(a 13-minute read)
Turning 23 this year has made me feel like I have fully transitioned to being a real and legit adult. I moved out of my parents’ house, got a job in a new city, and have been paying my own bills now. I have seen real world, my friends.
In true yearly fashion, I summarized a list of life lessons I have pondered on especially this past year. This list, if not my new personal commandments, is a reminder of my growth. It is a reminder of my ongoing transformation and a guide on how I can be my best self. Some of these insights are inspired by personalities who I look up to and have been following, but most of them are inspired by my own experiences. I may not have the license to give life advice, but my main goal is to share this list to YOU, my fellow twenty-somethings, who are “figuring it out” just like me. Who knows if it will make sense to you or not? Indulge, anyway. This is my way of simply reminding you that we can be in solidarity in making sense of what we’re going through. Remember that you are not alone and we are all here to help each other.
1. Enjoy spending your money. A lot of the older adults encourage saving a portion of your salary every payday. I understand that and I’m not against it. There are emergencies to be prepared for; health, rent, mortgage, future family fund, or retirement to worry about. But my point is, as a twenty-something who is new to earning one’s own money, I tell you to go ahead and enjoy spending it the way you want to. It is a grand and freeing feeling to be able to work hard and buy things and experiences that you have always wanted for yourself. Eat out, drink out, go shopping, go travel. Buy something you want and don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy this freedom and this new consuming power you gained. Enjoy it because you can. This is a time of your life where you are not responsible for anyone but yourself. Who knows until when this will last? Who knows if the future exists?
Go and spend for yourself today and take delight in it.
Buy those pair of Chelsea boots that are in your online shopping cart for a month now. Be generous to a friend and treat her to a Zac Efron movie with a large popcorn and a large Coke. I’m not saying don’t save. Save if you can. I’m not saying go lose control. Be in charge of your spending still. What I’m saying is enjoy the money that you worked full time for. Spend your money the way you want to, but stick within your means as well. And also, pay your credit card bills ON TIME. FULL PAYMENT. ALWAYS.
2. Start practicing good habits daily. Out of all of the points in this list, this is the most difficult for me. I am bad at cultivating habits. Me and discipline, we don’t get along really well and I want to change that, which is why I work so hard on these items on my habit list:
- Do cardio/yoga for 10 minutes in the morning;
- Floss teeth;
- Remove makeup before bed;
- Write on journal;
- Pray the moment you wake up.
- Be at work 10 minutes early.
They might sound simple, but these simple habits we accomplish everyday make our character. Not only that but it makes us healthy — physically, mentally, and spiritually. We need these habits.
3. Find a healthy obsession. These are activities that can serve as your daily constant, a reason to smile, a source of energy, and a good distraction when you need to forget your problems for a while. You need this to reconnect with your insides – your heart, your mind, your soul, your spirit. It could be reading about Marvel comic books, running marathons, baking brownies, watching HGTV shows, or any activity really that makes you positive about life. You pick your sweet escape. My constants right now are watching NBA (I finally got into the sport after years of ignoring it), getting updates on The Bachelor couple Ben and Lauren (This is embarrassing but they are the cutest!), and listening to Rob Bell’s podcasts (He is the best!).
4. Commit to your word. If you say you’ll do THIS, do it. When you say you’re GOING to this event, go at all costs. Don’t say YES if you can’t commit 100%. I hate it when people commit to one thing they say they’re going to do and then flake at the last minute and I’m sure you’d hate it too if it happens to you. Now I understand that life doesn’t always go the way it’s planned. If you made plans with someone and something happens out of the blue that you couldn’t control, then let the other person know at the earliest time possible.
Don’t make a habit of making people wait and making people feel that their time isn’t important. This is Human Courtesy 101.
Be appreciative of people’s time. Be appreciative of people making plans with you. Be a decent human being, so respect and be true to your word.
5. Collect older adult friends and friends of various professions. I used to worry about not having enough friends of my age, but it turns out hanging out with older adults is really cool and valuable. I’ve made a lot of friends who are ten years, twenty years, or even thirty years older than me and a lot of them have proven to be really good life mentors. They show me a fresh way of looking at life. They are also a big help in decision-making because they have more light and wisdom and I can turn to them in really tough situations. You also have to make friends of different professional backgrounds. You can really need a doctor/dentist friend, a friend who has a good grasp on the law, and a friend who is not only good with directions but can also give you really good recipes.
