Naked and Afraid

I watched a couple episodes of Naked and Afraid on Discovery channel today. It was a lot more interesting and less silly than I expected. It really makes me think about survival differently. I don’t think I would be too successful at a challenge like that. But I also have no desire to do such a thing.

I and others sometimes joke about how much simpler life might be if we didn’t have the complexities of modern society. What would it be like to live a life of only worrying about basic survival? Of providing yourself with your own food, clothing, shelter, and nothing more? Basically, what would life be like if humans lived like every other animal on this planet? It’s easy to fantasize about a life where no one needs to worry about money or jobs or car insurance.

Even in being overwhelmed with how I will balance things in my own life, I know my location on this Earth alone gives me a great amount of privilege. Through no work of my own, I live in the United States, at a time where I don’t have to worry about being treated like property as a woman, or being enslaved or dealing with segregation. I live in this country at the best possible time in history to be queer. My ancestors and people before me have overcome many obstacles so that I can live a better life than they did.

I also acknowledge that without living in a first world country, and without having access to modern medicine the way I do, I wouldn’t be here. Literally. I was born three months premature. I have asthma. If I were born into a hunter/gatherer type of society, or if I were born in poorer circumstances, I would not have made it this far. And that’s always a sobering thing to acknowledge.

Our modern world is complex. Everything we have now is a product of history. The human race has watched its technologies and ideas grow, evolve, and become more healing as well as more destructive. Our species has accomplished a lot, both terrible and great.

But all of this brings me back to the question of simplicity. Thanks to the way our economy functions, I can have a fairly easy time acquiring food, clothing, housing, and medicine. Provided, at least, that I can afford it and am able to work. I don’t have to grow my own food or make my own clothes. I can spend my time, not only acquiring basic necessities, but also enjoying things like movies, books, dinners, and vacations.

Even in our busy lives, we have so much time that doesn’t have to be spent searching for water or hunting or farming. But I think all of this time that isn’t spent focusing on the basics gets used focusing on things that we perhaps don’t even need. I am perpetually worried about living a life that genuinely satisfies me. Basic survival, having enough food and water and a place to sleep isn’t enough. I want to feel like I’m living a life of purpose.

On Naked and Afraid, the contestants often find themselves feeling a supreme sense of joy and satisfaction when they’re able to take a few sips of water, or when they take that first bite of food after days of hunger.  They celebrate achieving basic survival. I’m fortunate enough to have everything I need in my life. But there are still other things I want, and those things lead to feelings of failure or inadequacy.

But having food, clothing, shelter, a place to sleep…maybe we don’t need to live in the wild to focus on the simple things. Maybe we just need to acknowledge that the simple things are in themselves measure of success.

Being a human can be hard work. And I’ve joked more than once that I wish I could be an elephant or another kind of animal. But other animals spend a great deal of time protecting themselves from the elements and predators, so even though they don’t have to pay taxes, their lives can still contain great struggle. Humans no longer live in the wild, but we’ve adopted new kinds of struggles all the same.

Thanks to the internet, I can talk to people all over the world. We have sent a man to the moon. Human ambition is transformative, and it is also exhausting. I want to be able to feel satisfied, the way a person is with a few drops of water after being thirsty for a few days. It’s so hard to feel happy with the basics, at least when you’re used to having them. It’s so hard to not want the moon.

This show reminds me that it’s okay if you don’t achieve everything. You can let go of society’s pressures. You can just be.

But of course, like surviving in the wild, everything is always easier said than done. Still, these journeys make me look at things a bit differently, which leads me to think this crazy show has done its job right.

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I made it to three hundred followers

I started this blog in 2015, after I graduated from college. One of the many pieces of my writing journey. It really makes my day when people like my posts or leave comments. It can be nice knowing that my thoughts, poetry, art, or videos resonated with someone. The people blogging in the WordPress community are so creative, kind, and thoughtful (at least the ones I have come across). It is so nice to see so many people sharing their work, ideas, and stories.

Like many people, I find myself at times wanting to take a break from the internet. (I’m rarely successful at taking such breaks, but hey, I try.) But this blogging platform has been overall positive. I can go onto my feed and see poems, personal essays, and artwork at any time of day or night. Thank you to the people who make this corner of the internet so positive and inspiring. And thank you to the people who have followed my blog or interacted with my posts.

