Twenty-three is a weird fucking age. A year out of college, and everyone expects you to be responsible and have your shit together, but no one actually takes you seriously yet. This year has been amazing; it’s been scary, it’s been heartbreaking, and it’s been beautiful. With just under a month until I can say good-bye to this age once and for all, I wanted to impart some wisdom that I’ve learned in my short time here. (But you’re not going to take it seriously, anyway, are you?)
1. Do no harm but take no shit.
The message is simple: don’t be a dick. I cannot stress that enough. It is so easy these days to just be an asshole to everyone, and I’m sure it helps to get your way 90% of the time. But you don’t know what other people are going through. The person you didn’t let through during rush hour today? What if they were racing home to get to their sick child? You never know, man. Being a good person is just plain good for your soul. Just don’t let people take advantage of that— it’s a very fine line. This is important so it is and always will be the first on my list.
2. When everything sucks, have faith that it will get better.
Life is a constant stream of highs and lows. If it’s not, you probably haven’t lived it well enough. Keeping the faith that things will be better when everything starts to fall apart may not bounce you back to 100%, but do it anyway. A negative mind will only reap negativity. As a very wise friend of mine, Owen, once told me: “Sadness is a shroud that blocks out the beauty of life. You gotta force yourself to see thru it whenever you notice the negativity running thru your mind. It’s an effort that’s always worth it.”
3. Balance is the key to life.
You won’t be able to understand the sun without the rain, or happiness without sadness, and all that crap. Working tirelessly means you get all this money but are too exhausted to go out and enjoy your life. Not working at all means you’re too broke to enjoy certain things. Figure out the balance that works for you and enjoy your fricken time on this planet. Have continuous harmony between work, family, friends, and most importantly with yourself.
4. Set aside some “me” time every day.
Put away your phone, keep the TV off, get that computer out of your sight. Be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Read, write, meditate, whatever. Try and do something alone once a day that you do not need cable or internet to achieve.
5. Don’t let your happiness depend on another person.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn, as I strongly affirm caring for others is essential to human nature. But don’t let someone else dictate your own personal happiness: the people we surround ourselves with should enhance our lives, not determine it.
6. Don’t stress out about money but don’t ever live beyond your means.
You won’t be able to take your money, your car, your house, or your new Michael Kors watch with you when you kick the bucket. Spend more of your disposable income on experiences rather than possessions: traveling, dinners with friends, concerts, events. Put less of an emphasis on the material, only own what you need and can afford, and don’t take your possessions or experiences for granted. Also, don’t fucking get behind on your bills. Your credit score is too important to mess with.
7. Always allow yourself time to heal.
This applies both physically and emotionally. Drink too much last night and can hardly function today? Take care of yourself. If you need to stay home, stay home (unless you got that drunk on a work night, then I’m sorry for you). Injure yourself working out? Don’t be a hero, you can take time to heal. Also, emotionally… if you aren’t quite ready to go on a date since your last heartache, don’t take any shame in saying no. You owe this one to yourself.
8. Get out of your damn comfort zone.
Hi, I love my comfort zone. IT’S SO COMFORTABLE THERE. But, if you’re gonna advance in this life, you’re going to have to do some things that scare you. Give things a chance. It’s better to have tried and failed than to spend the rest of your life wondering what could have been.
9. Accept the fact that people don’t always get what they deserve (right away).
Karma can be a bitch, in the way that it doesn’t always immediately hit the people who deserve it most. Sometimes the world gets it backwards; bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad. Accept that and know some day it will all make sense.
10. If you live alone, don’t waste your money on cable.
Growing up, my family never had cable. Then, after two decades of not having it, I moved out and my roommate and I ended up getting it for free on a fluke– a fluke that lasted two and a half years. I got so addicted to stupid shows that included endless housewives, Kardashians, and overall trash. But yet, “nothing was ever on.” I didn’t mind when my roommate wanted to get cable for our last 6 months living together, since I had her to split the bill with. Now that I’m on my own, I pay $14.99/month for internet, have an antenna hooked up to my TV for the basic channels, and stream Netflix and Hulu Plus through my Chromecast, which I bought for $35 at Wal-Mart. One of the best financial decisions I’ve made thus far since living on my own.
