Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Golden Year: 25 Life Lessons in the Making

And suddenly we're nearing the end of January 2013. Can someone remind me when we even got to 2013?? Once again, I've fallen a bitttttt a lot behind with posting some updates over the last couple of months - but it turns out this must have been meant to happen as the last two months have wrought more changes than I anticipated the New Year bringing.

If you know anything about me, you'll already know that I'm a fan of ongoing New Years resolutions, whether they're new or old. More than anything, it's the spirit of motivation and reflection that I enjoy the most about a new year. After partaking of an adventure to the Philippines, to finally re-connecting with family at home during the holidays, to most recently celebrating my 'golden' birthday, there have been a variety of highs and lows that have me thinking 2013 will be anything but boring.

In the midst of all these events, I've taken to thinking more deeply about how they've affected my life and the path I'm on to who-knows-where. Some might call them life lessons. Some might call them a cluttered braindump in a public space. Both cases could be argued for ;) In accordance with it being the year of my golden birthday, I'm going with 25 life lessons to share (organized in no particular order). It's a good a number: enough to incorporate all the things I've learned, but not so many that you'll be dozing off by the end of this post. Or maybe you will. If that's the case, grab a pillow, sit back, and get comfortable. What Would Jane Do is about to get a bitttttt a lot sentimental.

Lesson #1: Make Time for Your Family

They're the only ones you've got and it comes down to the little things. Pick up the phone, and call your mom/dad/whoever just to say hello and that you're thinking of them. Case in point: two of my family members recently had simultaneous health scares and there is nothing as scary as being far from home, not knowing if that next phone call will be filled with good news or bad. Make an effort with the small things, as they often turn out to be the most important.

Lesson #2: Don't Be Afraid to Fall in Love

This has been a big one for me over the last half of 2012 and into 2013. Particularly as I had the worst case of commitment-phobia you could imagine until one person changed everything. To the point where I can't imagine NOT having known and loved this person. Trust your heart. It knows what it's doing, even when your head is saying "righttttttttt." Sure, the falling part comes with risks, but when the right person is falling alongside you, you'll have each other to hold onto. It's worth a try, I'll tell you that much.

Lesson #3: Dream Big. Work Harder.

No matter how old I get, I doubt I'll ever grow out of my daydreaming tendencies. Don't be afraid to put stock in your dreams. At the end of the day, you always have a choice and there's always a window for every door that closes. But don't forget to work for those dreams while you're at it. Nothing great ever came easy, a fact you'll appreciate in the long run.

Lesson #4: Fly Your Freak Flag

No flag, no country! (Eddie Izzard, anyone?) For reals, though: let your freak flag flyyyyyy in the wind. There's nothing more amazing than people who aren't afraid to be themselves. And anyone who says different is obviously struggling to fly their own flag. Own who are and what makes you original. Being true to your heart isn't just a song from 98 Degrees & Stevie Wonder - it's a life philosophy we should all aspire to.

Lesson #5: Surround Yourself with Amazing People

Why go through life not enjoying the company you surround yourself with? When you have friends who know and love you for who you are, they must be pretty kick ass themselves. Keep them in your back pocket as an Ace card to trump any of life's obstacles. It's like the jackpot that keeps on giving.

A very "special" set of friends

Lesson #6: Have Faith in the World

There's always going to be those awful headline stories, but don't forget that there is just as much good in this world we live in. All you have to do is look around you: it's in the smiles and laughter of your friends, and in the hug of someone you love. If all else fails, Buzzfeed should do the trick ;)

Lesson #7: Be Okay with Your Coffee Addiction

Any other tea fanatics out there? You know where I'm coming from then. It's OKAY to admit a coffee addiction. The tea will always understand and love you no matter what. Just make sure you're at least drinking good coffee.

Lesson #8: Cry During a Good Movie

I find it hilarious that some men will never understand this. Yes, it's true, sometimes we watch a sad/good movie because we WANT to cry. Crazy, right? Maybe, but ladies, you can't deny how cathartic it feels to just let go and get a good cry out when Rose is telling a thoroughly frost-bitten Jack that she'll "never let go." So sad, but so good. Am I alone in this? I thought not.

Lesson #9: Eat "Strange" Foods

Remember that time you tried a food you thought you always hated, and ended up loving instead? Try it more often. It's hard for me not to advocate for Haggis in this case, but I'll refrain and leave the choice up to you. Throw your taste buds for a loop and let them see what they've been missing!

Lesson #10: Learn to Actually Be Happy On Your Own

There's a big difference between being on your own and "okay with it" and actually thriving in your singledom. Let it be a chance to actually get to know yourself and what you want out of life. After all, it's only when you've learned to truly love yourself that you have anything worthwhile to give to someone else. Have the courage to find out what that is and you just might surprise yourself.

Lesson #11: Vote!

Enough said. As someone much more well-known than me said, "be the change you want to see in the world." Have a voice and actually be a part of the world happening around you.


