Today I’m celebrating my 34th birthday. I’m not one for parties or gifts and enjoy more intimate gatherings with a small group of friends or my immediate family. I thought I’d write a birthday post of life lessons I’ve learned in the last 34 years as a way of reflecting on and celebrating my time on this wonderful planet. If you’re easily offended by profanities, don’t read on – I have been known to drop the f-bomb, and other such colourful language for literary effect *grin* my life lessons in no particular order.
Be yourself: I know it sounds cliche but this probably rings truer as I get older. Caring less about what people think about me and embracing the things that make me happy and that I love has definitely been the life-changing perspective that I needed.
Embrace imperfection: I come from a family of high achievers and stoic creatives. I somehow ended up being academically average (when compared to the rest of my family), and a passionate creative. I struggled in my teens with self-esteem and confidence issues, which translated to some awkwardness in my 20s in social situations and romantic relationships. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties when I dropped out of uni (much to the disappointment of my parents) that I finally called it quits to trying to be perfect. It was too much effort and ridiculously exhausting. I realised over time, too, that the imperfections of life are a source of my creative fuel and what makes me smile at the end of the day, because it’s a reminder of what it feels like to be truly human. Letting go of yourself is the most nourishing and fulfilling life experience you’ll ever have.
Make time for yourself: I’m a homebody by nature and am comfortable being in my own company. I went through a terrible phase of serial monogamy (I know it sounds like an oxymoron, right?!) in my early 20s with some great and not so great guys. The one thing I struggled to find was time for myself. Now that I’m married and have been with my husband for 10 years, time is spent doing ‘adulty’ things like work commitments, errands for the home, etc. that having a 5 minute breather to have a cuppa is a rarity. We’ve luckily scheduled in some separate “me” times on a Saturday morning in the last year and that’s worked wonders for stress levels. I know come next year when we have the baby in the house, me time will come far and few between but we always make it work :)
Be kind for everyone is going through their own battles… But you also shouldn’t be an asshole if you’re going through a mire of shit: I know it’s hard to see the silver lining when things just aren’t looking up for you but it’s no excuse to take everyone else down with you. Sure, share your story, be heard, but don’t be a dick about it. A little kindness goes a long way, from both sides of the exchange. No matter what you’re going through, be a good human being.
Give to others: the inner cynic always tells me that there’s no real true form of altruism and that everyone gives with the unintentional purpose of feeling good about themselves. Shut up, inner cynic! I consider myself a lapsed Catholic. I don’t go to church or read/study the bible or do anything for the church or the religious community. I don’t have anything against those who do either, but it’s just not for me. Regardless of religious beliefs, the one thing I’ve learned across studying all religions is that you should treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Isn’t that the most basic and important lesson we learn in humanity? But back to giving to others… This is more than just giving physical objects or money to charity. The most precious thing in life is time, and we can never get that back. I’ve volunteered my time to study groups, to a mental health phone line, helping elderly members of the community with doing their weekly shopping, and babysat my friends’ children. Give to others with no expectation of anything in return – it adds to the positive vibes of the community.
Pay off your small debts before investing in something bigger: I have been pretty good with money and that comes down to my parents being good role models for financial pursuits. I’m a firm believer to paying off loans and any credit card debt or at least get it down to a manageable size before making any big purchases, like say, a house. I’d also have a savings account on the side as well, even if it’s putting aside $5 each pay. Trust me, a mini savings account has gotten us out of trouble in more ways than one.
If you put in the hard yards, you’ll often be rewarded with the good stuff: I pride myself on my work ethic whether it be in my career or creative pursuits. You need to get your hands dirty and get your elbows in there to get the results you’re happy with. Nothing comes easily in life, but you can make a future easier for yourself if you build strong foundations.
Stop overanalysing: being an introvert sometimes means that I’m also a keen observer of the world. Sometimes it also means reading into things too much, which causes lots of stress and anxiety. It’s taken a lot out of me to re-train myself to just take things and people at face value sometimes. And this leads me to my last life lesson…
Enjoy the journey: I’ve noticed in the last few years that I’ve been focused so much on getting a house, making a career, starting a family, etc. that it’s all a bunch of numbers and facts, and the overriding emotion is stress. Sometimes hubby and I have to stop and remind ourselves that our dreams are finally coming to fruition and we should embrace and love every moment of it!
Happy birthday to me :)
What life lessons have you learned in your lifetime?