29 Life Lessons in 29 YearsTell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~Mary Oliver
This morning, as I scurried out of my mom-in-law’s home, I was carrying three bags: a Yoga bag, a purse on one shoulder and a leather bag on the other shoulder–tightly packed with iPad, laptop, chargers galore, client cards, and a journal.
My mom-in-law, Janis, had this calm, knowing smile as she eyed my resemblance—Cat, The Bag Lady.
She is the most present woman I’ve ever met. And lately, a reminder to just-slow-down. So, I felt the need to explain the ambitious look:
“See one is for yoga class at lunch, one is for the essential day-time banking things, and one is for after-work: real estate and writing stuff.” Proudly rationalizing the three lives I carried on two shoulders.
“So much energy you have … And you really can do it all,” Janis said slowly and gently.
I took a deep breath (I always seem to remember to breathe when I’m talking to her), and shifted my bags to balance a bit better.
“At least for now.” I responded, a gesture to humble down my energy. “And, as I exit my 20’s in this next year, I wonder if I’ll still be able to move at this multi-tasker pace?”
“You’re just a baby, Child.” She said, inching towards me, intentionally not answering my question.
Janis is 67, with very youthful eyes, filled with grace and warmth. She looks at me kindly and continues, “In your 30’s, that’s when you really learn to be an adult.”
She kisses me on my cheek then closes the door behind.
Driving into the office that morning, I thought about what she said—I really was a baby.
For most of my 20’s, I thought I knew it all. I thought I had bypassed growing up because I’d been on my own since I was 17. I lost a mother at 12, raised siblings, and married early. I thought I had graduated to advance-adulthood earlier than others my age.
When I graduated high school, it was as if a Curator of 30-year-olds had taken out a stopwatch, hit the start button on my life and said: “Ready … GO! Go now! … Faster Cat!”
And this stretch between 18 and 29, this was my sprint to the finish line: and turning 30 was the victory point where one would have it all figured out.
You know the image of “all figured out” – the two kids (one boy, one girl), the solid career with a cool title, the nice home, the happy routine, the worldly vacations. To have it all and be well on the path of what we vaguely define as the image of “success”.
But, in reality, it took me up until my late 20’s to simply begin to honor who I really am.
The honoring appeared when I decided to ask honest questions: “Are the things I pursue what I really want? Or am I being guided on a path of ideals paved by someone else—social belonging, cultural norms, family conditioning?”
Early in the morning and late at night, I would often contemplate: “The career I sought out, the place I had chosen to live, the values I had set: were these truly to serve the DNA of who I really am? Was I living my truth? Or a knock-off version of who I thought I should be?”
29 Life Lessons From a 29 Year Old
The questioning, the learning, the mistakes, the discovery and frustrations—It has been a wild ride this past decade.
Many life lessons later, I can wholeheartedly say I have never felt more comfortable being who I am today. I wake up excited to experience what each day has to offer: to continue to learn something new, to be inspired, and to experience the awe from life’s abundant offerings.
Recently, I turned 29. In celebration of this last year as I bow out of my 20’s, here are 29 Life Lessons I’ve learned:
1. Learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable. Risks are where magic sparks.
2. Simplify: The common saying of “Don’t allow things to own you” and “Live within your means” hold tremendous wisdom. Your freedom – the ability to make decisions out of conscious choices (versus obligation or instant gratification aftermath) is deeply important. Materialism, in excess, is very sabotaging. A cluttered, complicated mind is very restricting.
3. A meaningful question to ask our selves, when we change focus and shift intents: “Am I running from something? Or towards something?”
4. Expose yourself to many different things. How we live, where we live, is a small nook of a larger world. It is important to travel, meet new people, venture, explore, get lost, find a community and find a sense of belonging. New situations are enriching and privilege us to see with fresh eyes.
5. The situations we repeatedly find ourselves in, there is a guiding lesson. See the lesson then acknowledge and embody change. The same situations only replay themselves when our old behavior pattern persists in the same vicious cycle.
6. Laugh. Play. Be … Love, love, love.
7. To think, solely with the mind, ignoring my body and soul is deeply limiting. I’ve learned to honor all aspects of our wellbeing: mind, body, relationships, spirit, and finances. It is an all-inclusive package, as all of these are part of our existence. To be whole calls for us to balance our attention to each.
8. No matter what we achieve – whatever our measuring stick of success may be – until our minds and hearts are at peace, there will always be the next chase. To expand on this thought: our understanding of ‘security’ can be less safe than it appears. It is valuable to question and examine our definition of safe.
