Monday, December 10, 2018

27 Things I've Learned in 27 Years

Today marks 27 laps around the sun, so I wanted to share with you 27 lessons I have learned along the way...

1. Cut loose the toxic relationships in your life

This was a lesson I learned pretty early in life.  While watching friends deal with crummy friend situations or burdened with significant others who were not deserving of them, I had no problem cutting the cord and saying "Bye, Felicia."  I've always known that if people didn't value my presence in their lives, or were treating me as a back up plan, that they weren’t worth my time.

2. Learn from your losses

Whether it be a relationship, a job, or anything else. You’ve got two choices- to mope around and be sad, or to learn from it and move on. Quite frankly, its really not a choice for me.  Being mopey makes me even more miserable, so I just move on.

3. Do whatever you need to do to be happy

At the end of the day, the only person who is ALWAYS going to be there for you, is you. Of course you need to take into consideration other people’s thoughts and feelings when you make decisions that impact them (especially when you’re in a guardian position like a parent, etc.), but you are ultimately responsible for you and your own happiness and that HAS to be a priority.

4. Take time for yourself 

I am one of those people who has no problem doing things in by myself. If i want to go to dinner, or hiking, or a movie, and everyone else is busy, I’ll go anyway. Heck, even if friends would be willing and available to go, I still go alone sometimes. Part of this is because I am introverted and I need time to myself to refocus and re-energize, but I also think it’s so important to be aware of yourself and your needs and just take care of you. This may mean doing activities solo, but it also means taking time to breathe and relax, to unwind and de-stress, and to put your needs first. 

5. Talk to people

You don’t have to suffer through things alone. This is something I’m still learning. I’ve never been good at talking to other people about my struggles or problems. My whole life I’ve had such a strong sense of independence that I’ve never been one to ask for help, even when I really needed it.  Your people are there for you; be careful who you confide it, but confide in someone.

6. Don’t let people make you feel bad about who you are 

This also goes for what you do (or don’t do), what you like (or dislike), etc. For example, I’m a fairly picky eater; seafood creeps me out, mostly because of the texture. Believe me, I would love it if I could enjoy seafood. As a lover of food in general, I want to eat all the things! Unfortunately, my stomach/tongue/taste buds just will not cooperate in that aspect, and it’s dumb that people try to make me feel bad about that. Another thing I’ve run into often is people who talk down on teaching, saying, “why don’t you get a real job?” Whenever I hear that I just roll my eyes, because anyone who says that clearly doesn’t understand the teaching profession.  If you like Starbucks, drink your lattes, if you enjoy always owning the latest technology, budget for it and buy it. If you like the Green Bay Packers....well, then you need to re-evaluate because some things are just inexcusable. 😜

7. “Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum!”

This was a saying used in a program I worked in one summer, and I’ve tried to abide by it ever since. It was a food program and it was meant to teach kids not to yell out “yuck!” when trying new things, because even if they don’t like it, others around them might. I’ve tried to be conscious of not using words like “yuck,” and instead just saying “I don’t care for that,” or something along those lines. But this doesn’t just go for food. Building off my last point, if you don’t want people to tear you down for the things you love, don’t put them down for their lifestyle either. 

8. Don’t feel bad about sharing the things you’re excited about

If people don't want to hear/read about your passions, they can choose to keep scrolling or change the conversation.  I've gotten to do a lot of really cool things that I'm really excited about, and a lot of those opportunities I found through other people who did them first.  Had these people not shared, I wouldn't have gotten to partake.  After Costa Rica, I continued this blog in hopes that I can inspire others to do and see and share things that excite them, because of the inspiration I found in those who shared their experiences.

9. Always say yes!

This was a habit I worked on developing when I first moved to Tennessee 3.5 years ago. There were a lot of reasons behind my move, but the main motivator was that I was ready for a new adventure, an adventure that wasn’t going to happen if I sat in my apartment every night and weekend. I never experience FOMO (fear of missing out for all you non-millennials reading this) because I’m always out there DOING the things I want to do. Sometimes this means attending something where I don't know anyone, but it has been worth it every single time.

10. Make the most of every moment

Life is so short, y’all. Yes, it’s the longest damn thing we do, but the thing about time is that you can never get more of it, and you can never get it back, you just get what you get. People always say not to compare your life to what you see on others’ social media, but I think you can use it as a great motivator. When crappy things happen, you can either dwell on them, or realize there is nothing you can do to change it and move on with your life. This is one thing that really helps me when I fall into a depressive state- it’s amazing what the mind can do.

11. Being open-minded is a great quality to have

In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about myself. I’ll try just about anything once (even if I’m hesitant and need a little push first!). It makes being a teacher that much easier, because I don’t judge my kids and their families based on their life circumstances - circumstances in which I will never know the whole story.  Quite frankly, it makes me a much less bitter person than people who hate everything and everyone. That’s not to say I never judge, because I do, I am human after all, but I’m also aware of when I make unfair judgments and know that I have to be open to evidence proving me wrong.

12. Allow yourself to process the tough stuff

This is also something I'm still working on.  I struggle with finding the happy medium between processing the tough stuff and just moving on with life when crappy things happen.  For example, this past summer I had a pretty big life change, the fourth in about three years, and instead of deal with it I just decided I was going to be fine and BAM had the next step of life all planned out faster than I could snap my fingers.  Everyone kept telling me, "Gretchen, you need to step back and process this," because my people know me.  They know when I say I'm fine that it means I've pushed the bad stuff aside and am not dealing with it, but am just moving on. Shout out to you, my friends.  You know who you are, and thank you for making me deal. It's okay to move on, but its also important to learn from tough stuff before you do.

