If asked as a little girl to describe my birthday in one word, I’d most definitely say “magical.” Growing up, August 2nd was the greatest day of the year, even more awesome than Christmas (and for those of you who know me, you know that’s a bold statement). From sunrise to sundown, my birthday was all about me (though my mom would argue that every day of the year was all about me, and quite honestly, she’d be right).
My memories of birthdays as a kid are nothing short of truly magical. I still remember waking up in my Barney jammies, thumb in mouth, blondish waves a tousled mess, to colorful streamers outlining my bedroom door at my grandparents’ house. Downstairs, waiting for me was a perfect, colorful display of balloons, confetti, countless presents, and a flawless, extravagant, homemade (by my mom) cake to match that year’s birthday “theme,” which of course, was selected by me. A summer baby, the rest of the day was spent outside; playing in the pool, running through sprinklers, chasing down my brother and friends with Super Soakers, and eating my body weight in ice cream and cupcakes.
Truth be told, I still love my birthday. But as I plunge deeper and deeper into my late-twenties (and can no longer consume my body weight in ice cream and cupcakes without feelings of regret and self-loathing), I’d probably change my one-word description of my birthday from “magical” to “refreshing.” Because the more birthdays I have, the more I realize that the beauty of my birthday isn’t in Barbie-themed balloons and pool parties (though I’m still a fan of both); but instead, it’s in the prospect of a new beginning; a fresh start, a clean slate.
Like with any new beginning, I’m excited to go into 27 with my eyes open; using lessons learned over the past 12 months to make smarter, more informed decisions and avoid making the same mistakes twice (or three or five times, as I’ve admittedly done in the past). For me, 26 was a year of exponential personal growth; a year spent getting in touch with myself; simultaneously remembering who I am and discovering who I am.
And to create a point of reference for myself as I enter a new year, I’d like to share my “26 in 26”; my 26 top life lessons, realizations, reflections, pieces of self-advice, etc. resulting from this past year, listed in absolutely no particular order:
- Olives and mushrooms aren’t the Devil’s food. This might seem trivial, but for most of my life, I was convinced that these vegetables (are olives fruits or vegetables?) were straight up poison. Turns out, especially when accompanied by goat cheese, they’re not so toxic.
- For the love of God, stop with the “if only’s.” Stop playing the victim card. If only I didn’t have student loans. If only my hair would curl again. If only, if only. Open your eyes to what’s in front of you, Sammi. A loving and supportive family. Loyal friends. A perfect little puppy / mouse / kangaroo-like creature. Health. A career. You’re very blessed.
- The grass isn’t always greener. This ties into #2. It might seem like “if only I had XYZ,” you’d reach self-actualization. That’s just not the case. Stop with the comparisons, and enjoy your own personal life journey.
- Nobody’s in charge of your happiness but you. If you’re unhappy with something, make a change. Shift your mindset. Switch up your circle of friends. This ties into #2-3 about not playing the victim card.
- Recognize when your anxiety is elevating. Take a time out or two during the day to do a check-in with yourself. How am I feeling today?
- And if you recognize a high level of anxiety, find a positive outlet for it. Because let me tell you this: happy hour vodka clubs + high levels of stress = recipe for disaster. Instead, try reading, writing, going for a walk, snuggling with Dixie, or baking some brownies.
- And in order to exercise that positive outlet, take a day off. Sick days aren’t just for the times when you’re deathly ill. Take a day off and focus on your mental health. You’ll be glad you did when you consequently see your productivity skyrocket and your mental clarity…well, become clearer.
- There’s beauty in the world beyond what’s on your phone screen. Seriously, put the phone down for a hot second. Watch the sun go down, really listen to what someone’s saying to you. Be present. These are moments you won’t get back.
- A cold glass of rosé, a beach chair, an ocean view, and Bruce Springsteen are cures for everything. Friendship fall-outs, romantic heartbreak, any kind of hurt in general. The ocean has incredible healing powers. And so does Bruce.
