I have spent the last two years writing content for Get Up and Do Something. Hundreds of articles, various topics. None of them as personal as the one I am about to share. While I’ve enjoyed writing each and every article prior to this, none of them mean as much to me as this one.
Maybe I should give the back story as to how I even came up with idea to write this…
Fall tends to be America’s favorite season (general consensus). The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is dropping (sort of), football is back, the holidays are approaching, everyone can pull out their LL Bean Duck Boots and sip on Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate all of these things too. But for me, the fall season represents much more than just a change in season. Instead, it’s more like a metaphor for a change in self. Like the leaves, I allow things to fall off (or apart) in order for other things to blossom. Some of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my lifetime have occurred during the fall season. Some pretty, and some downright painful.
I woke up on October 4th and realized that I have 27 days until my 27th birthday (if you’re any good at math, yes my birthday is on Halloween). While some choose to use New Years Day as their time for their yearly reflection, I use my birthday as mine. So, I’ve spent the last 27 days coming up with 27 things I’ve learned in 27 years. You may agree, you may not. These are simply just things to consider. So here it is… 27 years summed up in 27 painstakingly honest paragraphs.
1. Quality Over Quantity (That Goes for Everything in Life)
I used to think having more equated to greater happiness. I needed to have 15 pairs of sneakers. I needed to have a closet full of clothes I never wore. I needed to have 30 friends. You get the gist..I needed to have more. I needed options. I needed more in order to be happy. WRONG. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that quality is far more important than quantity. That goes for everything in life. I’d rather invest in 1 really nice pair of boots than 6 pairs of cheapies that will fall apart, forcing me to replace them over and over. I’d rather run 3 quality miles than struggle to reach 8, just to say I ran 8 miles. I’d rather have 6 quality friends that I can count on any day or any night, than 16 “fair weather” friends that only show up out of convenience. I’d rather write 2 pages of quality, than eight of bulls***. When you operate from a place of quality, you will ALWAYS HAVE MORE.
2. Fail, Often.
Fail. Again. And again. And again. My perfectionist self used to dread failure. Failure meant I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t good enough. I was useless. I didn’t know how liberating failure could be until I allowed myself to. When I graduated college, I took a job in finance. (Side note: my undergraduate degree is in Behavioral Health and Nutrition). Therefore, the finance industry was completely foreign to me. But, it was a job and I was desperate to move out of my parents house. My job required that I obtain a financial planner certification (CFP). Two tests: the Series 7 and the Series 66. Piece of cake! I’m great at memorization and test taking! Wrong. I studied for at least 30 hours a week for almost 2 months. A passing score was 70. My first attempt I got a 66. Determined to prove that I was good enough, I went back to the drawing board and tried again. 68. I had failed. Twice, actually. And it felt great. It was a very humbling experience. The finance industry may not have been for me, but I am eternally grateful for the lessons I learned throughout that experience. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am tenacious and extremely disciplined. But most importantly, I learned that I am perfectly imperfect, and that personal growth comes from failure.
3. Be Inspired and Inspire
To inspire means to “to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something.” Find those people inspire you to push past your comfort zones, to raise the bar, to set a higher standard. Everyday. Ditch those people who allow you to remain stagnant. Especially in a romantic relationship. There is nothing worse than coasting in a relationship. Inspire each other to grow. Together and separately.
Inspire others. Set an example through your actions. Actions will always speak louder than words.
4. Watch the Company You Keep
This isn’t just a lyric from the Nas song (I Can), this is without question incredibly accurate. You adopt the attitudes and values of those you hang around. Trust me. When I was in high school, I had incredible friends. Yes, some had a wild side but their core values were in tact and aligned with mine. They were incredible women with big hearts and adventurous souls. I am incredibly grateful for the thousands of memories I made with them. Each have left an imprint on my heart.
At the same time, once college started I began to distance myself from those people and began hanging around “the wrong crowd”. It’s not to say that these individuals were bad people or beneath me. Their values just did not align with mine. And guess who’s values I ended up adopting? Theirs. This led me down a very dark road. It took me years to find my way back. What’s my point? Associate with people who motivate you, who support your wildest dreams, who boost your confidence, who would never put you in harms way, who would never allow you to hurt yourself or others, who show up in your darkest hours. Find the ones who push you to be the best version of yourself. Every single day. That is the company you should keep.
5. Date Yourself
How do you expect to know what you want out of a relationship if you don’t know anything about yourself? Let me tell you from experience, you sure as hell are not going to find yourself in a relationship. If you don’t have the answers, your partner definitely doesn’t have them for you either. Take time to be single. Date yourself. Get to know yourself. What things do you like? What things don’t you like? What do you value in yourself that you want in someone else?
Does it suck to always be a third wheel? Yup. I’m pretty much the certified third wheel at this point. Yes, it gets lonely. It’s difficult to not want what others have. I live with my best friend and her husband. I swear every time I sign onto Facebook, another one of my friends is engaged or starting a family. It’s hard, I won’t lie to you. But it’s worth it. When you make YOURSELF whole you won’t need someone else to be “your better half” because well, you’re not half. You’re whole. Entering into a relationship whole is worth more than just a relationship for the sake of having someone.
6. Be Unapologetically You
What does it mean to be unapologetically you? It means that not everyone is going to like you. That’s life. I’m sure there are plenty of people who aren’t my biggest fans. SO what? I don’t lose sleep over it. Being unapologetically you means never apologizing for WHO you are. Be you and own it. Be different. Originality is sexy. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. If you’re unapologetically yourself, you attract the people that are meant to be in your life.
7. Send Hand Written Thank You Notes
Nothing says you’re important like a hand-written thank you. Order a stationary set with blank cards and envelopes. Take the time to THANK someone. Whatever it is. You may thank someone for welcoming you into their home for a weekend. Or you could thank someone for inviting you on their family vacation. Better yet, thank someone for just being them. BOTTOM LINE: A PERSON WHO FEELS APPRECIATED WILL ALWAYS DO MORE. REMEMBER THAT.
8. Some Friendships Are Only Meant for a Season
This was probably one of the hardest concepts for me to grasp. I remember my mom told me this my freshman year of college when I was struggling to accept that some of my friendships were dying out. I was devastated. I’ve always had the idea that if you’re my friend, you’re my friend forever. Nope, I was wrong. It took me almost 5 years to really understand and accept that people are placed in our lives for a reason. People show up at specific times in our lives to teach us a lesson. Sometimes once that lesson is learned, the friendship is terminated. And that’s okay. Be thankful for the time and space you shared and move forward. Find more lessons.
9. Trust Your Gut. Always.
You know that pit in your stomach feeling? Yeah that. Trust that feeling. It would have saved me a lot of heartache if I actually trusted that feeling. Your gut is never wrong. The hard part is just choosing to listen.
10. Always Pack an Umbrella
Womp. Self-explanatory. I’ve been caught in so many downpours, umbrella-less that this made the list. Keep an umbrella in your car or in your bag. There is nothing worse than sitting at work for 8 hours in wet jeans.
11. Buy Your Own Damn Flowers
If you are waiting for someone to be at your front door holding flowers after a long day, you’ll be waiting forever. Buy your own damn flowers. You don’t need someone else to buy them for you. I buy flowers for myself every single week. Usually enough to fill 2 vases, and it bring me so much joy. Why should I wait for that someone when I can be that someone?
12. Everyone Loves a Comeback Story
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life.” This could be my favorite life lesson. Everyone loves a comeback story. It doesn’t matter if your the Yankees down 0-2 in the ALCS, or a person who may have took a wrong turn in life, everyone loves to see the underdog come back and win it all. I’ve been there a time or two before in my life. I took that wrong turn in life. I ruined relationships, tarnished my character and reputation, and risked my future. It took me 7 years to rebuild, but I think I’ve made quite the comeback. People are always cheering for you. Whether you chose to believe it or not, there’s always someone rooting for you. The trick is to root for yourself, too.
In stocks. In savings. In hobbies. In people. But most importantly, you. This relates back to dating yourself. Take time to get to know yourself. It’s a very empty feeling when you have no idea who you are. I remember standing in front of the mirror and not being able to recognize the face that was staring back at me. I had no idea who Chelsea was, what I stood for, what I wanted to become, or where I was going. It was July 3rd, 2011. I’ll never forget that day. From that moment, I vowed to invest in myself, first. Then invest in all of the others second. Almost 7 years later, I’m still investing. Maybe not in a 401K yet because I’m a poor college student, but myself. And that is worth far more than any 401K account.
