22 Things I Wish I Knew at 22

22_featured.jpg

After reading this list of life lessons, this article and this blog post I was inspired to write about what I have learned. I love great advice and wanted to share what I have learned, what others have learned, and what others have helped me realize. If there is one thing in this life of value it’s introspection. Self-examination not only benefits your life, but it helps you cultivate your relationships. If you don’t know who you are and what you want, how can you expect others to?

1. Be alone

Don’t be afraid to be alone. It is when you are truly alone that you can figure out what you love and what is most important to you. It’s easy to get distracted with everyday life. Take time to get to know you. Ask yourself questions about who you are, and take the time to answer them. What do you like? What are your goals and priorities? What do you want to accomplish? What makes you happy?

It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to deny an outing to stay in and decompress. Relationships with others are very important, it has been said that the key to happiness is dependent on our relationships with other people. The relationship we have with ourselves is just as important if not more. Once you know what makes you happy, what you want, and who you are then you can share that with the world!

2. Practice mindfulness

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with the day-to-day minutia. I constantly have a to do list going on in my mind, am brainstorming for blog posts, or trying to remember what I was supposed to do. I need to make a point to relax, to stop and smell the roses if you will.  I have been reading a lot about the benefits of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness is living in the moment and experiencing the present. Practicing mindfulness is like an exercise for your brain. Take time out of your day to just be present. Feel where you are at any given moment and appreciate it for what it is. Don’t think about the past and don’t worry about the future.

3. Appreciate your girlfriends and keep in touch

It’s easy to get caught up in your romantic relationships and put your girlfriends on the back burner. Don’t. Your girlfriends turn out to be the people you enjoy and love the most. When we were younger our mothers used to say, “relationships come and go but friendships are forever.” There is more truth to that than I thought. It’s important that your closest girlfriends know that you haven’t forgotten about them. Don’t solely depend on the guy you are with, that’s a lot of pressure for him. Lean on the friends that you always have, he will appreciate it and so will they!

When a new guy comes along don’t drop off the map. That’s not being a good friend to those who have been there for you all a long. Keep in touch with your friends. We are in the digital age of Facebook and Instagram. Use them to your advantage. Don’t just ‘like’ people’s pictures and look at their statuses. Send them a message or a text asking how they are, or how their trip was. Make time to schedule dates with your girl friends so you can catch up. Everyone’s lives get super busy and it’s easy to dismiss a friend and think that they will be there when you need them, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

4. You teach others how to treat you

We have all heard the golden rule ‘treat others how you would like to be treated’. That is all fine and dandy, but sometimes how we would like to be treated and how someone else would like to be treated are two different things. The way a person treats you is a great indication of how they would like to be treated. Be your best self and others tend to follow suit. If you are always helping others and are super positive it’s safe to assume you’d like to be around helpful positive people. If you care enough to treat someone the way they want to be treated, but they don’t care how they treat you in return then they aren’t worth being around. Actions speak louder than words, so show people how great you are and don’t settle being around those that make you feel otherwise!

5. Ask questions, listen, and care

Some people deem themselves great listeners. Sitting and hearing what someone says is not the same as being engaged. Thinking about what you are going to say next while the other person is talking is not listening. Asking someone a question so that you can then sway the conversation back to you is not being a great conversationalist. We have all met those people that truly listen and have surprised you when they recall something you have said. These people tend to be few and far between, but when you know someone has truly heard you and was interested in what you said it makes you want to be around that person more and reciprocate the gesture. It may sound silly, but it is such an incredible feeling to know that you were heard and what you said meant something to somebody. Be that person that asks questions to engage the conversation and care about the answer. More people will appreciate being around you and respect you for it!

6. Learn to say No

This is one I still struggle with, but you are allowed to say no without giving an excuse. If you don’t want to do something don’t do it. It seems simple, but some people love to please others more than themselves (myself included) but if I need alone time I have to schedule it and treat it like it’s a date with anyone else. I wouldn’t cancel a date on a close friend if I didn’t have to, so why am I so quick to dismiss my plans to appease others? There will always be another social gathering, another event. If there is a friend in need I tend to make exceptions, but if I really need time to myself for my own sanity I need to say another time. If I am out with a friend but wanting to be home I am not going to be of much help anyway! It’s like the cliché about putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Sometimes the fear of missing out overcomes what we really need. If you need a night in stay in! People only want you to be there if you want to be there.

