Twenty six. Twenty six years to define my life. Twenty six opportunities to blow out candles. Twenty six Happy Birthday songs. Birthdays are always a big deal for me. Every year, I throw a big party or dinner with my friends and make the most out of my special day. A pandemic birthday feels different. Notable, but not in the traditional sense. It feels more intimate, more personal. It feels like cozy dinners, fresh flowers, and moments of gratitude to appreciate life. When you’ve made your way around the sun twenty six times, you pick up a thing or two. Here are my twenty six favorites.
- Your strength and self-respect are yours. Never give those things away.
2. Eating healthy is a priority and you can make healthy meals fun and enjoyable. You don’t need to be obsessed with intricate two hour long recipes or with every single vegetable available. (I’m looking at you, eggplant and arugula.) Find what you like and stick to it if that’s what works for you.
3. You can and should trust your own instincts more. Asking for feedback from friends and family can be important, but it’s not always necessary. You’re the one that has to deal with the results of your decisions, so check-in with how you’re feeling about things first before you start crowd sourcing how others think you should feel or react.
4. You can usually tell whether or not you’re compatible with someone or would like to see them again within the first five minutes of talking to them. Trust this feeling. If some guy rubs you the wrong way and you’re hoping it was just an oversight, it usually isn’t. Save yourself the time and move along.
5. Saying no in the workplace will not make you any less like-able. Saying yes to work you cannot or do not want to take on and then having a bad attitude or stressful day because of it will. Honor your commitments when you make them, but also be selective and honest with what you take on. Practice self advocacy.
6. Having a pet of your own will bring you an immense amount of joy, peace, comfort, and responsibility. It will also include lots of Boston Terrier farts and ruined heels and shoes. Plan accordingly, but also relish in the fact that you’re taking care of a tiny little being that adores you and is your best friend.
7. Participating in gossip is a murky trait that you do not want to be a part of. Do not be shy to shut down comments from others that are malicious or backhanded and don’t speak about people privately in ways that you wouldn’t speak publicly to them.
8. No relationship, friendship or romantic, is EVER worth your mental sanity. If it’s causing you unnecessary stress and they’re not having a healthy response to conflict resolution, then goodbye and good riddance. Sometimes, their energy is just rubbing you the wrong way and you can’t figure out why. Don’t stick around to find out, just leave it at that and move along.
9. Just because you have access to financial funds does not mean they’re available for whatever purpose you feel like. Plan, prioritize, and protect your money. You won’t regret paying down debts, building up savings, and investing in your future. You are worthy of financial stability and success.
10. Red flags are red flags are red flags are flags that are 100% red. They are not any less of a red flag just because someone had a traumatic upbringing or they are good looking or they are insecure and don’t know how to handle their own emotional turbulence. You cannot fix or change someone that is not motivated to be a better version of themselves for themselves. Move along. Immediately.
11. You can be an introvert and an extrovert. You can equally love and sing to every Frank Sinatra and Cardi B song. You can be the pageant girl and the captain of the debate team and the cyber security boss. You don’t have to define yourself or your personality or interests into any strict category. Like what you like, love what you love, this is your life.
12. Your siblings and cousins that you grew up with are all going to turn into amazing young adults and incredible friends to lean on and build with. Support one another and stay close.
13. Setting boundaries and pushing back when people violate them isn’t being rude. It’s your right to accept or deny what you allow into your life. When people get defensive or accusatory, it’s usually because they were benefitting from your loose boundaries previously and are angry at the change or pushback. That is not your problem.
14. It took you 26 years to build your talents, skillsets, heart, and confidence and five years of university to get your degrees. Don’t expect overnight returns on your initial investments. Great things take time and it’s okay to take an extended break to work on yourself or to let projects take time to gain traction. Don’t give up.
15. Support and celebrate others, even if you’re not there yet. Being inspired and excited for someone’s special life moments and being jealous and spiteful are two experiences worlds apart. Truly take the time to celebrate a friend’s promotion, new baby, new marriage, or whatever it may be, even if their personal milestones look different from yours.
16. Working on your communication skills, both written, verbal, and non-verbal, is the most important skillset you can learn for any career. Learning how to speak with confidence, write with eloquence, and stand with elegance are all things you can carry with you wherever you go.
17. Set goals. And don’t just set what you think you can achieve. Push yourself to think about your craziest life passions and dreams. Articulate these through journals, vision boards, notes in your iPhone, sticky notes around your home, Pinterest boards, wherever. Manifestation and energy is constantly there. Attract and expect the very best.
18. Somedays, you just won’t feel like doing life. That’s totally fine and expected. Take the day off, put on your favorite musicals, clean your room, buy flowers, order your favorite meal, get some sleep, and just chill out. You can try again tomorrow. And the day after that.
19. There is never going to be a point in your life where you won’t be a work in progress or figuring certain things out. Each year and stage of your life will require a refined version of you and it’s okay to be redefining what that looks like and who that is.
20. Social media is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But you don’t need to have every single kind of account. Pick your favorites, monitor your usage, limit your comparison to others, and remember to still enjoy your life offline. That’s the one that counts anyways.
21. Don’t count yourself out before you even allow yourself to play the game. Why shouldn’t you have your dream job? Your dream relationship? Your dream life? You deserve it and you will continue to work hard for it. It’s never too late and you are always worthy of the opportunity. Don’t set your own personal limitations and say “I can’t do that.” Say “why not me?”
22. You love to overdress. You love to wear false lashes on a regular basis. You love over the top decorations and parties and personalities. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than or uncomfortable because of that. There are people out there that will show up to a brunch in a polka dot fur coat and there are people that will snicker behind her back about it. Be friends with the girl in the polka dot fur coat.
23. Barely passing Algebra in high school and Accounting in graduate school does not make you any less brilliant and won’t be something you remember ten years from now. It’s just not your favorite thing. Get a tutor, pass the class, and run off to your liberal arts classes and professors. They’re more fun anyways.
24. Ask a ton of questions, take a lot of notes, do a ton of research, talk to a lot of people that are doing the things you want to be doing. You are so lucky to live in a time period where the internet provides access to an abundance of information and networks. Use it! On that same note, pay it forward when people ask you lots of questions and talk to you about the things you’re doing or have done.
25. How you greet someone and how you say goodbye to someone are both equally important. Be genuine, authentic, and warm and make others feel that warmth.
26. Twelve year old Sam would have been proud of the person you became.