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Hi there! It’s my 27th birthday this week. This time of year has reflecting on the life lessons of where I’ve been and where I want to go.
In my 26th year, I delivered our first daughter, Terin. We paid off a ton of debt. I started this little blog. I’ll be thrilled if 27 is half as good.
In honor of growing older, I thought I’d share a few lessons I’d tell my 17-year-old self. Not sure that I would have appreciated knowing them then, but it sure would have made some things easier. 😉
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A rich life comes from spending time with people who love you as you are.
Your tribe is with people who excite you, laugh with you in the good times, and cry with you during the sad. Nourish them and forget the rest.
They see you at your best and don’t judge you when you make mistakes. They don’t give you unsolicited advice; they’re not around to control you. It’s those people who help you find out who you are.
You’ll know a good friend if being around them makes you love yourself more. If they make you feel like you’re crazy, then it’s probably best to let ’em go.
Find the friend that helps you see life a little differently. Those friends stretch your concept of truth and teach you to think for yourself.
Long time friends are a luxury greater than the nicest car or the sparkliest diamond in the showcase. They enrich your life in a way money and health can’t. Protect that.
Dial back some of your worry by 20%.
High school chemistry homework, your economics final, the group project that failed with fireworks. You can dial all those worries back by at least 20%.
No one will ask you what your GPA is after college anyway. They’ll care more about if you can do the job than what your grades are.
Swim in your swim lane.
Take responsibility for everything within your control. Don’t rescue other people from taking their responsibilities to task.
If a project is late because someone didn’t do their part, don’t do the work for them. Swim in your swim lane.
You’ll save yourself a lot of stress by not taking on other people’s problems. They can manage it themselves.
There’s multiple ways to one right answer.
While in math there’s only one right answer, there’s multiple ways to get to it. Life is similar.
Life is not limited to the one plan society lays out. There’s many approaches you can use to solve problems.
A real relationship is one with boundaries.
If telling someone no gives you hives and makes you itch all over, then the relationship might not be real. Telling someone know sometimes makes the relationship real.
The harder it is to tell them no, the more important it is to set the boundary.
The worst person in the world to lie to is yourself. You’ll save yourself heartache and give yourself a world of emotional health if you start with honestly from the core.
Don’t be surprised if your 20s are a hard decade.
So much change after change. Some good, some terrible. Some grief-riddled. Some healing.
In it all, you’ll find what’s real and what’s not. You’ll figure out that you’re much stronger than you think.
You’ll go through some horribly hard times where you feel like your life is in a blender.
You’ll also find within yourself a depth that you never knew existed.
Through those hard times, you’ll come to appreciate the beauty of the good times with unparalleled appreciation.
Budget every paycheck for the rest of your life.
With all of your summer jobs, make a plan for that money.
Instead of getting an auto loan, save up and pay cash for your first car. Start planning out how you’re going to pay for college. Use your money to build your financial future.
Avoid debt like it’s a blood sucking leech. Save and invest religiously. Give generously. Read about ways to invest money, though. You won’t be young forever. It’s really simpler than you think it is if you get a good start.
And, for goodness sakes, don’t cash out your retirement accounts after your job ends to spend on fru fru because you think that $1,500 isn’t that much. You’ll probably want to roll it over to an IRA where you can keep building wealth.
Don’t agree to marry someone you’ve only dated for 3 months.
If you feel pressured in a relationship to do something you’re unsure of, run. If you think he’s a good deal now, he could still be a good deal later.
Don’t let the pressure of getting married only to be married get in the way of getting to know him and more importantly yourself.
Open up to your dad, talk business with him, ask him what he does.
Your dad won’t be with you as long as you hope and think he will be. With your time, let go of your teenage grudges and get to know him as a person independent of “dad.”
You don’t really know what he does as a work from home tech-type. Ask him. Spend time one-on-one with him.
You’ll find that he’s a better listener than you think. He wants to have a relationship with you. He’s proud of you.
Whatever heartache you’re going through, it matters.
You’re open-hearted and your heart is breakable. There’s power in that.
Don’t listen to people telling you that “you’ll get over it,” or “you’re better off anyway.” That’s not helpful and not empathetic.
Your feelings are valid and real. Seek counsel from a therapist to save yourself a few bad decisions.
You’ll meet the man of your dreams in college.
After some breakups, you’ll take a step back and realize that you want to build a friendship first, relationship second.
At one of the hardest times in your life you’ll go on a blind date and meet the smartest, sexiest, most hard working and funniest guy. He’s got broad shoulders, the kind to weather the toughest of storms.
He’s sensitive but won’t put up with nonsense. He’ll be a loving husband and the best daddy to your future daughter.
Suddenly, all the paths that seemed almost right, will pale in comparison to the path you’ll begin.
Ignore the advice to select a “good school” over a frugal one.
You’re not going to get a full ride scholarship. Sorry.
You’ll get a few great scholarships, but nothing that covers more than 1 year of tuition at a state school.
Don’t fall into the trap of the $40,000+ tuition and fees. You’ll drown yourself in student loan debt if you go that route.
Onlookers can judge, but they’re not paying for it. You will be.
You’ll get a great internship and work full time in the summers and part time during the semester. As an added bonus, it’ll help you apply what you’ll learn in school. With college, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Have the tough conversations.
Speak honestly from your heart. Conflict isn’t as scary as you think. You might not get the answer you want to hear, but living your truth will help you respect yourself.
It’s obnoxious to spend life energy avoiding other people because you can’t be honest with them. Have the tough conversations in person so you can avoid long, exhausting grudges. It’s not worth it.
Get a dog as soon as you move across country.
This move will challenge you and your future husband. You’ll face times of loneliness and struggle to find where the post office is.
Getting a dog will help get you outside, help combat mild depression, and give you an excuse to meet new people.
More than that, it will do a world of good for coping with change. The comfort a dog brings is a much greater value than you think it will be.
You’re not damaged goods.
If you go too far with a boyfriend, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or make mistakes, you are not damaged goods.
You are worthy, smart, well spoken and the only person who can be you.
If you want professional help navigating psychological trauma, get it ASAP! With your new tools, you’ll may be able to make better decisions and advocate for yourself.
Perfectionism is over-rated.
Perfectionism is impossible but neuroticism is. Are you really living if you try to avoid every imaginable life lesson? Live a little, girlfriend.
Perfectionism will make you bitter as will comparing yourself to others. Instead try asking yourself if you’ve given it your personal best.
Your “best” will vary based on what’s happening in your life. That’s ok.
The only person you have to sleep with at night is yourself. Be kind to others and yourself.
You are capable of doing hard things.
You are capable of so much more than you think. You’ll apply yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible and earn a degree that makes you proud.
You’ll indulge your adventurous side and move across the country to find new culture, cuisine and camaraderie.
The birth of your daughter will be one of the most cherished experiences of your life. All of those things are hard!
When you look ahead, you’ll start to remember all the hard things you’ve accomplished and know that you can work through the challenges ahead with grace, poise, spunk, and a little kick-assity.
Question for the day:
What life lessons do you know now that you’d want to tell your 17-year-old self?