I don’t have a niche blog (I always get bored with trying to write those). I’m just here to be myself and post whatever comes to mind (it’s usually poems). This has been a space where I can say what is on my mind and I am thankful for that. Thank you everyone ❤

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Thoughts on art

Creativity has always been a big part of my life. Before I even started kindergarten, I loved to draw. By the time I was nine, I was filling my journals with poetry. In high school, my life revolved around singing and acting. And for the past six years I’ve been focusing primarily on writing poems, fiction, articles, web copy, plays, and of course blog posts.

As I transitioned into my “adult” years, it felt important for me to hold onto my inner artist. I knew too many people who grew up and left the passions and talents of their teen years behind them, trading them in for more practical jobs and the responsibilities of family life. There is nothing wrong with making money and there is nothing wrong with having a family. I certainly aspire to these things in my own way. And I am without a doubt a creature who values comfort and stability.

But I never wanted to be someone who let go of her passions just because she got older. But I realize this line of thinking was flawed in a sense, because holding onto the passions of my teen years potentially stopped me from developing new interests. And it may have made me a bit closed-minded in the things I pursued, deciding too early on who I am and who I am not.

I also realize that, contrary to what I may have thought, passion and business don’t always go hand in hand. Just because you enjoy an activity, it doesn’t mean you will enjoy the process of trying to do it for a living. I love writing, but I don’t love selling things, making my work as an self-published author bittersweet. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but trying to sell books has also made me feel like there’s a barrier between me and my ultimate goal, which is to connect with people.

Writing for online magazines can be quite fun, especially since comment sections can be so interactive. It brings me great joy to see someone share thought-provoking ideas based on an article I wrote. To see that someone was so invested in your writing that they decided to leave a comment can be wonderful, and it offers a feeling of instant gratification that one doesn’t often get when it comes to writing.

Attempting to make money in the world of marketing, copywriting, and public relations has also been interesting, informative, but ultimately not terribly lucrative for me. High competition plus a lack of deep interest on my part has not made this a fun ride.

When I meet other people who are trying to make money writing, I hear about how they’ve hopped from job to job, perhaps haven’t always been paid as much as they’re worth, and have been taken advantage of or dropped by companies that made promises they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep. I feel like I have a quiet understanding with these people. So many writers are dedicated, smart, and hardworking.

We’re expected to have fast turnover times but may be slow to receive paychecks. It takes a special kind of grit to try to make a career in business (or any kind of) writing. There is so much (seriously, SO MUCH) advice on the internet about how to break into writing for money. It’s a path I have attempted. It is also a path I am happy to trade for one of less resistance.

The thing that no one tells you about being an artist is that you are a salesperson first, an artist second. If you’re going to make it full time or even part time as an artist, you have to be a businessperson above all else. Marketing is necessary, and may even take more time than the artwork itself. Even when I was a girl scout selling cookies, I never liked the feeling of trying to convince someone to buy something. I never outgrew this lack of interest in sales.

Whether you’re a writer, painter, actor, or musician, you have to sell your work in most cases, especially if you are independent. The age of social media, in my opinion, creates unrealistic expectations about how easy it should be to get hundreds or thousands of people interested in your work. It can feel like attention and fame are of utmost importance, and that is never the reason I wanted to make art. The success of a creative person is almost always equated with some level of fame or influencer status. But trying to get many peoples’ approval has never been at the top of my list.

I still have a desire to make things and connect with others. So it’s confusing and I don’t really know what I want. I wish I could just be the little girl who painted on a canvas in her bedroom. The girl who scribbled poetry in her grandmother’s living room. The girl who sang in the music room and studied monologues over lunch. I was happy living in the process of doing all of these things. Back then, these things were done for passion.

But I’m at a point where if I’m going to do work, I want it to be part of my career. I want it to be the mark I leave on the world. Maybe a love for art isn’t enough to make a career of it. Maybe making a career of it creates a process I don’t enjoy. I don’t know what any of this means for my inner artist. But I think that I’m not so afraid of letting go of my former self. I know that I need to make room for all of the things that I can be. And I know that after six years of constant productivity, I deserve a break, or least less pressure to achieve such large career goals.

