Today is my 24th birthday. This is the first year that I feel sort of old, and the first year that I’m more excited about the next year than the partying I’ll be doing to celebrate. What I’m the most excited for is a fresh start and a chance to reflect on just how far I’ve come.
23 brought so many changes. I moved out of my parents’ house and to a new town. I left my first job & started my second. I studied for the GRE, went back and forth a hundred times on pursuing graduate school, ultimately deciding to just take it slow and see what happens. I went to my best friend’s wedding. I learned so much about myself. I’m just so excited for what’s to come this year, this blog included.
Obviously I still haven’t figured it all out. And by it I mean life. That’s what F-Perfection is all about, after all. Coming into my 24th year, I have to say everything seems a little less fuzzy than it did before. I’m open to what’s ahead more than I’ve ever been before and feel like I’m coming into the best part of my life.
Without further ado, here’s 24 lessons I’ve learned along the way. Some of them I learned on my own, and a lot of them I learned from others. You’ll probably hear a lot of these same ideas repeated throughout this blog because they mean so much to me.
Thank you to everyone who has been by my side these past 24 years, whether you held my hand, made me laugh, broke my heart or challenged me along the way. You made me the person I am and I can’t thank you enough for that.
1. Self-care is number one.
It wasn’t until I was 23 that I learned that I had done a terrible job of caring for myself my whole life. Yes, I ate healthy and worked out every now and then, but that wasn’t enough. Self-care also means taking time for yourself and only yourself. As someone who puts the needs of others in front of my own constantly, it’s important to turn the world off and do whatever it is I feel like doing in the moment. For me, that’s putting my phone on do not disturb to watch Grey’s Anatomy, baking cookies, or spending a few hours walking the mall. Once I started taking time out of my day for me and only me, I felt like I gained more control over my own happiness. Gaining this new perspective has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
2. Find your thing, but know it takes time to do that.
Everyone has their thing. Some people even have multiple things. This could be a hobby that means something to you or a career that is actually your passion. For me, I struggled for a long time searching for my thing. I think I’ve found it in creating and curating content that means something to me, like this. It took me a while to see that this is what sets my heart on fire, but now that I’ve found it I feel like I am so much more fulfilled. It sounds cheesy, but it helps me feel like I have a purpose. So put yourself out there and try new things you think you might enjoy. It might take you some time to find out what your “purpose” or your “thing” is. But once you do, you’ll feel like everything is falling into place.
3. Family is everything.
This might be an obvious lesson, but somewhere in my teenage years and before I went to college I discovered just how important my family is to me. I might be biased, but I think I have the best family ever. Four siblings, two awesome parents, dozens of aunts and uncles, thirty-plus first cousins and always someone to hang out with. As an adult, my favorite activity has become sitting on my parents’ patio with them listening to music. I’d rather do that than getting drunk at the bars any day of the week. Seeing my siblings grow up and how great of a job my mom and dad have done has just made me more excited to have a family of my own someday.
4. Comparison will ruin you.
“The flower doesn’t compete with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” This has always been one of my favorite quotes (not just because I love flowers so much). This is something I remind myself regularly, and something I’ll expand on in a future post coming soon. Particularly as a female, it’s been easy for me to look at my sisters, girls at school, even my best friends and compare myself to them. Once I learned that it’s better to celebrate our differences, life felt a lot less competitive.
5. The best money you’ll ever spend is on experiences.
Stop spending $5 every morning at Starbucks and start putting $5 towards a super awesome vacation you want to take or the concert you’ve always wanted to see. You might regret the top you buy at Nordstrom, but it’s unlikely that you regret the memories you create with loved ones checking something off of your bucket list.
6. Pay yourself first.
This is something I always try to do. When every paycheck rolls in, I transfer money over to my savings account before I pay any bill. Investing in yourself and your future should be number one. As long as you don’t over do it and have the money for your living expenses, a large cut of the rest should be going to the bank of Y-O-U.
7. Cleaning your room cures all.
No one ever regrets cleaning their room. For me, it’s something I do when I need a mental reset button. Set aside an hour a week for a quick tidy-up. As a clean freak and someone with a color-coded closet, I might be in the small minority. But believe me when I say you’ll feel amazing jumping into a freshly made bed at the end of the day knowing you don’t have to pick up a giant pile of clothes off of the floor.
