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35 for 35: Things I Have Learned in my 35 Years

Have I mentioned how much I love my thirties? I’m beginning to finally feel like a grown-up, embracing my silly side and learning that elusive concept called self-acceptance. I love lists, and what better reason to write out a list of things you’ve learned in life than a birthday, right?

I hope you enjoy them. Please join in with things you have learned through the years.

Attitudes-

1) Happiness really is a choice. It is less about what happens to you and around you and more about who you are.

“After a year, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.”   -Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness.

2) People will argue for their own limitations in life. Don’t limit yourself because you believe you can’t achieve your dreams.

3)”Choose discomfort over resentment.” I awkwardly told Brene Brown that she MUST be the keynote at BlissDom last year. That her keynote was destined to be. (What? It really was.)

She came and spoke and changed my way of thinking about saying no. I try to now choose a moment of discomfort and say no to things that I do not want to do/have the energy to do/do not believe in. Yes, it is uncomfortable to say no, but it is so much better than resenting that I said yes.

4) Sometimes it is best to keep your  mouth closed. It is always tempting to go all Julia Sugarbaker on people who are spouting nonsense. It could be the Mom at PTA who is bragging about how her son has developed a cure for cancer out of old lollipop sticks in his room, or a blog post I disagree with, or someone’s opinion on Twitter. I’ve learned that I should just stay out of it (see You can’t change people) and not involve myself. The risks are too high that I would look like a jerk (because it would be jerky, right?) or that I would look like a bully. It is best to avoid silly drama and waste emotional energy.

People-

5) Judge others by their actions and never by words, or worse, “good intentions’ alone. As Maya Angelou famously said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” This is especially true of politicians.

6) You can’t change anyone’s behavior, their brand of crazy, their perspective, or their opinions. People are complex, and have years of ingrained beliefs and a lifetime of experience that makes them who they are. I’m not going to change any of it. People only change when they decide to change. I don’t have a magic wand.

7) Haters are always gonna be hatin’. Don’t be surprised if people do not like you. Maybe you really are a horrible person and they have good reason. No, I’m kidding. Horrible people don’t read my blog, sheesh! No matter how nice you are, if you breathe and think, you will make people mad. Maybe you say your ‘S’ sound like someone’s high school teacher who made them feel bad so now they hate you. They don’t know why, they just don’t like you.

If you are online at all, and express your opinions, even if you do not attack opposing positions or beliefs, people will jump in to tell you how wrong you are, tell you you are ugly and your mom dresses you funny. Nerves get touched accidentally and haters start hating. It’s OK. Better that you know who you are and what you believe, and have the ability to share freely, no matter the flack that comes in, than to be too scared to ever express them. Haters gonna hate and that’s fine. Keep on rollin’.

8) Homogeny kills creativity and growth. Without the Internet, especially Twitter, I would have never had the good luck to meet so many  people with different backgrounds, beliefs and stories.  Most of my friends have very different views and beliefs about issues I hold dear. Hours have been spent discussing the different beliefs without ever attacking others. How could I be so sure of what I believe if I was never exposed to anything else and had opportunities to question my beliefs? Mutual respect and understanding is born of sharing diverse opinions and perspectives.

9) Never look at people who have struggles in their lives with the lens that it is all due to some kind of moral failure. Take the time to get to know someone, understand their struggles and what led up to them, instead of making broad assumptions. We are all fallible and doing the best we can with what we have at the time.

10) Give people the opportunity to succeed and do wonderful things, and sometimes  you will be reminded of the greatness of the human spirit.

Life-

11) Learn to have fun again. Hey, you don’t have to tell me that being a grownup sucks all the fun out of life if you let it. I learned to start having fun again in my thirties after I said goodbye to the self-consciousness of my twenties. Letting ourselves be silly and have fun is a perfect way to balance all the stress and responsibilities of modern life. Look for friends who love finding the fun in every day life, and start looking at your life. Look for opportunities to have fun. You probably know I have fully embraced it. I am a fan of jumping on beds and senseless acts of silliness.

12) The world doesn’t owe you a single thing. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Never be that person with an inflated sense of entitlement. I’ve learned time and time again that pride really does go before a fall. Now pull up your big boy pants and stop expecting reality to be different than it is. Feel better? Good.

13) Life is better when you are open to new experiences. Adopt a dog, take those lessons you always wanted to take, or just give a stranger a highfive on an escalator. Be open to new things and keep life interesting.

Relationships-

14) The most important decisions you will make determining your happiness and success are: your spouse, your close friends, and your mentors. Choose them well. Friends who celebrate your successes, support you when you make dumb mistakes, and love you enough to tell you the truth even when it is uncomfortable are a treasure. Never take them for granted. Tell them often how much they mean to you. Everyone loves hearing that!

15) Most husbands are really, really happy in marriage, are respectful, loving, and will treat their wives like queens if  they feel respected and have sex regularly. It really is that simple. There will be times your marriage is rocky, don’t be surprised when the honeymoon phase is over and the stress of daily life takes a toll. It doesn’t mean your marriage is bad, it means you are both humans.