6. Surround yourself with smart people. I think I picked this up from Mark Manson. If you haven’t heard about him, he’s one of the most inspiring writers I’ve ever read. He said that the average IQ of the 5 people you hang out with the most pretty much resembles your IQ. Now go look around you. Do you think you are smart enough? I figured that one way of hanging out with smart people without actually being friends with them is by listening to smart people’s podcasts. I listen to a lot of that lately, and I like to believe these people’s brilliance has started to rub off on me! I recommend You Made It Weird by Pete Holmes. Pete Holmes is such an adorkable comedian who has such an endearing laugh and is my current favorite conversationalist. He invites all of these comics over and they just have a blast talking about weird existential stuff. It’s highly entertaining. On faith and spirituality, Rob Bell is definitely a must-listen. He is a Christian pastor who sheds so much light and wisdom on faith and the Bible in his Robcasts. I cannot reiterate how much of a big fan of him I am. Another favorite smart “friend” of mine is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who is such an inspiration to me and my creativity. She is the reason why I had the courage and energy to finish and publish this list. I feel like I know her personally just with how much impact she had on my soul, even though I just know her from reading her books and listening to her interviews. Her book Big Magic is the bomb diggity. I can’t believe that all of these people I just mentioned hang out in the same circle. If only they know how they’d make me the happiest human if we all hang out someday. Dream on!
7. Go on dates and explore yourself. Looking back, my last relationship was from 9 years ago. I never dated or engaged in any serious relationship since then. You might think it’s a little sad, but honestly I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I had the best group of friends in college that I didn’t feel I needed a boyfriend. I’m also the type who wants my next to be my last so that mindset has really put so much pressure to me meeting people. Anyway, fast forward to last year, I came at a point when I felt ready to see and meet people. When you feel ready, you just do. I didn’t have to force myself when I had that urge. I felt the spirit pushing me to do it. So I made a dating profile (it isn’t that bad of an idea), met a number of guys, and had really interesting experiences.
I began to see clearly the characteristics that I want in MY person. More importantly, I found out weaknesses in my personality that I really needed to work on.
I may not be in a relationship as of the moment, because the challenge lives on, but I got something I needed from dating. I got to know first-hand how it is to be meeting people for the sake of trying a relationship. I figured that there was nothing to be scared about because these people are the same as I am who just want to know who is out there or how it is out there. I know it’s scary to meet new people with a certain level of expectation and a growing list of dating no-nos (believe me, there are so many unspoken rules to modern dating and we’d navigate that in another post), but you have to be out there to find out what you’re looking for. If you believe in sticking with one person for the rest of your life, you have to be willing to put the effort and energy to find the cream of the crop. I think people are most afraid of opening up themselves early on and finding out that it isn’t going to work. But how would you know if it’s going to work or not if you don’t risk it?
As my favorite relationship expert Tracy McMillan says, “When you dare to risk something in love, it always pays off. You don’t necessarily get the relationship, but you always get more of you.” Bam shabam! Go on dates and do it for you. And be safe!
8. On procrastination: If it’s a task you can do in two minutes or under, do it now. (Mark Manson) I love this insight because it works. It has minimized my procrastination by tenfold! Whenever I’m faced with a task like washing the dishes after dinner, I ask myself “Can I do this in two minutes? Yes? Okay, I’ll do it now”. The reality is, we have so many tasks we delay to do. We leave them undone until they grow bigger and uglier and everything becomes an urgent task at some point. That’s where stress comes in and we’d rather not entertain that. Don’t even begin with me with stress on doing laundry.
9. On creative life: Don’t be lazy. Don’t be a perfectionist. (Elizabeth Gilbert) Laziness and perfectionism is the worst combo one can have at the same time and these two have haunted me since. Whenever I think about writing especially, uncountable times I choke up because I know I couldn’t write perfect. I have all these ideas in my head but I couldn’t seem to put it in writing because I don’t have the tools to be perfect and I feel that I have no right to create something if it’s not going to be perfect. And then I lose all enthusiasm to write so I come up with a dozen reasons not to do it. There are times when I find the courage to write but in the middle of it I’d feel that it’s not turning out the way I want to so I choose not to finish it. I get excited for new ideas and end up cowering to perfectionism. It’s such an exhausting process. Liz Gilbert inspired me to think that creation doesn’t have to be perfect. We are not gods, and our inspiration is a gift.
Our ideas are gifts so if it comes to us we have to manifest it. If we don’t, it finds someone else who is not lazy, not a perfectionist, someone who will not choke up, who can and will share it to the world.
When it finds somebody else, then we miss out on what could have been ours. We may not be perfect, but we can work really hard to be good at it and that matters. So tell yourself to start creating. The rest is just excuses.
