Technically I won't be 25 for a few more hours, so in theory I can enjoy 24 a little longer. However, I'm not afraid of this birthday. I'm nowhere near lamenting my youth (heck! it's not even close to being over!). I am loving my mid-twenties.
In general, life is good.
So here, on this anniversary of my debut into the world, I give you 25 things I've learned in 25 years:
1) Share your crayons; even your favorite sparkly pink one. Even though only children get the bad rep of being princesses who don't know how to share things with others, I learned early on that sharing is the easiest way to make friends. Learn this one early, apply it to the rest of your life.
2) Always follow your heart, but let your head have room to speak as well. I think the advice to follow your heart is pretty reliable, however I think my amendment is well needed. Your heart will never look out against your favor, but it's nice to have your brain there to say "woah, maybe you don't really need to..."
3) Always say please & thank you. Politeness is way underrated in today's society. Kind words and thoughtful actions will get you far.
4) Don't stick with things and/or people because they're comfortable. Once things get comfortable we forget to evaluate them. You don't want to let go because they used to be amazing, used to make you smile, used to, used to, used to... That old sweater with holes in the armpits and stains on the sleeves? Toss it. The boyfriend who forgets your birthday and never compliments you anymore? Toss is. Never settle for anything less than what you deserve.
5) Send cards and real letters. Real mail is an amazing thing. Just pulling an envelope out of your mailbox that doesn't contain a bill makes you feel like you won the lottery. Knowing someone picked out that card just for you, or sat down to pen you a letter updating you on life and saying hello? That's priceless.
6) Brush your teeth twice a day (at least). Dentists suck. Dentist bills suck. It takes 6 minutes out of your day total, and the rewards for it are endless. No bad breath, no unnecessary invasions of your mouth by your dentist.
7) Take as many pictures as you can. For me, photographs are worth so much more than any trinket I can buy in a place. A shot glass with my name on it from Paris? Will probably break in a few years or get lost or covered in dust (or both). The amazing pictures I took at Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower? Mine forever, ready to be printed out, framed and hung on my wall for everyone to ooh! and aah! over.
8) Tell the people you love that you love them. This world is a funny place, people come and go. Accidents happen. Telling someone that they mean the world to you, may mean the world to them.
9) Never go to bed angry. Not only does it make it hard to fall asleep, or your dreams less than pleasant, it's just not worth it. I've always been this way. If mom or dad and I got in a fight I couldn't go to sleep, I'd write them notes telling them I loved them and that I was sorry (even when I knew I was in the right! I would cave and make up, just so to not go to bed angry).
10) Listen when people are talking to you. How often we zone out when in the middle of a conversation! How much time we spend thinking about what we're going to say next! Stop it! Listen to what the person you're talking to has to say.
11) Use your turn signal. No, really. Please use it.
12) Read at least 25 books a year. Reading is like taking a journey with friends you never knew you could have with whom you can go on amazing adventures with. There are millions of amazing stories - some true, some not - out there to explore. Get your face out of your TV screen and into a book.
13) Work with kids at least once. Working at camp this summer reminded me of what being 13 was like. Okay, it reminded me of the good things at 13 (and not the pimply faced boys and middle school drama), but still. Children are the most intense little people there are. Their ideas are wonderful and they're still so full of optimism and wonder with the world. We could all only dream of welcoming a bit of that wide-eyed life into our worlds.
14) Travel. Preferably when you're younger - without obligations or time constraints - but, if that's not an option do it when you can. There's a massive amount of world out there to see, if you stay huddled up in your little corner of it you're missing out on so much. Traveling allows you to open your eyes, see new places, meet new people; it gives you the perspective that while there's a lot of world, it's still pretty small.
15) Wear sunscreen. I'm not trying to copy that old graduation song here. This one is serious! I've turned into a lobster so many summers it's no longer funny. Sunburns are serious business. Wear your sunscreen.
16) You're never too old to make new best friends. Some of the most amazing people I know have come into my life in the last 4 years. If I had closed the doors to new people mid-way through college I would be lost right now. I've started to believe that people have a role to play in the stories of our lives. Some are meant to come early and stay for the whole show, while some only get cameo appearances. It's the mark they make on your life that is what counts, and both are equally as important.
17) Put your family first. They are truly the only people in the world that will love you no matter what is going on in your life. Where friends may dessert you, your family will always be there with a hug or a phone call. Love your mother and your father every day the same way you loved them when you were three and they were your whole world - because they still are your whole world.
18) Leave gossip to the gossip magazines. Heard from someone that someone else called you a name and said hateful things about you? Don't start calling them names or cry because they may have said that - call them and ask them for yourself. Chances are there was a miscommunication along the line and either they never said it, or the reason they said it was something you didn't realized you did. Either way, you can remedy the problem, or cut off ties with that person with full knowledge of the situation.
19) New & Improved is not necessarily better. I remember when I was little Crest made the most amazing toothpaste - it tasted amazing and looked like it had glitter in it. I loved brushing my teeth. Then it became "new & improved" and it tasted horrible. And I had to settle for regular, boring, sparkleless toothpaste. Sometimes new does not mean better.
20) Volunteer. It's a humbling experience. Doing something for no return or reciprocation is one of the greatest acts we can do for another. Your time is the most precious gift you have, give it away to things that need it most.
21) Sleep with your stuffed animals/blankets as long as you want to. I don't care, there is no age where it is too old to cuddle up at night with that security item. My pink cat (Pink Kitty) and blanket have been through EVERYTHING with me in my past 25 years, why should they get the shaft now?
22) Never be afraid to do the things which scare you most. Or the things that people look at you with that look in their eye of but you're 24, shouldn't you be settling down by now? Getting a job? Getting married? No, I want to go to Budapest and get my MA degree, thankyouverrymuch. If we spend our whole lives living according to what other people think of us and our dreams, whose life are we really living? I've worked hard to shape my life into my life and I am quite enjoying it that way.
23) Let people put their two cents in. Seems a little contradictory to @22, no? Well, it's not. Letting people give you their advice is a good practice to keep. What is important is what you do with it. You have to let the bad, inhibiting advice roll off your back and out of your mind. But within all that negative advice (which usually just stems from jealousy, mind you. People tell you to not move overseas for school because, well, they really wished they had the kahones to do it themselves, but don't; so why should you get all the fun?), there are some pieces that you can take and shape so that they help you along the way.
24) Always have an extra $50 stashed away, just in case. It's a smart practice. You never know when you'll be in a tight spot. The hard part comes in making sure you know that it's onlyforemergencies; and that those new stellar shoes do not constitute an emergency.
25) Love. Everyone. Everything. Don't be afraid to give of yourself so that you can get that love in return. So much of our lives are spent in hate. All that negative energy floats around us like heavy rain clouds. We need to get out of that fog, get away from all that hate and learn that loving is so much easier.
There are so, so, so many more. Maybe you'll get some more when I hit 26, but for now it's time for bed. Gotta get some sleep before the festivities begin tomorrow!
Happy Birthday to me!