9. Breathe. Practicing sitting comfortably in silence. A sanctuary awaits us in being able to be still, contemplate and reflect. We discover the most about ourselves when we dissolve our inner barriers, quiet the mind, and hear our inner voice.
10. Practice letting go. Let go of ideals, old patterns that no longer serve us, arguments, limiting beliefs, excess, and conditionings. Letting go is a healthy habit that I want to consistently and consciously practice.Letting go also means forgiveness, including forgiving yourself. Resentment consumes space and blocks clarity. Release the past: thank it for happening, for directing you. Then, let it go.
11. Be patient with yourself. All the quirks, the uncertainties, the aspects that make you different; they’ll come together, support you, and may even become your biggest asset.
12. Life blurs together when we rush through everything. Learn to do one thing at a time. Slow down and take notice. There’s more to be revealed in paying attention than rushing through. Not only is there beauty in uni-tasking, but also, learning to live in the present moment has a tremendous return: for happiness, business, and love.
13. Build a routine, a rhythm for each day, with a piece solely attributed to wellness: walk the dog, take a weekly zumba class, do yoga.
14. Chasing money will only make it run faster. If you’re unsure what to do with extra ambition and/or have little clarity as to your deeper purpose – redirect it to patience, contemplation and compassion. Spend more time understanding one self, and less time chasing material. There is more to life than stuff & asset accumulation.
15. Stress causes disease. It kills. Prioritize a plan to manage stress levels.
17. Celebrate. Too often we rush from one accomplishment to another. Know that this moment, this feat, will never again repeat itself in the same way. Cheers!
18. There is no one-way to live. There is no box, no one-way to happiness, no how-to manual for your unique being. We shouldn’t be influenced by movies, stories, and fantasy. We don’t have to conform to societal ideals, norms, or our portrayal of ‘perfect’. Find you truth, your path, your heart and follow it.
19. Protect your circle, your energy and which way they direct you. Who we choose to surround ourselves with is crucial to who we become.
20. Trust in Universe, Krishna, Buddha, God, the unseen world—something bigger than you. There is more to this existence than meets the eye. Having faith carries us, and allows us to see the synchronistic moments as guiding posts. This life is too grand, too mysterious and complex to walk through alone.
21. We are multi-faceted, complex, limitless beings. Don’t suppress any part of who you are; each aspect is part of you.
22. Saying no is an important skill. It is one that allows us to protect our most precious resource: our time and energy. In my 20s, there was a period of time where I adopted a mantra of “Yes!”—yes to social gatherings, yes to busyness, yes to happy hours, yes to commitments that didn’t serve me. By saying no, I was able to gain back pieces of my day and my energy.
23. Our entire experience is a projection of our mindset. Cultivate, feed and nourish your inner being.
24. Turn off the TV & read an enriching book. Many wise have already walked a similar path, a similar set of valuable lessons … we can learn from them. Guidance exists from great leaders, teachers of the past via words
25. We are both students and teachers—and with every challenge, person, and situation that crosses our path, there is something to be learned.
26. Purpose is an inner exploration. Don’t look in all the wrong places: outside of you. Purpose was never lost, so no need to ‘find ourselves’. We need to see ourselves: muster the courage to genuinely look within.
28. Rest is the most important ingredient to fully optimizing our human capacity to be well and perform well. Sleep is the only way our body can restore, repair and fight free radicals. Get sleep – it is our #1 tool to heal and to protect our bodies.
29. Judgment is a waste of time. Comparison is blinding. Both of which will shrink our energy. Expand, grow, strip away ego by letting go of both.
The most penetrating lesson of all: We always have a choice + life is brief – A series of one impermanent moment after another. Choose to be present and make each moment worthwhile.
As I kick-off my 29th year, it’s a liberating gift to truly feel that this finish line I had once defined—this 30 mark—has vanished as a measuring point.
The stopwatch has stopped.
I am just beginning to strip away many ideals, alongside a major transition of simplifying … with much to discover over an entire lifetime.
I do feel like a baby, learning something new each day.
Life really is just beginning.
Before you go:
Cheers and Love to another year of growth & wisdom. In honor of celebrations, I would like to celebrate you and giveaway one of my favorite books –The Magic of Thinking Big.
Leave a comment below and answer this question, “What is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life?” In leaving a comment, you are being entered into the draw for this life-changing book. The entry will close on April 31, 2012 at 8am PST.