8. Follow the “good week golden rules.”
Here’s the recipe to a good week. For me, all of this begins on Sunday. Never have an unproductive Sunday if you want to start the week with a clear mind. First, pick out your outfits for the week. Ladies and gentlemen, believe me when I say you’ll be so happy you saved yourself ten extra minutes in the morning searching for that stupid sweater you wanted to wear. Take fifteen minutes to pull out some clothes Sunday night and put them in a special section in your closet for easy access. Boom, you’re done. To go along with that, always do your laundry Sunday night so you’re not scrambling for clean gym clothes by Wednesday. Speaking of the gym, prep your meals! Sunday is prep day. Make sure your fridge is stocked with healthy options so you’re not hitting Wawa for lunch by the end of the week. And finally, make your bed in the morning and pick up your room. Even if you have the crappiest, most unproductive day, at least you did that small thing for yourself. Starting the day feeling organized and accomplished is my personal recipe for success.
9. Life is a party and there’s always something to be celebrated.
I think this is one of the best lessons I learned through the life of my Mom Mom and her side of the family. Life is too short to not spend it having fun. My Mom Mom drank J. Roget regularly. Most people pop champagne when there’s something to be celebrated. But not her. She celebrated all the time. She always put out snacks and spent time with family and friends. What I learned from her is to never miss an excuse to spend time with people you care about. There’s always something in someone’s life to celebrate. And it’s always more fun to do it with champagne.
10. Keep traditions alive.
When I was younger, I went to my Grandmom’s house every Tuesday and Thursday for dinner. Sometimes Sundays. We live on the same street, just on the other side of the development. Tuesdays were pasta nights (my favorite) and Thursdays we had meat and potatoes. My siblings, cousins and I look back on those memories as some of the best in our lives. Every Christmas Eve we do the Italian Seven Fishes and wear paper crowns from paper poppers. I used to change into my pajamas with my cousins after dinner up until probably high school, and we take the same family picture every year as grown ups. On Christmas day we’d have pajama brunch with the other side of my family. These are just a few of the many traditions my family has kept alive throughout my life. They’re the things I look forward to the most throughout the year and the things that remind me of the incredible bond I have with my family. I can’t wait for when I have kids of my own to join in on these things with us. Never let those memories and traditions go by the wayside.
11. Never settle in love.
One thing I always remember when thinking about love is something my mom always said. She would always tell me that when a boy comes to pick me up to go out, he should always come to my door. She hated when in high school guys would text me “here” and expect me to go outside and hop in the car. She thought it was disrespectful to me and to my parents. This is just one small thing I think of when I think about how I want to be treated by someone who cares about me. Chivalry is not dead. Throughout my life, I’ve settled quite a bit when it comes to love. Love shouldn’t just be something that feels comfortable, but it should be something that makes you feel over-the-moon happy and challenges you to want to be better every day. I had a really hard time realizing that as a teenager and throughout college. I spent a lot of time looking for love in all of the wrong places, and then closing myself off to it. For a long time after that, I was told I’m “picky.” I don’t regret being choosy when it comes to finding someone who cares about me. I’ll never settle in love, and I don’t think anyone should.
12. Let go of what you thought your life was going to be like.
When I started college I had the full expectation that I was going to be an English and Education double major, graduate college, and teach high school in my school district. When I was in high school, I thought I was going to end up with my high school boyfriend and life was already completely figured out for me. When preparing to graduate from college (with a degree in communication, not education, by the way) I thought I was going to get an internship in Washington, D.C. and move away from my family. None of these things happened. As a “planner” it took me a long time to be okay with many of these things not going my way. Now, looking back, I couldn’t be happier that each and every one of these things did not happen. I’m also happy that I don’t know what my future is going to look like, and I’ve stopped trying to figure it out.
13. Ease your guilty conscience.
I have a terrible case of Catholic guilt. It takes almost nothing to make me feel guilty or sorry for something. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. It holds me back from making certain decisions because I consider how other people would feel or react even though I don’t know for sure if that is how they would truly feel or react. This is how I become my own worst enemy. Guilt and shame are two detrimental feelings. You shouldn’t feel guilty about any of the choices you make in your life. If you reasoned through them, you should have full faith and confidence that you were doing the right thing for yourself at the time. And that’s all that matters.
14. Believe in yourself.
This is a simple message my little sister used to say as a kid. She was wise beyond her years as a kindergartner who sounded like she was quoting Mickey Mouse. This straight-to-the-point saying will always make me think of her, but will also always remind me that I can actually do anything I set my mind to.
15. You don’t know it all.
I am often called a know-it-all by my best friend, my dad, my siblings, etc. Sorry, guys. I pride myself on being right. I’ll sometimes even argue a point when I know it’s wrong. As I’ve gotten older though, it’s helped to learn that I don’t know as much as I think I do. After I figured out that small fact, it’s made me a lot more open to learning, to others’ perspectives and to make peace with the fact that, believe it or not, I am not always right. No one is.
