Usually this space is reserved for the Little Big Words Project. But, today is special. Today is one of the last days that I am 29. In honour of my 30th birthday, I decided to pay tribute to a few things that I learned in my 20s. While they are in no particular order, they certainly don’t solve the energy crisis, the bipartisanship of the US Government, or stop Miley Cyrus from embarrassing my gender. But I have run a lot of kilometres, started from scratch and over again, climbed mountains both personally and physically, faced demons, fallen in love, felt heartache and grief, suffered some serious injuries and a brush with death, and on more than one occasion - have both lost and found myself.
I put together a collection of principles that serve as my own manifesto or set of cue cards if you will. While I am no Mark Twain, I – just like everyone else - am trying to make sense of it all. For me, they’re a place that I can come back to, or leap off of. I thought I would share a little wisdom with you, with the single hope that they inspire you. Enjoy.
The 29 Things I Know To Be True By 30.
1. Life is a story, and it should be read like one. If a chapter of your life is over, don’t reread it – it’s never as good as it was the first time.
2. Love and lose.
3. Watch for things, people, stocks and feelings that spike really fast. They usually are fleeting.
4. Success is not an accident. It’s hard work, studying, learning, sacrifice and strife. Doing anything that’s worthwhile takes forever. What separates successful people, more often than not – is tenacity, resilience, discipline, focus and drive.
5. Your 20s are about figuring out who you are personally and what you like to do professionally.
6. Make decisions with your intuition. It is there for a reason. If someone can’t look you in the eye – they feel shame, guilt or are hiding something. Make the conversation be over.
7. Avoid dating tall, dark and handsome men in suits. Especially if they are in sales. The best thing they know how to sell is themselves.
8. You are looking for a marriage, not a wedding.
9. You teach people the way you want to be treated. Miley Cyrus, take note.
10. Eat things that you can pronounce. The combination of regular exercise, good nutrition, sunlight, fresh air, the outdoors, and yoga are a more powerful elixir than the pharmaceutical industry could ever prescribe.
11. Incorporate meditation into your life. It will teach you what your own voice truly sounds like. You already know inside what you need – you just have to learn to listen. (And how to silence the marketers.)
12. Everyone has their own personal Mount Everest that they have to climb. Love whatever it is you choose to pursue.
13. Travel is exceptionally important. Especially to developing countries. It gives you perspective on your consumerism and your everyday privileges.
14. If you live under someone else’s expectations, look for their acceptance, or define yourself against their definition of success – you will never be free. Ever.
15. You are the architect of your own life.
16. When people talk, really listen. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak. They will tell you everything you need to know about them. When they speak about their successes, you will hear their motivations, and in their failures - their character. In their professional life, watch how they treat the lowest paid employee in the place, or the wait staff.
17. Believe in yourself and others will too.
18. When the world serves you disappointment, heartache and defeat – say thank you. This is how life teaches you humility, grace and appreciation.
19. Facebook is spawning a generation, if not an entire society - of narcissists. Be mindful of how you feel whenever you consume digital content and the power you give it. Keep in mind that everyone always depicts the rosiest version of themselves.
20. The less power you give anything, the less power it has over you.
21. If you are having a bad day, apply glitter, wear red or lip gloss. It has super powers.
22. Make sure that you always have something that the rest of the world can’t have. Something that belongs only to you that’s free of judgment.
23. Viscerally, we are all little kids on the playground - even as grown ups. Understand that within everyone of us - we all want to be seen, feel safe, feel as though we belong and acknowledged for our efforts.
24. If you are searching for happiness, find the things that make you feel like a kid again.
25. You are the company you keep. Surround yourself with those that make you aspire to be a better person. Watch for those that drain your vitality, ask you to change or serve you transparent dangling carrots. This is especially true in love. It’s the endorphins that blind you from reason.
26. It is only sensation until you build a story around it. Get control of your inner dialogue and spin it positively. Bobby Knight says that the power of the mind trumps the body, four to one. If you think something terrible, you will feel terrible. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you need to believe it.
27. Everyone has their own unique set of needs. Yours are different. Make the decisions that are right for you. What everyone else thinks is just conversation.
28. It is only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
29. Sadness fades. Silence takes its place. Until that day comes – take whatever pieces of happiness you can find, and hold onto them.
But the most important one of all:
Two years ago, just days before (and unbeknownst to me) – I would enter one of the most transitionary periods of my life, I found myself on top of a mountain, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of the rainforest, miles from the nearest town. Night had just fallen, and I stood on a simple mat among forty others, and took part in a candle lit, silent yoga practice. Eighty pairs of eyes joined mine and watched a thunderstorm come full speed, and crash against the shores of Nosara, Costa Rica - leaving us all only with the sound of the rain through the trees, the cries of the howler monkeys to find cover in the canopy, and lightning so bright that it lit up the sky for what felt like infinity.
In that moment, I realized this:
Bask in the magnificence of this funny thing called life. We are creatures, just shy of perfect design. The fact that millions upon millions of cells have the ability to touch, feel, smell, communicate, orchestrate destruction, think positively, love, produce sweat, divide, duplicate, become a pancreas, or grow a fetus – or that how the tides and seasons know when to change, the leaves know when to fall, and moons know when to wane - is the most exceptional thing that this world offers.
Life is a story; a series of chapters - each to be lived passionately and absolutely. Don’t be afraid to make it amazing because some stories are shorter than others. If you’re lucky, you will be surrounded by an amazing cast of characters throughout – and one day, come to understand the plot.