYNC concert from 1998. Sadly, our memories will eventually fail us.
4. Handwritten notes go a long way: I once had a lady who I interviewed with tell me that I was the only person who wrote her a handwritten thank-you note after the interview, and that gave me a competitive edge of everyone else. Handwritten letters are a dying breed, and mean a lot more than an email.
5. AAA cuts you off after 9 calls a year: My sister and I learned this lesson the hard way. Don’t lock your keys in the car 3 times in one day if you expect your membership to last an entire year.
6. Don’t fight fire with fire: I can’t say that I’ve totally conquered this, but am working hard on it. It’s amazing how much a fight can escalate when you respond with yelling anger. I’ve noticed that if you sit in silence during an argument, the other person has no other choice but to calm down. Man, I wish I had learned this a long time ago!
6. Positive thinking really does work: I read the book “The Secret” a few years ago, and think it’s one of the greatest philosophies I’ve heard of. The Secret teaches that every thought we have can actually will something into fruition. Good and bad, I’ve seen this work in real life. Ask for what you want and then believe you will get it.
8. Heartbreak sucks: Whether you’re 15 or 22, heartbreak sucks. I have had a broken heart that lasted a few weeks, and one that lasted a few years. But the good news is that it does eventually heal. There were times when I thought I would never get over it, but I now look back and laugh. Wounds eventually heal, and you come to find that you’re stronger and better because of it.
9. Always floss: There was a picture in my dentist’s office that said “Only floss the teeth you want to keep”, and I guess that’s accurate. My mom has been relentlessly telling me this for as long as I can remember. I wish I was better at it, and am trying to keep up with it. It’s always embarrassing getting called out at the dentist for not doing it.
10. Like a variety of music: I pride myself on my diverse iTunes selection. From The Allman Brothers to Lil Wayne, Trisha Yearwood to Foo Fighters, there is something on there for everyone. Liking many genres of music makes you more culturally diverse, plus you have an appropriate playlist for any occasion.
11. Bangs are the devil: I have made a strict covenant with myself that my daughters will never have bangs. Never. I look back on baby pictures and wonder what in the world Sandy was thinking. The worst part is that the bangs haunted me into Elementary School. Not only do the look horrible, but they are a bear to grow out.
12. Create a budget and stick to it: I am so grateful that I learned this lesson early on. There are so many people who are in debt because of bad financial decisions they made when they were my age. I am glad I took the time to educate myself on savings, retirements and investing. I know one day I’ll look back and thank myself for being so diligent.
13. Trust in God: Along with family, God is the only person who will love me despite bad choice, bad bangs, and a multitude of other shortcomings. As hard as it is to remember and follow, the ultimate plan is up to Him. He has this whole life thing taken care of, I just have to trust that he is in charge. He knows what he’s doing, and he has my best interest at heart.
14. There, Their, They’re: I can thank my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Keziah, for this invaluable life lesson. There is nothing worse than poor grammar. I am so glad I learned this lesson early on!
15. Get to the ocean at least once a year: Growing up we would spend a mandatory week at the beach each summer. Although it’s tough to take a full week off, and to schedule a week that’s good for everyone, I still try to get there. I used to have the flexibility to get there more often, but am thankful for when I do get there now. Living three hours from the coast and having gracious friends who are willing to share their beach houses with you is very lucky situation to be in. There is something so peaceful and serene about the beach that recharges your soul.
16. Wear Perfume: I used to be the person who would buy nice perfume, but never wear it. Or buy a great candle, but never burn it. What was I saving it for? Wear your nice jewelry and underwear, sleep on the good sheets, use the good china. Enjoy it every day, don’t wait for special occasions.
17. 70 °F is warm enough to wear shorts: Apparently growing up, my sister and I wanted to wear shorts to school every day (not really sure why?). So my parents implemented a clever rule. If it was 70 degrees or warmer, we could wear shorts. Oddly enough, I still use this rule today as a standard of what the temperature is. If its below 70, it must be cold out, and if it’s over 70, it’s going to be a nice day.
18. Life is not a reality show: But I sometimes secretly wish it was… Drama and theatrics are for high school and Bravo. No, camera crews are not following you, and no, you don’t have a hair and makeup team. As I grow older, I’ve realized that petty drama is not entertaining, and adds nothing positive to friendships. I’d prefer to have a few close friends in my circle, then a lot of people I don’t trust.
19. Never mess with a swan or her baby: In High School I took a jog around the pond in my parents neighborhood. A quick jog that ended in bloodshed. Come to find, mother swans are extremely protective and won’t tolerate anyone near their babies. Lesson learned. I’ll never forget how large the circumference of that swans neck was, or the Homeowners Association telling my father that it was a federal offense to shoot a swan after he threatened.
20. Hot dogs and salami cause cancer: Two of my favorite foods, of course. My Mother is the healthiest eater I know, and as a breast cancer survivor, she is very particular about the foods she eats. She has drilled it into our minds that processed foods are toxic. It’s taken a while to finally accept this, but the woman has a good point. There can’t be anything redeeming about ingesting chemicals.
21. Google can answer anything: There has never been any question that I’ve had that Google hasn’t been able to answer. I’d love to know the average times I visit the site per day. My guess would be around 100. It’s the quickest and most direct way to find any tidbit of knowledge you’d ever want to know. I praise the mastermind who was behind this ingenious idea.
22. The first pancake always turns out bad: Just accept it, make another, and move on.
23. Know a few fun facts & keep up with current events: Read or watch the news daily. It gives you a leg up if you actually know what’s going on in the world. People who are informed and have an opinion are extremely interesting. You never know where a good conversation will lead you. Dinner and business meetings with strangers are awkward. Have a few fun facts up your sleeve for these events.
24. Fall in love and dance: Falling in love with someone is the greatest joy a human can experience. I am so thankful that I have been able to experience this already at such a young age. It is the most comforting feeling in the world to know that you’re loved by someone else. Dance. Dance a lot. Even it’s just a slow dance in the kitchen after dinner.
25. Some good comes from all bad: In 5th grade I was assigned a project to interview my grandparents. At the time, it didn’t mean anything. Now that my grandparents are deceased, it means everything. I vividly remember asking my Grandfather what quote would sum up his life, and he said, “some good comes from all bad“. Ain’t that the truth! I fully believe that every life event is a either a blessing or a lesson!
26. The power of positive thinking: I have always been a psychology nerd and truly believe “what you think about, you bring about”. But this year more than ever I have seen first hand how showing gratitude for the things you enjoy in your life brings about more of those opportunities. When I look around most of the things I have now were once among the things I had only hoped for. Happy people are fun to be around and I am making a concerted effort to be joyful, energetic and fulfilled.