37 Lessons In 37 Years

I’ll be turning 38 in November. I thought it appropriate to share some of those bits I’ve learned. I often think about E (my daughter) and what I would want to impress upon her as she grows up. Why not share?

Some of these lessons are practical in nature, others are more complex. It’s a mixed list to be sure. Please do share some of your own life lessons in the comment section below.

  1. Strive for balance. Living in extremes is never healthy. Too much rigidity, or a lack thereof, lessens the quality of life.
  2.  Show an appreciation for punctuality. You needn’t always be early but there is no excuse for always being late. Be the person others can depend on.
  3. Know your limits. It’s tempting to push yourself into someone else’s idea of what you should be doing, how often, and how well you should be doing it. Do what’s right by you and stick to it. My favorite example of this was how so many people I knew wanted me to get pregnant right after E’s birth. ‘It’s better,’ they said, ‘the second gives the first one someone to play with.’ I don’t believe children should be viewed as book-ends, more to the point, one was enough for me. The pressure, though, was phenomenal. Know your limits.
  4. If you find yourself in the position of constantly seeking someone’s approval or affection, you will likely never get it. I learned this the hard way, several times and over the course of many years. Let them go, and in turn, you will know freedom.
  5. In this life, you will make mistakes, some big, some small, but they will be made. Don’t repeat the mistake and you will have learned something. Repeat the mistake, you’ve learned nothing.
  6. When you make a mistake, bounce back and you will learn resilience. You will not fold every time when confronted with a challenge or an obstacle.
  7. You do not have to be happy all the time. Most days are unremarkable and easily forgotten as not everyday is meant to stand out in your memory as either terribly good or terribly bad. Sometimes a feeling of contentedness or “alrightness” is enough when looking back on a week, a month, or a year.
  8. The need to be around others is perfectly normal.
  9. The need to be alone is perfectly normal.
  10. Know when to walk away, or refuse to engage.
  11. Know when to stay your ground.
  12. Know when to listen.
  13. Know when to speak up.
  14. Criticism is a natural part of life and a necessity. If you don’t expect it then you’re a fool and will likely be angered by this comment. By the way, being on the receiving end of criticism is when it pays to know when to listen and to when to speak up.
  15. Adopting a neutral stance in a situation that calls for a side, in the end, almost always sides you with the wrong. Being neutral is a choice and not a very good one. Declaring yourself as a neutral party (such as in cases of war, human oppression, political discord, etc.) cannot essentially be true as neutrality gives power to those who are clearly on the wrong side of history; they go unopposed.
  16. Adding a 1/2 cup of clear, distilled vinegar to your load of dark-colored clothing brings back their vibrancy. Ironically, things like detergent and softeners often build layers of residue over time creating a dulled look. This also works for light-colored clothing and is an excellent alternative to bleach.
  17. Never mix up or lose your matching sheet sets again. After washing and drying, put one pillow case aside, fold the rest. Fold the fitted sheet. Fold the flat sheet. Stack the flat sheet on the folded fitted sheet. Stack the remaining folded pillow cases on top of the folded flat sheet. Open the pillow case that you set aside and insert the stack of folded linens. Voila! No more misplaced sets or falling linen stacks on your shelves.
  18. It does not matter if you rent or own; a clean living space says you take pride in how you live and that you take pride in yourself. Your living habits speak volumes about you, no differently than your personal hygiene habits would. If not your address, then take pride in yourself. And you may not have the best address (when I started out on my own, I rented a 425 sq ft studio apartment at $500 a month in the hardest part of town because it’s what I could afford as a broke college student) but that doesn’t mean you automatically abdicate any sense of self-care. And make no mistake, an orderly and clean environment is a form of self-care. Don’t believe me? Watch any episode of any hoarders-style show and look at how well those folks are doing.
  19. Pay your bills the same day(s) of the month, on time, no exceptions.
  20. Monitor all three of your credit reports (for free) annually via Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It’s not an easy read, granted, but it’s worth it. A few mistakes (sometimes big, sometimes small – all damaging) caught and you can avoid years of confusion and disrepair.
