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  • Abby

24 Lessons That I Learned in 24 Years

It's my 24th birthday!

1. People aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are

We spend way too much time worried about what others will think. We think they’ll judge our clothes, our hair, our food, our car, our workout, our hobbies, whatever.

The thing is, most people are too busy worrying about themselves and living their own lives to spend time worrying about what you’re doing. And when you do come across one of those people who judges everyone for every choice that they make, know that 1. Their opinion doesn’t matter and 2. You have no obligation to keep that person in your life.

Life becomes so much easier and more enjoyable when you stop caring about what other people think of you—because most of the time, they aren’t thinking of you (and I mean that in a good way).

2. We’re more alike than you think

In a time rife with division (political, class, whatever), it’s easy to think of other people as being dissimilar to yourself. Lots of people are benefiting from teaching us that we’re different, that people unlike ourselves are not to be trusted and the cause of all of our problems.

But this just isn’t true. We’re all more alike than we realize. I’ve seen it time and time again. At our core, we’re all human, and we’re all pretty similar. We have the same wants and needs. Keep this in mind as you go about your life.

3. “Be yourself” is more accurately stated as, “be the best version of yourself that you can be.”

I often see people complain that “be yourself” is terrible advice because they aren’t happy with who they are. They don’t like who they are and don’t want to put that version of themselves into the world. But we can change. We do change, whether it’s consciously or not.

So be yourself, but strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Make a conscious effort to say kind things and avoid being mean. Make a conscious effort to be nice to the people around you. Make small changes every day to be a slightly better version of yourself than you were yesterday.

Changing in this way doesn’t mean that you’re a different person. You’re still you, you’re just a better version of yourself.

Becoming the best version of yourself may be work, but it’s worth it. It is truly rewarding and enjoyable to put in the effort to be a better person and see the results.

You don’t have to change who you are, but make a conscious effort to be friendly, kind, and open-minded.

4. No one knows what they’re doing

Throughout childhood, most of us just assume that adults know what they’re doing. Turns out, they don’t. Some of them may think that they do for some periods of their lives, but in the long run, they don’t.

No one knows the “right” way to raise children. We’re all a little lost when it comes to doing taxes. There isn’t some big life plan or secret that we have to figure out, and yes, you are a real adult, even if you may not feel like it.

It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing, and it’s okay to admit it. You’re not alone, and if we can openly admit when we’re a little lost, we can all help each other navigate together.

5. You’re not the only person who does that weird thing

The answer to any question that starts with, “Am I the only one who… “ is no. You’re not the only one. There are 7 billion of us, and, as I said a bit ago, we’re much more similar than we think.

You’re not the only person who does that weird ritual or who likes that weird food combination. More importantly, whatever your struggle, you are not alone. There are people who relate, people who have been through the same thing, and people who can help you.

6. Most things aren’t nearly as scary as they seem like they’ll be

Every single time that I’ve been thrown into the deep end of something that I didn’t think I could handle, it turned out just fine. However much I hyped it up in my brain beforehand, I turned out to be wrong.

Most of the time, the dread and worry is the worst part. Rather than delaying the inevitable, it’s actually easier to take a deep breath and just go for it. You’ll be okay. It won’t be as bad as you’re expecting, and you’ll be glad that you did it.

7. Relaxing is productive

This is one of the more recent lessons that I’ve learned. Up until recently, I felt like I always had to be moving, always doing something that I had designated as “productive.” The hustle mindset, if you will.

Turns out, taking time to do nothing is productive. Small amounts of procrastination help your brain be more creative. Relaxing allows you to fire on all cylinders when it’s time to go again, and you’ll have better ideas and better results if you aren’t burned out and run down while you work.

Aside from the ways that relaxation benefits the “productive” activities, it’s also worthwhile in its own right. Life is short. Take some time for yourself to do what you like doing and don’t worry about whether or not it’s moving you toward some goal. Just take time to enjoy the moment as it is. That alone is worthwhile.

8. Breathe through it, and let it go

Few issues in life can’t be solved by breathing through it and letting go. Yes, there are unfortunate situations that can’t be solved by letting it go, but most of the annoyances in our daily lives don’t need to stay with us for more than a few seconds.

Traffic is bad? Let it go. You spilled something? Clean it up, let it go. The store doesn’t have that thing that you wanted? Let it go.

If there’s nothing you can do to change the situation, dwelling on it will only make you unhappy. It won’t solve problems. You choose what you keep in your life, and there’s no point in letting one small thing ruin your day.

Keep in mind: Was is a bad day, or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day?

(P.S. Mindfulness can help you with the “let it go” bit.)

9. You have more time than you think you do

Or, maybe more accurately, you’re spending way more time on Reddit, Netflix, YouTube, and Instagram than you think you are.

When you actually track where your time is going, you may be surprised by what you find. You’re probably wasting significantly more time than you realize.

When you reclaim that time, you’ll find that you can accomplish so much more and live a much more balanced, well-rounded, happy life.

10. Often the environmentally friendly option is cheaper in the long run, too

Reusable pads, bars of soap over liquid body wash, wearing more layers instead of turning on the heat—all of these things will save you money and they’re better for the environment.

In fact, throughout my life, I've come to realize that the environmentally friendly option is almost always cheaper in the long run than the planet-killing option. It may have a bit more of an upfront cost, but if you can swing that, you’ll save money. And, more importantly, you’ll help save the planet.

11. Cooking isn’t nearly as difficult as it looks

This is assuming that you get your recipe from a reputable source. Bon Appetit? Reliable. That random Pinterest pin? Probably not.

If you find a good recipe and learn the absolute basics of what cooking terms mean, the techniques themselves really aren’t hard at all. The recipe tells you exactly what you need to do, all you have to do is follow the directions.

