24 years on this earth is no where near enough time to have this whole life thing figured out. I’m hardly scraping the surface of this journey we call life, but I have learned a lot along the way. Everyone has their own story and experiences that are unique to their life, myself included. We live, we learn, and we have a lot more in common than we think, most of the time. I could sit here and talk about how I have been through incredibly trying times (which I have) and times I could have never dreamed of, in amazing and also heartbreaking ways (again, been there)… but so have every single one of you. So I’m not going to do that. I’d rather share what came from those moments, what I took away. By no means do I claim to know it all, whatsoever. In fact, I KNOW I have so much more to learn… and one day I’ll probably look back at this post and laugh. For the time being, I am just going to let future Megan figure that out. In this moment, my birthday, I’m 24 (which, might I add, is a pretty irrelevant birthday. Really y’all, nothing crazy about a 20-something). Anyways, I look back to 16 year old Megan who thought she had it all figured out. OH MAN, how I wish I lived in that blissful state ignorance again some days. No, what I really wish, is that I knew then what I do now. The list could probably be hundreds of lessons long, but for your sanity (and mine) here are a few things I wish I could tell teenage me. Who knows, maybe you need to hear some of this too.
1. Life keeps going.
Believe it or not, life doesn’t stop, even if you do. Giving up, moping around, waiting for someone else to give you the go-ahead, won’t attract the attention you think it will & sure won’t help you in the long run. Sure, people are (and should be) empathetic, and sometimes you need help to get going, but it is 100% your responsibility to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, no matter how fast or slow that is, just don’t let life leave you behind.
2. Leave insecurity behind.
Here’s a real talk moment, people are not going to be concerned with what you’re doing because most of the time, they are way more worried about themselves. Truly, if you think for a second someone is going to pick out that small wrinkle on your shirt, or the fake tan splotch on your elbow, or the fact that you’re a little bloated one day at the pool, you’re sadly mistaken. Not that details don’t matter, because they do in some instances. But I promise, you are your own worst critic and guess what, so is EVERYONE else. Confidence is sexy, own your everything, even the parts you don’t like.
3. Take the risk.
If there is anything I have learned, it’s that the “safety net” you think you have now, can (and at some point probably will) disappear. It’s a lot harder to learn how to swim when you’re pushed into an ocean with no life preserver. Create your own by taking risks. Learn how to make things work when everything seems to be against you. Jump at the things that set your soul on fire, even if those things scare you. I firmly believe it’s in all of us to not let ourselves fail. Risk has such a negative connotation to a lot of people, but try thinking about it like an opportunity. Whether it’s trying something new off the menu, moving to a new city, starting your own business, signing up for a new workout class, you WILL learn something about yourself, you WILL grow from it, and you WILL thank yourself you did instead of asking “what-if” later.
4. Ask questions.
Learning never stops & NEWS FLASH, NO ONE can possibly know EVERYTHING. Your mom said it best, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. I’ve learned to ditch the “sheeple” attitude when someone brings up something everyone else seems to know. It’s not embarrassing to admit you don’t know what you don’t know. In fact, when you speak up and ask someone to explain it to you, they will probably be incredibly flattered! Have a question? Just ask… and now I am starting to sound like a bad advertisement, so I’ll move on, you get the point.
5. Hurt people, hurt people.
Yes, here we go with the cliché. But seriously, I think the majority of us forget this when we are in the middle of feeling pain, heartbreak, resentment, jealousy, etc. Just as much as we don’t want to admit it, we routinely act on impulse when we feel emotions, ESPECIALLY hurt. You’ve experienced being hurt. Maybe it was a breakup that was strung out way longer than it needed to be, with hurtful messages or spiteful actions… or maybe it was a co-worker who just made your life a living hell for seemingly no reason. Those people were hurting in some way, and it sucks you had to be their outlet to release that hurt, but stop holding onto it. When you start holding onto hurt, you’re going to perpetuate the cycle by letting it out on someone else. Learn to forgive, even if they don’t deserve it.
6. Let yourself love.
Love often & love hard y’all. Here’s the thing, we shy away from love because it makes us vulnerable… vulnerable to what, you ask? SEE ABOVE. But let me ask you this, if the person you love — a sibling, parent, spouse, crush, friend, boss, you name it — were to leave this earth tomorrow, would you regret never telling them how much they mean to you? Love is a strong word, I get it, but love is one of the most powerful feelings we have & it’s not supposed to be just ours to keep. When we allow ourselves feel it, and even more importantly, outwardly show it, we are sharing something that softens our hearts and those around us. So call up whoever it is, send a text, slide into the DMs, do what you need to do, make sure you are loving on other people, because someone out there needs it. Who knows, maybe you’ll lift that someone out of their depression (even if it’s for a second), maybe that someone is your soul mate, maybe you just haven’t told your sister you love her in years. Taking this a step further…
