Thursday, November 4, 2010

Twenty-Five things I learned before I turned Twenty-Five.

As I rapidly approach the ripe ole’ age of twenty-five, I take a moment to reflect on some of the things I have had to learn and now use as my compass to navigate through life.

Note: These are my lessons; check your judgment at the door - I never claimed to be a professional.

1. Use the Internet wisely.
It turns out there is such a thing as ‘over-sharing.’ Especially in this day and age because the Internet provides us instant gratification. While an incredible source of information and entertainment, it is also the devil. And it will ruin your life, if you let it.

A. Leave your Facebook status updates for quirky, fun things. The second you put your love life and/or family issues on blast it is all over with. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and it usually stinks.
B. Protect yourself. If there are drunken pictures of you wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, your employer can see that. Your mother can see that. A picture is worth a thousand words and mental pictures will exist much longer than Facebook.
C. Wait 10 minutes before posting anything of ‘importance.’ If you walk away and still think it is a good idea, go for it. If after 10 minutes you feel relieved there is no need to implement serious damage control, congratulations – you’ve made the right decision. Drunk, jealous, dramatic posts morph you from Cute and Cool Colleen into Debbie Desperate in less than 140 characters. You can thank me later.

Note: We all make mistakes – that is why it’s Facebook and not the Holy Grail.

2. Not everyone needs to (or should) know everything about you.
When times get tough, it is natural to turn to your allies and want them to see the situation as you do, judge those involved as you do, and – well – be on ‘your side.’ Resist temptation and instead utilize your inner circle – they want what is best for you, will tell you the truth, and will ultimately support whatever makes you happy (if your friends are as awesome as mine are, anyway). Trashing people that mean enough to you to be so upset is definitely not hip-hop.

3. If a boy likes you, there will be no guessing.
If a boy likes you – YOU WILL KNOW IT! Forget what he slurs to you half way through a vodka-red bull. If a boy likes a girl, nothing (and I mean NOTHING) will stand in the way of that. He wants you. Boys like to get what they want. Period. If you have to guess - move on, sister. Go find a boy who thinks your cute enough, smart enough, and doggonit actually likes you.

4. Drink at least eighty ounces of water and take vitamins daily.
I did not realize how big of a difference these things make until after a long stretch of loyalty, I started to slack on my regimen. Obviously tons of water intake aids in weight loss, but it facilitates clear skin and keeps me witty. Vitamins keep me energized and I just feel better.

5. Wash off your makeup before going to bed.
I have one or two girlfriends who are able to sleep without washing their face and not have it wreak havoc on their cover-up supply. I am not one of the lucky ones. Plus, you get to wash off the day and give tomorrow a brand new, fresh faced start.

6. If it scares you – do it.
It is easy to nap in your comfort zone and stay in situations that allow you to feel safe but aren’t emotionally fulfilling. Taking a risk is a scary notion. It does not always work out the way you want it to, but it always works out for the best. And life is not designed to be mediocre; it’s supposed to be everything you ever dreamed of.

7. Love yourself first.
I do not know how many times I have heard this, but it’s true. You cannot love anyone else until you love yourself. I know, because I have not always loved myself and as a result of that, relationships in my life suffered in a big way and I pulled my loved ones through the mud right behind me.

8. The gym IS your friend, if you let it be.
I will go ahead and acknowledge the sedentary ways I embraced for most of my life, but I have since altered that and can say with complete faith (for my life, anyway) that being an active person makes such a difference. I am happier. And healthier. And better able to do things that make me both happier and healthier. Which makes me happier. Get it? The gym is the one place I can go that is just for me. My music, my aggression, my issues, my thoughts, my time to just do me and leave everyone else to fend for themselves.

9. Be positive.
Life is a magnet – you attract what you put out. Being positive is a behavior I have had to learn to practice, and it is a constant thought process but it really makes a difference as far as quality of life goes. I am not sure if being positive really attracts positivity or if it just makes the negative things seem less heavy, but either way smiley beats frownie every single day.

10. Learn everything you can.
Whether it is educational, vocational, or interpersonal - I have learned it’s necessary to take in every opportunity to learn something new about the world, yourself, or your friends and family. You can never know too much. Like the posters in my high school told me, knowledge is power.

11. Find a job you love and be relentless.
I have had a job pretty regularly since I was thirteen, and have hated every minute of it. I loathe being told what to do and it almost always makes me want to do the exact opposite. Two years ago, I took a job at a call center for U.S. Bank for no other reason than because I desperately needed the money. I took interest in communications, sought out more responsibility outside of my position, and fought every single day to make them see me as an asset. Six months ago, they created a position for me as a communications analyst. Now I love coming to work every day, and am genuinely excited and invested in what I do. When you believe in yourself enough to be relentless, people take notice and your fate finds you.

