35 lessons to learn in life

Well. I’ve done it. I’ve hit 35. And, in my infinite wisdom, I have been sitting here thinking all day about lessons to learn in life. Lessons I have learned in life. You know, this things you wish you knew then, but you know now.

When I started this blog, I was in what I defined a full-on 30-Life-Crisis. I had no idea what the hell was going on in my life, only that the life I had dreamed of was, in fact, the life I was living, but no longer the life I wanted. So, I did what any sane (ha!) 30-Life-Crisis person would do: I ditched it. I headed to  a foreign world to soak up different languages, cultures, foods, experiences, and then, when that ended, I came home, decided it wasn’t for me, and then moved to Thailand.

I think today, it is safe to say while I may be hitting that 35-year-old milestone, I’m certainly not in that head-spinning mode I was in five years ago when I lived in Atlanta and was trying so desperately to find out that one thing in this world which would save me. Editor’s Note: if you are curious about that one thing to save me, spoiler alert: it’s me. And, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it was me all along.

At 35, looking back, there are so many things I wish I knew at 30. So many things I wish I knew at 29. 25. 21. 18. Every year we get older and wiser, but these days, I find myself just wishing I knew then what I know now. If I could go back and bestow the lessons learned to my younger self, these would be them:

1. You don’t have to know what the heck you want in life from the moment you leave the womb. You don’t even need to have a solid picture at (gasp) high school graduation. Figure out the things you enjoy and then go from there. This can change multiple times in life, and that is absolutely FINE.

2. A plan is only as good as its makers. If you aren’t ready to push that plan forward, figure out why and then decide whether or not you want to adjust the plan or adjust you.

3. Don’t be in a relationship with someone who does not love themselves. Likewise, love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, the only people you will attract are those who are as broken as you.

4. Respect yourself enough to stay away from situations where you feel uncomfortable. Set boundaries and keep them.

Travel but don't run

5. Travel. But not to run. Travel to learn about you. About the world. If you’re running, you will accomplish nothing but running further away from the world you know. And deeper into your own frustrations.

6. Try to smile and stay positive as much as you can. No one likes a negative person or one who constantly complains about life. Don’t be surprised when people don’t want to be around negativity.

7. Things that make you unhappy are in your control. Either choose to keep those things which make you unhappy in your life, or get them the hell out.

8. Find. Your. Niche. The rest will come.

You're only as good as the company you keep

9. You are only as good as the company you keep. For reals. (Although this one took me a super long time to learn.)

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, often. And hold tight to those people.

11. Be kind to animals and all other living things. (Note: I have always been kind, now I am just more compassionate.)

12. School is important, but those lessons you learn in life are equally, if not more, important. So, be a student of the world.

13. Write often. About whatever you want. Just write. (And please don’t think of it as a school assignment, because really, who enjoys writing those?)

14. Don’t smoke, jackass.

15. Eating to feel better only works until you’re stuffed. Then, you are full and still sad/angry/mad/happy.

16. Work out. Consistently. And, don’t take diet pills to lose weight.

17. Respect your body.

18. Respect your mind.

practice being mindful and grateful

19. Practice being mindful and grateful everyday. You are lucky, lucky, lucky.

20. Don’t pretend to me impenetrable. Or perfect. Everyone has faults. Everyone has weaknesses. And it is OK to ask for help and to receive help.

21. Let go of the preconceived notions of what being an adult is. You don’t have to be married at 28. Have kids at 30. It’s OK to not follow a rigid schedule. Or even have one.

22. Say “yes” to more things in life.

23. Save money. For real.

24. Step out of your comfort zone. Regularly.

25. Don’t let negative comments from others ruin your day. Those ugly moments come from another’s issues and mire that person far more than you.

26. People have their own shit going on. Remember their reactions to you aren’t based on you necessarily, but what is going on with them.

27. Don’t take everything personally (see 26).

28. Love, but don’t love blindly.

29. Everything happens exactly as it should. It is a part of you, a part of your story. It is what shapes you into the person you are today. Don’t fight it.

30. You don’t have to be like everyone else.

Appreciate the beauty of the world around you

31. Appreciate the beauty of the world around you.

32. You don’t have to make a lot of money to be successful. Happiness is a measure of success with as much value (and more in my opinion) than the green in your pocket. Although, yes, you still should have a savings account. But, that’s just for airfare and starting  exciting new stories in far off lands.

33. Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. About everything. Soak up as much knowledge as you can from every person you can soak it up from.

34. Remember, not everyone is out to get you. There is good and kindness in this world, you just have to be open to receiving it.

35. Life isn’t about living happily ever after, it’s about living.

What would you add to this list of lessons to learn in life?

36 comments

  1. Have faith in yourself. Put yourself first, but only when it’s right. At the end of the day, the only one truly looking out for you is you. I’d love to tell 25 yr old self all the amazing things she’d accomplish by following that advice. My final one, don’t quit. It’s not the triumph, but the struggle.

    Thanks D, I’ve been a silent reader for years. Turning 35 myself this summer, this really spoke to me. Keep embracing #35!

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    1. Those are great tips! Jenn, thank you so much for jumping in! I appreciate you letting me know you are here! ❤ I think 35 is going to ROCK. 🙂 Thanks for your support!!! ❤

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  2. All wonderful observations and life lessons. I like how so many are directly tied to positivity. I definitely attribute time spent in Southeast Asia to learning that kind of life approach. Let’s go be dharma bums. I’ll be Jack and you be Dean. Okay, okay, you can be Jack.

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  3. Happy Birthday!! I try not to feel badly that there are things I didn’t know when I was younger because I think much of it comes it experience.

    One thing I have learned is to let go without having anger. I just released a friendship because I didn’t think they valued me. I don’t feel upset or angry, I just don’t have time for that anymore. I’d rather invest my time and concern in people who do.

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    1. Thank you, Ayngelina! Getting rid of those friendships has become something I have done often lately. There is no point having and keeping people in our lives who don’t respect or value us.

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  4. Love it! Great insights and wise words 🙂
    Number 21 is kickass! Really.. Who sets all these rules and determines other people’s life plans?
    And number 27, not taking things personally, is important for our happiness and peace of mind. If someone is weird or rude or inconsistent, something must be wrong with them, not you.

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    1. Thank you!! 27 was one that took a long time to embrace. I always came from the thinking that if I am treated a certain way, it is a reflection of me, not the other person.

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  5. This is a beautiful list! When I turned 23 I made a list of 23 things that made me happy — I think you’ve inspired me to do it again for the upcoming 25 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I really wish I had known these things earlier, it would have saved a lot of grief and heartache. We really do learn so much from seeing the world, eh?

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  6. Great list. I love, “Travel. But not to run.” That’s one I think about a lot as I’m going through the experience you describe of finding out that having the life I wanted doesn’t actually make me very happy.

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    1. I think “Travel. But not to run.” is one of the most important things I have ever learned. If you aren’t happy here, you won’t be truly happy there, either.

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  7. Awesome list! My favourite lesson at the moment is “you can’t control every situation, but you can control how you react and feel” and it’s been really helpful over the last few months. I think when bad things happen it’s easy to wallow and feel sorry for ourselves, but when we choose to react in a more positive way we draw that positivity to us.

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  8. Great post, Diana! And Happy Birthday (better late than never)…

    I love the point that you make on how you don’t have to know what you want in life. Plans can evolve and change over time and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s something I’ve learnt over the years and I’ve become much happier now that I’ve let go of any preconceived ideas of how plans in life should pan out.

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  9. Diane,
    You are incredible! Thank you for your wisdom and HAPPY belated Birthday!
    I love you and think about you often.

    Lindsey Field

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