  21. ‘Do what makes you happy’ is common career advice but isn’t terribly helpful if what you love is not practical. Be prepared in this life to have a job that pays the bills and to do what you love as a hobby, or as work-done-on-the-side. My husband is fortunate in that his hobby is his work and his work is his hobby. Most of us aren’t so fortunate – I made a career out of helping others while practicing writing as a hobby. This is normal. Expect it.
  22. A college degree does not set you up to navigate life outside of school. By age 22 or so, you might be an expert student, but you will likely not be well-versed in being a full-time employee, or an average citizen who can pay rent and bills independently of any assistance, or someone who can clean up after themselves and take care of their living space, or can feed themselves by purchasing their own food from a grocery store, etc. Get experience. As a career counselor of nearly decade, I can tell you the students who launched their lives post-graduation successfully were those students who got exposure to real world experiences. Volunteer, intern, hold down a part-time job, but do not expect your degree to guarantee you anything.
  23. Saying, ‘That’s how I was raised,” is a cop-out from having to think for yourself. Such fallback phrases do not excuse ignorance. Question your upbringing. Are you acting on autopilot or are you living intentionally?
  24. Ignorance is not an excuse. It’s harsh, I know, but it’s also true.
  25. Family is a choice. It took me years to sort this out. I am, by choice, estranged from both my parents. My life has been made healthier and happier for it. In their own ways, they have pushed me away through substance abuse, physical and verbal rejection too. I finally listened.
  26. Keep a journal. Scribble down any old thought, just do it daily or even weekly. You’ll be surprised about what you discover when looking back.
  27. Sage advice that holds true to today: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
  28. Learn how to cook the basics. Unless your finances are well off, it is unwise to rely on frozen meals, restaurants, and takeaway as your sources for food. Learn how to make eggs, a few chicken and beef recipes, how to prepare a few vegetables and you’ll never starve, or feel helpless when your just not up to another bowl of cereal or a microwaveable mac n’ cheese.
  29. Anyone who leaves you guessing as to what your position is in a relationship isn’t really in a relationship with you. To be sure, they are getting something from you, or else they wouldn’t be hanging around, or asking you to hang around, but it isn’t legit either. If you have to guess whether you are a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a friend, then you aren’t any of those things. Whether the other person knows it or not, they are keeping you confused to keep you around, but not giving you enough to make you feel committed to either. Thus, the confusion and insecurity. I took this ridiculous trip around the confusion-carousel twice. I understand it’s a popular ride for many so I take comfort in knowing it’s not just me.
  30. The person who is into you let’s you know. They have no trouble using defining terms like girlfriend, boyfriend, or friend and want to spend real time with you. There is no guessing or questioning motives. You are secure in this relationship because this other person wants you to know how they feel about you and hopes you feel the same way.
  31. A lot of people walk around with their problems in hand and are more than happy to project them onto you. Be in control of your actions. Your feelings, in response to a negative situation, are normal, but it’s your actions that you will be held accountable for.
  32. First, find and establish a regular GP. Second, see your GP at least once a year. Your health is your everything. Most days you have it until one day you don’t. Do not take your body or your health for granted.
  33. Find time for you. The more time you commit to your job or your family, the less personal time you have. And that’s fine. You know what you signed up for and you knew that particular sacrifice was a necessity. But do carve out some personal time for yourself, it’s part of keeping yourself healthy.
  34. Understand the triad: body, mind, emotions. You affect one, you affect all.
  35. There are no such things as ghosts, boogeymen, or psychics. Don’t get me wrong. I used to believe in these things, I even wanted to believe in them after I stopped believing in them because life would seem incredibly boring without them, but there you are. Let me ask you this: Heard of anyone claiming to have seen a caveman ghost?
  36. Practically speaking, a stitch in time saves nine.
  37. Creatively speaking, deadlines and procrastination can induce some seriously creative content.

PS – Apologies for grammatical errors, etc. I’m doing a type and launch as it’s a full schedule today. Feel free to criticize in the comments below 😉

Austin, Texas