Last week I turned 35. (Did I just admit that publicly?) As I drift into a new age bracket and scan my face for superficial changes, I am reflecting on what I've learned and who I've become over the past decade.
I am often mistaken for my mid-twenties (thank you plant based diet!) and I feel better than ever. A friend recently asked me if I would go back to being 25 if I could.
"Only if I could know then what I know now," I said.
In a letter to my younger self, I'd share these bits of wisdom that I've accrued over the past 10 years.
1. Be the best YOU you can be!
Stop comparing yourself to others as you can only ever be you. Be inspired by others but celebrate your uniqueness. Embrace your quirks. Why fit in when you can stand out?!
2. Let go of past hurts.
When you dwell on the past you are not truly living in the present. We have all been hurt by someone in our lives but holding on to anger, resentment and pain can damage interpersonal relationships and lead to stress and depression. Practicing forgiveness of people that have hurt me in the past has truly set me free.
3. Break free from expectations, they only lead to disappointment.
This was perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned. I have strong principles and values and had previously expected others to abide by my standards and would be let down if they didn't. I now know that other people's beliefs and priorities may not be the same as mine and that I have no control over how they will think or act.
4. You can't please everyone and if you do you aren't living authentically.
When I was younger I wanted everyone to like me and would often put others needs before my own. Learning to say 'no' was one of the most empowering things I have learned.
5. Live each day like it's your last.
It sounds trite but this lesson really hit home for me when I lost my younger brother a few years ago. Rather than adopting a 'woe is me attitude' and wallowing in depression, I decided to uproot my life, sell my apartment, abandon my private practice, leave my family and friends behind to live my dream of taking a year-long trip around the world, solo! Let go of the reins, relinquish control and see where life takes you. Live the life you want to live NOW.
6. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Hippocrates knew what he was talking about! Growing up on a diet of processed, chemicalized foods led to food intolerances and chronic allergies. After transitioning to a plant based diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, my allergies are now under control and I rarely need to take Prednisone anymore.
7. Never settle for less than you deserve.
Don't waste time on people who don't make you feel good.
8. There's no growth in the comfort zone, no comfort in the growth zone.
I will never forget the day my art professor in college uttered this phrase. It became my mantra. Do things that scare you. The only way to grow is to challenge yourself. Step out onto the ledge and jump! (figuratively speaking of course)
9. Trust your gut; it's rarely ever wrong.
We are instinctive, intuitive beings. We have to tap into this side of ourselves and believe that the body sometimes knows what the mind won't acknowledge. If you get a strong visceral reaction to something it is likely with good reason.
10. Accumulate less things and more experiences.
In my twenties, I worked really hard and accumulated a lot of possessions; shoes, clothes, furniture etc. I fell into the trap of thinking that material things equated to happiness. I have since learned acquiring things breeds a constant desire for more and to what end? Lately I have been donating, selling and just getting rid of 'things'. Having a lot of stuff adds to mental clutter and ties you down. No one lies on their deathbed ruminating over material possessions, rather they reflect on cherished moments with loved ones, a family trip, a cooking class with a spouse or watching their child's first steps.
Now it's time to find your own truths. All life experiences are valuable; seek wisdom in them, for it is not just the peaks in life, but the valleys that hold the key to our personal growth and development. I am still growing and learning myself, and I am excited to see what I have to share a decade from now in What I Wish I Knew In My 30's. Stay tuned.
By Jackie Knechtel
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