I always go back to writing and art. I always find my way back to music and dancing and self-expression. It’s an extension of me. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I am. I don’t think I need to be afraid of letting go of the past. I’m allowed to evolve and grow. Growing up is weird, messy, and complicated. It is change. But evolution can be exciting. I don’t have to stay on any one path. And if I know that, then I’m free to be who I want to be.

 

New Chapter

It can be weird to embrace change. It can be hard not knowing what to expect from the future. I’m starting a new chapter of my life soon to pursue my master’s degree, moving to a new place. I have a lot of friends who traveled much farther than I did to study for their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. But this will be my first time living somewhere new with no family nearby.

I’m worried about a lot of things. I’m worried I won’t like school or my internships or my new apartment. The process of researching, saving money, writing essays, asking for recommendation letters, sending my applications, going on interviews, choosing a school, and securing a field placement has been going on for about a year now. I didn’t know going into it that grad school would be so much work before I even started. And there’s still much to do even though I start in just a couple of weeks.

I’m pursuing my master’s to create more opportunities for myself. I put lots of time into weighing my options, wanting to make the right decision. But I still can’t help but wonder, am I choosing the right thing? I know a master’s degree wasn’t my only option to create more career opportunities. I also could have gone for a shorter and more affordable certificate program, such as one in teaching English to speakers of other languages, or web design.

But I decided to pursue a master’s in social work for several reasons. One reason is that I knew a certificate would prepare me for something very specific, while a master’s degree gives me more flexibility in pursuing jobs. When I finish my master’s, I know I’ll have the opportunity to work in different settings, whether it’s teaching at community college, doing therapy at a mental health clinic, doing social work at a hospital or school, or doing policy work with the government. One of the reasons I studied theater and then English for my bachelor’s degree is because I never wanted to be pigeon-holed into a specific job.

Having done so much unpaid work as a writer, I think I have a higher appreciation for any job that offers a salary. It sounds kind of sad, but it’s the truth. A lot of people hear about social work and assume there’s “no money” in it. Clearly those people never spent years literally working for free.

I decided to continue my education because I realized, after three years of trying, that I wasn’t going to earn a living as a writer. I know that earning my master’s will open doors, yet I still feel very anxious about my future. The job application process can be the most disheartening thing in the world. I’m worried that I’ll graduate and still won’t know how to have a career.

I think I’m being true to myself in pursuing social work, the same way I was true to myself in pursuing acting and writing. If nothing else, I’m self-aware when it comes to my strengths and weakness, my likes and dislikes. I’ve always loved and needed my creative outlets. But I always had a desire to help others. Social work is something I feel I would have pursued sooner if I had known about the various career paths it could lead to.

Despite always being asked if I wanted to teach (I was a Theater and then English major after all), I always knew that teaching K-12 wasn’t a goal for me. I don’t think I’d last a day in the seemingly stressful, possibly pretentious environment of a law firm. I’m fascinated by science, engineering, and web development, but I think studying any of these subjects would feel a bit dry to me. I’ve developed a greater appreciation and confidence in math over the years, but I don’t think I’d be very happy as an accountant.

A lot what has led me to where I am today has stemmed from a process of elimination, along with the tenacity to never settle for a career that didn’t satisfy me. Choosing a path in education is a complex and expensive decision. I know nothing is set in stone, and that I can still pursue a certificate or two even after I get my master’s. All the same, I have a tendency to overthink my decisions, always afraid of choosing the wrong thing and making a mistake. I don’t want to be this neurotic about things. I want to enjoy my life. But it’s hard for me.

I also chose a master’s because I knew I could use federal loans to fund it. It’s possible that taking out a cheaper private loan for a certificate would have better in the short term (since I could have worked and then pursued a master’s after I saved money and paid off the private loan). But when I was making my decisions, I felt better about taking out federal loans only. I applied only to state schools to keep my costs as low as possible. And I realized that many certificate programs took two or three semesters. If I were going to be in school for that long, I figured I might as well take four semesters to earn a higher degree with more job options.

If nothing else, I know I thought this through. With all of the events and travels of summer, I feel like I haven’t been able to process everything that has happened, especially in the past month. I know I’m moving, but it’s hard to really grasp what that means or to have any idea of what my life will really look like.