And once you’ve followed enough recipes, you gain a sense of where you can bend the rules to create your own foods.

12. Actually, most things aren’t nearly as difficult as they look

Throughout my life, I’ve taken a stab at quite a few intimidating things for a number of reasons. Turns out, most of them aren't all that difficult.

Rubik’s cubes? Easy once you know the algorithms.

Braiding your hair? Just takes a little practice.

Approach new tasks with a sense of confidence, and most of the time you’ll find success.

13. Keeping your space clean makes you happy

As much as I thought I liked my messy room throughout high school, working past my tendency to hoard makes me feel much better than keeping all that junk.

Stuff doesn’t make you happy. You don’t need to keep it all. Let it go, and keeping your space clean will be so much easier. You’ll be less stressed, you won’t hate cleaning so much, and you won’t trip over stuff in the middle of the night.

While we’re on the topic, create a chore schedule. It’s much easier to keep things clean if you do small amounts of cleaning regularly instead of waiting until things are way out of hand. A chore schedule is a massive help.

14. You’ll never regret doing something that benefits your future self

One day, you’re going to be your future self. We rarely think about this. Instead, we focus on making our lives easy in the present moment without acknowledging that our actions in this moment are making things more difficult for our future selves.

Do a few things each day that will benefit your future self. In a few days, weeks, or months when you get to be that future self and enjoy the results of your past self’s work, you’ll be glad that you did it.

15. The Happiness Paradox

This was such an important realization that it warranted its own blog post. This is one of my favorite posts to share and often sparks a much-needed shift in perspective. It’s not too long, so I strongly recommend reading the post.

16. Most things you’re cooking need more salt and more lemon

If you’re making any sort of savory dish (pasta, rice, stir fry, soup, whatever) and it doesn’t taste quite right, chances are, it needs more salt and more acidity (usually in the form of lemon juice).

Salt amps up other flavors. If your sauce isn’t herby enough, it might not be lacking herbs, but salt. Salt doesn’t make things salty (unless you go overboard)—it makes them flavorful.

To up your cooking game even more, finish off your dishes with a squeeze of lemon juice. This will brighten them up a bit, add more depth, and round out the flavors. It’s hard to go wrong with a little extra salt and lemon juice. (And if you’re not trying to be healthy, maybe some butter.)

17. Everything you cook should have either vanilla or garlic in it

Cookies? They have vanilla, so no garlic.

Pasta? No vanilla in that, so it has to have garlic.

Roasted vegetables? Yes garlic, no vanilla.

Pie? Yes on the vanilla, no on the garlic.

Get the gist?

18. Negativity isn’t worth it.

Whether it’s gossiping, complaining, holding grudges, or finding the worst in every situation, negativity just isn’t worth it. This isn’t to say that we should totally ignore the negative sides of life, just that you choose what you hold on to.

You choose whether you complain and dwell on the things that have happened or if you find the bright side and move on. You are in control of your outlook on life. You get to choose whether or not you practice gratitude and enjoy the little moments.

Negative people also aren’t worth it. Complainers, hateful people, anyone who you dread talking to or hearing from—cut them out. You have no obligation to keep anyone in your life if you don’t want them to be there.

19. Learning never loses its appeal.

You may think that you don’t like learning because you didn’t like school. You didn’t like boring lectures, exams, homework, and stress. Formal education is unfortunately not set up in a way that teaches children to love learning.

But when you get out in the world and take time to learn the things that interest you in a way that appeals to you, it never gets old. Go down Wikipedia rabbit holes. Read every book that interests you. Talk to people about their hobbies and passions.

When you aren’t sure how to spend your time, use it to learn something new. Learning is truly an enjoyable experience, and it doesn’t get old because there’s so much out there to explore.

20. Hating people for liking something is not a personality

At any given moment in time, there’s always a group of people (often young women) who are getting unwarranted hate because of something that they enjoy. It used to be Doctor Who, then Uggs, now PSLs and workout choices.

Leave people alone. Hating on someone for having an interest in something is not a personality. It just makes you unnecessarily negative (see #18), and adds nothing of value to anyone’s life. In fact, it makes your life and their life less enjoyable.

As long as it isn’t hurting anyone, let people like what they like.

21. You’ll never regret bringing your water bottle

One of my most often repeated mottos is, “You’ve never regretted bringing your water bottle with you, but you’ve regretted not having it.” Any time I’m tempted to go anywhere without my water bottle, I remind myself of this.

It’s such a simple thing to do, but having a water bottle comes in handy so often, and it makes it so much easier to stay hydrated.

22. You also won’t regret bringing a jacket

Your mom is right. Just bring your jacket. At least put it in the car so that it’s there when you need it.

In fact, keep a bag packed with necessities like lip balm, tissues, gum, a snack, and some pens and paper. It makes life so much easier.

23. Go to the bathroom when you have the chance because you never know where the next one will be

Fairly self-explanatory. Someone go give this advice to my past self as we were passing the last gas station before getting in line to enter the Grand Canyon National Park.

24. One-size-fits-all is a myth

As much as we’re all more similar than we realize, nothing is one-size-fits-all. Clothes are not one-size-fits-all—which you probably knew—but neither are advice, relationships, friendships, schedules, jobs, etc.

I love to emphasize this one on the blog because so often advice, recommendations, and tips are shared as if they will work for everybody. I want to make it clear that not all of my advice will work for everyone. Take what works, leave what doesn’t.

Look to this blog as a source of inspiration, not as a source of definitive answers. You’ll find much more success that way. Your aim isn’t to follow all the things that I do, your aim is to experiment until you find the things that work for you.

Recommended Reading:

The Happiness Paradox

I'd Like to Introduce You to Your New Best Friend: Your Future Self

How to Become More Confident

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