14. People Will Deceive You, Cheat You, and Often Mislead You. Do Right by Them Anyways
I’ve been lied to, cheated on, betrayed. You name it, I’ve probably experienced it. I used to have the “just world” outlook. The you did me wrong, I’m going to do you wrong attitude. Ahhh sweet revenge! Revenge directed towards another person is a very empty feeling too. It may feel good in the moment, but in the long run it taints your character. The best revenge is truly to let go and move on. Always treat them with respect. I adore Mother Theresa. Her famous quote hangs on the wall in my bathroom. It ends with the line, “for in the end it was never between you and them anyway.” Remember that. Always do right by others.
15. Learn to Change a Flat Tire
The amount of times I’ve gotten a flat tire is actually pitiful. I don’t know if my tires have magnets for curbs or if I just have bad luck, but I’ve been left stranded (with a spare tire underneath car) on the side of the road one too many times. Alas, I finally asked my dad, rolled up my sleeves and now (of course I won’t need it) I know how to change a tire. All by myself.
16. Supersize Me.
Go for the large fry. The extra slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream. Occasionally, of course. Life is too short to deprive yourself from overindulging sometimes. Do it. Enjoy it. Get back on track.
17. Let it Be. What is Meant to Be, Will Be.
Let go. Let go of the people who let you go. Let go of the things that didn’t work out. But remember, not now doesn’t mean not ever. What is meant to be will always find it’s way back. I’ve found that if you operate from a place of “it wasn’t meant to be” after experiencing a loss of (job, relationship, opportunity, etc.) it’s much easier to accept it and move on. 9 times out of 10, you end up finding something way better anyway.
Everything. Fiction. Non-fiction. Sci-Fi, mystery, history, self-help, business, kids books. Newspapers. Magazines. Whatever it is, get lost in it. I used to hate (I literally mean HATE) reading. One New Year’s I made a resolution to read more because I thought it was “the cool thing to do”. One full book shelf later, I never gave up on that resolution. It’s actually become a daily ritual. I read the newspaper every morning with my coffee before I start my day. TIME magazine is delivered every week and there’s always a book on the nightstand ready to be read next. These are just the things that I like. You may not. Find what YOU like, whatever it is. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
19. Listen to Your Mother. She’s Almost Always Right
I hate admitting this. I actually HATE admitting when I’m wrong in general but especially when it comes to my mom being right. Truth is, I don’t give my mom nearly enough credit. She is without question the backbone to my family and 9/10 she’s been dead on about anything and everything she’s ever given her opinion on (whether it was wanted or not). So the next time your mom tells you to bring a jacket because it might get cold, listen to her. Because it does get cold.
20. Smile at Strangers
It costs nothing to be kind. It costs nothing to flash a quick smile. Better yet, it costs nothing to ask how someone’s day is. Someone you normally wouldn’t. Maybe it’s the custodial crew that works in your building that you always avoid. Maybe it’s the rare soul walking down the street who happens to not be preoccupied with their cell phones. Maybe it’s the cashier at the coffee shop in the morning with a line full of inpatient customers. I find the most joy in this. It doesn’t take much effort, but it sure makes for a bigger brighter day.
21. Count Your Blessings
Gratitude is the easiest way to ensure happiness. If you are grateful for what you have, you will always feel as if you have more, EVEN IF YOU DON’T. Sure there is a laundry list of things you can find on the internet that tell you all the benefits of being grateful: better sleep, improved mood, better self-esteem..blah blah blah. But it’s pretty simple: count the good in order to stop obsessing over the bad.
22. Love is NOT a Word. It’s an Action
Love is an action. It is not a word. When you say “I love you ” to someone you SHOW them. This doesn’t only relate to a romantic relationship but in this context it will. When someone says they love you, do they show it? Better, do they show up? I’m not just talking about physically showing up. That’s the easy part. What I mean is does your plus one show up for you emotionally? Do they show you that you are protected, cared for and HEARD. Do they remember little details to show you that they actually listened? Are they invested in you? This was a painful but important lesson learned. I used to think that love was a word to describe a feeling. But too often we rely way too heavily on these three words and not the action that MUST be behind them. I can tell anyone I love them. That’s effortless. It’s showing someone that I love them that takes work. Take the time to ask yourself the questions above. If the answer is no, RUN.
