Self-ImprovementLife Lessons

It’s Okay To Collect Lessons From Others

I’m at an age where reading articles titled “Things I Learned In My 20s” is no longer ironic or dreamy—they have become instructions. I scrolled through each of those lists, hungry for what I too had learned. I looked to the lists for statements of affirmation. I inventoried my wins in carefully curated lessons, lived, learned and articulated by an ally, a sister, a friend. My imposter wisdom included affirmations about accepting change, keeping stimulating company, upholding strong female bonds, always washing off your makeup, and never counting the hours of sleep lost having fun and making memories.

Even though these lists lifted my spirits and made me feel validated in all the shitty things I’ve done, they tricked me into believing that someone else could do my growth for me. As long as I kept current on setting boundaries, getting enough collagen, and feeding my soul, the lists continued to fuel my fire. I was a successful millennial that was both financially independent and sharing a bed with a blue-eyed dreamboat. I had all of what I needed in my life, and yet I craved the depths of the lists. The collective voices of other women, sharing their vulnerabilities with sincerity. But there was an unsettling shift on the horizon and I felt it coming as strongly as I felt the finale of Friends. I asked myself how my mother had processed this shift. How had a novice thirty-year-old woman collected and cashed in their lessons before the advent of social media and Pinterest? I realized that what attracted me to the lists were the echoes of lessons learned by my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my friends.

Sometime after my 30th birthday, I embraced that shift. Chock-full of my carefully selected lessons, I marched into my 30s with a softness and an aggression I couldn’t consolidate. I longed for the first years in my first apartment, the ones whose love and support helped raise me up into my womanhood. And, while I dreamed of how the sun danced through my living room decorated by fairy lights, candles, and novelty coffee-mugs, I felt a new longing. A longing for nights sipping wine with my best friends and crawling into the silky sheets I purchased in a sensible, adult white color.

My restlessness battled my contentment with an unmatched elegance, a confidence I had not had before. What was I going to do with my stash of lessons, memories and sleepless nights? I decided I wanted to collect and archive them, because the lists were a perfect collection of each emotional milestone my 20s gifted me. What my 30s will gift me, I don’t yet know, but I will look to the lists to gauge each moment of loneliness, each moment of failure, and each time I feel that shift. I’ve been gifted a space for all of my lessons, a space to extend what I did in my 20s and to pursue a new version of being a millennial, a “young-adult”—now 30. TC mark

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About the author
Once upon a time I was a girl afraid to shine. Follow Carleen on Instagram or read more articles from Carleen on Thought Catalog.

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