As the title shows, I turn 26 today. It might not mean too much for those who’ve been on this Earth longer than I have, but at least so far in my young life, it’s a milestone that I’ve learned to cherish. I’ve survived another year *relatively* unscathed, and I’m gearing up for the next one. It’s another lap around the sun, as well as being another year older, and another year (hopefully) wiser.
As it has been for the last four years abroad, I’m spending my birthday over a long weekend. This year, it’s in Paris, a city which I consider has started everything for me: my life abroad and my love for all things French. It’s a city I return to again and again, and I’m enjoying it all in the short time I have here before it’s too late. More of my adventures in the French capital to come soon…
While here in Paris, I’ve come to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned this past year. If I’d thought that the ages of 23 or 24 were notable, then 25 was monumental. It was for the first time that I actually didn’t feel like a kid anymore, and thoughts about my future were ever-imminent. I can say now that I’ve officially left my early-mid twenties, and I’m well on my way to 30– one step closer to where I was last year, at least.
That said, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in my 26 years on Earth. I wrote a similar, reflective post last year for my 25th, and I’m continuing the tradition this year. Whether deep or whimsical, here are some life lessons I’ve gathered that I hope not only to impart with you, but also keep as reminders for myself as I continue through my twenties:
26 Things I’ve Learned in 26 Years
1. Glasses are so much better than contact lenses. Enough said.
2. School doesn’t make you successful; it’s the experiences afterwards which do.
3. Running is such an underrated sport; it does wonders for your body. (that’s to say, I haven’t gone running in months, and my body’s starting to feel it!).
4. Being a liberal isn’t inherently “good.” Nor is conservatism. Knowing your facts and forming your own opinions on heated issues (e.g. abortion, feminism, social welfare) is really eye-opening. (as someone who had identified as “liberal,” I’m more comfortable saying that I’m moderate today)
5. While it’s okay to dislike certain people, it’s pointless to hate them. Spending so much energy channeling such negative feelings towards someone is fruitless. Rarely are people truly bad individuals– really, we’re all just trying to go about our lives, so why bother when they don’t even with you?
6. It’s okay to play it safe sometimes– not everything has to be a daredevil moment!
7. A smile goes a long way; it can make someone’s day and, in turn, make your day.
8. (As a teacher/mentor) Never take one’s failure personally; you did the best for them, and it’s up to them to do the rest.
9. Poor eating habits at this age (e.g. instant noodles, TV dinners, cheap alcohol) is sure to cause horrible break-outs. And you thought that your hormonal, acne-filled teenage days were over!
10. Clothes which flatter your figure and make you comfortable will increase your confidence.
11. Strive for professionalism at work, but also be human (e.g. compassion).
12. As much as you’re an introvert and want to stay in on weekends, forcing yourself to go out and socialize with others will be good for your mental health.
13. You hadn’t noticed the frown lines on your face in your early twenties. Now, you do!
14. Showing confidence in yourself will get others to respect you.
15. Don’t wait for love to arrive– go to it (and take it before it escapes your grasp!).
16. Always be honest. With yourself and others.
17. Family is more important than ever. Considering you’d spent your early twenties trying to break free and establish your own identity, your late twenties is about going back and reconciling with your roots. Your parents aren’t getting younger, so cherish the time you have with them!
18. …Speaking of roots, never forget where you came from, especially as an expat abroad (LA girl at heart!).
19. Although you’ve all moved on in different careers and interests, your childhood friends of 20+ years will always be the real OGs. Definitely take the time to meet up with them whenever you’re back home.
20. (As a teacher/mentor) It’s 30% teaching, 70% inspiring the future generation.
21. Sadly, feminism and liberalism aren’t what they are supposed to mean these days. That’s why I avoid identifying as them.
22. Hot sauce (or spices) makes a tasty dish even more amazing (you’re welcome).
23. There’s a time and place for budget traveling, but it no longer has to be that way all the time. Especially if you have a job that actually pays somewhat decently, it’s never a bad idea to reward yourself with a 3-star hotel and a fancy dinner out in town. And, whenever you can, avoid unnecessarily-long layovers or overnight buses!
24. Going to bed at 21:00 is the best. Anything after 22:00 is too late.
25. It’s a lot of responsibility, but signing a flat lease or paying for your own trips is such an elated feeling. Considering that your parents had given you all that you needed as a kid, independence is a liberating sensation indeed.
26. Be kind to yourself. Learn to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Nothing’s ever permanent, and there’s no point to mull over it.
…and there you go! It has been a lot of lessons learned over the years, but I’m glad that I’ve grown from them. It’s a matter of continuing to learn and grow, this time through my late twenties, and I’m curious to see just how it compares with my early twenties. Here’s to more life knowledge to come!
Do you have any lessons you’ve learned? Let me know!