Thirty-two was my favorite year yet. I was bolder, brighter, and more a citizen of the world. I moved from one metropolis to a sunnier one. The biggest difference about thirty-two was that I was more myself than I’d ever been before. Hopefully, that tradition carries on and I continue to learn and grow with each passing year.
Perhaps my metamorphosis was because I was on the other side of the country from most of my friends and had more free time. Or maybe I was inspired by the California vibe. The way I see it, at thirty-two, aside from my zip code there were two major changes in my life. First, I took the time to get to know myself. I explored any layers I could reach. Second, I stopped saying, “I want to be a writer.” And I became one. Writing became a part of my professional career. I also had 5:30 A.M. wake up calls to ensure I got some creative writing time in before going to work. I prioritized my dreams in a way I never had.
Speaking of writing, it happens I’m a champion of birthday reflections. At the end of each birthday, I ceremoniously jot down my thoughts and examine how I’ve grown at different ages. On my birthday assessments, I try to differentiate one year from the next and what I’ve taken away. For thirty-two, I homed in on the specific lessons I learned during this special year of my life. Here were my biggest takeaways.
Lesson 1: Create Your Life
Our dreams don’t get handed to us, we have to work for them. You are responsible for creating the life of your dreams. If you want to be a writer you have to sit down and write. Dream of being a doctor? Well then, you’d better be prepared to dedicate years of your life to the study and practice. If you want to be a rockstar, you better be writing, recording, and performing every chance you get. You are the architect of your legacy.
Lesson 2: Pay Close Attention To The Things That Set Your Soul On Fire
When something excites you or sends a rush of burning passion through your body, pay attention. Mindfully observing the things that bring you joy, excitement, or any sort of adrenaline allows you to understand yourself on a deeper level and bring more of those feelings into your life. Know what ignites your soul and run like hell chasing after it.
Lesson 3: Dance, Dance
Every time the universe asks you to dance, say ‘Yes’. Dancing is joy. Just say YES.
Lesson 4: Pay Yourself First
This year I learned to be financially responsible. My financial aptitude peaked at balancing a checkbook. I’d use the excuse, “I don’t like math” as an excuse not to take control of my finances. That excuse is not good enough when it comes to your financial future. Becoming financially responsible meant changing my perceptions of money. I learned to make my money work for me rather than the other way around. I read several books and used some stock education tools to teach myself the trade.
One of the most important lessons I learned was to pay yourself first – in any way you can. Maybe that means setting an amount of money that goes to the YOU fund before you pay your bills. That forces you to get creative and figure out ways to make more money in order to still pay your bills. Invest in you. That could also mean waking up early and giving those first few hours to your passion. That’s paying yourself first.
The most important book I read on the subject: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
Lesson 5: Love Yourself
You’re not for everyone. It’s impossible to be. What matters is that you’re true to you. If you’re authentic about who you are, you’ll find the folks that dig your flavor. In our twenties, self-image can be toxic, but moving deeper into my thirties I’ve realized I’m responsible for who I am. That includes my body, my vessel. It’s the only one I’ve got for this lifetime and I need to do my best to take care of it. Be kind to your body. Feed it well. Spoil it. Be active. You should go and love yourself.
Lesson 6: Love Wildly
Love others and yourself as hard as you can. Imagine no limits or reservations. Love to your maximum capacity. You may get your heartbroken, but that’s much better than not having loved at all. Love like there is no tomorrow because we aren’t certain there will be.
Lesson 7: Friends Will Go, But The True Ones Will Always Come Back
Not all friends are forever, but that doesn’t make the memories you shared any less special. Sometimes we outgrow each other, and all we can do is wish for the happiness of the people who once brought us great joy. On the other hand, some friends will leave or fade from time to time, but if it’s a true friend, they’ll always be there when life calls for it.
Lesson 8: Learn From Your Friends
I learn from my friends all the time — they teach me about chakras, how to be an effective communicator, how to gracefully stand up for what I believe in, and how to be a better writer. We share book recommendations. Every day my friends teach me how to be kickass in an ass-kicking world. They guide me forward, and I like to think I do the same from them. If you’re not learning from your friends, you need to get some new ones.