7. You have to love yourself first.
The best way to practice up for #6 is to start with YOU. It takes a really strong person to love themselves because we know our flaws better than any one else on this earth. It’s one of the harder things I’ve had to learn to do… and I’m still learning to be completely honest. Kudos to the people who have this one down, because it is not easy. Especially since no outside influence can do it for you, it has to come from within. Once you have it down, though, it makes it a whole lot easier to share love with someone else
8. Remember your past, but don’t dwell on it.
Another cliché coming right up… “Only look back to see how far you’ve come”. Yeah, it’s a good one right? You’ve probably seen this one plastered all over an inspiring picture on Pinterest. On too many occasions, I have found myself going over things that have happened years ago that I still feel guilty for or wish I could go back and re-live. The problem with that is it takes me out of the “NOW”. It’s important to check in from time to time to reflect and be proud of where we were — we are all products of our past after all — but don’t linger. The only moment we have is the present, if we keep dwelling on the past we will miss what’s right in front of us.
9. The scale is a piece of garbage.
Yeah, that thing you have in your bathroom… here is your warm invitation to go chuck that thing out the window. Seriously, when did we let numbers start to dictate how proud we are of ourselves, how happy we are, how beautiful we are?! I bet you if you walked around town right now NO ONE is going to sit there guessing how much you weigh, why? Because that’s the LEAST important thing about you! I’ve had to learn this the hard way, but truly, no one is going to remember you for the number that shows up on a scale when you step on it. Sure, health is important (I’m getting there) but there are so many other ways to “measure” our body & guess what? The scale isn’t the boss anymore.
10. Take your health seriously.
Now that we have gotten rid of the numbers game, it’s a good time to mention this; You have only ONE body in this life, take care of it. Health is a whole lot more important that vanity and you have to be honest with yourself if you’re neglecting it. That yearly doctors visit we all hate going to where they poke around in places we wish they didn’t have to, important. The therapist you’ve thought about going to see because you just need someone to listen to you about whats causing you anxiety, important. Going to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned, important. Saying no to the intense workout because your body is craving rest, important. Eating at least one green vegetable when all you want is fries, important. These things all add up to help your body function in the most optimal way so that we can enjoy the other things life has for us. Stop making excuses and keep yourself accountable for this, you’ll be happy you did.
11. Bring the jacket.
On to a lighter topic. Mom was right, AGAIN. If you’re walking out the door and it even crosses your mind for a second that you might need a jacket, bring the dang jacket. Minor inconvenience to carry around an article of clothing you aren’t wearing, but you’ll be happy you had it when all the sudden, it becomes the arctic tundra and your arm hair is standing straight up.
12. Trends repeat themselves.
Remember when we thought flare jeans were so lame? Or how about that time we just couldn’t imagine a life where turtlenecks were “fashionable”? What about shoulder pads…overalls even! Here we are, living proof that trends do, in fact, repeat themselves. Moral of the story here is, if you like something, don’t wait for it to be “cool” to wear it. Just throw it on and wait for the world to catch up! I draw the line at velour track suits and studded belts, sorry y’all.
13. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ve been on both ends of this one. If you make a plan, have the courtesy to follow through, or at least give advance notice if something comes up. No one likes a flake. This comes down to committing to something and being able to stick to it. If people around you constantly see you backing out of plans, they will eventually stop inviting you and no one wants to feel left out, it sucks. So next time you make a plan, show up, it’s as simple as that.
14. When people treat you like they don’t care, believe them.
If I could go back and shake myself during all those times I felt hurt because of what someone DIDN’T do, just to tell myself this, I would. Maybe it’s just me, but I do set high expectations for people and I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt when they fall short…but girl, let me tell you, actions speak louder than words. If someone isn’t going out of their way to keep you in their life, whether thats a friend, significant other, family, you need to let that toxic relationship go. Relationships are a two way street and if someone cares about keeping that relationship, they will show it. It really sucks when it’s someone you care about too…but in the end, if that person isn’t lifting you up and adding a positive value to your life, it’s time to re-evaluate.
15. No pressure, no diamonds.
Pinterest is coming for me at this point…but bare with me. How are diamonds formed? Under pressure (ice ice baby… okay I’m done, I had to, I’m sorry). Same goes for us. Some of the best outcomes happen when we’ve made it through really tough times. Adversity has a funny way of kicking us down to show us that we can get right back up and stand even taller the next time. If you’re anything like me, a little pressure is just what I need to kick myself into gear and get stuff done! When we’ve procrastinated to the last second, pressure is what fuels us to succeed. I think the same thing applies to life. When everything is against us, as humans, we will NOT let ourselves fail 9 times out of 10. And what do we have to show for it? It’s not cubic zirconia I assure you that.
