When I was twenty-seven, everything fell apart. I’d had a lot of the future gingerly mapped out, and my life took a drastic detour. I spent the remainder of the year trying to pull myself together, breathing but not really living. I turned 28 at a table surrounded by girlfriends and glowing sparklers, and wished for the year to be one of the best. It went by in a whirl. There were dreamy trips to Istanbul and Munster, Norway and St. Tropez. There were unplanned midnight trips to the emergency room, accompanied by great friends and an onslaught of bubbles until the sun returned. There were ups and downs at work, goodbyes and new beginnings.
Twenty-eight was a coming of age year. I learned how to live on my own. Shop for one (aka thrive on predominantly hummus). Talk to strangers. Set a mouse trap. Fix my bike chain. I gained confidence and friends, new beliefs and dreams. To celebrate a new year of life (holy-cow-twenty-nine-balls approached fast!) I’ve spent some time (while sprawled out, sipping wine on a balcony in Italy) compiling twenty-eight tidbits of wisdom. Some lessons were served hard, while others were lingering and long. Here are a select few from this past year of life.
1. Not all relationships are fairytales. Enjoy them for what they are. Some are for two weeks, some are for two years, and some will feel like two eternities. Time does not define quality. Find meaning in what you do and who you’re with, and simply enjoy the ride.
2. Live without fear. Take action and make gut decisions that feel right. I’ve found that it’s easier to explain your mishaps with eloquence, than your poor decisions with hesitance. Be confident and sure in your rights and your wrongs.
3. You can open the fucking salsa jar on your own. You don’t need a spoon or a stream of warm tap water. Put your mind to it and fucking twist my friend.
4. On the other hand, sometimes you will be in Italy with a shit-crap wine opener. Run downstairs, barefoot, and beg the overweight butcher to unlock your juice of glory. He will tell you stories and let you taste the sweetest prosciutto Italy has to offer. Drink your wine and relish in the adventure.
5. As a child, summertime felt endless. Now, time is a nimble fella. Blink and you’ll miss him dashing by. Stop looking at those dates marked far off in your calendar. Stop counting down to warm weather or the next big celebration. Heck, forget what you’re doing tomorrow. Life comes and goes at an alarming velocity. Savor every second, and focus on moments, not time.
6. Don’t feed the mice. They are not pets. I guarantee, there will not be a Hollywood ending. There will be mouse traps and tears. It’s a slippery slope. Just don’t feed them.
7. Spend less time wondering about who exactly you are and just do what makes you happy. You don’t need a label. Follow the colors you love, the melody ringing in your head. Eat the food you like and be with the people you love. This is who you are. Live it.
8. Every day, make time to stop running, breathe, and be still. Life will be still too. Enjoy this moment of quiet and take a mental picture. It will keep you sane.
9. Stop consuming and start creating. Take the 30 minutes you spend on Twitter, the 20 minutes you spend on Instagram, the countless hours on Facebook and Snapchat, and make art. Paint a birdhouse. Start a collection. Write. Take photographs. Bake cookies. Volunteer. Stop staring at a screen and do something tangible with your time. When you’re old and wrinkled, you’ll look back at life. Give yourself something beautiful to gaze upon.
10. Fall in love with books. They will take you anywhere. They will teach you anything.
11. You’re never too old to make new friends. Or young to make old friends. Meet friends in bars. At dinner parties. Through work. Through other friends. New friends are waiting everywhere, ready to be found. Don’t be scared to say hello, or simply give a smile.
12. Hangovers can last more than one day. Welcome to officially being an adult.
13. Working 80 hours a week will drain your soul at an alarming speed. Say no. Take the night off. Take a long lunch. Drink wine on Friday. And don’t feel guilty about it.
14. You will never know all of the answers. You will cry yourself to sleep at night, asking why. Why did he leave me? Why did she say something so hurtful? Why did he act that way? It’s hard not to care, because as humans, we’re conditioned to care. A lot. It’s in our nature to improve based on the past. But unfortunately, sometimes there are no answers. There is no greater lesson. Let go where there are no answers, and find meaning in acceptance.
15. Open up. Don’t be scared to tell your secrets. Trust. Ask for advice. This is how strangers become friends. A glass of wine and a few good laughs will accelerate the process.
16. Dance. Oh my god dance. Dance in your kitchen, dance on your bike, and dance down the street. Dance while sitting, standing, laughing. Make your heart beat from dancing, every day. I swear to you, this is the key to happiness.
17. Enjoy autopilot. Sure, it’s great to be poised and in control. But sometimes it’s also great to just let go. Let someone else read the map. Pick the restaurant. Send out the invite. It’s okay to cruise. Enjoy trusting in others, and just relax.
18. It’s also okay to be lonely. And it’s okay to be alone. This past year I decorated my Christmas tree naked. Why? Because I could. I danced to Christmas carols, ate gingerbread cookies, and strung garland in the nude. Enjoy your alone time. Make it special and make it yours. Own your alone.
19. Ask more questions. And genuinely listen to the answer. Having the courage to speak up can be difficult. Encouraging others to do so is utterly respectable.
20. Spend more time listening, and less time thinking about what you will say next.
21. Talk to yourself. Sing to yourself. Laugh at yourself. These are all things I do with the people I love. Why would’t I do them with myself too?
22. Be curious, wander, and explore without a destination in mind. I guarantee you will find the most magical things.
23. Your bike is going to get stolen. Sometimes once. Sometimes twice. Sometimes three fucking times. But if it doesn’t ruin your day any of those times, then it doesn’t really matter. Enjoy the walk. Chat with the gregarious Uber driver. And pick out a new whip that makes you smile even harder.
24. Take what you want. If you want something. Someone. Somewhere. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Send the text. Buy the ticket. Make it happen.
25. If you need more love, give more love. Bake a friend cookies. Pay for a stranger’s latte. Send a postcard home. The same goes for money, time, friendship, and trust. If there’s something lacking in your life, give it. It will be returned to you tenfold.
26. Live with intention. Find meaning in everything you do. Be brave and accountable for your actions. You’re going to be wrong, and you’re going to be great.
27. Let it go. People will hurt you. Horrible things will happen. We can choose to focus on the negative, or choose to move on.
28. Live as much as possible. Wake up at 6am to explore a new city. Watch the sunrise. Stay out way too late. Fly home at 5am and work the next day. Life only happens once, and I recommend living as much as possible in that given time. You can always sleep tomorrow ;)
That said, I’m going to explore Italy. There’s a creamy cone of gelato calling my name! Ciao!!