Twenty-five is both a monumental and insignificant age. Monumental, because it’s closer to 30 than to 20. Insignificant, because nothing changes. There’s nothing glamorous about the age 25, except, something magical happens at midnight on your twenty-fifth birthday and, suddenly, you’re able to rent a car without paying any extra fees.
Regardless of the perceived importance of my age, I’ve made it a practice to sit down and take a good long look at my life once a year on my birthday. I think about where I am in life and where I want to go. I think about goals and I make ambitious plans. Sometimes those plans are successful other times they fall to the wayside.
This year, I’ve made a list of what I’ve learned in the past 25 years. Learning from your choices, good and bad, is how you grow as a person. So here is an annotated list of conclusions I’ve reached within a quarter of a century:
1. Wake up early.
I can’t prove this scientifically, but I swear I’m happier on the days I wake up early. Getting out of bed before six a.m. just makes me feel productive, and that feeling carries throughout my day. There’s nothing like the peaceful stillness in the early morning hours before everyone else wakes up.
2. Make your bed.
This also puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day, which might be proven scientifically. Plus, it’s what adults do. So just make your bed.
3. Love is a feeling. And a choice.
I’ve felt love plenty of times. But loving someone for life is more than a feeling – it’s a choice. I choose to love my husband every single day. Life is messy, and it’s not easy either. But even when I’m not overflowing with love for him, I choose to say, “You’re the person I want to be with. You are the one my soul loves.”
4. Energy fades.
Coffee is life.
5. Laughter is an essential component to friendship.
My favorite friendships are the people who can make me cry from laughing so hard. Those are the types of people that can pick up a friendship right where you left off, even if it’s been months since you’ve connected with them.
6. Laughter is an essential component to love.
Learn to laugh instead of fight. I’ll admit, I haven’t mastered this yet (hi, husband!). If you can find the common ground to laugh in the midst of an argument, you can make that relationship work. You may not laugh every time, but you will know when a person brings joy to your life.
7. Sleep is precious.
Enjoy sleep before you have a baby. Soon you’ll be asking yourself how you stayed up until four in the morning in college and still went to an 8:30 a.m. class.
8. People disappoint.
You will be disappointed by a person close to you at some point in your life. Don’t be surprised. No one is perfect.
9. Relationships don’t always last, but the world won’t end.
I remember my first break-up. That awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling just stuck around for days. I thought I would never get over it. But then I realized the sun was still shining outside the four walls of my bedroom. I got up, went on an adventure, and moved on.
10. Your parent could become your best friend.
I remember watching Gilmore Girls when I was younger and longing for the friendship of Lorelai and Rory. I had to grow up a little bit, but I realize now just how valuable my relationship with my mother is. She is one of my closest friends because she knows me best and she’s been rooting for me for 25 years.
11. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
This quote from Theodore Roosevelt runs through my head every time I scroll through Instagram. The grass is always greener on social media. Comparing your life to others will only hurt you in the end. So don’t play the comparison game. You’ll never win.
12. Money is important, but it’s not most important.
There were a couple of months of my marriage when I could only think about money. How much money we made, how much we needed, how much we wanted, and plenty thoughts that started with the sentence, “If only we had more money…”
Money is necessary, but it can’t be your focus. People should be your focus.
13. Stay out of debt and you’ll experience freedom.
Debt bogs you down, ties you up, and takes away most of your paycheck. We are finally on the path to paying off our student loans within a few years. But if we knew then what we know now, we would’ve worked harder to stay out of debt. Even if that means a less prestigious college or working harder during school, it’s worth it. I promise.
14. Treasure experiences, not things.
The things I treasure most are memories of playing Haitian orphans, holding my baby for the first time, and hiking in Colorado. There’s a world outside of your tiny bubble. Spend your extra time and money discovering it.
15. Community helps you grow.
Find people that challenge you. You have so much potential! Sometimes you need people who love you to bring it out of you and push you to work harder.
16. Working out is not easy.
After high school, it’s the worst!
17. Sacrifice is part of healthy relationships.
Learn how to let go and put someone else first.
18. Time moves quickly, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Even your longest day is only 24 hours. Be intentional. And 25 years can fly by.
19. It takes courage to be different.
Your opinion may be unpopular. People may not like you. Don’t let that change who you are.
20. Differences are okay.
Learn how to have a rational conversation with a person who disagrees with you. You might learn something new.
21. It’s okay to get married young.
Marriage isn’t for everyone. Getting married young isn’t for everyone. But don’t let anyone look down on you if you do get married young. How boring would it be if everyone’s lives looked the same?
22. Be humble enough to learn.
Humility means saying, “I don’t know. Teach me.”
23. Make a budget and stick to it.
Self-control is key.
24. Words hurt more than you may know.
The first time I wrote an article that garnered a lot of attention, it got a lot of nasty comments. I remember wondering how people could be so mean. Ever since then, I’ve tried to be more cautious with the words I say on social media. Just because you can’t see the person, doesn’t mean they aren’t reading what you’re writing. Think before speaking (and typing).
25. Perfection is impossible.
Trying your best is good. It’s also okay if you aren’t the best. Stop chasing perfection and give yourself some grace.