Just about three years ago, I wrote a post for our Reflection issue titled 27 Life Learnings From A Year Of Being 27. I felt inspired to do something similar this year, the year I’ll be turning thirty. For some reason, our society insists on making thirty a milestone (or in some cases, a death sentence to your twenties) and I have been thoroughly trying to unpack this loaded (and frankly incorrect) sentiment in my own life. What does thirty mean to me, when I try to tune out the noise around me and tune in to what matters to me and the people I respect? I’ve had a lot of conversations with others (specifically other women) about their feelings, thoughts and fears on getting older. For the most part, I was inspired. I spoke to mothers, business owners, loving partners, dedicated citizens, etc. They all had reasons to stay celebratory and, with their encouragement, I will aim to do the same.
But for now, I’d like to think back on what this year has taught me. I often feel fortunate that my birthday comes at the time of year naturally inclined toward reflection and asking questions about what we’re grateful for and what we’d like to improve.
"It is not all bad, but it is not all good, it is not all ugly, but it is not all beautiful, it is life, life, life - the only thing that matters." - Thomas WolfeTweet It!
So here it is. Twenty-nine life learnings from the last year (!!!) of my twenties:
- Learn people’s names. This is a big one. In the last year of my life, I’ve gone through a lot of big changes, including moving from New Jersey to Colorado and launching the beginning stages of a business. For both of these reasons, I’ve met a lot of new people and remembering their names has been tough. Here are some tips:
- Ask for what you want. No one can read your mind. Shocking, right? I realized I spent a lot of time feeling annoyed or put out when something didn’t go as I expected or hoped. But then I also realized I had never spoken up and said so. How can people meet your expectations (or at least try) if they don’t know what they are?
- Sometimes no is the right answer. If saying yes makes you stressed/overwhelmed/scared/angry, consider no. While all of these emotions have the potential to lead us to something good (for example, when feeling scared is a motivator and not a reason to decline), it is okay to say, “This is not for me” or “I don’t have time to dedicate to that right now” or “I’m going to pass on this opportunity.”
- Ma’am, step away from the computer. Time offline is crucial and truly energizing. Unplug for a day, a weekend or even a whole week if you can get away with it (if you aren’t working, you probably can).
- Turn the page. There is an endless array of good books out there. I could drop everything and read forever and never run out of stories to love. This year, some of my favorite reads were: A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith-Rakoff, Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, Shrill by Lindy West, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler and Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. (I’d love to know yours: please share in the comments!)
- Decide when to stop fighting. This my own version of the adage “Choose your battles.” I have to tell myself this every time I engage in a dead-end argument or feel put out by things I can’t control, like traffic. Take a breath. Reserve your energy for better things.
- Stay grateful. Even on our worst days, there is always a reason to practice gratitude. Find your reason.
- Create space for rituals. Part of adulthood is figuring out your own sense of routine. What makes sense for you? For your family that you’re building or starting? For your business? We’re given a set of standards and while they’ve become normalized for real reasons, sometimes that’s not what works for you. And when you begin to understand what works for you and what doesn’t, …
- Adapt. Even your own best circumstances will vary and change, as will you. Don’t be afraid to make small changes to garner big results. For example, it might seem small, but I often found myself feeling too full after dinner. So I changed two things: eat earlier and eat less. It turns out that one serving was enough, even when the food was healthy and seconds felt like a good decision.
- Sleep. I’ve always been a big advocate for real rest, mostly because I’ve spent a lot of time outside of that scope. Having chronic insomnia since college, I’ve tried almost everything to fall asleep. One thing that’s helped the most is going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, weekends included (I know!). Having a no-exceptions routine helps your body and mind reset.
- Try something that scares you. Not terrifies-you-to-death scares you, but something that makes you a little nervous. Why? Challenging yourself to push your limits within the scope of reason is a healthy way to remember you’re capable. When it’s all over and you can figure out what you’ve learned and why it wasn’t as bad as you thought, you can use that memory the next time you want to back out because of fear.
- If there’s a farmer’s market open, go. You’ll be supporting local vendors and farmers and you’ll find the best, in-season fruits and vegetables plus some other great surprises (Handmade soap? Sourdough bread? Check and check).
