“This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year. Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever. And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you’ve felt heartache. You can’t have a sense of victory unless you know what it means to fail. You can’t know what it’s like to feel holy until you know what it’s like to feel really fucking evil. And you can’t be birthed again until you’ve died.” ― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You
Last week I turned 32. Thirty-two isn’t exactly considered a milestone birthday (even though I happen to think every birthday we’re lucky enough to celebrate should be considered a milestone:) so I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write a list of lessons I’ve learned or why they’re swirling around in my head begging to be let out. But here we are nonetheless…
I wrote this list with my children in mind…these are things I’d want them to know if I weren’t around to tell them myself. While it is my belief that we each learn lessons in our own time, as we experience life (otherwise what’s the point of the journey?!?) and not so much from a list or what someone else has experienced, I do hope this provides an avenue, or at the very least, serves as a conversation starter, in which to discuss the bigger, more important questions in life.
32 lessons I’ve learned in my 32 years:
- Every relationship in your life is a mirror reflecting how you feel about yourself. Chew on that for a moment. This one is BIG. And if you learn NOTHING else from these lessons know THIS: There is nothing that you have to do, or be, or achieve to be worthy of love. You are already infinitely precious and truly loved exactly as you are.
- Become a master at disobeying. But, of course, only after you’re out of your parents house. The world and those around you will often expect you to conform to their ideal of who you are. Older doesn’t always mean wiser. And others best intentions will not be always be in your favor. Ask the hard questions and live on terms that make sense to you.
- Love has a heart of its own. What else is there to say, really? It just is, what it is. It almost never happens like (or when) we think it should. And it rarely makes any sense. Also, it is mostly true, especially in the beginning, what they say about love being blind. Your family and your friends do not need to be in love with the person you’re involved with, you do. While it will hopefully all mesh well, just know it is likely those same friends and family who will clearly see whether or not the person you love brings out the best in you. You know, while you’re too busy being happily blind. All kidding aside, I’ve found that love is almost always worth the risk. Just trust your intuition. It will rarely lead you astray.
- Expiration dates on friendships/relationships are ok. The question isn’t always how can you keep them intact, instead you should be asking how alive the two people in the situation are. Are you growing or stagnating? How can this experience bring more to the both of you? Sometimes growth as individuals necessitates moving on.
- Make sure to ask yourself if you’re truly emotionally and spiritually alive on a regular basis. You’re breathing, you’re alive! That’s great news. But how alive? Do you wake up excited…or are you “just trying to get through the day?” Getting through the day and surviving is ok, sometimes, but go on like this for too many days and there’s a problem. So many of us are unwilling to ask ourselves these questions because the answers can be scary. Checking in with yourself frequently will lead to fewer problems down the road. A rut can last a lifetime, if you let it.
- To understand what love is, you have to understand what love isn’t. Enough said. It is my greatest hope that you learn this lesson as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
- Get down to the root of self-love. Ohh, that sounds kind of dirty. Seriously though, most of us think we love ourselves but fail to pay attention to the thoughts running around in our head. Figure out as soon as you can what it means to truly love yourself.
- Allow receiving to be as gratifying as giving. There are two sides of the coin. Enjoy both. Admittedly, this is one I haven’t always been so great at. But the ability to allow yourself to be on the receiving end of anything (without feeling guilty about it) is an important quality to have.
- Grief and heartache work on their own timetable. And it never seems to work with yours. Let yourself sink into the emotions you’re feeling. It’ll be uncomfortable…but necessary for healing. As cliché as it sounds you’ll need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s easy to mask the discomfort with other things (food, shopping, pick your poison) but don’t. Doing so will only prolong the process. There is no such thing as a quick fix.
- Relationships are perfectly imperfect. They are supposed to be containers for growth. For some reason we expect that it’s normal for our jobs, children, friends, etc. to let us down…but not our lovers. In expecting our love stories to unfold perfectly, we set ourselves up for unhappy endings. No one is going to “complete” you. In the best relationships, it is ideal when both people want (and keep wanting) to bring their very best to the table. Don’t wait or depend on the other person to do it first. Relationships are not tit for tat. Communicate what it is you need. Word hard at love. Love fiercely. Like anything worth having, don’t be too quick to give up on it. Aim to please. And forgive fast. Continually, check to make sure you’re still on the same page. But if you find that you aren’t, and one or both of you no longer want to be…if one day you find that it cannot be fixed, understand that’s ok, too. Be courageous in letting go, and know that lesson 11 was meant to be read at this time.
- Trust that what’s waiting for you is worth moving towards. Be willing to let go and steadfast in discerning when the time has come. This invaluable advice in business, love, and life in general. It likely will not be easy, in fact it will probably hurt like hell, but I’ve met very few people who say they wished they had stayed in “that job” or in “that relationship.”