I have a lot of help and support from my family. A lot of people believe that I will be successful and that I’m pursuing a career that will be perfect for me. That in itself is a good feeling and I know I couldn’t do all of these things without help.

It’s scary and unpredictable. I want to be successful. I want to have a career and an apartment and love. I want to live in a nice city and to doing things that I enjoy. I know this. So why do I so often feel like I have no idea what I want? Why do I so often feel like my future is shapeless?

It can be weird to embrace change. But I’m hopeful. And I know that I have people who are supporting me. All I can do is take things one day at a time and trust that things will work out.

I have to trust that my choices are good.

Thoughts on marriage

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Part I.

I don’t think I was ever one of those people who planned their dream wedding. There’s so many misconceptions about love, romance, and happily ever afters. I think the biggest is that no one ever lives happily ever after, not really. Because life isn’t happy all the time, and a relationship isn’t happy all the time, and moments aren’t happy all the time. I think marriage is a lot like paying taxes: everyone expects you to do it eventually, but no one prepares you for the reality. In spite of the fact that millions of people have done the same thing before you, you’re not given an extensive education on the subject. You go in blind, hoping for the best, not necessarily prepared for the worst, but you try anyway.

It’s interesting to think about the reasons why people get married in the first place. There’s all the right reasons of course: meeting someone you genuinely want to spend your life with, meeting someone you want to start a family with, wanting someone to love and share all the good and bad moments with. There’s a beauty and an almost fantastical ideology behind love. It’s probably the only thing in this world that can make us feel like, in the right moments, that we’re living in a magical place. But other reasons people get married is to avoid something that is uncomfortable to them, primarily the idea of ending up all alone.

Most people feel their best knowing they have some level of independence. But human beings are highly dependent creatures. We want to know that if we need help, someone will be there to support us. Whether it’s physical or emotional, we rely on others to keep us content, healthy, and safe. Despite this need for human connection, there’s so many cultures in our world where people are largely left to fend for themselves. We’re a species that needs others, and yet when someone (typically an adult) is in need, we want them to deal with it themselves. One thing that becomes apparent as you enter into adulthood is that there’s very few people who are there to support you in all the big ways.

When you’re young and in school, you often have a wealth of communities to be a part of, and people who will offer you support simply because of your age, and consequently, lack of ability to be more independent. There’s an emphasis to make sure kids have community, an education, and activities to be involved it. Adults have to carve these things out for themselves, and depending on location and circumstances, that can be a challenge.

That’s not to say that adolescence is an inherently more enjoyable time in one’s life (even though some people may indeed feel this way). Ironically enough, the freedom and independence that adulthood can bring can be liberating, scary, but ultimately something many of us wouldn’t want to give up. For me, it’s less about wanting to be a kid again, and more about wanting to bridge a gap. I want the independence and self-sufficiency that I need to develop as an adult, but I also want to have access to many of the (often free) programs I had as an adolescent, many of which made it easy to do things I loved while meeting other people.

The transition from adolescent years to adulthood raises an interesting question: does independence have to equal isolation? What would an America that emphasized a greater sense of community and support among adults look like? Can we value independence and ingenuity while also acknowledging that none of us can handle life’s hurdles alone?

Part II.

I think that, in some ways, marriage (and committed relationships of all kinds) are one answer to the problem of adult isolation. But is it enough? When I was in school (even in college), I noticed an attitude toward romantic relationships that was quite different, and maybe a bit more negative, than the attitudes people have when they are no longer in school. When I lived in my dorm, there was one girl in my hall who didn’t socialize much with the other girls in the building, but her boyfriend visited her often. I knew more than one person who expressed that it was unhealthy for her to spend so much time with her boyfriend without making other friends.

Naturally, no one could know what her social life was like outside of the dorm. Perhaps she had enough friends. Perhaps she was in more of an adult mindset than her peers were. When I was in high school, there would sometimes be a level of animosity if it seemed like a girl was choosing her boyfriend over spending time with her friend group. In school, everyone wants to be dating someone, but there’s almost this unspoken rule that platonic relationships are key in order to have a healthy, balanced social life.

But in the adult world, past the college stage, keeping up with friends becomes less realistic. People have jobs or they are dealing with unemployment. Some people are getting married and others are getting over breakups. Some people are having children. Suddenly, a person is spending most of their time with their significant other, only this time, it isn’t “unhealthy” or odd or antisocial, it’s just the norm. Spending time with a significant other and family makes sense. There’s a change in lifestyle and, consequently, a change in social expectations.

