1. Silence no longer makes you want to scream.
It’s okay to like sound, and music, and laughter; and it’s good to talk to people that nourish you. But the best conversations are only as good as their pauses; when you can sit in the silence, content that you don’t have to over-explain, or analyse, or apologise, you are asserting yourself louder than any monologue can.
2. You look for reciprocity…
In friendship and in love, there are always moments where you give more than you take; but that should not be the norm. When you’re on the right path, you’re willing to accept exactly the kind of love you give, instead of settling for less.
3. …and you’re okay with waiting.
Fear of missing out is real, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is – a fear. When you stop thinking of “missing out” as a referendum on your person, you treat FOMO the same way you treat any other anxiety: you acknowledge its presence, then gently put it aside so that you can get on with your life.
4. Being understood matters to you more than being right.
Sure, there are things in life that are undeniably right or wrong. But there are ways and ways of expressing yourself. On the right path, you find a peaceful way of fighting. It may not be any less bloody or scary than others, but you acknowledge the humanity of your opponent much more.
5. You treat your body the same way you would treat that of your lover.
You won’t tell the one who has your heart that they are ugly, or lazy, or that their suffering is all their fault. You won’t force them on a treadmill or make them “repent” for eating “the wrong thing” – and you will not do any less for yourself.
6. People come to you for advice, not for a sounding board.
Occasionally in life, the kind of advice we need is not the kind of advice we want to hear. That’s okay – if discomfort is how we eventually get unstuck, then that discomfort is worth it. But it does say something about you when people stop just using you as a sounding board and start listening to what you’re saying. When that happens – pay attention. You never know what will come from that.
7. You no longer feel like having to justify your choices…
It’s your life, your body, your soul. Those who love and care for you know it. Those who don’t have made up their minds long before you opened your mouth, and no amount of explaining from you will change that.
8. …because you own your consequences.
Part of being an adult is acknowledging that life is full or risk, and that sometimes we may not make a good decision. It happens every day – you may have the best of intentions, and you may still fuck up. The right path doesn’t make you infallible – but the fact that you are ready to own the consequences of your actions, whatever they may be, is a sign that you’re on it.
9. You’re a beagle, not a shark.
Your ears are bigger than your mouth, your heart is bigger than your stomach, and your loyalty is with your friends, not with whatever is sparkling in the distance. (For the life of me I can’t find the meme that started this, but I swear, it is epic.)
10. The idea that you have “privilege” doesn’t send you into a defensive tailspin.
The world we live in is unequal. You happened to be born in a way that afforded you more privilege than others. You can sit around and deny an accident of birth, or you can stand up and distribute some of those privileges to the people less lucky than you. The choice is yours.
11. You have better things to do than being judgemental about other people’s journeys.
You don’t know what goes on in other people’s lives. That doesn’t mean you ignore bad stuff when it happens (see point 10) but you also acknowledge that there are things you don’t have to give your opinion on.
12. Your energies are with the things that matter.
You no longer feel drained because your energy goes exactly where it needs to go, and the majority of things you do are things that uplift you as a person.
13. You no longer feel bad about cutting contact with others.
Just like silence with your friends and with your friends becomes more tolerable, so is silence with the ones who no longer support you. Having the last word is vastly overrated, and so is closure. You’re okay with letting your actions do the talking.
14. How you feel is no longer dictated by other people’s opinions.
There may have been times in your life when you got mad because other people were mad on your behalf. Or when you forced yourself to smile because everyone kept saying how happy something must make you. Those people may have been right… and you can have completely conflicting feelings at the same time. That’s not a sign that you’re broken – it’s a sign that you’re human.
15. Sometimes, things just plain suck, but you get on with life anyway.
It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to hate the loneliness. It’s okay to be jealous or sad or restless. It’s not okay to make it other people’s problem. When you’re on the right path, your negative feelings don’t stop you from getting on with your life. You just build a better tolerance for them.
16. Boredom is… actually not that bad.
Chasing the next thrill can get pretty old pretty quickly if there isn’t anything solid underpinning it. Moments of joy, like good conversations, are best savoured during moments of calm. When you realize that, you begin to appreciate boredom a lot more.
17. In fact, you start to feel weary of constant thrill-seekers.
When someone in your life is always dancing with you on the edge of disaster, that person is more interested in a thrill than they are in your wellbeing. When you wake up to that, you find yourself a lot less inclined to follow along. You may not always stop their dancing, but you will pull your hands free more and more.
18. Accepting what you cannot change hurts, but you still accept it.
There is no serenity in a hopeless situation. There are tears and pain and pointless bargaining and lots of anger before any kind of acceptance takes place, and how can you be calm after that? Nonetheless, acceptance comes – and with it, the freedom of saying that in the end, there is nothing you could have done.
19. You listen to your gut.
Women in particular are taught to second-guess their intuition all the time, but they are not, by far, the only ones. Regardless of who you are, paying closer attention to your gut can be good.
20. You say “No” without guilt.
“No” is stating a boundary. It’s the final verdict, not the opening of a negotiation. Those who don’t see it that way – refer to point 13.
21. You recognise the people who trample on boundaries better.
And then you refer to point 13. People who push your boundaries don’t just stop at one – they keep shoving until there are none left. They don’t respect your needs and desires – they only care about what is convenient for them. Once you see the entitlement for what it is, you’re far less obliged to put up with it.
22. You don’t stop others from growing.
Even if occasionally that means not shielding them from the consequences of their own bad behaviour.
23. You can embrace solitude.
You know you’re a complete human regardless of who’s watching… or not.
24. Doing the right thing is more important than how people perceive you.
Goodness is felt. Kindness is felt. Doing the right thing has tangible consequences that last far longer than someone’s fleeting impression of you.
25. You think more often about “what today brings” than “how you wish it could have been”.
Would it be nice if we could design our future? Sure. But chances are, no matter what we came up with, it would not satisfy everyone else in the world. When you let go of your desire to control everything, the future becomes a lot less scary. Maybe not an adventure – remember, boredom is not a bad thing – but definitely something to look forward to. Something to walk towards.