Okay, so I’m about to do one of those buzzfeedy things where you make a list. Because let’s be real, we all kind of love those. And if you hate them…well, move along, it’s my birthday this weekend and I’m gonna list if want to.
Yup, I’m turning twenty-nine, or as I have fondly started to refer to it as “circling the drain towards thirty.” Honestly though, I’m not really upset I’m in the closing time of my twenties (theme song, check). The past nine years have been quite the marathon, and I feel as if I’m finally catching my stride.
I know without even being on the other side, my thirties are going to be a fan-freaking-tastic decade, but before I get there, I thought it would be nice to take stock of the life lessons I racked up while I was young, foolish, and devoid of gray hairs.
So here's my list, friends. The ten things my twenties have taught me…
1) Be kind. Be kind, be kind, be kind.
We all know life can be really hard. We’ve gotten the sucker punches after a long day (oh hey, WHERE DID MY WALLET GO?). We’ve gotten the calls that suck all the oxygen out of the room.
But even after the worst of days, we have to keep going. So, we get in our cars and we go the grocery store and we stumble through life one step at time.
There’s no way to know what a person is going through. We don’t walk around with mood rings to show the world what state our hearts are in.
We just have to rely on people to be kind to us when need it most.
Whew. I still remember the cashier who paid me a compliment when I hadn’t showered in days and I was struggling to smile after motherhood had kicked me to my own personal ground floor.
I remember the airline representative who consoled me while I sobbed trying to buy a last-minute ticket home.
I remember silently thanking the person who let me turn left when traffic was out of control and my toddler was inconsolably crying.
We don’t know what’s going on in others’ lives, but we have the ability to be kind. I know I have appreciated it when others have done that for me, and I’m trying to push myself to do the same, even when it’s not easy.
2) Doing what you love doesn’t mean you’re always going to love what you do.
I can’t help but laugh at this one. I spent so much of my twenties wanting to be doing something other than what I was doing right then. I was a project manager for the better part of the past nine years, and even though I worked at a few different companies, the end result was always the same. I could do the job, but I didn’t love it.
When I finally started to pursue my dream of being an author, I thought it would be all sticky-note love and watercolor days of pouring my heart into written words.
Hahahaha. Yeah. That’s cute. And completely unrealistic.
I love writing, and I would still be an author even if someone handed me a billion dollars and I didn’t have to make another cent for the rest of my life. Why? Because those moments when the words flow and my brain perfectly captures the heart of the story...they are pure magic.
But there’s so much more to being an author than a few hours of ease. There are hours of writing that don’t flow: where you wonder if you need to go grab a rolling pin and take it to your brain to actually get some words out that make sense. There are days spent pulling book launches together and weeks spent worrying about said launch. There’s a hell of a lot of anxiety and nerves, and it definitely does not always feel good.
Doing what you love doesn't mean that the bad stuff goes away. It just means that the good stuff is better and the bad stuff is worth it.
3) You’re beautiful and strong. Stop telling yourself otherwise.
Oh my freaking goodness. How much time did I spend in this past decade tearing myself down? Ugh, more than a decade.
Well, that ends. It already has.
Motherhood has been a lot of things to me. But, it finally gave me the ability to see myself as the kick ass goddess warrior that I am. I GREW A HUMAN and then I pushed said human out of me. I have mama stripes from gaining a truckload of weight, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I finally look at my stomach and feel pride. I don’t care if it jiggles when I dance or if rolls over my jeans when I squat down.
I am beautiful and strong, even when I'm running to the grocery store au natural and completely unsure of how long its been since I last showered.
And if I wasn’t a mother, if I never chose that path, I would still be beautiful and strong. I have been this whole time. Because the fact is that I am the only version of me that has ever existed and will ever exist, and I am capable of so much more than what I give myself credit for.
And if that isn’t beautiful…I don’t know what is.
4) Own your weird. People like authenticity more than they like "normal."
You know what kept me from writing romance for years, even though I’ve always know love stories are my favorite kind of stories?
Not being able to own it.
I worried what people would think of me if I wrote beach reads instead of the next great American novel...which is absolutely freaking ridiculous. Life is so much better when you spend it on the things that make you wildly happy rather than trying to be happy while doing things you think everyone else wants you to do.
You know what? When I finally starting owning what I like and don’t like, I found some of my truly favorite people in the world. Because authenticity attracts your people. I didn’t need for everyone to like me, I just needed a few people to really love and get me.
When I finally got honest about my weird, that happened.
5) Floss your damn teeth. Seriously.
I really wish I would have listened to this earlier. It took two very intense, very painful deep cleanings to learn my lesson.
Do those things that your mom (or dental hygienist or all those health articles) tell you to do. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s better for everyone (and your wallet) if you listen.
Also, don’t take the well, it’s too late now, might as well throw in the towel approach. Start. One habit at a time. One day at time. Go thirty days. Then add another habit.
Your thirty-nine year old self will thank you.
6) Your life is not a Pinterest collage. Or an Instagram feed. No ones is.
There is a high likelihood you will never actually have a perfectly curated capsule wardrobe every season. Or hat you’ll have the energy to actually do all those DIYs and art projects you think look so fab. Your house will probably never be ready for a House Beautiful photoshoot. And most of the time, when you try a craft with your child it will end in a glittery fireball, complete with someone crying (probably you) and someone yelling (probably them).