10. Do not be your own bully. What a great follow-up to Number 9! I am guilty of this to this day and I’m still working on this myself. You know how a lot of times you think about creating something, doing something new, but because of fear you do not act on it? I have a lot of fear, doubts, and insecurities like the normal person, and most of the time it is the cause of my ruin. Let’s admit it, we are usually the cause of our ruins. We think we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough. We think we are never enough. We scream it from the pits of our stomachs over and over every single time we are about to take off on an adventure and this is our biggest problem. (It is mine.) It’s the overthinking, being too much inside our heads, that hinder us from growing and being our greatest version of ourselves. So listen to me, don’t be your own bully. Take it easy and don’t be mean to yourself.
11. Pick your path. I always tell people, I have an attention span of a goldfish. Today, I want to be a cookie-baking sweater-sewing housewife. Tomorrow, I want to be the president of the United States. I have so many things I want to do that take up all my concentration. Different wants and desires for different moods and different days, and that’s the main reason why we need to settle first. We have to work at something while we’re figuring it all out. You have to pick one. If you’re always shifting, you’ll never build a solid foundation on which you build yourself. Focus on one thing, stick with it, work hard on it, be the best at it. It’s okay to settle for now. You may not want what you have, but it might be one that you need. Whatever it is you are doing right now might be a preparation for something greater that’s coming next. Now if you think that picking one means ending all your other dreams, you are wrong. You can do them all, but not all at the same time. You have to pick one path. Build on it then diversify later.
12. Love where you’re at. It has been three years since my big move to the U.S. and I admit that I hated America at first. I hated everything about it because I couldn’t accept my current situation in life when I first met it. Then one day I just had a breakthrough in my feelings for America. This country has fed me, clothed me, taught me to be strong, independent, and to speak when I don’t agree to something. This country taught me to free my mind and be confident about myself. It helped me grow and now I am in a love affair with it. We might not have a perfect relationship, but we help each other out when we can. Love your country. Love your street and the people in it. Love your city that no matter how much people love to hate on it, you treat it nicely as it does you. I love Jersey City. I love New York City. I love Maryland outside DC.
Love your current situation. You may be dating someone and you feel that you’re not THERE YET emotionally or physically. That’s okay, love where you’re at and trust your process. You may not be financially capable to buy a house or a car yet. That’s okay. Appreciate your current status. Things take time. To get to a destination, there is a journey. Embrace this journey.
13. Never let a day go by without laughing even a little. This is the ultimate life secret that I think is under-appreciated by many. My day isn’t complete without laughing about something and I think it makes life bearable. It must be my favorite activity in the planet, aside from eating. You have to learn to laugh.
Have funny conversations with people. Laugh at the weirdest and simplest things. If you can’t find something funny outside, find it in you. Do something stupid that you would laugh at.
I always laugh at myself. One particular time, I went to rush inside an elevator and the door almost closed on me. My body’s response was this awkward karate pose with my hands and a left side kick. Thank God there was no one around to see. I thought it so funny that to this day it flashes in my mind and I still laugh about it. And that’s just one of a thousand moments that I get to laugh at. Fill your mind with funny things. It’s your choice to make your life amusing, so make it.
14. When you want to turn a bad day around, change your perspective. Perspective changes everything. Whenever I find something to hate about my job and my mood is cloudy gray and I feel like I’m in a rut, I zoom out and realize,
“Hey, I’m still breathing. I can afford food for this week. I have a bed to sleep on tonight. I have an able body. My family is safe. My mind is capable of this kind of thinking. These are reasons to be happy.”
Suddenly, my mindset takes a 360 degree turn. I relax. Now if it’s an extremely bad day, it’s okay to revel in the badness of it. Feel and embrace the pain, because it’s all part of the human experience. But in all other cases, sometimes we just need to take a breath, step away from what’s making us feel bad, and come back with a fresh perspective. We might be just making a big deal of things that would make us feel better if we let it go.
15. Learn to accept grace. (Rob Bell) Last but not the least, one of the best things I’ve learned from the great Rob Bell is that: It’s not a matter of ’if you deserve good things in your life’ or not, but that all of these are gifts and we have to learn to accept them. When someone compliments you, say thank you. Appreciate it when others show you appreciation. When you have lots of free time, don’t feel guilt for being unproductive all day. You don’t have to ’produce’ all the time. Be grateful for the free time that made you slow down and appreciate the peace of life. Accept this grace and practice gratefulness. Learn that despite all your shortcomings, faults, weaknesses, doubts, and insecurities, you are alive.
To be alive is beautiful and to be alive is a miracle. You get to see beautiful things. You get to enjoy food. You get to laugh. You get to love. Every breath is a miracle and we have this life to be thankful for.
Once you accept this grace, share it. Share the grace, the love, the hope, and the happiness.