- To understand the light you have to know the dark. The good tastes all that much sweeter after you’ve experienced the bitter. Life just works out that way.
- Fasting of any kind (particularly juice fasts) will cause you to literally go insane. Spiritual experience, my ass. Don’t try this at home, folks. There is a reason that throughout history people traveled to the desert when fasting. If I had to guess, based on
personal experiencecomplied data, I’d say that it was so their loved ones didn’t have to suffer through their insanity.
- You actually can eat just one. Buy into their marketing BS and you’ll likely have gained five pounds and a bad mood. Food is energy. And as the saying goes: “you are what you eat.” So choose wisely.
- When in doubt, pause, and listen. Unless it’s a life threatening emergency. In that case, act and/or call someone with credentials. Remember how important stillness and mediation is. If you aren’t able to sit in silence and be at peace with the quiet, you won’t be able to hear the answer when it comes.
- Have the nerve and self love to go on the journey. Following your heart takes courage. Be courageous. It will be worth it.
- Be a student of life. Never stop learning. Be open to considering that your way is not the only way. No one likes a know-it-all. They’re boring.
- Speaking of boring, don’t be. Have fun and have it…often. I’ve found that few situations call for complete and total seriousness. Unless you’re my pilot or surgeon, be silly. Laugh often. Play hard. Learn to be okay with being the butt of a joke. Because the plus side is…you’ll excel at comebacks. Comebacks are an essential skill in the game of life. Which could very well be a lesson of its own.
- Be the one who looks for the silver lining. Optimism is an incredibly magnetic trait. Almost everything has an upside.
- Know when to keep your mouth shut. Like I said, almost everything has an upside. Sometimes though, it will be important not to communicate that said upside…because you’re the only one who sees it. Know the difference between the two. A smile or a nod can do just as well.
- Always be empathic. Choose your words wisely and consider the appropriate time to use them. You will face situations where you’re uncomfortable standing in another’s pain. There will be times when there will be no “right” thing to say. Don’t tell them you know how they feel. You can’t. Don’t tell them you know someone who has faced this before and he/she did so and so. Don’t say something for the sake of saying something. Fill the uncomfortable silence by just being. Let them know you are there. There will be times when this is all you can do.
- When someone shows you who they are believe them. Pay attention. Like your mama told you: actions always speak louder than words. Second chances are ok but only if you’ve communicated what you will and will not tolerate clearly to begin with.
- And then trust. Trust that the right relationships/opportunities will be given to you because you have the wisdom to see them. In order to receive the best life has to offer, live with a sense of wonder. If you’re hurt (and you will be) you must be willing to try again. With an open heart. And an open mind.
- The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You’re probably thinking I’ve repeated myself here. A few times. There’s purpose in my repetition. Self awareness is one the best gifts you can give those around you.
- Never forget…women have a different level of hormones surging through their bodies each and every day. This is important to know whether you’re female or not. In fact, it’s probably more important to consider if you’re not.
- Be on a first name basis with failure. If you never fail, how will you ever learn? Remember, all great innovators were at first failures. They simply kept trying. Behind every big hit or blockbuster movie there are usually at least a handful produced that weren’t. The media is quick to tell you about the success story but rarely will you hear about the blood, sweat, tears and “failed attempts.” This tends to keep a lot of people from trying again once they’ve “failed.” But hopefully not you. If you feel called to accomplish something, want to spend your time doing it, and you’re passionate about it (keep in mind there will be days when you aren’t and you wonder why you even bother, these usually pass) then don’t give up.
- Cherish those you love. Tell them often. Show them in a way that is meaningful to them. When in doubt, leave love notes in unexpected places.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. No is about as bad as it can get.
- Everything will make more sense once you’re a parent. I invite you to question why things are the way they are. I understand it’s a part of your growing up. Just don’t be surprised when this is my answer. And, yes, it is final.
- Never trust anyone who is unkind to wait staff. People show you who they are by the way they treat people they feel have nothing to offer them. This personality trait is magnified in restaurants.
- You do not need to be fixed. You are YOU for a reason. Most of us have our own moral compass and understand where we need improvement. Trust that you’re well rounded enough to figure out what needs fixing. Then, yes, be willing to change. Adaptability is absolutely necessary for growth. But please consider your values first. I pray that maintaining a sense of individuality is one of them.
- Rarely listen to critics. Everyone has an opinion and they’re more than willing to share it. Hell, these days they even give them out for free. Tune them out.
- I know I said 32 and hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves with 33. But, I’m an overachiever, what can I say. So…here’s one to grow on…I believe that everything comes back around to love. Giving, and loving until it hurts, as it turns out, will most likely not kill you. Just do it. This world seriously needs more of it.