An older friend once said to me “I wish I was 29 again.” Now I’m there, or here. I had a rough year but I’ve enjoyed the struggle and emerged consciously happier than ever.
Apparently, 29 is a good number. Oddly enough, it’s a magical sweet-spot for listicles.
Since I noticed in Thought Catalog’s Life Lessons, By Year the year 29 was skipped, here are my thoughts to keep and carry into the penultimate year before the big 3-0.
It was my birthday. Who cares? Well, apparently more people (friends and strangers alike) than I thought but I’ve learned not to expect any presents or parties. Last year I made such a big deal on my birthday and got disappointed in others and myself. Instead, celebrate everyday as a gift. You don’t need a marker to congratulate people and tell them you love them or only send them a note for a “special” day.
2. Good glows.
You know those people that emanate from within or seem to have their stuff together? It’s because they’re just good people. Good is now one of my favorite words. Not everything has to be great. It, you, something can be just good enough. Do more of what feels good and you’ll feel better. Then you can spread the glow, positive energy and love much more easily to others. No one wants to be around a sad face.
3. Force yourself to smile.
This was half-jokingly but full-heartedly required on a bus tour in Cuba. I carried the rule with me back in New York. Facial movements and body structure definitely make a difference in how you feel and project yourself. Naturally, my lips curl down so I’ve made it a habit to turn the shape around. You might look a little crazy in the city but s smile is as contagious as a yawn.
4. Look up.
Seriously, get away from your phone. Enjoy the surroundings around you and live in the present moment and place. You might miss something, like an old man needing help opening a door. Besides, aren’t the moon and the trees beautiful?
5. Have faith.
It’s so cliche but you just have to take that leap. There’s no use expensing negative energy worrying and stressing. As one of my mentors Paula Froelich told me, the universe will unfold itself. Some things just take time. Just keep doing what you’re doing with the belief that things will turn out the way they should. Going to church regularly and praying outside the pews has brought me solace.
6. Expect better.
You deserve the best. We all can suffer self-esteem issues sometimes.
7. Positive affirmations.
With enough repetition and exposure, they work. Look in the mirror. Stick post-it’s around. Follow Instagram accounts that bring you joy, not give you FOMO. Tell people “you rock” and “you’re the best” because it’s true and needs an echo chamber.
I remember my first and only panic attack and the subsequent fears of having another one. Just close your eyes and count long, even breaths. Everyone always tells you to inhale. Sometimes putting the emphasis at the end of the cycle incorporates reverse psychology. The breath in will come in more naturally out of bodily necessity if you gently force it out first.
Give it your all. And it’s so much nicer and fulfilling to share. What’s the use of knowledge if you don’t spread it? Stop hoarding information or keeping secrets. I will dole out advice, point others to job leads. You are remembered for not being needy and more for being a great reference. Sharing = caring. Also, if you volunteer your services and time, you’ll be recognized and maybe even paid or hired.
To your failures. To your successes. Be honest about your limits and don’t be afraid to boast about yourself every once in awhile. You don’t have to fake it all the time but also own your accomplishments. I can be shy and humble at times but I need to see myself in the eyes of others who regard me highly.
11. Say thank you.
All the time. Even if you’re not feeling more than 100% grateful. People appreciate it because they don’t hear it enough. But also thank yourself. Sometimes I’ll even say a small prayer silently before sharing a meal with a friend.
12. Be authentic.
Remain true to your word. Don’t sell out to a brand for a quick pay day. Like a true millennial, align yourself with companies or people that speak to you genuinely. As we wrote in our high school yearbooks, “never change (and see you next year)!”
13. Don’t do it for the reaction.
Have you ever tried to inflict certain behavior from someone else? This is especially tricky in romantic relationship. Some people are persuasive; I’ve been called manipulative. Instead, return the focus on how you feel and what you want to say without being afraid or trying to force someone to act a certain way.
14. It’s not about you.
I was teaching a yoga class and someone walked out but I had to keep teaching. Somebody’s reaction says more about themselves. Maybe they are having a bad day. Don’t get so wrapped up in your ego or become self-conscious. Instead, reach out and ask if everything’s okay. Work against assumption.
15. Stop chasing.
Slow down and prioritize your goals. Instead walk, don’t run. Let it work by letting it go. Sometimes you have to be not so attached to the end goal but the process.
16. Keep pitching.
You can’t hit a home run every time. I’ve learned not to take it personally if an editor rejects an idea or I get turned down from an audition or even a guy. It just means they’re not a great fit at that time for that certain audience. You and your ideas are valid nonetheless, just need a different match and opportunity. To keep the baseball analogy, dust the dirt off your shoulder and batter up until you strike out until your next round/turn.
17. Play to fail.
Redefine what success means or looks like. Winning feels nice but what if you didn’t learn anything in the process? My recreational volleyball team gets ranked on a 1-7 scale. There’s no real trophy if we keep playing on the same league level and beating everyone else. I’ve always been a fan of surrounding myself with stronger, smarter people so I can be challenged, absorb and elevate my own game. You pick up things including their mannerisms and words.
18. Get in shape.
I’m not just talking about the body but also sharpening and toning your mind. The brain needs a detox too. It can be damaging to your health so destress. A focused mind has great potential. I still have thoughts running around sometimes but meditation has helped. As Ally Bogard says, “a focused mind has enormous potential.”
19. Find your community.
Roam with your tribe and the pack will keep you safe. You’ll never be alone. Host Google Hangouts but also plan to connect offline regularly, whether it’s book club or annual conferences or coffee chats. Knowing someone more intimately and deeply makes you feel at home. Having a pack or an unspoken pact of trust feels amazing.
20. Keep your word.
Stop flaking out on friends or make that gym class. Following through on your commitments keeps you grounded.
Having an outlet feeds your artistic soul. Return to your hobbies. Things were so much better when we were kids. Back then, we kept it basic. We also acted with no inhibitions, so dance like no one’s watching. Cry if you want to. Journal. Express yourself.
22. Get in tune.
A Rumi poem notes “I’m not here for the walnuts, I want the music they make when they hit.” Listen to music to keep you in the moment. Hum to resonate, surround yourself with song.
23. Fly far, far away.
I liked the movie “Birdman” because in the end (spoiler alert) he frees himself from old demons. Travel to get outside your mind and book the ticket outside your comfort zone. Let yourself soar by discovering new things and crossing unknown boundaries.
24. Call your mom.
Remember this Oscar speech reminder? Dial now to maintain your important relationships. Korean Skype is not enough. Our voices connect us further no matter the distance.
25. Be unapologetic.
Don’t say sorry, especially when it’s not your fault. Even moreso when it’s about yourself. You are who you beautifully are and were meant to be! Imperfect → I’m perfect.
26. Weather the weather.
Let’s talk about more than how nice it is today. Oppositely, the wind and rain are easy conversation starters but also great sources of complaint. Don’t let something you can’t control like Mother Nature change the course of your great day. If things come up like a lightning bolt, remember a tough time you had on the road and how you survived a thunderstorm to keep you going.
There’s no harm in playing around an idea. Send a wink or a smirk across the subway. In yoga, try only lifting one foot on the ground while leaning forward to get into crow pose. Toy with changing careers by dipping your toe in, then maybe one day soon you’ll just jump in.
Keep the childlike wonder. Look at things with curious eyes. Appreciate the ground underneath you, the street art on the wall you never noticed before. What are we without our senses?
This is a simple reminder from my Dad. We only have one life. Let’s make it meaningful and beautiful.