I turned 35 this week. The number itself felt like a milestone; with continued health, I have now probably lived ⅓ of my life. And for several reasons, which may be topics of future articles, it was time for me to publish something again. Although I have been writing a lot, I have not published something in over a year. The reason I told myself was that life, pandemic-blues, career discovery, travel and relationships had gotten in the way of publishing. However, those were all excuses. I did not feel great about where I was, so I did not want to publish. I was awaiting a triumphant return, something worth celebrating to write about.
Only recently have I realized that I need to celebrate myself on a regular basis, not just once I have achieved something “worth writing about.” If I only celebrate myself once I have achieved something, then when I fall short, I am marred by self-doubt and deteriorating self-esteem. And there has been a lot of falling short lately. I need to celebrate myself regularly and detach my self-worth from my “achievements.”
So with that, I want to celebrate a few things I have learned through the ups and downs of my 35 turns around the sun.
Gratitude - be grateful for what you have. Life is precious. What you take for granted today could be gone tomorrow. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Release your expectations - I thought my life would go a certain way. In some respects it has. In others it hasn’t. Release yourself from the shackles of how you thought life was supposed to go and embrace how your life is actually going.
Be yourself - It’s simple yet so hard sometimes. We all play pretend to make us seem better than we are. I embellish things to make myself sound smarter, better and more accomplished. Just be yourself.
Be accountable - own your mistakes. Come clean about them. Don’t hide from them. I’m slow to admit wrongdoings. I explain my way out of it. Just admit you're wrong, apologize and move on.
Prioritize - prioritize what’s most important in your life. Health. Happiness. Fulfillment. Family. Friends. That’s what’s most important to me in that order. Family and friends bring me a ton of happiness and fulfillment, but I can’t solely rely on them for it. It’s not fair to them or me. I need other sources of happiness and fulfillment as well.
Don’t compare yourself to others - I have a nasty habit of doing this. It only brings me down, builds resentment and distracts me from living my own life. Compare yourself to who you were in the past and who you want to be in the future.
Focus on today - the two least important days of the week are yesterday and tomorrow. Focus on the progress you can make today. I beat myself up for all my failings of yesterday. I get paralyzed by my anxiety for tomorrow. It serves no purpose. Let it go and focus on today. Tomorrow will build on what you did today.
Love yourself - it’s hard to do anything if you’re not healthy mentally and physically, confident and energized. I’ve had bouts of tearing myself apart, thinking I am a failure and fearing I’d end up alone. It can be motivating but also debilitating. Love yourself like you’d love someone else.
Contribute - find a way to add joy to someone else’s life. When I’m down I lock myself away and focus on myself and what I don’t have. It serves no purpose and creates a negative spiral. Add value to someone else’s life, it will add value to yours in spades.
Be happy - do something everyday that makes you happy. It can be a tiny thing. Work on bigger endeavors that will make you happy in the long run. Balance both. I got consumed by a bigger endeavor I thought would make me happy in the long run that I forgot to be happy daily. The trick is balancing daily happiness and long term happiness.
Love hard - tell those around you regularly how you feel about them and how they make you feel. Don’t wait for someone else to say something, step into the moment and say it. I shied away from this, but no longer. The pain of a broken heart is excruciating, but not as bad as living with a regret.
Cry - I never cried. Lately I’ve cried a lot. It serves as a reminder that the emotions I feel are real; that I’m alive.
Seek challenges - when is the last time you did something for the first time? New experiences, challenges and discomfort are the medium for growth. Growth is what keeps us engaged and energized.
Process > outcome - I did things to get an outcome: applause, admiration and to feel important. That’s not healthy because once I achieved an outcome the applause ran out and life went back to how it was. And when I failed at an outcome, my self-esteem was shot. The process you go through to achieve an outcome is more important than the outcome. You can control your process. Whereas an outcome is dependent on process, skill and luck, and you can’t control luck.
Don’t be a victim - I find excuses for why things aren’t the way I want them to be. I blame others and circumstances. Being a victim only gets you sympathy, it doesn’t actually change anything. Be the change not the victim.
Get back up - life has a way of knocking you back and kicking you when you’re down. Get back up. The strength of our character is marked not by our accomplishments, but by our resiliency.
Practice, practice, practice - This is the most important of the bunch and the one I struggle with the most. These lessons are simple to understand yet so hard to put into practice repeatedly. Sometimes, as is the case with me, it takes a real jolt to remind myself of these learnings. And that's why I am sharing this post, to remind myself again of these lessons and to put them to practice.
I turned 35. With luck and continued good health, I have now probably lived 1/3 of my life. I picked up a few things from my 35 rotations around the sun.