On February 12th, I turned 32 years old. Like every birthday, I set an alarm for 8:18 am (the official time of my birth), I try to do something I usually don’t do and this year, I agreed to an interview for a job in an area that’s a little new to me. I listened to No Doubt’s “Six Feet Under” while I ran on the treadmill and then over and over in the car. My birthday is the only time I listen to that song and I’ve kept the tradition going for over 10 years now.
I’ve spent this week thinking about my 31st year on Earth and 31 was a rough age. I ended a 10-year relationship by way of a divorce and eventually cut all ties with him. I left a job that had been promising. I started dating and have been consistently rejected. I’ve gone through intense therapy and uncovered deep wounds. I’m still working on recovery and healing. 31 was an incredible age of learning and growth.
I’ve learned and I’m still learning all these ways of coping. I’ve come a long way from a year ago. There is still messy layers that I have to clean up. Every other month it seems I discover another one. So I sigh, I roll up my sleeves and I get to work.
31 was full of ups and downs and thinking back to the roller coaster, takes my breath away. I spent the last month of 31 getting back-to-back illnesses. First a two-week head cold and extreme fatigue. Followed by a week of normalcy then a week long flu followed by almost a week of a lingering chest cold. But I’m all better now!
Getting sick was a good reminder to get back to basics. I’ve been slacking on eating. I eat healthy foods but I don’t eat enough. I need to get back to running regularly. Maybe do some yoga and get adequate sleep.
I’ve come to learn that life is cyclical and there is a season for everything. Each type of relationship (friendship, romantic, familial), every situation, job, missed opportunity, failed endeavor—whether harsh or triumph—is and can be a profound learning experience.
I’ve immersed myself in motivational quotes and inspirational Facebook pages. I’ve traveled deep within to pull out the rotten roots. In their place, I am planting, cultivating, and nurturing good seed to grow. I’ve read self-help guides and books almost exclusively.
So I wanted to share the 31 things I learned about being 31:
- Every day is a second chance. A second chance to start over, to love again, to learn something new, to have a better life.
- Letting go is only harder in the short term. Staying in a miserable situation will definitely end up causing the most pain.
- You can’t force a relationship. This goes for romantic and platonic. If it doesn’t flow naturally, then let it go and move on.
- There will always be something else and possibly something better. There will always be another job, romantic interest, friend – anything. Don’t get stuck and lament over one failed attempt forever.
- Don’t have any expectations. Plan, work, and have faith but expectations only lead to disappointments. In that same vein, NEVER have unrealistic expectations out of other people and yourself. Everyone is a flawed human. We all make mistakes and shouldn’t have to have the added pressure of living up to someone else’s unattainable ideas.
- Emotions and situations that cause pain inspire the greatest growth. Grief, pain, heartbreak, suffering, rejection, humiliation: These are key to truly refining one’s character.
- Life happens in slow leaps and steady bounds.
- You can’t fix something until you acknowledge it. Once you name something, you take its power away. Now, you have the power to change it.
- You don’t owe anyone, anything. You don’t have to talk to or have a relationship with anyone who is toxic. Regardless of how long you’ve known them and even if it is your family. Being related to someone by blood does not entitle them to anything of yours. i.e. your money, home, food, time, sanity. You are allowed to have boundaries.
- You are not entitled to anything. The world doesn’t owe you. You already have everything you need within you. You are in control. You must take responsibility for yourself and you must be the one to make a change.
- Meditate and practice mindfulness. Sit with your breath and be open to what the Universe needs to tell you. I’m still working on doing this every day. It’s tough but it truly changes my outlook for the better.
- Take a moment out of every day to do something you love. And I mean anything, regardless of how silly you may think it is.
- A majority of life is going to be spent alone. Even when you’re surrounded by others, you may still feel alone. When you experience a difficult time, there are friends, families, and professionals you can reach out to. BUT the world does go on spinning and there will be seemingly endless hours where you have to be alone. So, it’s helpful that you like yourself. Which brings me to my next lesson.
- Learn to love yourself. I mean, really love yourself. Be your own best friend and do it now. Accept all the good and bad parts. Love yourself unconditionally. It changes everything.
- Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
- Don’t put your burdens on others. Like I mentioned before when you have crises – reach out, get support and prayer, but don’t continually do it. People have woes of their own and it’ll only strain your relationship with them. Constantly complaining will only feed that monster.
- Have compassion for people. Have empathy. Be kind. All humans carry around some kind of hurt and many are unaware of how to heal from it.
- Be yourself. Be your unapologetically, authentic self. Don’t try to change so others will like you. Don’t pretend. Be yourself and the right people will love you for it.
- Emotions are temporary. They’re all important and they all serve a purpose. Acknowledge them. Let them serve you but don’t let them control you.
- You have worth and value. Even if you don’t think you do. You deserve to be loved and you are.
- Cultivate patience through humility. Modesty goes a long way for building patience. No one is more important than anyone else. It’s not the end of the world if you’re not first in line or you have somewhere you need to go or whatever thing it is that will be there when you have to wait an extra 2 minutes.
- Life is too short to dick around. Seriously. Just do what you need to do today. Your future self will thank you.
- It’s ok to have more than one calling. Don’t get sucked into this: I have to pick ONE career and stick with it for 40+ years so I can retire comfortably. That doesn’t even make sense to me.
- Develop relationships with the right people. People who are motivated, kind, authentic, mature, supportive, and loving. Don’t settle for people that are assholes and bring you down. Even if you feel sorry for them, you think you can “save” them, or whatever unhealthy notion you have. You can love many people from afar.
- Even if you feel lost, you still have a direction. No matter where you’re at, you can always make it your point A and start again.
- Cultivate and express gratitude. Having gratitude is the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves.
- It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to have a pity party every now and then. This goes for the rough stuff. Acknowledge it, name it, feel it, then—let it go.
- Life is seasonal and cyclical. If you’re going through a rough patch, be patient, good times will come back around. Life is a continuous pattern of good times, bad times, in between confusing times, and so on. There will never be one point in life that we’ll reach and go, “OMG! My life is perfect and it’s going to stay this way!” Sorry.
- Everyone is on a different path. Everyone wears different shoes and is in a different chapter of their book. Don’t agonize over where you are because it looks differently from someone else.
- You’re never too old to learn something new. Read, research, LEARN; never stop growing. I feel old compared to a 22-year-old. I roll my eyes at their youth and naiveté. But I’m sure there is a 42-year-old doing this to me. Somewhere there’s an 82-year-old shaking their head and tsking at some 62-year-old whipper snapper.
- Go to therapy. Seriously. Just go. Talk things through with a professional. Even if you think you have all your shit together, please go. It’s healing and healthy and just plain nice to have someone who’s job is to sit, listen, and guide you.
As an added bonus, I’ve included the top 10 quotes that resonated with me in my 31st year of life.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t have to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to be.” – Carl Jung
“In the end only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Buddha
“Fear does serve a purpose; but it is meant to keep you from dying, not keep you from living.” –Unknown
“Don’t obsess over outcomes. Plant, water, weed, and nurture. Fruit will grow.” – Dr. Henry Cloud
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” – Oscar Wilde
“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.” – Anais Nin
“The best way to truly be someone in this life is to be yourself.” – Anthony Gucciardi
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” – Hafiz