My 35th birthday is rapidly approaching.
And while in the grand scheme of life my birthday is relatively insignificant, I always find milestones to be tricky times.
Typically, they trigger much self-reflection and internal questioning. Is there a better way to combat any inevitable unease than by sharing 35 lessons collected over the course of my lifetime?
#35: It’s okay to change our mind repeatedly.
When did life lump us with the expectation we should have everything figured out by the time we’re 30? I point the finger at social media. As we grow and evolve, change is almost guaranteed. For example, I’ve pivoted business direction so many times I’ve lost count (true story).
#34: Not everyone will be in our corner.
Sometimes, we’ll meet people who, for whatever reason, simply don’t like us. (In my experience, the feeling is often mutual.) If we can rely on a few people to back us up in times of need, we’re doing well.
#33: We organically outgrow some people.
Life isn’t a movie. We don’t always sail into the sunset with family and friends and live happily ever after. Circumstances and experiences may mean we drift away from people we assumed would be in our life forever. Let go and focus on making new connections.
#32: There’s a song for every mood.
How good is music? It’s amazing how a song can evoke memories and feelings from a lifetime ago.
#31: Gossip is always toxic.
Reread that line. Nothing damages our mental health and well-being more than being sucked into a vortex of gossip. (I’m speaking from experience.) Distance yourself from people who spend the majority of their time gossiping.
#30: Daydreaming is essential.
Oh, the places I’ve been in my mind! Nothing appeals to me more on a glum day than staring out the window and imagining all kinds of fantastic scenarios.
#29: Incorporating fun into our life is important.
I am a self-confessed workaholic. I work a lot. I enjoy what I do. However, there have been times when I really needed to take a break, and I didn’t. There’s never the “right time,” correct? If a global pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that our lives can change in an instant. We should make time to enjoy the things that light us up. They don’t have to be grand or expensive. For example, nothing makes me happier than watching one of my favourite episodes of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.” (Any die-hard Buffy fans want to guess which episodes are on my go-to list?)
#28: Actions speak louder than words.
This can be a tough lesson to learn. Some of us are naturally more adept at showing our feelings rather than expressing them. If you have someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like you wish the ground would open up and swallow you whole, reconsider that relationship. And at the very least, minimise your time with such people.
#27: Acceptance is key.
Regardless of how hard we try, we can’t change the past. We can, however, learn the lessons we need to and use them to write a better future.
#26: Healing is an inside job.
In other words, more shoes won’t fix it, more clothes won’t fix it, more money won’t fix it, more social media followers won’t fix it…you get my point. I can’t define what “it” is because only we know that. The answers we’re seeking lie within us. Others can help guide us, but we must show up and be willing to do the work.
#25: Animals are the best.
Seriously, some of my happiest moments are cuddling up with BB (short for Brown Bear), my brother’s truffle-hunting fur friend whom we dog-sit often. When I look into her eyes, I know she is present and only that moment counts.
#24: Alone time is essential.
This is code for “Sarah cannot function without alone time.” I spend a lot of time alone. Forget about the sad pictures the mind may be conjuring up. Alone time allows me to simply be with myself and explore anything I need to. This is how I recharge my batteries.
#23: So much that surrounds us is inexplicable.
Humans are smart. But we’re not smart enough to explain everything; we never will be.
#22: Trauma can be transformational.
This is a tough line to read when we’re in the middle of the muck. However, when we’re brave and go within and do the work, we truly can transform our world. I guarantee that after much healing, you won’t ever look at life the same way again.
#21: Listening is important.
We undervalue the ability to listen—as in, truly listen and take in what someone else is saying. Words matter. We must choose our words wisely.
#20: Avoid regret at all costs.
Spoiler alert: no one is getting out of here alive. I contemplate not being here often (not in a creepy way), and I always conclude regret is not what I want to think about on my deathbed. With this in mind, I do my best to make calculated but brave decisions.
#19: The universe has a way of placing us exactly where we need to be.
Truth. The power of hindsight can lead us to understand how certain things happened (or didn’t happen) for a reason.