16. Create something, leave your mark & be a part of something bigger.
Two of the best things I did in college were join my college newspaper and become a founding member of a sorority on campus. Both of these things helped me feel like even more of a part of the larger community there. It made college a home and helped me feel like I really left my mark on that amazing place. It challenged me to put myself out there, associate with people I may not have met otherwise and learn some pretty amazing skills along the way. Find ways to leave your mark on your little piece of the world, whether it’s volunteering or starting a lifestyle blog where you write about getting ghosted, like me.
17. There’s a difference between who you think a person is & who they actually are.
It’s so easy to build up a person from an idea you have of them and put them on a pedestal. It’s easy to forget the person they are (or were) because of the way they’re portrayed in your head. Sometimes we remember a person for how they were and, despite all of the terrible things they put us through, we still see them that way. People change. And it’s not always for the best. People we know become people we knew.
18. Life moves at its own pace. Not everyone is on the same timeline.
This goes along with comparing yourself to others. It’s so easy to see what other people around you are doing and wonder to yourself “why don’t I have that?” That’s something I have struggled with as “the single one” in my friend group most of the time. But when it comes down to it, you have to remember that everything will work out in the end, and it’s better to enjoy where you’re at than wishing you were somewhere else.
19. Fear is good. Worrying is not.
I was afraid of literally everything as a child. My entire family reminds me of this often. I cried when people laughed, when bees were anywhere within 100 feet of me or when I was home alone. I worried constantly too, and sometimes I still do. I learned as an adult that a lot of the anxieties I faced as a child come from having an anxiety disorder. Thanks, genetics. I’m no longer afraid of bees and my long list of fears is minimal today. And I love staying home alone. Having a little fear in life is good. Because overcoming those fears is what makes life exciting. Worrying, though, is not. The amount of time I’ve spent worrying about things that can and will never happen is frustrating. Once I learned that I shouldn’t worry about what I can’t control, slowly but surely silencing the control freak inside of my head, life got a lot less scary.
20. There are no coincidences in life.
This is one of the most recent lessons I learned, and honestly it smacked me right in the damn face. My friends Kasia & Haley keep urging me to read the book When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life by Squire Rushnell. I haven’t yet, but it’s on my list for sure. The idea of coincidences not existing makes me think of the power of prayer. I’ve been doing a lot of praying these past few months. When praying for things in my own life, if there’s something I really want I’ll pray that I get it only if it’s the right thing for me, and I ask God to show me a sign if it isn’t. And when you get those signs, they shouldn’t be ignored.
Nothing that happens is a coincidence. Yes, in order for this to be true this means there needs to be some higher power in the Universe who has a plan for you. Personally, I believe that even when it’s hard. It’s easy to ignore the signs if you want something bad enough. Trust me, I’ve tried. Still trying to, honestly. But don’t. Let the Universe lead you where you need to go.
21. Be aggressive.
When I was little, my dad always told me to be aggressive. Granted, this was typically before or after basketball and soccer games. It was always something I struggled with as a shy kid. I was always timid and afraid to step on anyone’s toes and thought it was easier if I just played in the background to take the spotlight off of myself. I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment if I played terribly. This lesson is still relevant to me in my every day life, since I don’t play too many sports these days. I try to be aggressive in what I want by going after it head on—no fear. Whether it’s the guy I’m really interested in or the job I want, I go for it and am 100% Sam in the process. It doesn’t always work out in my favor, but I never regret trying.
22. Don’t ever lose yourself.
There have been many times in my life that I’ve lost myself by giving too much to other people. This always reminds me of when on airplanes they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help anyone else. In love and even in friendships, I give everything to the people I care about. It took me a really long time to realize that while that makes me a caring person, I need to make sure I do that while maintaining my own happiness. It’s easy for me to lose myself in love and put others’ needs so far ahead of my own I don’t even know what I need anymore. That makes it easy for me to get treated badly by people I care about because I always care too much.
23. It’s okay to be selfish.
Going along with that, it really is okay to be selfish. It’s okay to say no to people when they ask for your help. It’s okay to cancel plans just because you don’t feel like going. It’s okay to be in a bad mood and keep to yourself. It’s okay to turn your phone off when people are being annoying. It’s okay to ignore a text and respond a few hours later. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and sometimes that means putting your needs ahead of others. Even if it makes you feel like crap for a second.
24. Be patient.
And last but not least, be patient. Contrary to popular belief, I have no patience and I have the attention span of a small child. I’m always rushing to the next thing, the next project, the next idea. I’m always wondering when things are going to “happen.” When I want something, I want it bad. And sometimes that means I push. But when I push, sometimes those things don’t happen. It’s a constant battle with myself to remember to enjoy the moment and be patient with the next. If something’s going to happen, it just will. All I have to do is let it.
Cheers to 24, to being patient, and to letting it all happen.