Adulthood comes with a certain expectation of self-sufficiency. A person is expected to have a career that can support their lifestyle: one that probably includes paying for their own housing, food, car, healthcare, clothes, etc. It’s the whole reason our parents, schools, and communities raise us, so we can eventually obtain all of life’s essentials and luxuries on our own. There’s also an expectation that one will enter a long-term, committed, typically heterosexual and monogamous relationship. This person should also be self-sufficient, having a career so they can afford housing, food, clothes, etc. Then, there may be an expectation that this couple will have children, whom they will raise until they can be self-sufficient themselves.

It’s a cycle. But are we doing this thing right?

Part III.

It’s been expressed for years now that in the U.S, about half of all marriages end in divorce. Do I think this is a bad thing? No. I’m twenty-five years old. I don’t want the same things that I wanted when I was twenty. And the things I want when I’m thirty may be entirely different than what I want now. People change. People and relationships should be allowed to change. I don’t see the divorce rate in this country as a failure. I see it one way our culture’s obsession with self-sufficiency has actually paid off: no one feels the need to stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage out of fear. Fewer people in the history of humankind are left to worry that without their marriage, they have no means of meeting their needs for basic survival.

In the grand scheme of things, I probably know relatively few married couples. And I know even fewer who have relationships that I’d aspire to emulate. Too many people, from the outside looking in (and with an enormously limited amount of information) seem to be in unhappy marriages. There’s a lot of reasons why people get married, and usually those reasons are on the extreme ends of things they hope for and things they fear.

But why do people who are unhappy in their marriages stay married? New relationships are always more exciting than those that have been established for a while. Unhappy people might stay married for their children. Another reason is, again, fear. Leaving a marriage means going into an unknown future where one is scared, uncertain, and of course, alone. That fear of loneliness can influence a lot of people in their most life-changing decisions.

One of the reasons early adulthood is so stressful is that it seems everyone wants, and feels they are expected to, achieve all of the adult milestones at once. People want to have their careers and their love lives in order by the time they reach the age of thirty. But that first decade of adult years is more often filled with trial and error than certainty.

Lots of people reach their mid-twenties and find a good relationship, maybe have their first child, but are still figuring out their careers and finances, and many are still supported financially by their parents. Others have their career path figured out and a decent level of financial stability, but haven’t found the relationship they want. Few people seem to have both of these areas balanced out in their twenties, and nothing is set in stone or “finished” because these are areas of growth, Relationships, careers, and one’s sense of self are constantly evolving.

When I was younger, if I thought of marriage, I probably thought of it as a simple, singular, and even somewhat isolated concept. But now, I can’t think of it without acknowledging how it connects to other areas of adulthood. I don’t know for sure if I want to be married. But I do know that I want to be financially independent first. I know I want to find new ways to do something I love while meeting new people. I know that I want to be free to grow, change, and evolve without the weight of other peoples’ expectations influencing my choices.

I know that if I do get married, I don’t want it to be because I’m afraid of being alone. And I don’t want it to be because people think it’s odd that I’m not spending all of my time with a significant other, much like my school peers thought it was weird if someone didn’t spend more time with their platonic friends.

Part IV.

It’s a complex idea to navigate; the concept that we should be these independent beings, but also that we should be partnered with someone. This idea that we should be able to handle paying bills, feeding ourselves, and keeping a roof over our head on our own, but also that too much independence is considered strange.

There’s a lot of potential in the human ability to be independent while maintaining a need to rely on others. If only our society could learn to allow these needs to intersect instead of prioritizing one over the other at different times, tipping the scales to opposite extremes and constantly leaving people to feel as though they are failing at something–the paradox of either having too much independence or not enough of it.

One’s ability to support themselves with food, clothing, and shelter are needed for survival. But marriage? Marriage is but one solution to the complex problem of loneliness. Our views of family, relationships, and community rarely extend to support those who are not married. It leaves few other options. But maybe people who aren’t married need more options to feel like they aren’t alone in this world.

I think that in many ways, (consensual, healthy) marriage is good for people. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. I don’t have much of an answer to the question of whether or not I want to get married. I’m twenty-five. Ask me again when I’m thirty.