- Talk to people. As I said above, I’ve met a lot of new people in the last year and a half. And I knew that if any of it was going to stick, I was going to have to put myself out there in ways I hadn’t in a long time. While I’m a hardcore introvert, I know life is better with friends. I was discussing feeling nervous about meeting people with a new friend and she gave me some advice I won’t forget: “Everyone wants the same things: for someone to look at them and understand them and be interested in knowing who they are. Just do that and people will respond to it.”
- Write things down. Even when we have life changing moments or receive world-altering wisdom (see above) and believe it will never escape us, write it down just to be sure. Even though I remembered the sentiment of my friend’s advice, I never would have remembered her exact words unless I had written them down.
- Wear good (i.e. practical but still cool) shoes. It changes your whole day.
- Travel often. See below.
- Get outside. As much as possible, every day. In fact, if you can, get up and do it right now. Let the sun shine on your face. Touch a tree. Breathe in the wild air.
- Make your own history, write your own future. Just like these women did.
- Learn more about yourself. The more you know, the more you can make decisions and choices best suited to you and the more you can understand your patterns and triggers. (Try this eerily spot-on personality test.)
- When you don’t know what to do, meditate. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, meditation is proven to help with a multitude of physical and mental roadblocks. If you can, make it a consistent part of your daily routine. And here are some suggestions on how to bring this practice into everyday moments.
- When you still don’t know what to do, dance. Sometimes the only answer for the moment we’re in is to blast our favorite jams and shake all that bad stuff off. It doesn’t keep it away for good, but it helps ease nerves, anger, stress and sadness. Below are some favorite songs from the past 365 days (and I dare you to sit still to any of these).
#2. 24K Magic by Bruno Mars
#3. Alaska, Maggie Rogers
#4. Past Lives by BØRNS
#5. I Took A Pill In Ibiza, Mike Posner (Seeb Remix)
- Forgive. Easier said than done, just about always. But holding on to anger serves no one. If anything, it hurts you the most.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to let people back in. This might be obvious to some people, but for many years I was under the false impression that forgiveness means open arms to those who’ve wronged us. But sometimes it means letting go of what they’ve done and then walking away. And that’s okay.
- Pause. One of Holstee’s cofounders, Fabian, has an interesting habit that I noted from the very first day I met him. When asked a question, he often takes a moment to consider his answer before immediately responding. In a world where we’re so quick to speak and fast to form opinions, this was definitely an uncommon characteristic to see. In my own life, I have tried to emulate this trait. And even when given a moment to think, sometimes the answer isn’t there. And saying “I don’t know” is okay.
- When in doubt, choose green. I’ve always been into food, and this year I tried to be very conscious of how food makes me feel and make decisions based off of that crucial knowledge. It didn’t always works, but hey, sometimes treats are worth it. For the most part, a green vegetable (or fruit!) is never a bad choice. They make me feel energized, awake and vibrant. What’s your go-to?
- Love is louder.
- Beauty doesn’t fade; it evolves. One thing I remember thinking when I was an awkward, acne-covered teenager (and when I grew into an awkward, still somewhat-acne-covered adult) is about the beauty I might come into … later in life. It was reserved for a time far away from where I was. I would read articles and interviews featuring women in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties who talked about getting comfortable in their own skin, loving their bodies and faces, etc. I couldn’t wait to feel that way. It turns out, these revelations don’t just fall upon you while time passes. These moments of confidence and acceptance and certainty came after living through moments of extreme doubt, when you only feel like hiding from the world. They can’t all be good days. And we can’t always feel like our best selves. But those moments when we do are worth holding on to, worth celebrating and worth remembering when we start to feel down again. The older I get, the more I’m realizing what beauty actually means and what it never was in the first place. Sure, it feels nice to present your best physical appearance to the world. But what else are you putting forth? How else will you be recognized? It turns out it’s a package deal.
- Real life can’t be perfect. Here’s why.
- What a terrible world. But what a beautiful world.
Helen Williams is a Colorado transplant who is passionate about cooking and writing and combining the two on her vegetarian and vegan food blog, green girl eats. She strives, every day, to be less sorry. When she's not in the kitchen or working on her startup project Best One Yet (a vegan ice cream Vespa, coming soon to Boulder, CO) you can find her reading, loving the community at Holstee or trying to pet your dog.
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Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Helen, our editor at Helen.W@holstee.com to learn more