Yesterday was my 28th birthday.
For me, birthdays are often a time of self-reflection. I like to take stock of my life and work out where I’m heading next and what I need to change. This year more than ever, I’ve been delving into the past and reflecting on the journey that I’ve taken to get here.
I feel like I’ve done most of my growing within the last three years. I’ve been able to look back at times in my past, both good and bad, and genuinely see the lesson within them.
I now know that people come in and out of your life for a reason. Some taught me to believe in myself more, and stand up for what I think is right. Some taught me that the world isn’t always good, and that people don’t always have your best interests at heart. Some taught me that you should be kind to them anyway.
Moving to a new country took me completely out of my comfort zone. I left a long-term relationship, started a new job (which I hated!) and lived in a completely different environment than I had been used to. Although these things were hard at the time, they lead me to where I am today. I have an amazing partner, a job that I enjoy and a beautiful home. I needed to find out what I didn’t want in order to build a life that I love.
So, here are 28 lessons that I’ve learned in my 28 years on this planet. I still have a lot more growing to do, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve picked up so far. Here’s to many more years of self-discovery!
#1: Looks really, really don’t matter. The right people will love you no matter what you look like.
#2: Health is incredibly important. I had always taken my physical and mental health for granted, until I lost it for a while. Now I cherish it every single day.
#3: You don’t need to be happy all the time. Some days you just feel sad, and that’s okay!
#4: You don’t need to have a lot of friends. I can count my true friends on one hand. I used to think that was a bad thing, but now I know that the quality of your friendships matters much more than the quantity.
#5: Stay true to yourself. People may try to get you to believe or do things to make themselves feel better. Stick to your guns.
#6: Material possessions won’t make you happy. I was at my most miserable when I had the money to spend on whatever I wanted. Things like that just aren’t important!
#7: Live in the moment. Don’t say, ‘I’ll be happy when I buy a house’ or, ‘I’ll be happy when I get married.’ Be happy now! It’s all about the journey.
#8: You don’t need to harden up. The world needs more sensitive people. Soften the world, don’t let it harden you.
#9: Sometimes, you really do know best. If you feel strongly about something, you need to listen to yourself – even if everyone else is telling you that you’re wrong!
#10: If you want to do something, do it. Life is too short to worry about what other people will think.
#11: Don’t let other people control your emotions. You can’t control other people, but you can control how you react. Don’t let negativity or selfishness affect you.
#12: Do the right thing. Being kind and working towards positive change will give you so much satisfaction. Don’t fall into the trap of being selfish or bitter about things.
#13: Get things done! Sometimes you have to work damn hard to get what you want. Make lists, stay focused and do what it takes.
#14: Appreciate your life experiences. I used to feel resentful towards my parents for moving us to New Zealand. Now, I’m so thankful to have lived in more than one country. It’s an amazing experience that not everyone is lucky enough to have!
#15: You only have one life – don’t waste it. The older I get, the more I want to experience. Don’t miss out on amazing opportunities due to fear or laziness!
#16: You don’t need to follow a certain path. There’s more to life than getting a traditional 9-5 job, getting married, having kids and working until you retire. I’m going to do it differently.
#17: Success isn’t about money or status. Quit trying to impress people. Become your own kind of successful, even if no one else can see it.
#18: Loud people don’t always have a lot to say. Don’t let them intimidate you. It’s the quiet ones who often have the most interesting thoughts.
#19: You have no idea what other people are going through. That person who shoved you aside to get a seat on the train? They may be having troubles at home. Be compassionate, and do your best to see the good in people.
#20: Life is so much better without alcohol. You really, really don’t need it.
#21: You can’t change everyone. But you can set a good example. Who knows, you may even inspire some people!
#22: Everything happens for a reason. It sounds cheesy, but your life experiences have shaped you into the person you are today. Be thankful for them!
#23: Don’t judge people. I have so many flaws – who am I to judge others? Instead, try to understand why they do the things that they do. It will serve you much better in the long run.
#24: Be grateful. It’s impossible to feel unhappy when you think about everything you have to be thankful for. Clean sheets, food in the fridge, a roof over your head – these are all wonderful things!
#25: It’s the little things in life. Making someone smile, growing your own vegetables or going for a walk with your boyfriend – these things are what life is all about.
#26: Don’t rely on external validation. If you’re proud of something or you think you look good, believe it! You don’t need anyone else to tell you.
#27: Be your own best friend. People may come and go in your life, but you’ll always have yourself. I gained so much self-respect when I started to care for myself the way I would a friend.
#28: It’s okay to be different. All the best people are!
So far, being 28 seems pretty awesome. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me!