13. Be aware of your mental health 

The older I get, the more aware of this aspect of my life I am.  The bad days have gotten easier (usually!) because I've figured out how to cope and deal, and moreso I've figured out how to prevent and deter the darkness. I remember when I first started understanding my anxiety and depression in college; I confided in a friend about it, only to overhear her talking trash about me dealing with it to another friend later that evening. Needless to say that was pretty much the end of our friendship for me. A big part of being aware of your mental heath, is also having people in your tribe who are aware of your mental health. Its not an easy battle to deal with alone. 

14. Never stop learning

Learn about new concepts or new places. Learn about new people and new lifestyles. The more you know, the better person you are, I truly believe this. It doesn't have to be book stuff. Learn about the world around you!

15. Make a budget

Look, I'm still working on this one. But I know its important! For now my bills are paid, my tummy is fed, my heart is happy. I'll get there!

16. It’s okay not to have a 5-year plan

At any stage or season of my life, if I think back five years, I absolutely know I would not have seen myself where I am in that moment. Heck, even a year ago I would not have put myself here, but honestly I’m more satisfied than I’ve ever been with where I’m at. I was once listening to a podcast that discussed the pointlessness of a 5-year plan and I felt every word they said deep in my soul. Things can change in the blink of an eye, a drop of a hat, etc. and sometimes that can totally derail your plan. The world we live in today is constantly changing and the opportunities available today are going to be drastically different than the opportunities available five years from now. Obviously 5-year, 10-year, whatever year plans are great for some people, and more realistic for some careers, but it’s not worth worrying about if you don’t have one. As a very Type A person, planning soothes me, but I’ve never been able to predict what I will want five years from now (Let's be honest, I can’t even figure out what I want for dinner tomorrow!) so this realization was really stress-relieving for me.

17. Surround yourself with people who bring out the good in you

I guess this is like #1 but that’s how important this is. When I scan through the various seasons of my life, I realize I was happiest when I was surrounded by good people. Like now, for example.  There is not a single person in any of my circles who stresses me out, or makes my life more difficult.  Thank you, my people, for inspiring me and keeping my heart and head happy and hopeful!

18. Trust your gut

I have always relied on my intuition, and it has never let me down. Because of this, I’ve learned to trust my reaction to the energy from people. Human beings aren’t as complicated as they seem. If they seem full of negative energy, they probably are. My best friends have always known to introduce me to guys they are seeing sooner rather than later, because I’ve always been able to spot a bad apple from the very first second I’ve met them. This goes for friendships as well. I’ve always known which friendships were for a season rather than a lifetime before they even began. (Ask my mother, she will tell you!) My mom always told me I shouldn’t judge people until I get to know them, and while I understand that, I’ve always been able to circle back and say “I told you they were (insert adjective here)!”  Conversely, some of my very favorite people I became friends with because I could tell they radiated positive energy the first time we met. 

19. There is no better water than Sonic water.

Don’t judge me, just try it and you will understand. Large Sonic water, 44¢ in Tennessee, 55¢ in Alabama. Apparently you can get a Sonic ice machine, which I would definitely accept as a birthday/Christmas present!

20. Everything happens for a reason

Year 24 took me down one path, year 25 another, and again year 26 took me down a third. Though I may not have understood each of these paths at the time, I can tell you everything has played out exactly how it was meant to. I am so certain that things happen for a reason, even if the things suck, or the reason is hard to determine right away. I would not be me here and now if I had not taken the first job that I had in Tennessee. I would not be me here and now if I had not endured the craziness of my year in Alabama. I was uncertain of a lot of things in these few years, but now I am finally certain of my place in this world, and while it took awhile to get here, and it took a lot of twists and turns that I may not have enjoyed so much, it all makes sense now and I can honestly say it was worth it.

21. You can't have a bad day with a good attitude

And you can't have a good day with a bad attitude. Your mindset can 100% determine how your day will go. Perhaps this is why I always eat chocolate for breakfast...Start your day on a good note, do something that is going to put you in a good mood.  Even the tough days can be good if you've got a good attitude about it.

22. Worrying is a waste of time

Wow, yes, this is me saying that. The queen of worrying about things that don't matter. My time spend worrying has decreased a drastic amount this year, and its about darn time. If you're worrying about something that you have control over, then use that control to do whatever you need to do so you no longer have to worry about it.  If you're worrying about something that is out of your control, then there is nothing you can do anyway so just let it go. Easier said than done, I know, but life is so much better when you spend your time enjoying the things that are good rather than worrying about the inevitable.

23. Enjoy the journey

You know say saying, life/happiness is a journey, not a destination. BELIEVE IT. It is great to have goals and plans, but don't miss out on the journey, because that is where all the best things happen.

24. Always say thank you

You will never regret thanking someone, so just do it.

25. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

26. Your energy radiates - good or bad

Whether you’ve got a good or bad attitude, it’s going to show, and you’re going to attract people with the same energy. If you want to surround yourself with positive people, you have to be a positive person.

27. Don't live in your comfort zone

Step outside of it. I use to love my bubble, but honestly life has never been better since I popped that bubble and started to do more things that scared me, more things that I was apprehensive about. My best experiences, my best memories, those all came from just doing it anyway, despite the nerves and butterflies.

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