I was always one of those kids who couldn't wait to grow up. Not so I could drink or drive a car, but so I could be an adult. To me, 25 was going to be the perfect age. I pictured myself as having a short, mom hair-cut with kids, a husband and a house, and I would definitely have the whole life thing figured out. Clearly, to younger me, 25 seemed much further off than it really was. While I'm not where I thought I would be at 25, I'm in a pretty great place and wanted to share some insights that guide me through life every day. There will be no recipe at the end of this post, so now is your chance to escape if reflection and life lessons aren't really your thing...
Those of you who know me know that I'm not really a touchy-feely person. I usually have to make a concerted effort to open up in any capacity, but lately I've been thinking about how far I've come in the past couple of years and wanted to put it out there. I've made a complete overhaul of my life, from taking on destructive thought patterns, to putting myself out there in ways that make me uncomfortable on purpose (hence this post).
I always lived by a few credos. Don't get too close, you'll just get hurt. Don't make too much noise, no one wants to listen to you. When you're upset, stuff it down because no one cares, so don't put your burden on them. The world was completely black and white and I felt comfortable in my little box, until the bottom rotted out.
Since then I've met some wonderful people and leaned in to the ones who were already there for me. The result: Molly 2.0. I'm a happier, more thoughtful, and all-around lighter human being. I'm with a wonderful guy who makes me very happy, but for the first time, I know that if for some reason it doesn't work out, I'll be okay, because I have built a strong but soft foundation for myself that will catch me when I fall.
Here are the things I've learned over the last 25 years that have helped to shape me as a person today (in no particular order):
1. The best friends you'll ever make are the ones who have seen you at your most vulnerable and love you because of that, not in spite of it. Let your walls down and you'll see who your true friends are.
2. Trying to make people like you doesn't work, no matter how hard you try. I tried very hard in high school and college to make myself someone that no one could hate, and in the process I lost my whole identity, muting everything about me that makes me who I am.
3. There is something to be learned from every bad experience and heartbreak. It's cliche but "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
4. Listen to your gut once in a while, not just your head. Not everything requires a logical decision.
5. You alone are in charge of your own happiness. You can't rely on anyone else to make you happy. You need to be able to do that for yourself.
6. When life gets hard, you can always begin again.
This is my tattoo. I learned this concept from a brilliant woman named Coby Kozlowski who teaches a wonderful program called "Quarter Life Calling," a program for people in their 20's, and "begin again" was one of the most revolutionary concept to me. You mean I can just start over without keeping score of how many times before now I messed up? It was amazing.
7. Take the following words out of your vocabulary: should, shouldn't, good, bad, right, and wrong. These words work in a black and white world and they're judgmental, so I always try to notice when I use them.
8. Traffic is not worth frustration and anger. This one was inspired by a Louis C.K. segment I watched recently.
9. The things in your life that scare you the most can be the most rewarding. Step out of your comfort zone! I never could have imagined I could just pick up and move across the state, but it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
10. High school ends and doesn't really matter in the long run. This applied to college for me a bit too. While you're in it, it's easy to get wrapped up in it, but it will come to an end and all those things that seemed like they were earth-shattering won't matter as much.
11. You attract more flies with honey. This was a phrase my mom would say to me growing up and it drove me nuts, but whenever I'm e-mailing someone for work, or talking to a waitress, bartender, or grocery store clerk, I try to be as nice to them as possible, because it takes two seconds to say something nice and might be the difference between them having a good day and a bad day.
12. Take the time to tell/show people how much they mean to you. This is always uncomfortable for me, but you can't just assume people know how much they mean to you. Plus it makes them feel great, even if it's just for a little while. I've also learned that making baked goods for people is a great way to do it!
13. Friendships don't always last forever, and that's okay. I used to take it really hard when people who were once my best friends would fade away, but I've learned it's just a part of life, and often, it has absolutely nothing to do with me, or something I did. Sometimes people just change, and that's not always a bad thing.
14. You have to allow yourself to really feel the pain in order to get past it. Let yourself have a good cry, or 20 if you need it. You will never get over someone or something by being hard on yourself and saying "you should be over this by now!" Matters of the heart know no logic.
15. Keep an open mind. Try something new and totally outside your comfort zone. You could be pleasantly surprised.
16. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Any time I experience rudeness or shortness from someone, I try to remember this, and no take it personally.
17. Life isn't a straight path, moving in one direction. This was another gem I learned from Coby Kowzlowski. There is no right or wrong way. It really looks more like this:
18. Be thankful. I kept a gratitude journal for a while when I was in a dark place because it was so difficult for me to see all the good things in my life.
19. Relationships of all types take work. It's when you don't want to put in the work anymore that it's time to re-evaluate.
20. Sometimes it's just not about you. This relates to the "hard battle" quote. Don't take it personally every time someone snaps at you. It probably has nothing to do with you.
21. It's much easier to stop judging other people when you stop judging yourself first. I didn't like the way I felt when I judged other people, and then I realized that the things I was picking out in other people, were the same things that I didn't like about myself.
22. Relationships are different for every couple. There isn't just one right and wrong way and order to do things in a relationship. I was reminded of this while watching Orange is the New Black (Episode: Fool Me Once). There is a great scene between an engaged man, Larry, whose relationship seems to be falling apart, and Larry's fiance's brother, Cal, who is a non-traditional guy. I wish I could find the clip but here's the conversation:
Cal: With Neri we put everything out there, man. It’s safe. We scream and throw shit and it’s like electric. You know what I’m saying? It’s erotic, no joke...
Larry: Alright, I've just got to say it, man, you guys have known each other, what, nine weeks tops? Isn't the whole thing a little fast?
Cal: Maybe it doesn't look like what everyone else thinks it should look like but who cares? We are crazy but we are in this.
23. Find what makes you happy and do it. It doesn't have to be a big career change. Maybe you just want to do it as a hobby, but it's important to set priorities around things that make you happy sometimes.
24. Everyone has baggage. It's what you do with that baggage that shows who you really are.
25. Be Yourself. This is the simplest, but often the most difficult. Most people don't know exactly who they are, but you'll feel it in your gut when you're not being authentic.