11. Learn to ‘Save as Draft.’
If you have something important to say, but feel like you are clouded by your emotions… consider writing everything down and not holding back. Get it all out, then save it for later. Give it an hour, or a day, or a week, before you revisit it. Re-read, reflect, maybe even edit it to make your thoughts clearer. It’s a form of therapy I’ve used countless times and it always allows you to know how you feel before attempt you express it to someone else. It forces you to think before you open your mouth. After all, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” (George Bernard Shaw).
12. Don’t buy a new outfit without getting rid of an old one.
We tend to hold onto clothes forever, because we never know if that one day will come when an outfit you haven’t worn (or even thought about) in 5 years will be relevant. Get rid of it! Donate—most places will pick up your clothes right from your door step. Having trouble letting go of certain clothing? Put it in a garbage bag and hide it in the back of your closet for 6-8 months. If you can go that long with thinking of the outfit, you are ready to let it go!
13. Dare to be different.
Whether it’s voicing an unpopular opinion you are passionate about (in a respectable way, of course), or choosing a weird outfit that you aren’t quite sure looks good… trust me. Even if you look ridiculous, all you need is confidence and people will think you’re an innovator.
14. Be happy, but never satisfied.
The two are not mutually exclusive. You’re allowed to (and should be) happy while still striving for more.
15. Get to the damn gym.
Not only is being active great for your body, but it’s priceless for your mind. Find a way to stay active. On top of that, try not to eat like complete shit all the time. You get one body in this life, and it’s up to you to treat it right.
16. Drink enough water.
Our bodies are made of mostly water. Whenever you start to feel off, chances are you just need to replenish. It’s something I have been working on, but I’m starting to realize the importance in it. Give your body what it craves.
17. Floss every day.
Man, I know it’s shitty. I know you don’t want to waste your time with it. But honestly, what does it take, like a minute? So in reality, you will spend 0.07% of your day flossing (trust me, I did the math). Furthermore, it only takes 21 days to form a habit. So if you just force yourself to do it for 21 days, on that 22nd day you would actually end up feeling guilty if you didn’t floss. That’s science right there. Either way, taking care of your teeth is important, how else are you going to smash delicious food? And smile and attract all the other attractive people? Just do it.
18. Drive safe.
The one piece of advice I got from my grandfather when I first started driving has stuck with me all these years: “Two seconds can change your life.” Whether it’s texting and driving, drinking and driving, speeding or running lights… in an instant, you could hurt yourself or others, or at the very least cause yourself a financial headache. And you’ll look back and think “Man, if only I hadn’t…” and that’s the absolute worst. Just don’t be an asshole behind the wheel. Be zen during rush hour. Use it to crank your music. Which brings me to our next point:
19. Never stop singing your heart out.
You know you do it. So whether you prefer the shower or the car, just make sure you keep it up. Sometimes life can get the best of us and it’s beyond therapeutic to sing at the top of your lungs. Even if you’re tone deaf, like me. Who cares. Sing like you think no one’s listening!
20. Send handwritten thank-you notes to people.
This is a lost art form in the days of e-mails, social media, and a dwindling postal service. But, think about how good you feel when you see a letter addressed to you in your mailbox. If someone does something nice for you, don’t ever let it go unnoticed. Never take someone’s kindness for granted. A handwritten note is so beautiful and so personal and means so much more than a text– do it every chance you get.
21. Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.
I learned this in my ninth grade world history class, and still believe in it to this day. These days social media is how most of us get our information, making this statement so much more applicable. Do your own research, form your own opinions. Never take anyone’s word as the truth. History was written by the winners, anyway.
22. If you think it’s worth it, don’t ever give up.
Initially I wanted to make this one say “don’t be too ambitious,” only because I realized 23 life lessons may have been hard to reach. But I thought this post was worth it, and look how far I’ve gotten. If your heart and your head are saying you can do this, then do everything in your power to make it happen!
23. And finally, always poop on the company’s dime.
You spend endless hours at work taking other peoples’ shit, you damn well better not wait til you get home to go yourself. Get paid for that shit (literally)– you deserve it.
And with that, I leave you with the anthem of my year. Happy almost birthday to me, bitches.