16) Modern husbands don’t really do 50% of the housework. Before people start freaking out in the comment section- I know some of you may have husbands who do 50% or even 100% of household work. That’s awesome, but your amazing spouses are the exception to the rule. I blame women’s magazines in my teen years for giving me the impression that my future husband would happily share household duties. I slowly revealed my shock that he would not help around the house to my friends and they all admitted it was the same scenario at their own homes. We were all silently disappointed. After years of arguing with my husband I decided to take matters in my own hands. I realized that a housekeeper was cheaper than a divorce.  I hired a housekeeper and I taught my sons how to do the dishes and the laundry. Their wives will thank me one day.

17) You should treat your spouse the way you want your kids’ future spouses to treat them. The marital relationship you model will stay with your children for a lifetime. Remember that next time you need to vent and your spouse is a handy target.

18) Birds of a feather really do tend to flock together. Sure the Internet has helped unlikely friendships form daily. That’s not true of  average (non-computer-obsessed) people. People flock to those who they feel comfortable with and can relate to. (Choose your friends well.)

Parenting-

19) Everyone thinks their children are above average. Actually, most people think their children are exceptional geniuses full of charm and blessed with good looks. It is just the nature of parenting. As my grandaddy said when I was bragging on how handsome my first baby was, “Every crow thinks theirs is the blackest.” I laughed and knew his country humor was spot on.

20) Parenting is hard. Parenting is harder than you can ever imagine. All the exhaustion, the constant going, the neediness, and the noise wears on you. The worry that you aren’t doing a good enough job gnaws at you. Remember to take care of yourself while you parent. You can’t give from an empty cup. Seek things that fill you up and help relieve stress.

21) Parenting, despite how soul-suckingly hard it is at times, is the most rewarding experience of our lives. Parenting helps us grow as individuals, think more critically about our lives and generally be better people.

22) Helicopter parents raise children who don’t have enough self determination or will to stand up for themselves. If Jimmy’s mom is constantly complaining that her son is ignored on the playground, gets cheated out of a cupcake at lunch and didn’t get to be quarterback at football, how will he ever learn to assert himself through the years? Starting in elementary school, children should be gently encouraged to take a stand and choose discomfort over letting Mommy fight their battles.

23) Your kids will respect that you will be the bad guy and keep them in check. No child, or adult for that matter, is happiest when given free reign. Too many choices and freedoms lead to mistakes. Give kids what freedom and space they have earned according to their level of maturity and by their behavior. When they mess up, reign them back in a little. You can do it and your kids will appreciate not being able to bulldoze you.

Politics-

24) Republicans and Democrats are more similar than not. Both parties are full of people who want the best thing for the country. Sadly, because of systemic demonization from both sides for political gain, the party members think of outsiders as ‘bad’, ‘evil’ or ‘unpatriotic’. When the country is facing impending economic collapse the social wedge issues that divide us aren’t as important.

25) Politicians stay in power by spending huge sums of tax dollars for pet projects to keep voters happy. Short term perks over long term investment are unsustainable. Ignore most of what Politicians say and watch what they do. Be sure to go back and compare election promises and flowery language with what that politician actually does. The difference is striking. Don’t be afraid to think critically and question what elected officials do while representing you in Washington.

Religion-

26) The best way to share your faith is by living it out. No one ever decided to change religions because some Judgy-McJudgerson told them they were going to hell.

27) There is nothing holy about senseless violence, misogyny or racism.

Money-

28) If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Delayed interest payments, easy lines of credit, ever increasing real estate prices, Social Security lockboxes… You see where I’m going. Also, student loans are a millstone around your neck. Avoid them.

29) Keeping up with the Joneses will have you following the Joneses all the way to bankruptcy court. You are not your bank account, your car or your house.

30) Give 10% of your earnings to your Church (or your house of worship of choice) and help fund charities. That is the best money advice in the world. The more you try to hold on to money, the faster it disappears. Use it and never worship it.

For the Ladies-

31) No matter how cute the shoes are – if they hurt, they are not worth it. You probably won’t break them in, instead you will walk awkwardly and finally take them off.  When in doubt, keep looking for shoes until you find the ones that are both cute and comfortable.

32) Fashionable clothes will make all the pictures from that phase painful to see. Yes, I know aqua leopard print jeans with feathers is what everyone in the know is wearing, but do you really want to see pictures of yourself in those jeans on Facebook for years? Go for classic looks with one trendy piece to help limit future embarrassment. (Bonus tip – Take a picture or video on your iphone of how you look when you are relaxed when trying on new outfits. I learned the hard way that my muffin top hides when I suck in and look in long mirrors, but comes out to play when I’m walking around during the day.)

33) You are going to get a stray long chin hair, a super fast growing alien hair in one eyebrow and you’ll probably need to get your mustache waxed as you age. Don’t fight it, just make that appointment at the salon before your teenager calls it to your attention.

Random Goodies-

34) Always ask to talk to a manager if a flunky tells you no. I was a flunky once, I know the game. :) Also, be firm, but very nice to everyone regardless of job title. It just helps you be a nicer human and it also helps get great service. No one wants to help a jerk.

35) People do not value what they get for free. Hey, I’m not the one who made this true, I’m just the messenger. People value what they have worked for and not what is given to them.

As soon as I think I know it all life has a way of showing me I have a long way to go.

Which of the 35 was your favorite?

What would you add to the list?

Play along!

Photo credits from the top: Maile Wilson, Pinterest, Casey Mullins, Jana Warnke, My 12 yo, Molly Teichman, Moi & Moi

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