This past weekend was the first time someone asked me my age since my birthday. I love the days right after a birthday, when you have to pause and stumble for a minute when someone asks you your age because you’re not actually sure. I definitely had that moment of awkward silence where I calculated in my head and reminded myself that I had, in fact, just added another year to my age.
That moment got me thinking more about everything that has happened this past year, all the changes and things that have remained steady, and what the year has brought me.
I wanted to share the 23 most important things I learned from my 23rd year as I begin the journey of my 24th year, which will no doubt bring many new things as well.
- Everything happens for a reason. As this past year progressed, I discovered the value that comes from past experiences that may not have played out the way I had originally hoped. There is a reason for everything, and you just might not discover that reason for a while. Be patient and you will see.
- There is no specific timeline for your life. I am at that point in my life where many of my friends are either married with children, or well on their way to master’s degrees of PhD’s. I have always been one who wants to achieve goals right on time, so knowing that others are meeting milestones at different times than myself is challenging for me to accept. Comparing where you are in life to someone else is not a fair comparison.
- You are exactly where you are supposed to be in life. Never doubt what you are doing or think that you are wasting time. You’ve got this.
- It is OKAY to give yourself a break and take it easy. Boy, I sure rebelled against this one. This year, it finally got to the point between running and injury where I was forced to take a break. It turns out that sometimes, powering through the feelings of stress and fatigue will only make it worse. A day of relaxation can do wonders for your body AND your mind.
- REST in running/exercise is sometimes just as important as getting the workout done. Going along with #4, there comes a point where you are just making your injury/fatigue/illness worse by powering through it. Continuing to run through pain will only cause you to need to take more time off in the future.
- There is no such thing as reading too much. I’ve learned so much this year from reading, developed so many new ideas, had so many interesting conversations, and gotten so much stress relief from reading a good book.
- You are never stuck. If you are miserable, you CAN change it. No one is making you stay at that job, stay in your relationship, live in that place, etc. It may be incredibly challenging, but if it’s worth it, you CAN change it.
- With enough determination, you can accomplish anything. Going along with #7, if it’s worth it to you, you can do it. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it.
- Everyone has a purpose – find your purpose doing something you LOVE and you will make a difference. This has been a big one for me this past year, because I don’t feel like I am having as big of an impact as I should be having as a teacher. If you don’t think you have the right fit, then there’s probably something else you are meant to be doing.
- Don’t settle for anything. Keep working through it, because you deserve the best. Nothing great is ever easy, and sometimes the most amazing things result from our most difficult struggles.
- It is okay to quit or say no to something if it makes you miserable. While there are many things in life we need to push through when we don’t necessarily want to, if there is something making you truly miserable, no one is going to judge you for quitting it.
- People think about you less than you think they do. I mean this in a good way – I am one of those people who is always worried about doing something because others will think it is weird/wrong. I’ve finally figured out that others are much less concerned with what I’m doing than I think they are. They may have an initial reaction, but what I do leaves way less of an impact than I’ve led myself to believe. They’ll forget about it by tomorrow.
- Don’t take anyone or anything for granted. This was one of the harder things I’ve learned this year. My 24 year old cousin, mother of two children under the age of 2, passed away unexpectedly this January while she was in for gall bladder surgery. Don’t take ANYONE or ANYTHING for granted, because you never know when things could change in the blink of an eye.
- You can make any place feel like home as long as the right people are with you. Last summer my fiance and I moved closer to where we are both teaching, which is pretty far in the country. It is about 30 minutes away from pretty much any grocery store or just regular shopping center. I have gotten so frustrated at the lack of sidewalks or shoulders on roads to run, and the lack of things to do on weekends, that I can’t say I love living here. However, I feel so comfortable in our home now and feel like we have already made tons of memories here that it is all worth it.
- You can do anything for 21 days. I proved this to myself this year when I finally woke up and worked out before work for 21 days in a row. 21 days is a long time to do something challenging, but anything is possible.
- Communication is key; no good comes from holding things in. While I am thoroughly enjoying wedding planning, I have learned that everyone has an opinion about what you are doing, and that will usually lead to conflict. I’ve discovered that the conflicts always become greater when you try to hold things in and not be honest about how you are feeling.
- Selflessness is challenging and always a work in progress. I’ve been personally trying to become aware of times when I am being selfish or thinking only about myself, and finding that I do it much more often than I ever realized. Honestly putting others first will usually be of absolutely no benefit to yourself. I have been challenging myself to do this more often and be truly present in helping the other person.
- You never know how much willpower you have until you test it. Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool, and oftentimes it will tell you that you can’t do something when your body is actually perfectly capable. Pushing through that feeling takes a whole lot of willpower. You can do it more often than you think.
- Getting stronger is the most satisfying feeling. Hardly anything compares to the pride in seeing changes in your body, or noticing progress in your workouts. There are no limits when it comes to your capabilities, and pushing yourself to do new things is a feeling unlike anything else.
- Contentment is a sign that you are not in the right place. I’ve learned the hard way that if you feel content about your daily activities, you are not doing it right. Contentment is a sign of complacency; you are not passionate about what you are doing, but you are not miserable either. If you are content, you are not utilizing your passion.
- There are so many good people in this world. This past year, especially during the election season, the news was filled with stories of hatred. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the horror and hatred that is out there and forget about the good that takes place right outside our door. There are SO many good people in the world, and you often don’t have to look too far to find someone who will blow you away with their generosity.
- You never know what someone is going through. Be kind to everyone. This really hit home this year after my family experienced the tragedy of losing my cousin. While most were able to return to work and a sense of normality, it is easy for others to forget the tragedy and how deeply it is affecting some. Be patient with those around you, because oftentimes they are fighting a battle that you could never imagine.
- There are more people here for you than you think. You are never alone. Going along with kindness, I think it seems common that many people feel alone during normal times in their life, and never realize how many people are truly here for them until they go through a rough patch. There are more people here for you than you can imagine, whether they are family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances or strangers, people really pull together in times when it is needed.
Well, there you have it. The top 23 things I learned from my 23rd year of life. This past year was very revolutionary for me in terms of discovering who I truly am and what I am meant to do. I know 24 will bring some new challenges and excitement, but I am feeling more than ready for them.
Cheers to another year!