7. Don’t judge others

Sometimes we judge what we do not understand. A really great public speaker used the great analogy, of Beauty and The Beast. Literally, in the song the towns’ people sing about the beast, “ We don't like what we don't understand. In fact is scares us.” This is true for all of us at some point. When we don’t understand something or someone we tend to jump to conclusions. We tend to reject something that we do not understand or we don’t like something that scares us. Keep an open mind and instead of jumping to conclusions or making quick judgments ask questions and be understanding. Nobody wants to be around someone that is critical or judgmental. You can’t control the narrative of others, but you can control your own. What other people think of us is none of our business.

I have to admit I used to judge what I did not understand, and still struggle, but as I get older I am realizing the people that are the most fun to be around are the people that loved me unconditionally-whole heartedly-with no reserve-no matter what. If I had stuck to my quick judgments I wouldn’t be the person I am and I wouldn’t be surrounded by some of the most amazing people that I know. I would not be marrying the man of my dreams! When I first met him I thought he was just a hick from the sticks, but after I got to know him I realized he was the most amazing man I have ever met.

8. Wear the outfit

We may get an outfit that is so nice and makes us feel so good we want to save it for a special occasion. Wear the outfit. Burn the candles; use the nice sheets; wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special. You will never say, "I wish I wouldn't have worn this outfit I love so much." On that same note, when it comes to looking good or being comfortable always choose both. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

9. Write it down

I can’t stress this enough. Write. Document your life. It’s so easy to forget the day to day, so write it down. It doesn’t have to be profound it just has to be for you. Sometimes I don’t journal because my thoughts aren’t comprised the way I want them to be, sometimes I don’t know what to say. When you write your thoughts start to organize naturally. When I am feeling upset or down about something if I start to write about it I start to see the positive side of the situation, and it helps me to feel better. Some people don’t like to write because they are afraid of what they might find. I say dive into the depths of your intellect and see what’s in there!

10. Don't worry

I used to worry so much to the point I would feel sick. I was always worried that I had done something wrong. I once had a boss tell me to stop asking her if she was upset with me. I care very much about other people’s feelings, to a fault. I feel their pain and invest myself so much in the happiness of others. My Dad once told me that 90% of what we worry about never happens so we are wasting our time worrying about it. It really is that simple. I have learned not to worry about things that are out of my control. If it IS something I can fix, then I fix it. If I can’t I have learned to move on. I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason and everything will be okay. It may not make sense in the moment, but it will eventually. Don’t worry about the rest of your life, worry about this very moment in time, and focus on what you are doing. Life is a series of trial and error that will all work out in the end. So trust in the process.

11. Less is more

When it comes to clothes, make-up, home décor and good food less is usually more. When I say less is more with clothes I don’t mean to wear less clothes! I mean wear that one special piece and pair it with basics. Don’t wear all your special pieces at once! I also mean quality over quantity. You will thank yourself if you spend your money on quality clothes that you invest in rather than buying a bunch of clothes that will only last you a season.

Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful. Outer order contributes to inner calm, and it’s easier to have outer order when you get rid of whatever doesn’t cause you absolute joy.

12. Spend money on what brings YOU joy

Everyone spends his or her money differently. It is not up to us to judge someone for how they spend their money. We don’t know their financial situation and shouldn’t assume we do, and really what does it matter? Like I said, I love fashion and I love to shop. Someone else might care less about clothes but they use their money on antiques, or someone else might collect art, or some like to watch their money accumulate, and not spend at all. However you choose to spend your money make sure it brings YOU joy and adds value to your life. It’s your life and your money, so spend it on what you place value on, not what others place value on.

13. Make chores enjoyable

I am not very domestic. I don’t enjoy cleaning, cooking, or grocery shopping. In fact, to me, these things are chores that I have to perform. They feel like a punishment. However, I have learned ways to make these tasks more enjoyable. A friend of mine suggested wearing headphones and listening to music while I grocery shop. This way I can walk through the market and instead of worrying about making sure I get everything on my list I can relax, listen to music, and make my way through each aisle without dread.

I was talking to another friend about my disdain for cleaning the house. She suggested listening to a podcast while I cleaned. What a great idea! I popped headphones in and went to town. I was so into the podcast that it didn’t even feel like I was cleaning, I actually got so into it, that I vacuumed my curtains!  I had never done that before. I seriously cleaned for seven hours; because that is how many podcasts I had to listen to. That also goes to show you how much cleaning I had to do!