- Exercise is necessary for good health, but don’t overdo it. I attribute a lot of my overdoing of everything to my “overachiever” personality, but that’s no excuse to continue overdoing everything. So, Sammi, hit a spin class when you can, and don’t feel guilty if you can only make it once this week.
- Listen to your body. Aches? Pains? Trouble sleeping? This sounds like a pharmaceutical commercial. But in all seriousness, your body is telling you something. Find a yoga class. Stretch out. Go to sleep a few hours earlier tonight. Give yourself a break.
- Coffee is delicious, but it is not life. And you probably shouldn’t drink it at night. Even though you’re convinced you’re caffeine-immune, it really does affect your sleep pattern. When you can’t sleep, you worry about not sleeping. Cue the anxiety elevation. Avoid this. But if it does happen, reread #5-7 on this list. You’re human; hate to say it, but you’ll likely slip up.
- Don’t waste time on crappy friendships. Surround yourself with friends who help you grow. And these friends come from all different places. Work, exercise classes, college, high school, etc. Friendships shouldn’t require so much work and maintenance. And by no means should friendships add pressure.
- …or on romantic relationships that just aren’t right. This is self-explanatory. If you have doubts, they’re probably valid. Just. Walk. Away. When it’s right, it’s right. You’ll know it. Trust your gut.
- You can’t change people. This closely relates to #13-14. Never go into a situation with the mindset that you can change someone. Take people for who they are, and make a sound decision on whether or not you’d like them in your life based on that information.
- Stop thinking you’re so behind. You’re doing just fine, Sammi. Cherish the time you have being roomies with Mom. Realize how lucky you are to live down the street from your grandma. Other people would kill to have more time with (and be closer in proximity to) their loved ones.
- Don’t allow your living space to become a royal heap. Physical order results in mental order. It’s unhealthy to wake up to a pile of clothes or still-packed bags from the weekend. Make your bed every morning. Stay organized. It’ll help you start each day on the right foot; organized and calm.
- Make a bucket list, and make a conscious effort to tackle things on said bucket list. I often refer to my “bucket list,” but full transparency, I don’t technically have one. Everything I say is “on my bucket list” is really just something I suppose would be on my bucket list if I had one. So, Sammi, in Year 27, write down the things you’d like to accomplish. Places you’d like to see. And go for it.
- Limit yourself to one or two hits of the snooze button. You’re not getting any additional rest by hitting “snooze” five, six, seven times. All you’re doing is making yourself frazzled and late for wherever it is that you’re supposed to be.
- Don’t focus so much on “you.” A great thing happens when you stop worrying so much about yourself. When you put others’ needs ahead of your own, you shift a lot of energy that would otherwise manifest itself in self-pressure, over-thinking, and anxiety.
- Verbalize your life experiences, frustrations, and learnings. Basically the reason I started this blog. It’s therapeutic and mind-freeing as hell, and you never know, you might just help someone.
- If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again (RIP, Aaliyah). Don’t be so hard on yourself every time you make a mistake or don’t perform as well as you’d hoped. Life’s all about trial and error. Keep on moving.
- Make doctor’s appointments…and actually keep them. Your health needs to be your main priority. Just like your mental health is crucial to high productivity (see #7), so is your physical health.
- Invest in things that make you a better “you.” I’m all about saving money wherever possible, but some expenditures deserve a “pass.” Is a Massage Envy annual membership absolutely necessary? Probably not, but it does help me to not only relax, but also to relieve neck and back pain from my horrific posture. Note to self: Add “correct your horrific posture” to that bucket list you’re going to make.
- Balance, balance, balance. There’s only so much energy you can exert in one day. Stop trying to be “perfect” at everything all the time. If you have a crazy work day, give up the gym (refer back to #10). If you have a million errands to run at night, leave work at a reasonable time. Life’s all about balance.
- Be grateful that this past year has allowed you the chance to refocus and rediscover who you are. You’re about to enter 27 as a refreshed, more self-aware than ever woman. Go you!