I say this every birthday, but I honestly just think life gets a little sweeter with every passing year. Even with a few bumps in the road last year, it was an overall win. So many incredible memories and opportunities. I’m thankful for every single one.
My goal for every birthday is to make the next year better than the last. Not every year feels great (just thinking about being 23 again makes my stomach sink), but it’s a good goal. I’m excited to be 28 and can’t wait to see what this year holds. I have a really good feeling that it’s going to be the best yet.
I thought I’d share the biggest lessons I learned over the past year. The truth, though, is that these are lessons I’ve always known, it’s just that this year I finally put them into practice. And I firmly believe they’re necessary for a happy and healthy and fulfilled life.
ONE // Invest in friendships
Honestly, this has been something that I struggle with a lot. I try to be the kind of friend that I would want someone else to be for me. With that said, sometimes it can be a waste of energy if it’s not reciprocated. Friendships don’t last forever (and that’s okay!), but it’s hard to know when to move on. I had to make some hard decisions this year when it came to friends because I just didn’t have the time to give energy to everyone. I had to look closely at the friends I had and which relationships were worth the investment. It sounds so clinical, and it seems like it’s a “mean” thing to do. The reality though is that you have to prioritize friendships and relationships. In a perfect world, I wish I could spend equal and amazing time with everyone!
Instead of feeling energized and inspired by particular friendships, I felt drained. Sometimes I’d walk away and realize that I just spent two hours with someone who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop complaining. I’d leave feeling so negative myself. Other times, I realized I had been going out of my way to be a supportive friend, only not to have the support when I needed it.
I even realized that I could be doing better with certain friendships that I valued highly. My actions pertaining to the friendship didn’t 100% match with how I felt about the friend. That is, I wasn’t giving the energy and attention that it deserved or that I wanted to give fully.
Maybe this really is an age thing, but I’ve just noticed that I can’t be a great friend to everyone and I shouldn’t expect everyone to be a great friend to me. I’d rather have ten solid friendships that I can truly invest my time and energy and love into than feeling stretched thin being friends with 100 people.
TWO // Little changes lead to big changes
This one is always a little hard to wrap my head around. I always want to assume that to enact a significant change in my life, I need to do some big sweeping action. The reality is that making a massive change is more jarring than helpful. It can be disorienting and hard to stick to at the end of the day.
I have been on a serious “self-help” book kick recently, and every book has more or less touched on the same thing that I keep trying to remind myself. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one or two things and start by making small incremental changes. (Nudge has been recommended to me by a few people and I can’t wait to read it. It’s pretty much all about making small changes, aka nudges, in the right direction.)
This past year, I have slowly but surely gotten into working out. If you told me in October of last year that I would be doing the exercises with the weights I’m doing now, I wouldn’t believe that it was possible. I didn’t jump in and start doing rows with 30-pound weights, but after months of practice and incrementally building up my strength, here we are.
In a year, I’ve changed my diet, started meditating, began to sleep better, and built my strength. It wasn’t from cutting sugar out cold turkey or becoming a Buddhist overnight or forcing myself in bed at 9 pm or getting into an all-or-nothing workout routine. It was small choices that, over time, led to more decisions which turned into lots of amazing results.
THREE // Vulnerability
Vulnerability has to be one of the top ten scariest feelings. It’s pure discomfort for me. I’m a girl who likes to sit in the safety of the walls I’ve built. I can whip those walls up quickly too! Someone hurts me, or I feel like I’m about to get hurt bam! pre-fab walls instantly appear.
Honestly, this seems like a great idea to me. I’m really not into getting hurt. But then again? Who is?!?! The problem is that those walls do more than just protect me, they keep people/experiences/lessons out. Even though there’s always the potential to be hurt (gulp), it’s better to be open and accepting of whatever comes. It’s like the saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
You can’t succeed without the risk of failure. You can’t learn something new without the risk of falling. You can’t fall in love without the risk of a broken heart.
Even though I had my heart broken and easily could have built a fortress to protect myself from experiencing that again, I didn’t. (I wanted to, but I did not.) I decided to ditch the baggage at the door and go on my merry way. It was difficult at the beginning, but I walked away without trust issues, and my heart healed. If I had holed away behind walls, I think I would have wallowed in the problems, and the wounds would only fester until it was a different beast entirely.
Vulnerability kind of sucks, but the alternative is way, way worse.
FOUR // Rewrite the story
Without a doubt, I would say this has been my biggest accomplishment over the past year. And, yes, I would consider it an actual accomplishment. In fact, if (when?) I write a book it’s going to be ALL about this.
It is possible to rewrite your own story.
For me, it’s not only been possible but necessary. I have all these narratives in my head about what I’m capable of and who I am. The stories felt set in stone.
I am not athletic.
I am not the kind of girl guys like.
I am always nervous.
I am not brave.
… and the list goes on. Sometimes the stories we write for ourselves are helpful. Like, I know I’m good at math so send any number related issue my way. For the most part, though, I forget about all the positives I know about myself and focus instead on all the negatives.
I wrote these stories for myself years ago. I assume I’m unathletic because of my lack of coordination as a lanky 10-year-old attempting to play softball. I “know” guys won’t like me because of my experiences in high school. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember and so I must have to deal with that for the rest of my life. I hated trying new experiences as a kid, so of course, I’m not brave enough to try anything new now.
The fact is that none of this is actually true, it’s just what I believed to be true, and I didn’t even bother to try to bust the myths.
I’m actually not unathletic. Now I ski, I weight lift, I do yoga, I can kick around a soccer ball (not sure about playing a game, but baby steps). I have not had any problems dating as an adult at all (and those guys from high school try to Facebook message me because of my blog 🙄🙅🏻). I have started practicing meditation. While it doesn’t cure anxiety, it’s an incredible way to manage it (which is more than I thought I’d ever be able to do).
And I’m a whole lot braver than I give myself credit for.