Cooking has always intimidated me. I didn’t grow up with a mother that cooked. I never really learned how. Mike’s mom asked me to help her by peeling carrots once, and I literally just peeled the carrots until that was all there was, carrot peelings. When I had looked up recipes and attempted them I didn’t enjoy it and kind of got bored waiting for the next step. Because I didn’t know what I was doing I was not about to try multitasking. Well, the podcast that I was listening to while I was cleaning had an advertisement about Blue Apron. It’s a service that delivers farm fresh ingredients right to your door with step-by-step instructions on how to cook the meals. I love it. It has everything you need in the box eliminating having to grocery shop, and everything is perfectly proportioned cutting down on waste. Not only are the instructions step-by-step but also it tells you how to multitask, so I don’t get bored waiting for the next step! I told Mike it’s probably one of the best things to happen to our future marriage.

14.  Get out of your comfort zone

Whether it’s moving, finding a new job, working out, or saving up to travel the world, just do it. Don’t postpone. Don’t make excuses. Jump. It’s scary but getting out of your comfort zone is what makes you grow and evolve. Don’t sabotage your own happiness and success by making excuses or waiting for the right time. There is no right time.

Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. The fear of failing stalled me from starting a blog a long time ago. The fear of failure keeps people from taking risks, from experiencing life. What is failing really? Failure is falling short of success or achievement in something you have attempted. So, what does that look like? You attempted something and you fell short, at least you tried. There is something to be said about failing. There is growth in each and every failure and mistake. If you ask me it’s more of a short coming if you don’t try at all then if you tried something and it didn’t work out. I LOVE to write, but I am no Sylvia Plath. Each blog post is a bit intimidating, because I love to write, but I am not as talented as I would like to be. You will find grammatical errors, and misspellings, it’s true, but It’s not the end of the world. The only way I am going to get better at writing is to do it.  More often then not a failure or mistake leads to something even better! Don’t be afraid to go after a bigger and better life.

Moving to Arizona was one of the best things I ever did. It was scary moving across the country, but I did it. I discovered what was truly important to me and what I loved. Then I packed up and moved back across the country to Minneapolis with no job, and lived in a house with 5 people I had never met. Then I saved up and backpacked Europe with a friend. All those things were things I had dreamed about, but wasn’t sure I would actually do. What I learned is life doesn’t happen to you, you have to make it happen.

15.  Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers

I used to be very shy and never wanted to bother anyone. When I moved to Arizona I realized if I was going to meet anyone I needed to make conversation. I had to step out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers. Those strangers ended up becoming some of my best friends. This skill is one that I would recommend to anyone, it will help you with any job you ever have, and will allow you to meet some amazing people. If I wanted to attend an event by myself I could, because I could just make conversation with whoever was there. I won’t just go up to anyone and everyone and start talking to them, but I have learned to engage in conversation when the opportunity arises.

16. Plans change

You don’t have to know what you are going to do, where you are going to live, who you are going to be. What you choose for a major might not be what you end up doing with your life, but no matter what each and every experience is a learning opportunity that helps you grow and evolve.  Don’t think you need to make a plan and stick to it. More than likely even if you make a plan with what your life is going to look like it is going to end up looking completely different. Dwight Eisenhower said, “Planning is essential, but plans are useless.” You can learn a lot about yourself through the process of making a plan, but make sure you are willing to be flexible and seize opportunities that may arise. Over prepare and then go with the flow.

17. Always be polite

You never regret being polite. Even if someone was rude to you, you can’t go wrong being polite. You don’t have to be a push over; you can have charming manners and also be assertive. We learn it as toddlers, but some of us forget as we grow older, say please and thank you. Be courteous and serve others. Smile when you walk by someone, say hello, and ask them how they are. Even if you would rather not talk to someone don’t cut them off or be rude. Engage in polite chitchat before kindly dismissing yourself.

18. Make a pro and con list

When I was young I would anguish over making the right decision. I have grown to become much more of a decisive person, however when I am making a big life decision I create your run of the mill pro and con list. Whichever side has the most ‘pros’ that is the answer. The hard part is committing to the decision and taking action.

When I lived in Arizona and was about to graduate I decided I wanted to move, but wasn’t sure where I should go, so I made a pro and con list for moving to: Nashville, Portland, Denver, and Minneapolis. After making the lists the answer was clear and I packed up my bags and moved to Minneapolis.

