20 Things I've Learned in My Early 20's.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'm not supposed to be here.

November of 1988 my beautiful, pregnant mother was sitting in a doctor's office in Southern Indiana, getting told the unfortunate news that her hypothyroidism had grown into thyroid cancer;
she needed to have her thyroid removed right away.

Holding her big belly she looked at the doctor suspiciously and said:
'Can I really undergo major surgery while 8 months pregnant?'
"Yes you will be fine! Your baby will go to sleep with you.'

A couple of weeks later my mom is wobbling her way into the hospital, into a stiff white gown, then being rolled into the Operating Room.
She gets hooked up to her IV and heart monitor.
She patiently waits for the anesthesiologist.
After almost an hour, the anesthesiologist walks in to put us to sleep when he see's her giant belly sticking out of her gown.

He looks at her with a shocked face and says, 'Um, you're pregnant!'
Yes... my doctor said this procedure would be fine?
'Uh...give me a moment...'
And he runs out of the room.

Hours go by and he never returns. My mom finally calls a nurse and is informed that every anesthesiologist in the hospital refuses to administer anesthesia to a woman 8 months pregnant...so her surgery is cancelled.
She rips out her IV, puts her clothes back on, and heads home.

1 month later:


So here I am.
No longer 25 and feelin' alive, but 26 and ready to learn new tricks.
I spent my birthday in Charleston, SC and enjoyed every minute.

Although the day was warm and filled with fun, I caught myself in deep thought on occasion...
Realizing that I am no longer in my early twenties, and on the fast track to dirty 30.
I'm at this weird age where I'm unsure of just about everything in life.
Am I in my mid twenties? Or my late twenties.
I want to travel the world and spend my days exploring, but the home life sounds pretty nice, too.

It's bittersweet. On one hand I enjoy getting older, wiser, and caring even less what people think of me. It's fantastic. On the other hand, I'm getting a slap-to-the-face reminder that time flies.
I'm going to wake up tomorrow and be 40.

My 20th birthday was spent in LA with a beautiful friend, shopping at The Grove and eating dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
My 21st birthday was spent running around Universal Studios in Orlando, getting drunk and going on roller coasters.
When I turned 22 I graduated college & got engaged to a boy I met in elementary school.
23 was spent traveling, planning a wedding, working my first 'real job' out of college, and enjoying the cheap cost of living at home.
By 24 I was a married woman and moved a thousand miles from home.

25 brought one of the best years of my life.
Chock-full of non stop adventures & the most valuable life lessons.

It's emotional reflecting back on that half decade. So many ups and downs. I can't believe all of the things that happened in only 5 years! All of the places I went. People I met.
Kind of exciting/scary to think of all of the things that can & will happen from now until I turn 30...

So far in my twenties, I've experienced some of the most amazing things I never knew existed. But I've also experienced some of the worst pain that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.

It's been one hell of a ride. Which is why I just have to share:

1. Stop planning. Want to know something funny? The Summer I was 21, I remember sitting pond-side  with my mom one afternoon fishing. We were talking about life when I told her that I wanted to have my first baby by the time I was 25 years old. It seemed so far away and so much older. Now here I am at 26 and 21 feels like it was last week. Silly story aside, don't go through your 20's with a timeline. The best things in life are unexpected.

2. Don't let the world turn you cold. You will experience awful people. Mean people. People who you thought loved you, will prove that they never did. People you thought were your friends, will blow away in the wind. You will be exposed to horrific stories in the news. Always remind yourself that there are good people in this world. You can be one of them.

3.M O D E R A T I O N. Oh lord does this apply to everything in life. Food, social media, TV, everything. I maintain my healthy weight by never dieting. I eat what I want but in very small portions. I love mornings because I have a promise with myself that I will never begin my day scrolling through social media or the news.  I maintain a positive, balanced attitude because I very rarely watch TV and all the brain poison that comes with it.

4. Need > Want. One of the best things I learned in business school. Want to control your spending? Every time you want to purchase something, ask yourself: Do I need this? Or do I just want it? I do the same with food. And other important life decisions. ;)

5. Comparison is the Thief of Joy. One of the best quotes of all time for our generation of 20 somethings. How easy it is to know absolutely everything about everyone nowadays... Whenever you start to feel like you are behind in life because of what you see your peers post on social media, STOP. Remember two things: 1. People fluff up their life for social media. Don't buy it. 2. Everyone is on their own path, for their own reason.. Including you.

6. Patience is a virtue. I think a lot of us in our 20's are striving for that 'perfect life' Go to college. Get Married. Buy house. Have baby. All before we turn 30. That's an OK dream to have, but what's the rush? Don't breeze through college and sprint across the stage for your diploma. Don't run down the aisle at your wedding. Don't get pregnant on your honeymoon. We go through a LOT of major life transitions in our 20's. More so than probably any other decade. So take a deep breath in between 'steps' and enjoy the beautiful chaos. Appreciate your youth and your freedom. One day you will close your eyes and dream of going back to this time...

7. Treat your body good. It's now or never friends. What we do to our bodies during this decade will greatly affect our health for years to come. Have fun with that fast metabolism in college but afterwords, do some serious damage control. Educate yourself on healthy eating and behavioral habits. You won't regret it.

8. Go to Therapy.
I did! Totally not too proud to admit it, either. I went for several months and I wish I could go forever. It's one of the best things I've ever done for myself. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Remember that.

9. Let it go. The past. It's gone...forever. The good moments, the bad moments....they don't exist anymore. Don't bring up bad times. It will poison your present and dictate your future. Pocket your life lessons from the past and move forward with a clean slate. I know, easier said than done. But it's something you will have to work at daily. Practice it enough and you will reap the rewards...