5 tips for hard days

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Sometimes I have days where I feel really anxious about the future, directionless, and just really out of it. Stressing and overthinking about the future can feel necessary at times, especially if I’m trying to figure something out or make a decision. But it’s important to take care of yourself in the present. If you’re worrying and upset about the future or the goals you haven’t accomplished, you’re not allowing yourself to enjoy your life in the moment. Here are five tips for getting through hard days or moments like this:

1 – Get out of your head. This is the biggest issue for me. I get so caught up in my thoughts and the things upsetting me, and from there I just spiral downhill. Remembering to breathe and focus on the present moment helps me to distance myself from my problems. The grounding method of focusing on the things you can feel, see, hear, smell, and taste is also helpful here. This has also helped me out of mild panic attacks.

2 – Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature is so good for you. When I spend some time outdoors, especially in a beautiful place near water, trees, or flowers, it reminds me that life is about more than achieving everything and traditional concepts of “success.” Sometimes life is just about enjoying beautiful sunrises and seeing little baby birds fly about the trees. Waking up early enough to see the sunrise can also be a major mood booster.

3 – Play music you like and dance. Music can really help you to focus on the present. It can help you to de-stress, feel good, and feel less alone. Dancing is also a fun, no-pressure way to get some exercise. I find electronic dance music tends to make me feel happier, even if it’s just a few moments of focusing on the music and nothing else.

4 – Watch a tv show or read. Diving into a fictional world (or even nonfiction) can be a nice break from your worries in your own world. It’s a good way to remember that you don’t have to be productive all day, every day. I find watching a movie or binge-watching a show to be a good stress-reliever at times.

5 – Drink water and have a snack. Simple things like drinking water or eating a snack can give you a chance to relax and focus on what matters most — taking care of yourself and your body. Taking time to eat something I like without distractions is a good way to be present and practice mindfulness.

When I’m having a bad day, the thing that helps most is to focus on the present. It helps me to go back to the basics, often getting through it by doing the simplest things. Having bad days happens sometimes, and sometimes all you can do is let yourself feel the things you feel.

Naturally, if your struggles are persistent or interfering with your day to day life, be sure to talk to someone and seek help from a doctor or therapist.

We all struggle at times with the stresses of life. Keep some simple rituals in your toolbox so you can find balance again.

12 Lessons I’ve Learned by 25

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I turned 25 just over a month ago. It feels like an important age on some level. In a weird way it feels like I’m officially an adult. Like I can feel more empowered in my choices because, at this point, who really cares what anyone else thinks? I’m not saying that this age is the epitome of drinking from the fountain of wisdom. I think it’s far from it. Which is interesting, because I feel like I’ve experienced and learned a lot, especially in the past few years. But at the same time, there’s still so much left to experience and learn.

There’s a wealth of wisdom you gain when you reach 30, 40, 50, and so on. It really puts things into perspective. This (my twenties) is just one chapter in my life, one stage where all I can do is trust my intuition, try my best, and see where all of that takes me. Still, at this point in my life, I’ve learned a lot of things, many of which I’d probably pass down to my younger self if I could. Here’s 12 lessons I’ve learned by 25.

1 – Go at your own pace. They call your twenties your “defining decade” for a reason. In a way, they’re like the high school years of adulthood. You’re figuring out who you are, what you like, and the kind of life you see yourself living. It’s pretty huge! The people around you are all going to be at different stages in their careers, finances, romantic relationships, and family life. In the age of social media, it is especially tempting to compare your journey to another person’s. Don’t. Your path is yours alone. It is unique. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

2 – Milestones are optional. In some ways, birthdays bring expectations. You may feel like reaching a certain age means that you should already have your own place, a stable career, your own car, the love of your life, and even your firstborn child. I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that you are not REQUIRED to do anything at all by a certain age. There is no such thing as being a “late bloomer” in love, career, or any other aspect of life. When you reach retirement age, do you think anyone (including you) is going to look back on your life and judge you for things you didn’t accomplish in your twenties? Of course not. So just live. Take your time. Do things your way. Don’t worry about anything, just keep being better than you were yesterday. Keep growing.