19. Don’t obsess over your weight

A friend of mines mother had cancer and before she passed her friend interviewed her, and one thing she said was she wished she wouldn’t have cared so much about her weight. In society today it’s so easy to want to be skinny, especially as a woman it seems like that is the most valued attribute. However, after reading several books of women talking to their younger self, there was a common theme, don’t obsess over your weight. We all experience it from time to time. I thought it was something that would go away with age, but it isn’t. Women worry about their weight and appearance up until the very end. With age I have become more comfortable with my weight and my body, and if there is one thing I could tell my younger self I would echo those other women, don’t obsess. If you really want to change it, change it, but don’t let it consume you. Do it for your health if anything, not to fit into size 2 jeans. You want to know what’s more beautiful than fitting in a size two jean? Being happy. You are beautiful the way you are and nothing is sexier than confidence.

20. Forgive

Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. It’s so easy to want to hold a grudge and to want to wait for that apology, but more than likely you won’t get it. You are doing yourself more harm by holding on to something negative than just letting it go. If it’s someone you still see often, It’s easy to want to think we are teaching someone a lesson by not speaking to them because we are still upset, but it’s a much better lesson to show them that we can rise above and be nice even to someone that hurt our feelings. Being a jerk to someone that may or may have not meant to hurt your feelings only makes you look bad. In my experience more often then not that person’s intent was not to cause you harm. If it is someone that is no longer in your life because of the magnitude of what happened. It might be harder to let it go, but do just that, let it go. They aren’t in your life for a reason, and by not forgiving them they in someway still have power over your life.

21. Dress for the weather

I live in Wisconsin so it’s cold more than it’s warm! Dress warm and wear layers. You may think you look good wearing a more ‘flattering’ outfit that doesn’t require so many layers, but you won’t look good shivering your butt off! Put together outfits that work with the season and will keep you warm when it’s cold. Wear snow proof boots and bring heels with you for when you get inside rather than trying to wear heels through the snow. Snow boots look better than falling on your bum!

22. Moving back home isn’t failing

I said that I would never move back home. (Which reminds…me never say never!)  I felt like that meant that I had failed. I always wondered why anyone would move back to the middle of Wisconsin rather than living in sunny Arizona or living in the great city of Minneapolis. (Sometimes I still wonder what the heck I was thinking!) I had it engrained in my head that moving home was not a possibility. I wish I had known that as you get older your priorities change. I haven’t failed, I moved home to be with the man of my dreams and how lucky am I that I get to spend time with my family! I am making the best of the situation.  If we choose to have kids (which is something else I said I’d never do!) then we will have the support we need and our kids will be able to enjoy their grandparents, which I have learned from experience is a luxury. I also didn’t move home and expect my life to be how it was when I lived here. I met new people, learned new things, and explore the city as if I am living here for the first time. Also, living in a smaller town has allowed me to travel, more which is a huge priority of mine. It has ended up being a win-win-win situation rather than a failure. I am still glad that I left but I wish I hadn’t viewed moving back as failing for so long. Doing what is going to may you happy in the end is never failing.

Comparison is the thief of joy

If there was only one thing I could tell my younger self it would be this, comparison is the thief of joy. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with two sisters, or what, but I used to constantly compare myself to other people. I would find the girl in the room that I thought was the prettiest and obsess over wanting what she had. I would idolize those beautiful actresses and wonder why I couldn’t look just like Marissa Miller or Jessica Alba. Why couldn’t I have the money, career, beauty and status? But then I realized who am I to think I deserve it? I have been much more fortunate than so many other people. Envy is a waste of time you already have everything you need, and you have no idea what someone else’s journey consists of.

Comparing yourself to someone else is never going to end up in your happiness. The only person you should try to be better than is the person you used to be. We are who we are and it could always be worse. I learned that life is about appreciating what you have and making the best of it. I stopped obsessing about the prettiest girls in the room and stopped pining after the lives of the famous actress on the magazine. Instead I focused on making myself the best me I could be. I focused more on intellectual endeavors rather than superficial ones. It’s not about being the skinniest and prettiest girl in the room, it’s about being happy and healthy and enjoying the life you were given.

This post became so popular that I decided to make it a series in itself, so be sure to check back every Tuesday for more on 22 Things I Wish I knew!