25 Things I Learned by 25

MellyLee-25_Things_I_Learned_By_25

Documenting the lessons you learn by the time you reach the end of your quarter life crisis appears to be a milestone post in the online space. Earlier this year I celebrated by 26 birthday and decided to reflect on what I really learned during the first quarter of my life. I’m sure like many others most of the lessons revolve around identity, relationships, and purpose. Growing up is an ironic thing. I feel a lot younger now than I was back in the day and am ready to take on the world! <<insert diabolical laugh and twiddling Mr. Burn’s fingers>> Without further introduction here are 25 thing I learned by 25.

 

1. The World Isn’t Going to End If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing In Life

It took me a long time to be at peace with not knowing what my future was going to look like. For my entire life my family groomed me to be the perfect straight A soon to be a PhD doctor. For the first 18 years of my life there was a very linear, very certain plan. I knew exactly where I’d be going and who I would be. Of course as we all know the more you box a person into a constructed identity, the more they rebel. When I ditched the sciences for art everything was uncertain! Would I have a job? Where was I going to live? Would I regret my decision to follow my passion? etc.

Then one day I stopped caring. It was flipping amazing. Somehow I realized that not knowing what your next step in life was part of the process of growing as an individual. Being uncomfortable provides the stress and motivation you need to change. It also makes life one heck of an adventure.

 

2. Feelings Don’t Make You Weak

There is nothing more courageous than being able to own up to your emotions and being vulnerable with others. Embracing your feelings is simultaneously unapologetically accepting yourself.

3. Your Art is the Sum of Yourself

Everything you do affects your art. Your interests, your decision-making, your ability to critically think, your location, your social circle, your upbringing, your everything.

Don’t waste time being someone you’re not. You’ll come off as a fake and your work will be sure to reflect.

 

4. Validation? What’s that?

One of the scariest things I’ve encountered is being 100% yourself in front of complete strangers that you’re trying to find common ground with. Why is this scary? One word: judgement. Judgement is has this weird power of feeling like an ultimatum. Like if you make the wrong move or say the wrong thing you’ll be judged poorly and then you’ll be banished into social exile. However why do you need someone else’s validation in order have meaning in life? Some time in the last few years I threw out need for everyone’s validation. If you go about your entire life trying to please everyone you’re going to quickly find yourself unhappy.

My M.O. (modus operandi latin for methods of operation –ooo I feel fancy!) is to be authentic and unapologetically me.

5. Surround Yourself with Genuine Souls that are Just Down

Cut the fat! Drop the baggage relationships and say so long to the suckers in your life! Life is short so fill it with amazing people who are honest with themselves, have no extrinsic interests in you, inspire you to better version of yourself, open the doors to new things, and overall are just down to make long-lasting memories.

 

6. Enjoy the Silence

You don’t have to constantly be seeking loud, flashy, high-energy forms of entertainment. There’s a beautiful something about listening to the quiet in a space. It’s even better when you can enjoy the silence with others. My fellow introverts, where are you at?!

 

7. Be Open to Serendipity

Put yourself in a position where serendipity could happen. Work outside of your home. Talk to locals, neighbors, common place frequenters. Visit places you’ve never thought you’d go. Just be open, life works in funny, amusing ways.

8. Set Yourself Up to Fail

What’s the fastest way to gain knowledge? Fail, fail, fail! Failing is especially beneficial during your tender twenties because you have absolutely nothing to lose. Life is a funny teacher because it gives you the test first and then the lesson if you fail.

And if you find yourself not failing that probably means you’re not trying hard enough.

 

9. Listen with an Open, Unbiased, Non-patronizing

Really listening and truly hearing what someone has to say is hard, though it really shouldn’t be. Listening to other is really about sincerely and being respectful. When someone is engaging with you do your best to shut down all distractions bouncing around in your mind. Ignore the phone, don’t think about what you’re doing after, don’t have a wandering eye, and don’t be quick to judge what someone has to say. Be present, make eye contact, and listen.

 

10. Life is not a Disney Story

Lovers and friends don’t always stumble conveniently into your life at the perfect moment (sometimes they still do! …I remain hopeful.) It’s the 21st century there’s no shame in walking up to strangers and making way for new relationships.

 

11. Travel by Yourself

If you have the opportunity, drop everything and travel as much as possible now! Travel when you’re not married and childless, aka when you don’t have any dependent obligations. Infecting myself with the travel bug was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Aside from the obvious awakenings and inspirations you’ll find from experiencing different cultures and environments, you’ll learn so much about yourself while traveling. There’s something oddly comforting about being in a location where no one knows who you are and what you do. The lack of judgement opens you up to perceiving things in an unbiased manner and you’ll be able to hear yourself clearly without the white noise of your typical daily life.

 

12. Travel with Homies

Traveling by yourself is a great chance to be alone with yourself and explore, but traveling with friends allows you relive the experiences later down the line.

 

13. Take Care of Your Body

As many of you know I love being active, working out, eating right and feeling awesome! There’s plenty of reasons why you should care about your body: health, longevity, energy, etc. But to be brief  you really have only one body in your entire lifetime and I’d like to maintain mine to the end.  And if you need vain reason to take care of your body go look at the Facebook profiles of your friends from higher. Oh you can tell who has been caring for their bodies and who hasn’t.

 

14. Now is the Time to be Selfish

This is the only time we will ever have to be young and actually do something with it. Your twenties are the time to explore and really establish your identity. Right not most of us aren’t married, don’t have kids, and don’t have mortgages. This means you should be a little reckless (just make sure you don’t kill yourself in said reckless activities) and do things that you’ve never experience before. Go travel, go live in that over-priced downtown apartment, go to a music festival, attack that start-up idea you had, explore a passion. Just do something for yourself.

