Today is my birthday, and this year, I turn 29. Crazy to believe I’m at the end of my twenties, that I’m only a year away from hitting the big 3-0. You can expect a more-comprehensive “life lesson” kind of post from me next year, as I reflect on my twenties, but as I’m still in my twenties, I still have one more year of experience and learning to do!
This is the third year I’m celebrating my birthday during the pandemic. I was at home for my 27th birthday, but I did travel for my 28th (which I’ll share with you in next week’s post)– this year will follow the same trajectory as last year’s, as I’m taking a short trip to celebrate the fact that, well, I’m getting older and that time does not slow down for you anymore. That said, I’m making every moment worth it!
I’ve been writing these “Life Lesson” posts since turning 25, and it’s been increasingly difficult to come up with new lessons learned each year. Not to say I haven’t been growing and learning, but rather I continue to rediscover and “relearn” the lessons I’ve written before. I’m “relearning” these lessons through a myriad of different situations, events, and decisions I’ve made so far, and now I’ve accumulated all of this knowledge in my final year of my twenties.
All the same, I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned in this past year. I hope you resonate with some of them, and I hope you find them profound, fundamental, or just plain amusing. Here’s to another year around the sun, folks! 🙂
29 Lessons I Learned in 29 Years
1. Work is not (and should not) be a huge part of your life.
Now, I understand not everyone has the luxury of having a job that doesn’t take up a huge chunk of their lives: some don’t have the choice, and I respect that. However, it’s those who have the choice to work less, to take time off and not let their job consume them. I never liked the concept of “hustle culture,” or the idea of “finding your passion so you won’t have to work a day in your life.” Work is still work at the end of the day, and it’s okay to take time off to rest and recharge. Burnout does exist!
2. There are a lot of lonely people out there.
It’s a paradox: we think we’re the loneliest, but we’re one of many who are lonely. Even those you see on social media, who always seem to be having fun with friends: they feel lonely and empty, too. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have many people around us, or maybe we don’t have many meaningful relationships. I think it’s the feeling of not being completely understood, or people not knowing who you really are, that makes us feel isolated at times. However, you are not alone.
3. Many of us do not know what we want in life.
Heck, even I don’t. I think this is common with many people in their twenties, thirties, even forties. Some may never find out what they want in life until the very end. It’s not inherently bad not to know, but it’s bad if you allow that uncertainty to affect your health (physical and mental), as well as affect those around you. Whether it’s not knowing what you want in a career, in a relationship, etc., it’s important to acknowledge the unknown and to take measures to move forward and see what you want (and don’t want).
Even I don’t know 100% what I want in my career. But after going through several jobs in my twenties, I know what I don’t want. And I’ll keep trying out and finding other prospects until something sticks, even if it’ll take me a while to discover it. Life is about constantly changing and adapting, and when something doesn’t work out, it’s an opportunity to find something else.
4. Life skills are essential.
This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have the basics down. I admit, it took me until my mid-to-late twenties to learn a few life skills, including sewing and finances. I still consider myself a rookie, but I’m a lot better than I was even two years ago. Other skills, such as cooking, will save you tons of money and time, rather than ordering take-out every day– not only will your wallet thank you, but also your body (as you eat healthier and more-nutritious meals)!
5. Return to your past hobbies.
As you get older and the responsibilities of work, errands, and family pile up, you have less time to relax, let alone learn or continue leisure activities. I’ve had a hard time keeping up some of my passions since starting a full-time job, but I’m making more of a conscious effort to dedicate at least an hour on the weekends to them. From playing the piano to practicing French, I’m trying to stay consistent, as they’re a great way to relive the joy I had as a kid and to keep my brain sharp and distracted from the stresses in life.
6. Reconnect with friends and peers.
This kind of ties in with #2: as many of us are lonely, a way to alleviate this is to reconnect with people. I believe the reason we become lonely is that we don’t interact with others enough, or at least passively on social media through Likes and comments. By reaching out, even with a text message, can make a difference. I’ve reconnected with people from my primary school and college years, and I’ve had some enlightening moments with them. We may not be the best of friends, but we’re a lot closer than we were before!
7. Being a nerd is cool now.
Forget the 90’s stereotype: whereas nerds had been the center of ridicule and exclusion in the past, it’s actually cool to be a nerd nowadays. From video game streamers to cosplayers to graphic artists, such specific fields of expertise are mainstream, and I’m here for it. Many of my friends are cosplayers and they’re doing really well these days with their commissions and social media– to think that they were made fun of in high school is shocking.
Personally, I’m a nerd for maps. Because I love traveling, I also spend my past time, literally hours, on Google Maps looking up land borders, highway routes, and cities throughout the world. I zoom in and out of countries, trace relationships between one to the other, and discover places I may not have known about– and aspire to visit someday!
8. Skin care is important– more so than ever!
Skin care is a multibillion-dollar industry, and I never really understood why until recently. Much of skin care is about anti-aging (often targeted towards women), given how beauty standards in the world are about praising youth and clear skin. I find the message toxic, but I will also say that, as someone who’s still quite young, the idea of preventing premature aging is reasonable and worth an effort to do.