3 – Foster meaningful relationships. My personal philosophy is that one meaningful friendship is better than ten acquaintances. The other side of that is that building a relationship takes time. Invest your time into good people. By the time you reach your thirties, your job, city, and romantic relationships may change a few times, but good, healthy friendships can last for life. (Sometimes friendships also run their course, and that is okay, too). But overall, investing in good friends/family members is a great thing to do for your future (and present) self.

4 – Passions can evolve. I’ve always been someone who is passionate about many things. Art, music, theater, animals, the environment, helping people, etc. People often say to “do what you love,” and many times this message suggests that you should love doing one thing for the rest of your life. While it’s important to find focus in your career, it’s okay to try different things and to change your mind. (In fact, most people do exactly that). I studied theater in college before I changed my major to English. I focused on writing for a few years before realizing it wasn’t an easy way to pay the bills, so now I’m pursuing social work. I still love theater, I still love writing, and now I can pursue a career that will allow me to help others, which is something I’ve always been passionate about as well.

5 – You don’t have to be good at something right away. This is something I feel needs to be emphasized more, especially in schools. You don’t have to be good at something the first, second, or even third time you try it. You can be terrible at something, but spend a few months or even years improving your skills. This goes for anything: math, writing, sports, and even other areas of life such as dating, interviewing, and communicating. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to fail. Most things you fail at in life are not going to have high stakes (i.e – it’s not brain surgery). So give yourself a break. Let yourself fail. Let yourself improve.

6 – Do things for personal enrichment. So much of our twenties revolve around “getting our lives together.” We go to school so we can have a career. We get a job so we can afford our own place, food, etc. We date so we can find “the one.” So many of the things we do are so serious, with long-term thinking in mind. And all of these things are good. Like I said before, your twenties are the foundation of your adult life. In the midst of all this, make time for things you do “just because.” Read good books, try a new sport, go for hikes, talk to strangers at happy hours, go to concerts. Do things just for fun. These are the things you’ll remember years from now, and these are the things that will keep you from being too stressed out.

7 – Don’t worry about what people think. This one is always easier said than done. But the truth is, there’s always going to be people judging you for something. More than that, people will expect you to live the way THEY are living. People who are married will expect you to get married, too. People who have kids will expect you to have kids, too. People who have good careers will expect you to have one, too, etc. But at the end of the day, no one is living your life for you. If people can’t respect the way you live, happily show them the door.

8 – Give yourself options. It’s easy to feel like you have to find one career, one life partner, one place to live, etc. But you don’t have to limit yourself, especially not in your twenties. Give yourself options for your career. Don’t settle down and get married just because others expect you to (do it because you genuinely want to). Exploring your options can save you from looking back years later, thinking, “I wish I knew I had another choice.”

9 – Be honest. Be honest with yourself and the people you care about. If you’re going through a hard time, talk to someone. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. The more authentic you are in the way you live, the easier it will be to find the right opportunities for you.

10 – Forgive, but don’t forget. By the time you reach twenty-five, you’ve already gathered your fair share of “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” and regrets. You may look back on your life and wish you had chosen a different college major, a different romantic partner, a different city to live in sooner, etc. The sooner you learn how to forgive yourself, the more inner peace you’ll have. There will also be other people who may have hurt you or betrayed you, sometimes in more extreme ways than others. Forgiving other people is a personal thing, and sometimes it’s too hard. But taking care of yourself and being patient with your journey is a good start. If something from the past is affecting you in the present, consider talking to a loved one or working through it with a therapist.

11 – Do activities you enjoy. When you’re trying to pursue your career goals, it can be easy to let other passions, like music or fitness, fall to the back burner. Try to make time for personal projects. Join groups that share your interest. Take an enrichment class or two. Nurturing your talents is a great way to boost your confidence and do things you can feel proud of.

12 – Help others. Whether you support your friends when they need someone to talk to or donate to a good cause, it’s important to give back. You have unique gifts you can use to help others or brighten someone’s day. Knowing you can make a difference, even a small one, can give you a sense of purpose and keeps you motivated. In addition, being there for others often means having people who will be there for you as well. You give love, you get love.

These are some of the lessons that I’ve learned by 25. Life is a journey, and we all pick up different nuggets of wisdom along the way. Learning new things means that you are growing and evolving, and that is always a reason to feel proud of how far you’ve come.