16. Take your makeup off.
Switching gears again. I think I’ve learned this one a little later than I would have liked to admit, but that’s alright! I’ll set the scene, you’re back from dinner with friends, or a late shift at work, and you are SO tired… all you want to do is put your head on that pillow and knock out. BUT WAIT… that fabulous full face of makeup is still sittin’ pretty (thank you setting spray, amirite?). Do you; a) get up and wash your face OR b) forget about it and deal with it tomorrow….. A LADIES, ALWAYS A. No more excuses, this goes along with the health thing. Take care of the skin you’re in.
17. You’re allowed to change your mind.
College major, political beliefs, what you want for dinner, favorite color, it’s completely normal to change you mind. In fact, it’s encouraged! We grow up and we grow into who we are meant to be. Things happen to us (or others) that change our outlook and our opinions, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t need to explain it to anyone and you don’t need to justify it either. Own it.
18. You’re right where you need to be.
Even if that’s right in the middle of the chaos. Not the easiest pill to swallow, but I’ve leaned that you have to have faith there is a method to the madness you’re experiencing. When you start to trust in the process and embrace the “journey”, a lot of the stress and anxiety that come with anticipating reaching the final “destination”, fade away (or at least become more bearable).
19. God never gives you things you can’t handle.
This almost goes hand-in-hand with #18. What we are going through is meant for US. How cool is that? Each experience, the best, worst, and everything in between, are custom made just for YOU. Even if you aren’t religious, or if you believe in something other than God, I think it’s important to learn that we CAN get through what we are going through. This goes back to the “look how far you’ve come” thing. Seriously, take a look, you’ve done all of that… and you CAN & WILL do so much more!
20. The only person you can depend on, is you.
Yep, another tough one. I bet you can think of a time when you were let down because of someone else. It happens to me all the time. I’ll be honest, I’m still figuring this one out. There is a balance in there somewhere, but what I have learned is sometimes you get to be the boss in your own life. Sometimes that means playing the boss and the worker at the same time. We can only control what we do. So, if you are the one who is calling the shots, the only person who can let you down, is you. Don’t give that power to someone else, it’s not their place to be the boss in your life. Be the most dependable person you know, every chance you get.
21. You can’t change/fix people.
I’m pairing this close to #20 because there are instances where other people influence your life. Sometimes, those people do things that aren’t in line with how you would do things, or how you wish they would do things. My mom has spoken this into my life more times than I can count. We all have our “people”. Some stay, some go, but at any given time you are almost guaranteed to have someone in your life other than yourself. Key words, other than yourself. They are their own person, with their own baggage, successes, failures, quirks, etc., and you have no power over that…at all. When you bring someone into your life, you are accepting them for every part of them, the good and bad. Don’t think for a second it’s your job to fix them or mold them into who you want them to be, because the only person who can do that is them (see #20). You have a choice to embrace people for who they are, or make a decision not to keep them in your life if who they are isn’t serving you, and that’s it.
22. Give what you expect to receive.
Isn’t it funny how the simple things we learned in grade school seemed to just fly out the door as we got older? You might recognize this one as the “Golden Rule”. Remember it? I’ll go ahead and remind you anyways. Treat people how you want to be treated. This goes for friendship, kindness to a stranger, love, the list goes on. What you give someone else is what you should expect to receive, and it’s important to remind ourselves of that.
23. Have fun.
Oddly enough, I was on the phone with my Dad a few days ago when it occurred to me… I forgot that I am ALLOWED to have fun. Not just on weekends or when I’m with a friend, but in everything I do. Work, chores, *insert a thousand other things here*, you are allowed to have FUN! For me that came in the form of a new job opportunity. My dad pointed out that I was pigeon hole-ing myself into a certain path that I honestly would have been miserable doing, but I thought it needed to be because it was “work”. Anyone else? Life is too short, y’all. If you aren’t having fun, you gotta change something! Who cares if school tells you that nine to five, cubicle jobs are what you have to look forward to. If you aren’t happy, if something doesn’t sound like fun to you, do something else that is. It’s out there, I promise. Create a life for yourself that you are energized by every single day.
24. Life is short.
This might sound odd coming from a 24 year old, but hey, I’m a human too! I think more than ever it is becoming apparent to me how fragile and limited mortality really is. I don’t want to get cynical or dark here, but the more I see reports on the news of shootings or car accidents, I can only think to myself, “If this were to all end right now, would I be happy with the person I am and the life I have lived?” I think that’s a healthy thought. We should constantly strive to live the life we are proud of and be the person your little, five year old self wanted to be when you “grew up”. Every day, every week, month, year, is a chance to do that. Don’t waste it.