12. Everything happens for a reason.
If I did not trust this notion, there are days I would not be able to get out of bed. Sometimes life is unfair and sad and I do not understand it. Without roping in God and religion, I believe there is something bigger than all of us steering this journey and although you may not always like it – something happens so something else can follow.

13. Go after what you want.
Nothing worth having is just handed to you. You can do anything, and I mean anything, as long as you go after it and give it everything you’ve got. Step out on that limb, my friend. Fight for the right to party. The possibilities in this lifetime are endless, never be afraid to take what is yours like you mean it.

14. Family, for the win.
You get one family. (Maybe your family is your friends or your dogs.) Love them with everything you have and place them at the forefront of all you do. Without my family, I have no idea where I’d be in life. They are magnificent people given to me as the greatest gift I will ever receive. I love them with every single ounce of my being and strive to be the best person I can be to make them proud. Every success of mine is shared with them because they made it possible for me to be this awesome. I would rather be with my family than anywhere else any day of the week.

15. Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’.
Take time every day to appreciate the good things in your life. Some days, its tough and all I can muster is a ‘thank you for letting me be vertical’. But as you start to acknowledge some of the good things in life, and there are always some good floating around, you will start to recognize other good things. Life is what you make it, and if you walk around every day thinking ‘life sucks’ that’s exactly what you’ll get in return. Think of negativity as herpes, shit spreads and there is no cream to get rid of it.

16. Play nice with other kids.
It took me many years to perfect this lesson because by nature, I am a very honest person. It is hard for me to be fake-nice. (Scenario: You see girl in bar. Girl sees you. Shit. Girl shows excessive enthusiasm in your what-have-you. Oh, thank you, I just love your so-and-so. Let’s do coffee. Call me.) However, I have learned whether you are someone’s biggest fan or not, being civil brings you from a zero to a hero. A cordial “Hello” or “Hey, how ya doin?” or “I’m sorry your dog died” are all acceptable ways to demonstrate civility without being a jerk or a fakey-fake.

17. Music is everything.
At least in my life it is. Without sounding like a broken record (pun intended), music can capture memories and thoughts and feelings and become a suitcase of nostalgia. Let it change you. Let it influence you. Let it take you to party town.

18. Support your loved ones.
I have a lot of talented friends and family. Every person in my life is amazing at something. Therefore, it is my job to support them as if it is my own something amazing I am fighting for. There is no better way to show someone you truly care than to support him or her one hundred percent, whether you agree or not. Buy the albums. Pay the five dollars to get into the shows. Rock the knitted sweater. Hold Kleenex at the funeral. Rub the back when Grain Belt got the best of ‘em. Grab the hand when the bad news comes out.

19. Loyalty saves the day.
I surround myself with amazing, talented, awesome, hysterical, intelligent people. On purpose. Because they enrich my life and make me want to be better. I know many people, a side effect of being what my mom calls “a social butterfly”, but I do not bring people into my life unless they ‘earn’ it. And being loyal to them means everything to me. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, my friends know I will be there with one first in the air until the fight is over. Try it. It feels good, doesn’t it?

20. Save the drama fo’ yo’ mama.
Have you ever noticed those people who claim “they HATE drama!” yet they are constantly consumed with what so-and-so said? Forget what other people say. Forget what other people do. It does not concern you. And I promise you have no business talking about it. Life is a lot easier to enjoy when the beauty is not clouded by soap opera story lines.

21. Get out of your own sunshine.
Believe in yourself. Believe you are worthy. Because you are. My whole life I worked towards a different life I never thought I deserved until one day I woke up and said “Why the hell not?” The second I stopped doubting my capabilities, I got everything I wanted. I had to work for it, but it’s all mine – and while I am not perfect, I worked for every single win. I just had to get out of my own way. “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

22. No one can fix your situation except yourself.
It is easy to complain about what does or does not happen to/for you. However, I cannot help you unless you are willing to first help yourself. Until you decide you want things to be different, they will continue to be the exact same.

23. Laugh until it hurts.
Shit is funny. I can find humor in just about anything. If someone trips over a rug in the entryway and falls down the steps, I am sorry but it is funny. (After the obligatory 10 second delay to make sure they are OK, obviously.) Embrace the funny. It is a lot easier to get through if you can laugh about it.

24. It does not matter what ‘they’ say, it only matters what you think.
Most of the time, when people talk trash – it is because they have a problem with themselves. When you put down someone else, you are only projecting your ugly all over the place. No one else defines who you are, only you have that power.

25. Do not take life for granted.
Life is too short. Do things you have never done before. If you love someone, tell them often. Stay out late on weeknights. Show up every day with your game face on. Don’t wait around for people to decide you’re worth a shot. Call your Grandmother, she misses you. Take the day off to run around the city with someone who makes you smile. Spend too much money. Turn your music up. Louder. Live it or lose it.

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