At 15, I wanted to be 16. And when 17 hit, I couldn't wait to be an 18-year-old licensed driver. While I blew out the candles on my 20th birthday cake, in the back of my mind, I knew that in 12 more months, I'd finally be 21, legal and free: Then the real party would begin.
Always looking to the future and always wanting more.
"Don't rush it." My dad would say. "The years go by faster, the older you get."
And he was right.
A week ago, I messaged my friend Anne and told her I wasn't ready to be 28. There's something about seeing a two in front of the eight, instead of a one this time around, that sends a rush of mixed emotions and my mind runs wild. I feel both nervous and unbothered at various points of reflection throughout the day. Just like the last bits of chips at the bottom of the bag, I'm nervous because my 20s are slipping from my grasp: almost all gone. I often worry about what I've yet to achieve, and sometimes fall victim to the idea that "I'm running out of time" when I think about the long list of things I still want to accomplish. I live a very unconventional life as society would call it. I love being on the road exploring the world. I feel most comfortable when I'm uncomfortable. I'm not ready to own a house and I'm not quite sure I'd make a great wife just yet either, because there's more inner work that needs to be done.
But I can't ignore those biological changes that are out of my control: Those changes that just may punish me if I wait too long. Because according to studies, my fertility has already peaked at this point.
Then the calm takes over and all of those nerve-wracking thoughts subside. Although I'm no longer as confused as my naïve, 21-year old self, I can now confidently sift through what I'm certain I don't want, while being realistic about the things I'm just not ready for yet, despite my age. My unbothered state reminds me that I'm still young, and despite my 20s drawing to a close, it's no excuse to panic and settle for a mediocre life doing mediocre things. My 20s so far have been incredible. I've traveled to places I've only imagined. I've met amazing people from around the world. And I've figured out what makes me tick. So I say to myself, "Relax. You're doing fine. You're doing great actually. And you're right where you're supposed to be. Things will continue to fall into place as they should, even after your twenties."
Two years ago, I wrote a post about what I learned at 26. Two years later as I turn 28 today, the experiences and lessons I've learned in between make me feel proud of where I am now and beyond excited for where I'm headed. 27 was both hard and fun. I gained a lot and let a ton of stuff go. I got hurt and I hurt others. I began feeling fully authentic, living my life the way I see fit, instead of by society's guided orchestration of events. Because of that, I became so much wiser along the way.
From creating a life I love to working through the hard parts of relationships, I may not have it all figured out yet, but I'm confident when I say 'm definitely getting better with time. That being said, here are 28 things I've learned as I gracefully welcome year 28:
Life and Work
1. You are responsible for your own life. At any given moment, you have the power to create one that you can be proud of.
2. You don't have to speak to be seen or heard. Show more instead. This is the secret to building credibility. No one cares what you are "about" to do or "thinking" about doing.
3. Things always have a funny way of working themselves out, whether you spend time obsessing about them or not.
4. When you decide to go against mediocrity, there will be many moments of loneliness and doubt. It all just comes with the territory.
5. Finding a solid balance between all the things you need to do and all the things you want to do is tough, but necessary for your happiness.
6. There are no coincidences in life. Everything and everyone you encounter is a direct manifestation of how you think, speak and act.
7. If someone doesn't "get" you, they just don't. Don't waste too much time trying to explain yourself, your life or your goals to win someone's support.
8. Sometimes, instead of family and friends, your biggest supporters will be complete strangers. And that's okay. Everyone can't be your target audience.
9. Be kind to everyone you meet. You never know whom you're standing next to, and how they can impact your life; Or maybe you were meant to impact theirs in some way.
10. Do it because you love it: not because someone else or societal standards told you so.
11. Embrace your uniqueness instead of questioning why you're the way you are. There's enough people already blending in.
12. The harder you work, the "luckier" you get.
13. Being gentle with yourself is important. You may not be exactly where you want to be just yet, but instead of focusing on your shortcomings, showing yourself more grace in those difficult moments is an essential part of self-care. Do it often.
14. You can't change the actions of other people. What you can change is yourself.
15. Sometimes, it's just not about you. Instead of always looking to be blessed, spend some time being a blessing to others.
16. Just because someone is good to you, doesn't mean they are good for you.
17. Settling is still not in style and never will be.
18. No one can make you whole. No one is your other half. You came into the world as a complete being and you will leave that way.
19. Instead of making non-negotiable lists about an ideal mate, spend time making sure you are the ideal person you'd want to marry.
20. Timing is everything. If the timing isn't right, it's wrong.
21. Everything isn't meant to last forever. It's tough. It hurts. But it's life.
22. Letting go is both healthy and hard. But it's needed for your growth.
23. Look in the mirror first before blaming others for how they've hurt you. Make sure you aren't inflicting your own wounds.
24. Everyone doesn't know what's best for you. Stop buying what they're trying to sell.
25. Happiness starts from within. You can't depend on someone else to give you something only you can provide for yourself.
26. Relationships take work and there's more to a marriage than a beautiful wedding ceremony.
27. If you don't know how to be alone and enjoy your own company, you can never be ready for a relationship.
28. Being supportive of others is cool. But don't run yourself empty constantly trying to please everyone else. Make time for the things you need. Always keep enough fuel in your tank for you.
This post originally appeared on Jaimee's travel and inspirational blog, This Way North.