As my 25th birthday quickly approaches I wanted to reflect on some of the most important lessons this incredible life has taught me over the past year. This has arguably been one of the most difficult years of my life but also by far the most rewarding.
Here are five things that I've learned at 24:
1. Being late is not fashionable.
My generation of millennials has grown up with the luxury of electronics, social media, and quick efficient communication pretty much since birth. I love that I have the ability to connect with friends around the world anywhere and anytime. Don't get me wrong, but this technology has made it much easier for us to take advantage of other people's time. With the click of a touchscreen button we are able to send a text saying "running late, be there soon" something I'm guilty of doing hundreds of times. Over the past year I've realized that people's time is precious and who are we to waste it for five more minutes in bed or a Starbucks coffee we don't need. I think the simple gift of punctuality not only shows a responsibility beyond our years but a respect for others that is much more than just showing up when we say we will.
2. You can either be a night-maker or a night-ruiner.
Excuse my poor grammar on this one but I wanted to let you in on this little truth just the way it came to me. While I was out in downtown Indianapolis over the holiday season I had, what seemed to me at the time, a relatively meaningless interaction with some people I had never met before. Someone made what they thought was a harmless comment about there being a "full moon" because a woman's backside was slightly exposed and it was not well received. Now I am the queen of sarcasm, laughing, poking fun, and the like, but this small comment-meant to do no harm, ended up escalating into some very angry comments and a potentially ruined evening. Because of this small interaction I realized what a huge potential the things we choose to say can have on others. In that moment I realized that this statement ruined someone's night out with their family during Christmas when instead it could've been avoided all together, or even possibly improved by making sure no one else poked fun at this woman's expense. This is probably one of the most impactful lessons I have learned over this past year and it has made me take an extra second to stop and think on more than one occasion about the words I let out of my mouth. Every day I have to consciously choose which type of person I am going to be.
3. Snail mail is not just for your grandma.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I've always loved receiving cards in the mail, but for the most part Hallmark has taken over when it comes to actually writing heartfelt messages. I'm used to the typical birthday cards that say something sweet in a pretty rhyming pattern and signed "love mom and dad," as I'm sure most people are. But there's something different about getting a letter in the mail that is written just for you. This past year I have been amazed by the simple and rejuvenating power a hand written card can have. I plan to make this year the year my friends and family look forward to opening their mailboxes as much as I have.
4. You can only see the tip of the iceberg.
At the age of 24, I was given the opportunity, or more fittingly put, forced to slow down due to some medical issues and a major surgery. I have always been one to try and live by the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" especially now that I work in the human service field. When I was forced to slow down and step back, I really began to have time to not just to take in what I saw, but to think before I let judgmental statements out of my mouth. In November, I had surgery on my abdomen leaving me with a six inch incision stretching from my belly button to my bikini line. As a 24 year old in decent shape looking at me from the outside, you probably wouldn't have been able to tell that I had just had surgery once I left the hospital. I wanted to attempt to go to the grocery store with my mom and pick out some food for the three weeks I would be stuck at home, but walking or standing for long periods of time was pretty difficult. I decided that the most reasonable option was to use one of those little electronic scooters to help me get around. I don't remember much about that shopping trip. I couldn't tell you what food I picked out or what Christmas decorations I looked at, but what I can remember are the glares I received and the nasty comments I heard from people under their breath. I've been that person, I've said those things, "She's fine, why is she riding that thing" or "That person is so lazy. It's not that hard to walk around". That day I realized that they were only seeing the tip of my titanic sized iceberg. They didn't know the pain I was in or the suffering I had been through. That was when I decided there is always more to the story than I know, and who am I to tell someone they aren't sick enough, weak enough, or sad enough to need help.
5. Life is short.
I know this is something that our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, and everyone under the sun tells us as young adults but this statement has never resonated with me quite like it did this year. I was diagnosed with about seven different life alter issues, all scary and all foreign to me. I went through countless tests, blood draws, invasive procedures, a laparoscopic surgery, and finally a major abdominal surgery before they finally truly discovered what was wrong. All the while in my mind, I was cycling through all of the things I hadn't gotten the chance to do, the things I'd put off, and the people I'd ignored. I am still here, alive and mostly well, but I am much more in tune to the fact that I am not invincible and tomorrow isn't a promise for me. All of the lessons I've learned at 24 trickle down to the fact that life is short, whether you live 25 years or 125, and the way you choose to spend it is entirely up to you.