Yesterday, I turned 27. I'm not going to even pretend that I am now old and wise, but I am going to pause and share with you a few things I've learned over the years. While I definitely don't have it all figured out yet (seriously, can you introduce me to the person who actually does?), I do think each of these pieces of advice has helped me to live a fuller, better life.
You're not as special as you think you are, and it's actually kind of freeing
As a kid, I was told that I was special, different, that I could do incredible things that would change the course of the universe (alright, that last one may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly *felt* that way). And I'm sorry Sesame Street, but this one is largely untrue.
The truth is, almost all of us are ordinary. And the need we all have to feel special and different in some way is a part of what makes us perfectly ordinary.
But there's an upswing on this one. Anything you're feeling right now: anything you're scared about, any feeling or thought you've had that makes you go "I must be the only person in the history of the world that's ever felt this way" has been felt by people all over the world throughout time. And that makes you part of something big and special and greater than you. It makes you a part of the development of human consciousness and ways of thinking. And most of it all it makes you not alone.
We're all busy, we're all working hard and we all have things in our lives to be down about. From time to time it's cathartic to cry and vent to a friend about these things. But don't let your burdens define you and your life. Treasure the moments of joy, happiness and light in your life, and when it comes to the difficult bits, put your nose to the grindstone and get to work. Find a way to make those unpleasant tasks more enjoyable. Just don't put them off, and don't whine about them all the time.
*Note that there's a big difference between useless complaining and actual venting or asking for help. If you're going through something really tough, you should absolutely talk to someone you love and trust about it. Just try to do it in a productive way that seeks a solution or helps you feel less alone in it.
Get over yourself
There are going to be a lot of times where you look and/or feel stupid in life. And if you don't take yourself too seriously, you can laugh at those moments. By laying your ego aside, you also open yourself up to a lot of untapped possibility.
A few years ago, I was feeling a bit down about my dwindling pool of friends. University was over, and many of the friends I made there were moving on, working in other places, getting involved in serious relationships, or just growing into different people. I was spending a lot of weekend evenings lonely, and I was sick of it. So I just started contacting people. People I had only hung out with in group situations, but had good conversations with. People I had worked with, but never really become friends with. I invited them to hang out with me, and I kept on inviting them.
This was hard for me, because (like most of us) I worry about whether or not people like me. I come away from hangouts analyzing every word of every conversation looking for the places I went wrong. And I want people to ask to hang out with me, not the other way around. But (for the most part) I just started squashing that paranoia and the ego that comes with it. I told myself I'm someone worth being friends with. And with every Facebook message and text sent out, I kept telling myself that. Two years later, I have a large group of friends to show for it.
You're capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for
As a kid, I felt that my life and all the possibilities in it were limitless. But as I've progressed through my twenties, I've become aware of the limitations: the paths that lie unexplored behind me every time I take a step forward in my life. Sometimes those limitations leave me feeling trapped. I get caught up in a one-sided dialogue of what kind of person I am and what I'm capable of. But the truth is, I can break free of that.
I'm not saying quit your job, sell off all your possessions and become a Tibetan monk - unless that's something you really want to do. But there are things we can do that we make the mistake of telling ourselves we can't. Run a half marathon? Done. Get my butt down to a yoga class every day for a month? Yep. Spend five weeks in Guatemala building houses? Did it. Go to that party where I know almost no one? Definitely.
Whether big or small, there are things you can do all the time that are out of your comfort zone. Stop telling yourself you're not the kind of person who can do something like that. Just do it.
So those are the big ones for me. What about you? Feel free to share the life lessons you've picked up as you age in the comments below. I'm going to go eat some cake now. Because, hey, it was my birthday yesterday (that still counts, right?).