#18: Good friends are hard to come by.
I’ll point to a quote that sums #18 up perfectly. When you find good people, hold onto them tight.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
#17: Time is our most valuable commodity.
Money can buy many things, and in a way, it can buy time too if one has the luxury of outsourcing. However, once our time is up, it’s up. So, are you spending your time wisely?
#16: Comparison really is the thief of joy.
You’re not living anyone else’s life. Focus on your lane. Most people spend the majority of their life wearing a mask anyway. We never truly know what’s going on in someone’s life.
#15: Questioning everything is almost certain.
You’ll have moments where you question all of your life choices. It’s inevitable. Keep going.
#14: No one else needs to understand our choices.
We don’t answer to anyone else besides ourselves. We came into the world alone, and when we journey to whatever is next, we’ll do so solo. When your head hits the pillow at night, make sure you’re thinking about pursuing your dreams and goals, not someone else’s.
#13: There will be (many) challenging days.
#12: Success is doing what we love.
Society tells us success is accumulating more of everything. Typically, success looks a certain way—lots of money, lots of things, lots of adoring people in your life. Success looks any way you want it to. We have the power to create our own definition.
#11: Fear is a guiding light.
When was the last time something genuinely freaked you out? In some cases, fear is a hint to explore something. Don’t be so quick to quash down anything that threatens to take you outside your comfort zone.
#10: We are stronger than we can possibly ever imagine.
You will face things in life that never crossed your mind. Grief, sadness, disappointments, and more. They’ll be hard, but you’ll make it through.
#9: Saying “no” is just as important as saying “yes.”
Being a yes person is a surefire way to make yourself miserable. Yes, there are some limitations in terms of what we can say “no” to, but when you genuinely have a choice, ask yourself this question before saying “yes” to anything. If this was happening today, would I genuinely want to do it?
#8: Everything is a learning opportunity.
Everything. Even the darkest times. Switch your “failure” mindset to one of “growth” and “opportunity.”
#7: When it comes to money, anyone is capable of anything.
This one is sad, but it’s true. Money is typically a sensitive topic, and for a good reason too. Money has an emotional charge. We need money to live in the physical world. How much is too much? What lengths would you go to for money? The rule I follow with money is if I loan someone money, I anticipate I’ll never see it again.
#6: Space and silence are important.
I believe when we are quiet, we find our way to the answers we’ve been seeking. Being guided and supported by people we trust is important, but ultimately, our decisions must be our own.
#5: We can’t run away from our past.
The past will always find a way to reappear in your life until you’ve done the necessary inner work. Trust me. Stuffing things down and pretending something didn’t happen will only get you so far.
#4: Finding our group is life-changing.
Some people find their group almost instantly. For some of us, finding our people can take more time and effort. However, when you find people you genuinely connect with and who understand you, you’ll feel like you’re home. Words can’t do the feelings justice.
#3: It’s okay to let your life story as you know it fall away.
Humans love labels, and labels can be helpful in some instances. However, they can also imprison people and keep us small. Recently, I’ve been contemplating my labels of being “introverted,” “shy,” and “more of a behind-the-scenes person.” Was I born this way, or am I a product of my life experiences? As my self-inquiry continues, I’m prepared to allow all existing concepts and assumptions to fall away as needed.
#2: Allowing our feelings to simply be is the path to healing.
“Feelings” is not a dirty word. We’re humans; we all feel. Modern society values intellect over all else. As a result, most of us are on autopilot on a 24/7 basis, and we all think a lot. Reconnecting with our body’s wisdom is the path to healing and feeling truly alive.
#1: The body keeps the score.
You’ll likely recognise this line from pioneer Bessel Van Der Kolk’s work and book of the same name. If you think about it, as much as we value and draw on the mind, the body always wins. Can you remember a time when you were unwell? Even if you genuinely try to work or go about your daily life, your body shuts you down at a certain point.
Sadly, the body (and health generally) is one thing we often don’t give any attention to until we’re forced to. I fear disconnection from our bodies is the ever-present issue of our time.
Do you have any life lessons to add to the mix and share?