Lesson 9: Shake It Off
Not to harp on dancing and the joy it brings, but if you’re pissed off and flames are shooting through your veins like venom take five minutes and well, shake it off. Here’s my ‘Shake It Off ‘ Playlist. Send me your ‘Shake It Off’ favorites.
Lesson 10: Try To Be Better Everyday
Every morning when you pop your eyes open, challenge yourself to be better than you were the day before. We’ll never be perfect, but we should always strive to be our best self.
Lesson 11: Have Some Compassion
Compassion is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned at thirty-two. Some of us are compassionate by nature, others of us are not. Take some time to learn and understand what compassion really is. Your whole world will begin to change and you will help change the world.
Lesson 12: Celebrate The Small Stuff
Life is fleeting. Enjoy every walk, every Sunday drive. Appreciate the unmistakable scents of oatmeal, bacon, and fresh-baked cookies. Feel the wind touch your face. Embrace the power of a breeze with your arms held open like a bird. You don’t have to be on vacation to live life like a holiday.
Lesson 13: Spend Time With Mother Nature
Every year my appreciation for nature deepens. Long walks, stepping barefoot through an open field or park. At thirty-two, life was measured by the number of sunrises, sunsets, moonlight, and moments that nature absolutely took my breath away.
Lesson 14: Bask In The Sunshine
There will be cloudy days, so when life offers you a sunny day appreciate it. It’s a gift. As for the cloudy days, learn to create your own sunshine.
Lesson 15: Pet Your Pets
We don’t get nearly enough time with our furry friends, so make sure you’re grateful for every second. Life comes and goes too quickly without us even realizing it. As I’m now raising two senior dogs (both twelve), I’m grateful for every day I get – every time they still want to play hide-n-seek or fetch. I’m thankful for every kiss and they’re thankful for every belly rub.
Lesson 16: Recognize The Magic Of The Universe
There is one book I reread every year, The Alchemist. It’s the most important book. It will show you new ways to see the universe. Once you learn to read the signs of the universe, the omens and your inner dialogue will become clearer. You will learn to listen to your heart and how to stay true to your path.
Lesson 17: Nurture Your Spirit
Perhaps the most important thing I did at thirty-two was spending time getting in touch with spirituality. Oprah describes spirituality best as, “Spirituality for me is recognizing that I am connected to the energy of all creation, that I am a part of it and it is always a part of me.”
It’s on the journey of spirituality that you will find your true self.
Lesson 18: Learn Your Sign
When someone asks you ‘What’s your sign?’ don’t just know your sun sign (your traditional zodiac sign), but take the time to learn your moon sign and rising sign. Do a free online chart reading. Your mind will be blown by the accuracy of the stars. And it’s another layer of yourself you get to explore.
Lesson 19: Try New Things
I have favorites – restaurants, drinks, dishes, music, workouts – and I cling to my favorites like a lifeboat. I know they bring me joy so why fix what’s not broken. This year I challenged myself to try new things and I’m more well rounded and have new favorites because of it.
Lesson 20: Fail With Grace
When you fail, and you will — embrace failure because we need to fail in order to succeed. Keep your shoulders back and your head high. Most importantly learn the lesson the universe is trying to teach you.
Lesson 21: Take The Time To Do Things Right
One of the best lessons I learned this year was when my fiance read a novel chapter I’d rushed in order to meet the invisible deadline I’d set for myself. After a few minutes, he handed it back to me with the suggestion that I rewrite the chapter “because clearly it was more important for you to finish than to tell the story correctly.”
Touche, my love. That’s why I keep him around.
Lesson 22: Smile
“One shouldn’t take life so seriously. No one gets out alive anyway.” – Jim Morrison
The most important lesson we learn and learn again is to not take life too seriously. Laughing feels better than anger and it spreads joy. If you have the opportunity to make others smile – always take it. The world can never have too many smiles. Wearing a smile of your own helps. After all, a smile is more contagious than a yawn.
Cheers to thirty-three!