Although I personally do not care about investing in the highest quality of skin care products out there, I do understand it’s important to take care of our skin: I’m starting to notice deeper wrinkles and black spots, so I’m making more of a conscious effort to prevent further from appearing. I do my due diligence to put on sunscreen, wear hats, and cut back on alcohol in order to keep my skin healthy and youthful. It makes a difference!
9. Find your sense of humor.
I don’t know about you, but I find humor very attractive. Even if one’s sense of humor isn’t my cup of tea, if it suits their personality, I’m more inclined to like them anyway. It’s because they’re comfortable knowing their sense of humor works for them, and that confidence ends up making them charismatic. It took me until my mid-twenties to discover that I’m very dead-pan, and my peers have reacted positively to it. I believe finding your sense of humor through your personality ends up drawing people you like close to you, all the while making you a happier person!
10. Most people are open and want to be liked by others.
Unless you’re asocial or anti-social, you can expect a majority of people– friends, colleagues, strangers– who want to make a good impression on others. Whether or not it’s a survival skill, people want to be included and will make the effort to fit in. At least in countries like the U.S. and Canada, people are more-likely to be friendly and approachable than not, even help you out. Some even tell you their life stories after five minutes of meeting you! It’s a way to bond with others and perhaps if we were to read these people and understand who they are, we could make some noteworthy friendships.
11. Take care of your diet!
In the past year or two, I’ve made notable changes to my diet. The biggest change has been portion sizes: I never used to meal prep, as I would eat communal-style with my family and just ate until I was stuffed. Now, I prepare my meals days in advance, for lunch and dinner, as a way to save time, yet still get my nutrients and calories for the day. It’s also a matter of bulking up on more vegetables and limiting carbs and meats that has worked for me: I feel better about my body, and I’m in better shape!
12. Get up, stand up…for your health.
I have a desk job, and for the life of me, I cannot go a full day just sitting in front of a screen. When I sit for too long, I feel heavy and sluggish, and I get stiff joints once I get up. I also fidget a lot when sitting, so I’ve come to find that working while standing up, as well as taking multiple breaks to walk around the office to use the bathroom, talk to a colleague, etc. makes a huge difference. Standing up during a desk job makes me feel like I’m exercising in a way, and I don’t feel as exhausted as I would be otherwise at the end of the day.
13. Weights are very under-appreciated.
I enjoy working out, and for the longest time, I’ve incorporated strength-training (push-ups, weight lifting) into my routine. However, I’ve found that for many women, few actually work out with weights– they often do cardio or yoga. Now, those are great ways to keep in shape, and I also incorporate them into my daily workouts. But weights are important, too, as they build muscle and protect your bones in the case something traumatic were to happen. It’s not even about bulking up and looking like the Hulk: it’s about being toned and being able to lift heavy things without struggling. It pays to lift!
14. Celebrities are getting younger each year.
I’m talking about the up-and-coming celebrities, especially on YouTube and TikTok. Such social media platforms cater to the younger crowd, but still, it astonishes me that I see so many teenagers on here…and how young they look! For some reason, I still believe that folks born in 2004 are 10 years old, but in fact, they’re legal adults! Even when I was a teacher a few years ago, I was amazed my university students were born in the 2000’s! Time is such a wild concept, as the 1970’s are now the new half-century mark, and it’s only to go up from here…
15. Dating apps are a waste of time.
…but by god, are they convenient. I’ve been on-and-off dating apps for almost three years, yet I have no idea why I still have them. Perhaps I still believe in “finding the one,” or maybe it’s just for my ego boost. But I guess with the pandemic and the limitations of going out and meeting people are slim, online platforms have been the way to connect. I mean, I’ve seen folks getting into relationships after meeting each other online, so there’s proof it works. I don’t know if I’ll be keeping my current apps for long, but until then, I’ll see where it goes…
16. Get out and enjoy the sun more.
Pandemic life and work seriously got me sun-starved than ever before. My skin is super-pale, especially my legs since I rarely wear shorts outdoors. I have not been tan since high school, when I did outdoor sports. Any case, I find that my mood brightens significantly whenever I step outside, even if for just a few minutes. It helps to get a bit of vitamin D– and a tan as well!
17. Word puzzles are a great way to past the time.
I’m not talking about Wordle, haha. But even that, along with crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word searches, etc. are fun ways to spend time, especially if you’re on break, waiting for the bus, and so forth. It beats mindlessly-scrolling through social media (and for me, getting triggered over upsetting news or FOMO), and I find word puzzles very therapeutic.
18. Drink hot water (and lots of it).
Growing up, I never understood why my family preferred hot or warm water for drinking, especially in the heat of the summer. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually beneficial for you: this is an Asian customs, but essentially drinking hot/warm water (as opposed to iced) is supposed to improve body circulation, in the bloodstream and digestion. And drinking hot/warm water when it’s hot actually cools your body, so that you can tolerate the heat better. I’ve since been drinking hot water…and I’m never going back!