 

15. You will be Broke

In some way or aspect of your twenties you will be broke. It is a fact. You can’t run away from it. If you’re financially rich you’ll probably be social life broke. Or vice versa. A lack of something will haunt you in during these destitute times. Just try to enjoy it and somehow save a savings account.

16. Learn to be Content

You may start by reading the free Little Book of Contentment ebook by Leo Babauta. For me being content means being happy an grateful for the little things I have. I try to start off each morning thinking “Wow what an awesome day for me to go outside” or “It’s yucky outside! Good thing my bed is warm and cosy –Sleep in!” Just practicing finding joy in life makes a huge difference. I used to constantly focus on what I didn’t have or why haven’t I reached an exaggerated level of success. It’s no wonder why I was so miserable then.

17. “Don’t halfass two things whole-ass one thing” – Ron Swanson

Oh Ron Swanson! This is one of my favorite quotes from the NBC show Parks and Recreation. We are human beings thus we can’t give a 100% to everything. So things that are of priority deserve our full attention while less important matters deserve an ass.

 

18. The World is Already a Crap Hole, Do At Least One Good Thing to Make it Better

I hope by the end of this post I don’t come off as an supreme pessimist, but let’s face it we kind of live in a sh*t hole and as human being we’re constantly doing things to mess it up even further with things like deforestation, sex trafficking, overpopulation, global warming, etc. So how about we try to do at least one good thing to make the world a little better. If every person did one good thing that would be roughly 7 billion good things happening at once.

Now I’m not saving go off, put on a cape, and try to to save the world –that would be rather absurd (unless Superman are you out there?!) Try to do one generous act for someone else each day. In my case I do my best to try to lead by example and live a selfless creative life.

 

19. You are What You Do Everyday

You know that person that you want to be that day? Whether that person is defined by their character, relationships, values, career, etc. You can become that person if you practice aspects of being that person each day. If you want to be a photographer you better be doing something photography related everyday. Otherwise I hope you win the lottery or something.

If you’re working towards being that future version of you every so often, it’s probably not going to happy. Or optimistically speaking it will probably just take longer to get there.

20. Your career will always be there for you, but the people around you have expiration dates

You ≠ career title! Apparently labeling yourself with <> is a pretty good was to live an unfulfilling life. I used to align my job occupation. Every waking moment I heard the wheels in my head screeching work! Must be successful! Must find loads of money! …and I quickly found myself constantly feeling lonely. The constant grind of trying to make it drove me into a workaholic isolation. Not only did this cause me to be unfulfilled with my art, but I found myself feeling very depressed often. The loneliness will get to you because when you live and breathe in a world of 9-5ers, finding other creative souls that can related you may be scarce.

My point is that you have the rest of your life to try to build a career, but the moments that really matter –the moments in which people whose presence enriches your life won’t always be there. Nowadays I’m just a happy-go-lucky girl trying to navigate the world with her camera while dragging friends along for the ride. (No, seriously sometimes I have to drag my friends up mountains in order to make awesome memories –but it’s worth it I tell ya!) Seize these moments while you can.

 

21. Sleep is Necessary. Invest in a Good Bed.

Gone are the days of consecutive all-nighters from college. Some time during your twenties your body will say “No, you can’t make me stay up all night anymore!” And if somehow if you’re able to convince it otherwise you will acquire a sleep debt that will manifest in forms such as mental and physical fatigue. In some cases, like mine, your skin will breakout in shameful acne. Aka you will turn into a zombie.

Now assuming you get an appropriate amount of sleep you should invest in a good bed. We spend half our lives lying in bed. Might as well make sure that it’s a comfortable cozy place to be. Plus, nothing beats a good night’s rest in the morning.

 

22. Learn Basic Survival Skills

By basic I mean things such as:

  • How to Cook
  • How to Maintain a Good Hygiene
  • How to Jump a Car (and change a tire)
  • Perform First-Aid
  • How to Time-Manage
  • How to Dress Properly
  • How to Read a Map
  • How to Google Answers

 

23. The Parental Units aren’t So Bad

Actually they’re rather cool peeps! Once you past the point of being an angsty, begrudging individual you’ll come across this tranquil land of pacifism with your parents. There you’ll discover that the parents are people too and have a lot of epic stories that they have yet to share with you –or that you’ve failed to listen to as a kid.

Sure Mom and Dad might not be perfect, but at least they’re yours and you know they tried their best and always got your back.

 

24. Life Isn’t About Balance. It’s About Finding Harmony among things.

#TheStruggleIsReal!!! #IRL #Truth …ok no more lame hashtags. I’ve always struggled with maintaining an equilibrium with life –especially when it came to finding a balance between the creative grind and having a healthy social life. Constantly I’d beat myself up for spending 90% of my time focused on anything work related and the remaining 10% on building and maintaining relationships. I thought I needed life to be a secure 50/50.

It wasn’t until March of this year during my shoot with Kat Cole when I had the epiphany of harmony. While I was photographing the Cinnabon CEO she shared with me this tidbit of insight:

I see a lot of women who will come to me and say “How do you do it?” You know, how do you balance taking care of yourself or your family and work and friends and all of that and I just look at them and say, ‘I don’t. No one does. No one balances it…’ …the women that I find that are most successful are the ones that learned to just be totally cool with themselves and not to be so hard on themselves and just understand that you’re never going be perfect.

Life is never going to be 50/50. Sometimes work will demand more time and energy, sometimes personal things will require every spare moment. And that’s perfectly okay. Life has a funny way of harmonizing tranquility for itself.

 

25. The Rest of Your Life is Just Starting

Cheers everyone! The quarter life crisis is over! They say that first chunk of your life is spent trying to figure out yourself and pleasing everyone around us. The second chunk is about us embracing who we are and being happy with whatever unfolds.

Tags from the story

6 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *