Today is my 27th birthday. Along with the well wishes comes a lot of introspection. I find myself asking questions such as “what do you have to show for your 27 years?”, “where are you now?”, and “what will yo do before you hit 30?” with more seriousness and even melancholy than usual.
From what I’ve read other people write, I am not alone. We all set these milestone years (18, 21, 25, 30, 40, 50, etc) and decide we need to have accomplished or attained certain things by each year.
While checking in on your progress can be very helpful, it can also lead to very damning thoughts of oneself.
While I won’t be able to stop the feelings and thoughts of lack that enter me today (or any other day), I can take steps to focus on what I have done and what I have learned.
That is the purpose behind this article. I want to remind myself of the progress I have made throughout life. My hope is that you, too, will be reminded of your own while reading this.
canwill be difficult. We can try to plan the “smart” and “safe” routes as much as we want, but life will still put obstacles (some can be very painful) in your way.
- You don’t have to plan everything. I am still working on this. I certainly have control issues, but I have learned that holding on too tightly can be just as detrimental as not holding on to anything at all. It is great to have an end goal in mind, but be open to the unexpected twists and turns on your way. You may even realize along the way that the goal you were working towards simply isn’t for you anymore.
- Learn to let go. Piggybacking off of #2, I’ve lately found how freeing it can be to simply let go of things that upset me or cause me some form of distress. Someone cut me off on the highway? I could let that continue to bother me, or I could just let it go since I’m still safe and on my way.
- Forgiveness is more for you than it is for others. I wrote an entire post on forgiveness which you can read here. To sum up, forgiveness is not a display of weakness nor is it letting someone else off the hook. Instead, it is an ongoing process that allows you to move on from whatever it was that happened.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people. Especially those who are already successful in some form or fashion. Yes, you can investigate how they became successful so you can learn and appraise your own process. But do not compare. You have a completely unique experience on this planet and in this life than that person. As I wrote in a post, run your own race.
- You are already enough as you are. I often find myself losing sight of this because I focus on what I want to have, should have, or wish I had as opposed to what I have and, more importantly, who I am right now. Despite how most of society may think and act, you do not need to be rich or famous to matter. The mere fact that you came into existence as a human being on this planet is enough. We do matter and we are enough as we are. For more, read You Are Enough.
- Failure really is just a learning experience. I had always heard this and could conceptually understand why it might be true. Then I experienced it first hand. I “failed” in both a romantic relationship and the pursuit of my dream to becoming a renowned professional wrestler. With the lost relationship, I came to a painful understanding that my behavior was not how I perceived it to be, which led to the realization that my perception, in general, was twisted by insecurities and hurt. That learning experience very quickly turned into me realizing that my reasons for wanting to become a famous sports entertainer also came from a place of insecurity. I soon afterwards stopped all pro wrestling related activities and, while I certainly do miss certain aspects of it, I do feel much more calm and at peace. Basically, failures suck but can be good for you in reassessing your viewpoints and priorities.
- There is no real guidebook for life. We can follow all the rules and advice of going to school, getting a secure job, finding a partner, having children, and then helping them repeat the process on their own. But none of this makes for real life. This is because life isn’t the simple formula I thought it was. We all want and hope for different things. Sometimes the unexpected happens and we need to make a detour or plot a whole new journey. Don’t buy in to anyone who thinks that have it figured out. What works for some, will not work for others. Listen and think about what others, or society, says you “should do” and incorporate only what really feels right for you.
- Don’t take life too seriously. I did this for over 26 years and it turned me into a tight ball of stress and anxiety. We do not have to lose the innocent and fun living child that exists in all of us. There is nothing wrong with pursuing careers or hobbies that fill us with joy. There’s a time and place to be a “serious adult”. For the remainder of the time, enjoy as much as you can. Get back to joy.
- Sometimes, that “feeling” inside you is just a feeling. I’ve read a bunch of books and listened to many podcasts that talk about following your intuition. That feeling inside of you. What I’ve actually learned, and psychology will back this up, is that many times those feelings are just that. I’ve found that quite a few times, what I might think of as “intuition” is actually my body reacting out of fear or some insecurity to a thought or event that is occurring. Commitment issues, fear of failure or of getting hurt, and even projecting can be easily confused as “intuition”. This is why being self-aware and exploring your feelings is so important.
- Tackling what we are afraid of can be fun. Yes, it can also be dangerous and the wrong idea. So please don’t go walking across a busy highway or anything that is obviously dangerous to you or others. However, activities like flying in an airplane, solo travel, speaking or performing in front of an audience, or executing a tandem tope suicida with your tag team partner can all be initial fears that you work through and come out stronger for in the end. Don’t let fear limit you.
- We are all just people. Seems kind of obvious, but we can forget that our parents, bosses at work, and celebrities are all humans just like you and me. No one has more inherent worth than you or I, just like we do not have more than them. If they treat you as a “less than”, it is a reflection of their own issues, not yours.
- Your parents did their best. Sometimes this just isn’t good enough, unfortunately. But it can be very healing and beneficial for you (and even the relationship, should you choose to have one) to practice forgiveness for where their parenting fell short.
- You’ve accomplished more than you think. I look back on my short pro wrestling career and feel like I did absolutely nothing with it. Then I remember that I shared locker-rooms with past and present WWE Superstars, actually wrestled one of them, performed in over 100 matches, got the crowd to react, and even performed in front of my family in Greece (making me an international performer). Sure, I never became “famous”. But I did live the dream to an extent and had many moments that I can be proud of and carry with me for the rest of my life. This is true in other aspects of our lives from schooling, work, fitness, reading, some hobby or activity, raising a child, etc. Take some time to reflect from a place of gratitude and awe at your life and I am sure you will find things you have overlooked.
- Your dreams are only too big if you don’t take the actions necessary to achieve them. I believe there is a dream in each and every one of us. For some, it stays lit forever. For others, it is smothered somewhere along the way from childhood to adulthood. If you can reconnect with a dream, it doesn’t even have to be grandiose, it will give you something to work towards that makes you excited and hopeful. As long as you actively and continuously take steps that move you closer towards it, the dream will never be “too big”.
- Never stop trying new things. Whether it is making soap, a short film, a life style blog, gardening, or trying out podcasting, I have tried to follow my interests and see where they take me. It keeps life fun and interesting.
- Know when to focus. So it is fun to try new things, but not so fun when you try to do several of them at the same time. I spread myself too thin with making short documentaries, pro wrestling, soap making, reading, going to the gym, and my day job. You can make a few things work, but not more than that.
- There can be “too much of a good thing”. For me, that means over-eating and spending too much time playing Age of Empires II.
- Everything in moderation. I don’t believe in extremes and think that this ancient saying is the best approach. An easy example is my (over)consumption of ice cream. Why bother cutting it out entirely if it something I really enjoy? Best to limit my servings so I get to eat some without binging. Same goes for work-life balance, drinking, videogames, and more.
- You aren’t always right. In fact, you are more likely to be wrong. This isn’t so you begin a spiral of self-doubt, but instead to make sure you take a moment to reevaluate your priorities, values, and perspectives. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve made comments that I believed were fact-based only to later find out that I was wrong. Just like Jon Snow, we know nothing.
- There is always room for growth. Whether it be in the gym, skills at some activity or hobby, our ability to communicate, or how we understand ourselves and the world around us, there is always more. While this may sometimes feel exhausting (can’t we just already be the best?) it keeps life challenging and interesting.
- Stop taking everything so personally. I am awful when it comes to this, which just goes to show that there is always room for improvement. I have observed the tone, timing, and behavior of how people communicate with me for as long as I can remember to determine whether or not they like and respect me. Usually, I ended up finding that most people don’t care for or respect me which would lead to self-deprecating thoughts and feelings, as well as resentment towards the offending person. Today I am trying to implement this strange idea that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that I am not at the center of other people’s thoughts and actions. Crazy, right?
- Know when to stand up for yourself. With #22 being said, sometimes people do act in a way that is not respectful or kind. While that certainly sucks, it is up to you to determine how to react. Furthermore, you need to ask yourself if this is a person who’s presence in your life can be minimized or removed entirely. Boundaries are important in all your relationships: friendships, work, romantic, and familial. Don’t ever think badly of yourself from wanting to impose healthy boundaries.
- Therapy is important. Going to a therapist used to be taboo, seen as a clear sign of weakness or illness. Thankfully, that viewpoint has largely changed and going to see a licensed therapist (even life coaches) is seen for what it is: help. We all need help. Every single one of us. Therapy is a great way to unload your burdens to someone who will be impartial and won’t take offense. Working with a therapist will help in clearing space for your mind, connecting dots in your behavior, and figure out what steps you can take to live a healthier and happier life.
- Mindfulness is real. This isn’t some New Age fad. From personal experience, I have found that meditation, breathing, and being present can have tremendously powerful and positive consequences on your wellbeing and life.
- Self-love is also real. And very important. I also had my doubts about this until I started doing some self-love exercises and guided meditations. It was a major breakthrough. I realized how poorly I was talking to myself and that, because of this, I had a low bar for the types of communication I was giving and receiving. Affirmations have been a big part of this ongoing healing process and I will repeat a few out loud on a daily basis. Also, you can practice self-love while also holding yourself accountable. Think of it as the difference between a loving and supporting coach vs an abrasive and abusive one.
- I have the right to start anew every day. This is a paraphrase of a wonderful affirmation I came across that really spoke to me. We can write our own stories. We can reframe our past and shift perspectives on our present. Every moment is a new opportunity to be reborn and begin living the life we choose to live. We can write our own stories.
I’m sure there are many others things I have learned over these past 27 years. What you see above are the lessons that feel most relevant to me at this moment.
I look forward to applying these lessons in the present and future, as well as to all the lessons I have yet to learn.
While writing this list was very therapeutic for me, I truly hope that at least one of the lessons above spoke to you.
If there is anything to take away, it is the importance of loving yourself and being grateful for the things, talents, and people that you do have in your life at this moment. We don’t need to have all of life figured out, but by living with love and gratitude, I’ve found, you can create a great starting point not just for today, but for everyday.