10. People are fucking mean. If there's one thing I'm taking away from my early twenties, it's that mean people will always be around. They can be in the form of strangers, internet trolls, or even people close to you. Just know this: You can solve world hunger and there will still be someone with something mean to say about it. But it's also important to understand why people are mean. It works like a factory line. Someone was mean to them. They bottled it up and spit it out onto someone else, like you. Human nature wants us to toss around this 'mean ball' generation to generation. But I don't follow the crowd. So when someone is mean to me and comes close to ruining my day, I make an effort to be extra nice to everyone else I run into that day. Kill them with kindness. Break the cycle.

11. People Evolve.
One of my biggest pet peeves is someone looking at me like the Stephanie that was 16 years old, living in Goffstown, driving a black dodge neon and working in the kitchen of a hospital. I am 10 years, an entire decade, removed from that period in life. I'm a completely different person. Hell, I'm a completely different person than I was when I got married just 2 years ago! Your 20's are for evolving, growing, and changing. Without change, you aren't growing as a person. And if you aren't growing, what are you doing?

12.What you are doing now, does not define your life. So you feel like you'll be in college until the end of time because you keep changing your major. Or maybe you're working a job out of  college that you have no passion for. Just workin' to pay those student loans. Story time: when my mom was my age, she was working in a plastics factory with no college education. Flash forward 20 years and she has a Masters of Nursing Informatics degree, has traveled the world for work, and runs to NYC just to attend meetings. Do you think 26 year old Lisa would have ever imagined, in her wildest dreams, that she would be going to Italy one day for work? Hell no. I remind myself of my mom's journey often. What I'm doing now is 100% not what I will be doing in 20 years, 10 years, heck maybe even next year I'll be in a different place. Life is great like that. Keep your chin up.

13. Meditate. Find Solitude, often. When I was in therapy, I was told to take myself out to eat or take myself to the movies. Learn to love to be alone. I go hiking in the woods alone nearly every day. It's a great time to clear your mind and just be. It's essential to your health.

14. Mistakes are your friend. Your 20's were made to make mistakes. You can't learn and grow without them! Just don't let them consume you. Don't beat yourself up over mistakes you make in this decade. If you learn from them, then they have served their purpose and you can let go & move on. Same goes for your loved ones. They will also make mistakes, some might really hurt you. Understand that we are all only human, trying to do the best we can in this human life. Then refer to #9 :-)

15. Connect with your childhood. I read somewhere that in order to find true happiness, we must look back into the things we loved to do as a child. And you know what's neat? Ask anyone; 'Hey, what were your favorite things to do as a kid?' 99% of the time people will mention something outdoors. Sledding. Building forts. Riding my bike. Running around barefoot. Do all those things again...

16. Just be nice.  Something that drives me nuts is how most people treat others like a number.  When you go out to eat and don't look your server in the eye or make small talk. When you work in a corporate building but don't ask the janitors how their day is going. These people go home to families & life struggles too, ya know. You would be so surprised at how much your world can change if you just look at everyone as fellow humans trying to survive on this planet. One time at Chipotle, I made a remark to the kids working the line ''Wow, you guys are so fast! I admire your work ethic, I would be under so much stress working a line this long.' When we went to pay, they gave us one of our burritos for free. At my hair salon last month, my stylist ran over an hour late because of a previous client needing extra work done. The salon owner kept apologizing to me waiting in the lobby but I smiled every time and said don't worry! I've got a cup of tea in my hand and I'm cracking up looking at ugly Christmas sweaters on Pinterest - all is well. They appreciated my kindness & understanding so much, I got $100 worth of free professional hair products. Kindness is everything.

17. Be a lifelong learner.
Education is everything. It is key to a happy, healthy life. It doesn't end after high school or college, ohhh no. It actually just begins. Step away from social media and hollywood entertainment. Go read, go to a museum, go explore...

18. Everything happens for a reason. Good things. Bad things. Everything. There is a reason behind it all. Sometimes it may take years to understand why, but I promise you one thing, you will always figure out why. I'll share a personal example with you. When my brother was diagnosed with epilepsy, all I could think of is WHY? Why us? Why my brother. Why me. Why my mom. 4 years later I now understand why. We all - including my brother - have this deep, deep appreciation for life and health. We have witnessed first hand how it can instantly change or be taken away. Understand that everything and everyone who enters your life, is there for a reason. Refer to #6 when you find yourself asking WHY ME.

19. Nobody knows what they're doing. Don't know what you want to be when you grow up? don't know how you'll ever pay your student loans off? don't know if you'll ever find your soul mate? There's plenty of 50-something year olds I know asking themselves those saaame questions. You're in good company. No one knows 'how to live life' - we're all just stumbling our way through it, trying to make the most of it while we're here. Don't take life so seriously. Relax.

20. Don't ever get too old to celebrate your life. Last but not least, get out there and CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY! If you want to stumble around in heels and a sash that says 'BIRTHDAY PRINCESS' you do it! You want to really go all out, refer to #15 and throw a dinosaur themed pizza party at a jungle gym with your 20-something year old friends (omg just planned my 27th..)  But never get too 'old and mature' to have a damn good time on your birthday. Ever.  If you are fortunate enough to live another year of life - Celebrate.


"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

If you're anything like me, you'll forget about this blog post by this weekend. I just hope that it inflicted some sense of hope and reassurance that IT'S OK. And I hope those feelings never leave you.
Because it's true.

30... lookout.
I'm comin' for ya.

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