My birthday was only a couple of days ago. I transitioned from 23 to 24 and in many ways feel exactly the same. Funny how birthdays are that way.
Birthdays are sort of like New Years though. They’re this strange mark in time that makes you transition in some way. You say things like, “This is going to be my year!” and “I can’t wait for what this year brings!” or maybe you say, “Thank goodness that year is over!” Either way, you reminisce, reflect and rework how things have been in order to (hopefully) improve them in the year ahead.
As I stare down the barrel of my 24th year, I’m struck by my 23rd year behind me. It was a year of chances and unknowns, dating and friendships, family bonding and a lot of driving. More than anything and at the risk of sounding cliché, I learned A LOT.
I learned that the corporate ladder isn’t really a ladder. It’s a strange, winding yellow brick road that curves sharply and unexpectedly. Sometimes you’ve got to shift gears and move on from a position that doesn’t add anything to your resume or happiness, even if it pays you.
I learned that solitude is necessary for true recharging, especially when that solitude involves a surfboard and a gorgeous sunset.
I learned that I really enjoy cooking. I’m no domestic goddess, and I’m not going to braise or flambe anything. But this year, I learned that I love feeding people around me with delicious, healthy food.
I learned that it’s not about doing “one thing really well”. It’s about being well-rounded, adaptable, a quick learner, and constantly educating yourself. This was the first year that the “diversity of my experiences” was praised by employers and clients, that I was not “lacking in focus.” People are not one-trick ponies, and the sooner we stop trying to narrow ourselves or try to find our “one thing”, the better.
I learned that you must understand your strengths AND your weaknesses. Yes, it’s okay to have weaknesses. We all have them! When you’re honest with yourself about yours, you can come alongside people that complement you and really make some fantastic stuff happen.
I learned that some of the best dance parties take place in my car, by myself, with the windows rolled down. Blow off some steam and get in a good mood.
I learned to be grateful for and proud of my family and my close friends. I’m really grateful and proud to have these people in my life, and I’ve learned that it is important to tell them how grateful I am for them and how much I love them! Remember, love is exponential, and no one hears it enough how loved and important they are.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu
I learned that I LOVE learning about the dynamics of people, and that goes for myself and others. I love discovering why I think, feel, and behave the way I do, how it relates to my experiences, my upbringing, or genetics. I love figuring that out why others do what they do. It’s only by figuring out the root, that I’m able to then build on it and improve, halt negative cycles of behavior, and help others do the same. That’s not to say that I can ever truly know someone that closely. I’m not a psychologist, but people are mysterious and I love that!
I learned that I respect guys who understand this. Actually, I respect anyone who gets this, but it’s especially attractive in men. It is imperative to be continually in conversation with yourself. I don’t mean hearing voices or schizophrenia, I mean being aware of your emotions, habits, and mental processes, understanding them, and trying to improve. Of course, there’s a healthy balance to this, but…
I learned that people are very much disconnected from themselves. My 23rd year of life taught me how incredibly important it is to remain human, and to connect with other humans. That means examining yourself, feeling your emotions, and breaking down the desire to compartmentalize. Give yourself grace. As my mother says, “Be kind to yourself.”
I learned to be comfortable in the discomfort, and welcome it even. This year I’ve had a number of jobs and clients, and I’ve had to be interviewed, to get along with new people, and to maneuver many different company cultures. Needless to say, it has been a bit uncomfortable. As someone who is anxious in social situations and prefers clear, black and white situations, to learn the value in this discomfort is huge.
That said, I learned that fresh baked cookies smooth over any situation. (Thank you Taryn for that one!)
I learned that tears are evidence of being really connected to emotions, good and bad. Sure, it’s really annoying to have to check your makeup post-cry, but it means you’re able to feel deeply, and that’s a fantastic thing! I’ve learned that if you feel like crying, cry! Let some pressure out and shed some tears. The emotions don’t go away unless you expel that energy.
I learned that it is important to invest in high-quality workout clothes and a retirement account.
I learned that those who are supposed to remain in your life would remain in your life or fight to stay in it.
I learned that the last thing I want to be is “well-liked.” I’d rather be authentic, different, strange, kind, or weird. The requirements for being well-liked are extremely subjective. To be well-liked, means that you’ve diluted who you are in order to appeal to everyone. So you might not be the coolest, smoothest, or the funniest person around. I sure as hell am not, but I’d rather really know people and have them really know me, not settle for the watered-down versions. Not everyone is going to like you, and that doesn’t make you any less wonderful.
I learned that Dunkin Donuts makes the best coffee K-Cup, and that I’m not a coffee or wine connoisseur.
I learned that I need at least a half hour between getting out of bed in the morning and getting ready for work for coffee and some television.
I learned that a little madness sprinkled into your routine every once in a while is necessary. Work hard, but leave room for a little play.
Honestly, this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg for Year 23. This was a year of immense joy and real stress, and maybe none of this seems revolutionary to you, but for me, this was the year that I really soaked everything up. I observed and pondered and wondered at everything and everyone, and learned on my own. Thank you for everything, Year 23!
Lovely to meet you, 24!