And that’s okay.
You’re not any better or any worse of a person if your life isn’t picture perfect all the time. Half the time, when it is picture perfect, no one has a camera to document it (or they're so wrapped up in the moment, they forget to document it).
Even the prettiest feeds have a mess behind the scenes. You just don’t see it all the time.
Don’t forget to show your mess sometimes. It makes you human.
And know that the pretty will be there too, sometimes where you least expect it. If you don’t get a picture, it isn’t a tree falling without anyone around to hear it.
You’re there. You’re living it. That’s all that really matters.
7) There is such a thing as too much self-help.
I spent a lot of time and money over the past nine years trying to improve myself. And my productivity. And my business skills. And my ability to think green juice tastes like anything other than a salad in a glass.
Some of it has been incredibly useful. A lot of it was valuable for the five days before my excitement and commitment waned and I ended up right back where I started.
The thing about self-help is that it’s easy to buy into. Of course we want to be healthier and get more done and have better work lives and bigger bank accounts. Of course those things are attractive.
It doesn’t mean if you purchase the course or the book or the audio files that you’re ready to make the changes or that it’s going to be the exact tools you need in order to get there. Frankly, when you spend the money on it and it doesn’t work or live up to the hype, it feels even worse than if you had passed on it in the first place.
If it sounds good, sleep on it, and then sleep on it some more. No matter what the sales page says, this knowledge will come around again.
You don’t have to be the perfect version of yourself right now. One thing at a time. You’re learning and growing more than you give yourself credit for, all on your own.
8) You’re never going to do it if you don’t sit down to start.
How many times did I start writing a book and not finish it in the past nine years? Ummm, more than I care to admit.
You know what finally did it? Setting a date and then sitting down every damn day, whether I felt like it or not.
Feeling emotionally drained from a toddler who has been yelling all day? Go write. Feeling uninspired and not at all into the scene I’m working on? Go write. Feeling completely and totally unable to pull words together to form coherent thoughts? Go write gibberish.
If you don’t sit down every day, it won’t happen. Life will get in the way, and then it’ll go days and weeks and months and you’ll get discouraged by your lack of progress.
But if you sit down and write - even if you set the bar low at something like 500 words - they will add up. Some days, you’ll hit 500, and you’ll want to keep going. You’ll end up at 1000 or 2000 without blinking, and soon 80,000 words won't seem so far away.
They’re not going to be a perfect 80k, but they’ll be there, ready for you to carve away at and improve. You have to build the block of marble before you create the sculpture.
And it will be sculpture. You just have to put in the work, and the only way to do that is one day at a time.
9) You’re allowed to change your mind.
Since having my first child, I have run into more than a few old friends who have asked if I’m still interested in having ten kids. Ha.
It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the idea is spot on. Before I ever had kids, I thought I would have a lot of them. I had this image of five kids coming home for the holidays in this loud, loving vignette I replayed in my head over and over.
Funny how it turns out you have to raise all of those five kids and not go crazy in the process. I might have massively underestimated how difficult holding onto my sanity would be.
So it turns out, I’m more of a two kid kind of person. As a mother, I get overwhelmed easily, and I struggle to balance family and work and my marriage. As much as I love the image of a big family, I don’t think it’s a reality I would enjoy.
And that’s okay. I can change my mind, and fortunately for me, my husband is right there with me. I just had to be honest and kind with myself. It’s okay for things to not work out the way you think they will. It doesn’t make you any less of a good person. It makes you human. We change our minds. We just have to own it and move forward.
10) You don’t have to love things just because the Internet says they’re cool.
You know what? I hate traveling. I tried really hard. I pinned all the pretty “let’s be wanderers” images on Pinterest and filled a favorites folder full of links to places that sounded cool and exciting.
But honestly…I like my routine. I like going to my favorite restaurants. I like staying in on a Friday night WAY more than going out. I like not having to worry about if the food I’m about to eat accidentally has dairy in it and I’m going to break out in hives. I definitely like my pillow.
I don’t like IPAs or running marathons or window shopping. I don't even really like heels all that much.
I like the things I like (ahem, doughnuts), and I’m going to sing their praises. The rest of it? I’m going to stop pretending that I’m a fan.
It's no fun being a poser anyway.
(Bonus round) Don’t worry about how long it took for you to get there. Celebrate that you made it at all.
It took me a long time to figure out that Seattle is my home. My husband and I had to move all the way to North Carolina for two years to figure out our hearts are on the West Coast.
It took me years of false starts to finally finish a book and publish it.
It took me over a decade to love my body.
Sometimes, I focus on how long it took, when the only part that matters is that I got to where I am at all.
I have written (and soon to have published) two books. I can hold a plank for two minutes. I can make a stellar dairy free creme brulee. I brought a child into the world whose laugh is my favorite sound in the universe. I have built a marriage that makes me a kinder, stronger, and more generous human being. And I finally figured out how to drink eight glasses of water a day.
I’m proud of where I am because it’s a hell of a kicking off point.
Here's to the next year and every single one after that. It's nice to look back at where I've been, but it's even better to dream about where I'm headed.