19. Give without expecting to receive.
Honestly, this has been something I’ve been practicing since I was little: I’ve always enjoyed baking and making arts and crafts to give to people, and the habit has continued to this day. That said, it comes as no surprise that my love language is gift giving. It’s not like I’m inherently selfless, but it’s also not as if I have any ulterior motives for doing so. I simply like baking and making crafts, and I just want to give them away in order to brighten someone’s day.
20. Be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had (and currently have).
One thing that I don’t practice enough is gratitude. Of course, I try to remind myself how fortunate I’ve been so far, but negativity gets in the way. However, I stress that having gratitude is still something to strive for. It’s a constant reaffirmation: I tell myself that, even if I can’t currently travel internationally or don’t love my job, I’m grateful that I still have the freedom to travel close to home, and that I still have a job– until I can find one that would bring me more fulfillment.
21. It’s okay to be negative sometimes.
Going off of #20, I know myself to be more of a “glass half-empty” kind of person: I look for the worst possible case in any given situation, which at times has made me feel powerless. I think it’s a coping mechanism, as I probably have some subconscious trauma from my past that’s made me rather cynical and jaded today. I know that it’s not a good mindset to be in, but really, we can’t all be optimistic 100% of the time. That said, it’s normal to be negative, as long as you’re aware of it and are actively working to get out of it.
22. Try new food, at least once.
You’d be surprised to discover that I was a picky eater as a kid. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long, and now, I look forward to trying new cuisines and dishes at least once. Trying dishes like haggis in Scotland, beef tripe in China, even activated charcoal in the US has made an adventurous eater, to the point that I’d even give insects a go! I’m of the belief that, if you don’t like it, then at least you have a reason after trying!
23. Don’t let setbacks deter you from moving forward.
I would also add not to let setbacks make you afraid of continuing onward. For instance, I got COVID right at the start of this year, which wasn’t an ideal way of ringing in 2022. Although it was unfortunate timing, I did recover and I still have the rest of the year to look forward to. So far, it’s been good!
24. You’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
…so why bother trying to make everyone like you? You might be Earl Grey, but others might prefer matcha or chamomile. This goes with #10: it’s understandable that you, along with many others, want to be well-liked, but with a population of seven billion people, it’s impossible to have everyone like you, due to differing political beliefs, religions, and passions. There’s no point wasting so much of your energy on earning people’s favor when you could be using that energy to work on yourself. Ultimately, do the best you can to get along with others, but if it doesn’t work, don’t sweat it and move forward.
25. Green is such a soothing color.
My favorite color is green. I think the reason why I like green is because it’s abundant in nature, and nature is a relaxing concept to me. Green is everywhere in the trees, grass, plants…and I read somewhere that psychologically, painting a room green is supposed to be healing and therapeutic. My room is currently blue (also a relaxing color), but it’d be nice to redo the walls for another calming hue!
26. Don’t be a cheapskate.
While it was possible to get away with being stingy when I was younger (obviously because I didn’t earn as much), it’s no longer acceptable to pinch pennies at this point in my life. Especially when I have more expendable income, it’s pointless, at times detrimental, to buy cheap (and often poor quality) clothing or food, as it’s now more important than ever to invest in better material for longer-lasting clothing and fresh groceries for a healthy body. I would also pay more to stay at a hotel than at hostels or Couchsurfing on my travels, for privacy and independence– and also because now I can afford it!
27. Study up on finances, savings, and investments.
No, I’m not talking about NFTs or Bitcoins, haha. But now that I’m making steady income, the next step is to figure out how to use it– and wisely so. After all, I should save it all in the bank, but with interest growing so abysmally slow, it makes sense to try to invest it elsewhere for faster growth. I set up a savings account a couple of years ago and have seen decent returns on it. However, aside from that and the pension plan I set up for my job, I don’t have much else going for me. Not sure where I’ll go from here, but I’ll figure something out!
28. Travel will return.
To be fair, travel is more-or-less back, albeit with stricter regulations (PCR tests, quarantine in some countries)– I’ve seen plenty of my peers travel all over, but I’ve still been holding back and doing domestic (even in-state) trips so far…and even those have been limited. I guess it’s the fact that I’m still not 100% comfortable with international travel, but I’m also frustrated that I’m not traveling (even though I’m fully aware that COVID is still an omnipresent and dangerous entity).
All the same, I do have an international trip later this year, although at this point, we’ll have to see if it’ll come to fruition (or otherwise we’ll need to adjust). But (international) travel will return for me, as I just need to be patient and take it one day at a time.
29. “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again”
This quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt, and I think it’s an appropriate way to end this post! It’s right at this second of my life that I’m straddled between youth and aging, but it’s a moment I’m happy to be in. I’m still young, and I still have the last of my twenties to enjoy before I can consider myself a part of the 30’s club. I look forward to what this 29th year brings, and I’ll take you along for the ride!
Which points resonated with you? Let me know! Have a wonderful day, folks! 🙂