23. Time Heals All
I used to
hate LOATHE when people would tell me “it takes time” or “give it time” or “time, Chelsea, time.” Basically anytime someone included the word time, I immediately wrote them off. What do you mean time?! I don’t HAVE time. That’s not a valid answer. It took me years to figure out two very important things. 1. Some things don’t have answers (it is what it is). and 2. Time heals all.
It’s hard to stick it out, day in and day out hoping that today’s the day you wake up and your heart doesn’t hurt anymore. It doesn’t really work like that. Life goes on. Time keeps ticking. The trick is to move forward with it. When you stay stuck in the past or fixated on that person, that job, that disappointment, etc., you become a prisoner to life. WHAT A WASTE. Move on. As hard as it is, just keep moving forward. Eventually that day comes in the midst of living your life where you stop and say, “Holy sh**, I’m over it.” WHAT A FEELING.
24. The Days Are Long. The Years are Short
I think I’ve said this at least six times in the last week to different groups of people. I read it in a book recently and it stuck. Some days seem so painfully long. I wake up at 5 everyday (alright I try most days), and I normally go to bed at 10. From the time I wake up until the time my head hits the pillow, I don’t stop. We are constantly waiting for that moment. For me, its graduation. “Ugh I can’t wait until graduation. I just want a real job. Is this even worth it? I have $53 dollars in my bank account?!? Oh look, someone else just bought a house.” I could go on. The point is that the days may seem long and that one day you’re waiting for seems like centuries away, but I promise you that one day you will look back (like me right now) and 7 years will have FLOWN by. I still think I’m turning 21 sometimes. When you look back at the years passed, you see just how short life truly is. Cherish the moments. Even the moments you can’t wait to get over with.
25. Do Something for Others Every Day
Empty the dishwasher for your dad. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Buy your co-workers a bag of Halloween candy to share. Ask someone how their day is. Offer up your time to help out a professor who is shorthanded. Show a member after class how to do a pull-up. Give the woman and her two kids at the bus stop your umbrella. Whatever it is, DO SOMETHING for someone else. If more people did this, I swear the world would be a better place.
26. Find a Quote to Live By
Some days you just need a reminder. Sometimes you just need a boost of positivity on a crumby Monday morning. My office is full of inspirational quotes. From “Not all Those Who Wander are Lost” to Dr. Seuss to “Done is Better than Perfect”, all of these serve as reminders to make the most of what you have. You don’t need a wall full of inspiration like this.
All you need is one. Mine happens to be the Serenity Prayer. It soothes me and reminds me to stay calm.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The Courage to change the things that I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Simple. Yet powerful. Accept that I can’t change circumstances, people, outcomes. I cannot no matter how hard I try change anything other than my attitude towards a situation. Courage. Courage to face the difficult moments. The unknown. The uncomfortable. Face it with strength and resilience. Courage to change the places that need changing. Wisdom to know the difference. Know when and when not to fight. Pick and choose your battles wisely.
Find something you like and live by it.
27. Rise with the Sun at Least Once in Your Life
I would argue that there is nothing more beautiful or metaphorical then watching the sun rise. Rather, rising with the sun. It represents a new day. A clean start. A new beginning. A brand new pen and a blank page. No sunrise is ever the same. Nor is any day the same. Set your alarm early, wake up and go see what Mother Nature has to offer. Make the most of every day. Tomorrow is never promised.
This article wasn’t written out of a place of thinking I know it all. I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t. It’s also not to say I don’t make the same mistakes over again. I’ve certainly learned some of these lessons more than once. And I would be willing to bet you I will learn some again in the future. The ironic thing is that (insert your religious belief) will continue to present a lesson in your life until you get it right. Clearly I still have to get a few of them “right” but for the most part, in 27 years I got the majority of these invaluable life lessons. Again, you may not agree or these may not relate to you. That’s okay! Actually, that’s a good thing. If everyone shared the same lessons, we would be pretty boring people. I hope that if nothing else, you find some sort of value in at least one thing I have shared.
“Remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.”
Article written by GUADS staff member, Chelsea