Lesson #12: Have a Terrible Job Interview

More often than not, this happens without you actually trying. Try not to be to hard on yourself. Up until my current circumstances with GoAbroad.com, I had more interviews than I can count, never quite having that 'extra something' interviewers were looking for (experience, maybe?). What I've learned, though, is that it's the terrible interviews that will help to shape your actions moving forward. Request feedback if you can, and let the experience make you better the next time around. Sooner or later, you WILL have that 'extra something.'

Lesson #13: Read the Book BEFORE You See the Movie

Rather than let Hollywood actors paint a picture for you, why not try giving your imagination a chance first? I'm all about seeing movies, but there is often much more to the stories that can only be found only in the pages of the book. You owe it to yourself to see what you're missing.

Lesson #14: Eat Dessert First

Skip the entree and dig into that cake you've been craving. Or was it pie? Ice cream? All of the above? You know you want to, and trying to fight it is futile. I overhead a quote once that went something like "Think of all those women on the Titanic who turned away the dessert cart!" Okay, so maybe that's slightly morbid, but I conclude my point. And Buzzfeed comes to the rescue again with desserts you won't be able to say no to.

Lesson #15: Sleep Under the Stars

There's nothing quite like feeling like you're but a small piece in a huge puzzle. It's also pretty amazing to stare up at a free light show when all the rest of the world goes dark and quiet. I highly recommend this, especially when camping. Add a cool summer breeze to the mix, and you'll wonder why you don't stargaze more often.


Lesson #16: See the World & Study Abroad

I recently compiled some travel advice for Study Abroad Spotlight and it got me thinking: even though it's been four years since I studied abroad, I get as excited talking about it now as I did then. Why not experience that for yourself? Get out there and change your perspective in a new locale! Learn about a new culture, the people, the history, the language. It will change your life in so many ways you won't be able to keep track.

Lesson #17: Send a Handwritten Letter

This is my favorite form of communication, and probably why I have trouble NOT romanticizing the 17th century and beyond. Whether it's a postcard or a lengthy correspondence, taking the time to put pen to paper is a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face, translating emotion across any sort of long distance. It's also a reminder that in an age of text messages and Facebook messages, there is still the capacity for appreciating the simple things in life.

Lesson #18: Fail and Then Fail Again

Fall down. Get back up, and fall down again. It'll happen constantly throughout life, but it shouldn't mean that you forget how to pick yourself back up. Being okay with failure doesn't mean that you seek it out - rather, it means that you're not afraid of learning. No matter how old we get, this won't change. Let it be a reminder when it feels like nothing is going right - eventually, you'll find the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it will find you.

Lesson #19: Turn the Music up Loud

In the car, in the shower, in your house - wherever you might be, whatever you might be doing: turn the music up and remember that it's meant for singing along to, as much as it  is for stirring the soul. If your mom complains at the noise level, it's only because you're overpowering the AC/DC from her own speakers ;) Mom, I'm talking to you.


Lesson #20: Drink Good Beer

I live in Colorado now and this goes without saying. It's made even tastier when you're drinking it with those whose company you enjoy the most.

Lesson #21: Laugh at Old Photos

As easy as it is to upload photos to Facebook and to online portfolios, it never fails to make me laugh by going back to old photo albums that haven't found their way to the Internet. The memories they bring back are as hilarious as the level of awkwardness I achieved as a teenager. A note to self: lime green outfits combined with glasses and who-knows-what-the-hell-is-happening-with-my-hair is NEVER a good idea.

Lesson #22: It's All About Thrift Stores

Your closet and your bank account will thank you. That's the equivalent of oil and water saying, "hey, how about today we make nice and mix?" Or something like that. Either way, thrift stores are where it's at. And by "it", I mean ridiculously well-priced anything-you-can-think of. I'll leave the treasure hunting up to you.

Lesson #23: Cuddle with Your Pet

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.
Dog person? Cat person? Fish person? Okay, that last one would be inhumane and pretty strange. The point is, don't forget to show some love to the ones who love you no matter what. Even when you're having the worst day, they never seem to love you less. Talk about selfless. And if you're anything like me, showing love often translates to holding full-blown conversations with your pet. I don't mind that she doesn't speak human - I figure it's the pet/owner version of being bilingual. I believe already mentioned flying that freak flag...

Lesson #24: Let Your Family Embarrass You

I don't actually get a choice in this happening to me. Does the same go for you? And fight it as much as we do, our families usually gain the upper hand (have I mentioned how much I love/hate that my mother knows how to use Facebook?). Regardless, it's these memories that often make me laugh the most. Embrace those moments for the treasures that they are, and learn to laugh at yourself more often. If your family is anything like mine, they won't give you a choice in the matter.

Lesson #25: Remember that Life is Good, and You are Amazing

What all really comes down to, right? Say it to yourself often enough and suddenly all the inconsequential things won't matter so much. Because you really are amazing - and life is too short to take the important things for granted. It doesn't take turning 25, or listing 25 life lessons, to realize that. That lesson comes all on its own. It's how we apply it to the rest of our lives that can make every year a golden year. I don't know about you, but that has to be the best part of all.