What I’ve Learned in a Quarter Century

It’s been exactly two weeks since my 25th birthday, which means I have officially been alive for a quarter century! Though I’m still marveling at the fact that I haven’t gotten run over by a bus or drunkenly tipped over a balcony, somewhere inside I have a feeling that I somehow did it right, or at least nothing really wrong. Miraculously I managed to stay alive, get my life together (somewhat), be happy, and enjoy the things around me. Yet somehow, it feels oddly different this year. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on my own in a brand new city or just the fact that this is the big two-five, but it honestly feels like a major milestone… I feel as though I have honestly accomplished a lot in the past 25 years, and not just “made it” to 25. So, in the spirit of the primary reason I started this blog (to tell you what to do and feel self important) here are the top then things I’ve learned, so far.

1) Never stop working on yourself.

As we get older, we have a tendency to feel as though we are past our prime.  So we either start giving up on ourselves or convince ourselves “that’s just the way it is.” Given the opportunity to pity myself or lower my standards, I choose neither. When I was younger, every situation in the world was the biggest deal, not because I was overly dramatic (I was) or naive (I was) but because I honestly believed that your adolescence was when you figure out who you were destined to become when you were older. Now I realize that growing and becoming “your true self” is a nonstop journey, so when there are opportunities to become healthier, smarter, or wiser, don’t let it slip through your fingers.

2) Your idiot mistakes make great stories.

Just laugh at yourself! Sooner or later your stupid issues are only a thing of the past, and you learn to laugh at yourself. Maybe I’m just this weird masochist that enjoys the shame and humility of my embarrassing moments, but honestly, it’s refreshing to not feel bad for the things you do. Life goes on whether you like it or not, and as of today, there’s still no way to turn back time. So stop trying! Luckily, we live in a world where people do a lot more stupid shit than you will ever come up with (see: Couple Fail at Blowing Up Car with Flaming Tampons). No one cares about your idiot mistakes but you, so the sooner you start laughing at yourself, the sooner you will realize you’ve got a great story on your hands.

3) Be optimistic… and show it. 

Smile, g’dammit! People always ask me why I’m smiling, and though I always respond by saying “no reason,” I actually want to yell, “WHY NOT!?” What is there NOT to be happy about? You’re alive! You have two working legs! You’re living in a industrialized first world country! You own an iPhone, a device that would have blown everyone’s minds just ten years ago! The best thing about smiling is that it really does change the attitude of the people around you. When you feel good and show it, other people take notice and their moods actually start to improve. When you surround yourself with happy people, you, in turn, become more happy! So smile!

4) Travel as much as you can. 

I’m addicted to travel. I can rarely sit still at all, and given the opportunity to see something new, I will take it. I often make any excuse to see new places. What, you need to pick up a friend in god-forsaken West Seattle? I’ll come! What, you’re going to your nephew’s Bris in Pittsburgh tomorrow and want a car buddy? I’m you’re guy! (True story, BTW). It doesn’t even have to be a new country, just new places. The world is literally at our fingertips, and those that haven’t taken the time to get to see new things are truly missing out. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited 20 or so countries, but there are countless other ones I want to see. Traveling opens your eyes to the world around you, and not to mention new sights, cultures, and oh, the FOOD! Which brings me to…

5) Become a foodie. 

Of all the hobbies that exist in the world, none are more useful than being an absolute foodie. There isn’t a single other activity in the world that not only holds your interest but also KEEPS YOU ALIVE. The three things that will make you an automatic foodie are the following: 1) Cut down on fast food. Fast food is not real food! Overly processed, ridiculously salted, and preservative-filled food is nothing compared to something that is real. 2) Always try new foods. And try it once more if you don’t like it. I went through much of my childhood as a pretentious prick when it came to food. No onions, no pickles, no mustard, milk, or peppers. I’m surprised my mom didn’t beat the shit out of me when I was younger! It takes 17 tries for your taste buds to get used to a particular taste, so when you don’t like something, try it again! And again! This of course, is particularly true when traveling, as discovering new dishes and new ways of making food is now my secret passion. Thus, the final rule: 3) Learn to cook. Learning how to cook increases your creativity, it makes you appreciate the food you put in your mouth, and is a great group or couple activity. Try it.

6) Go to a big college. 

There is nothing like going to a big college. The feeling of being a part of something much bigger than yourself, and having that connection with hundreds of thousands of other people wherever you are in the world is amazing. You can always make a big school smaller, but you can’t make a small school bigger. Simply put, going to a big college provides opportunities that small colleges can’t; they offer extensive chances to study abroad, hundreds of different classes each semester, and even large Greek systems that you don’t have to join if you don’t want to. But the point is that it’s there all for your taking, so why limit yourself by going to a small school? Plus, football is always bigger at a big school, and you can’t top that.

7) You really should listen to your elders. 

“For the life of me / I cannot remember / What made us think that we were wise and we’d never compromise…” God, adolescence! This song by the Verve Pipe in the 90’s always reminds me of what a complete idiot we all were growing up, and how we thought we were the smartest people in the world. Older people really know what they’re talking about, and I know this because I went to bed at 10pm last night (mark of an old person) and I would take any opportunity to school young kids on anything (look at me now!). It’s never too late to realize how young, dumb, and free you are, and it’s never too late to become young, wise, and free.

8) Practice what you preach. 

By now, it’s no secret that there is no such thing as a perfect person. You cannot be perfect because everyone attaches different standards to perfection, and you will never achieve it. So stop trying! What you can do though, is be the perfect YOU. Be the person YOU want to be, forget about everyone else. Figure out your what you believe in and what makes you passionate and make sure you never waver from your stance. THAT is what sets you apart from others, and ensures that in the end, there will be absolutely nothing to regret. But how to you become that person? How does can you “just be yourself?” Frankly, I don’t really know what “myself” is half the time. What I do know, however, is what I would tell someone else to do if I were in their shoes. So in order to “be myself,” I make sure to always practice what I preach. If I wouldn’t tell my friend to skip out on a check, or be a dick to a flight attendant, or cannonball off the roof of a 3 story house into the pool, I know that those are things that I shouldn’t do either. Though wouldn’t it be to do that? Just kidding. Maybe.

9) Do not attempt to cannonball off the roof of a 3 story house into a pool. 

You know, just for good measure.

10) And finally… have fun! 

Two weeks ago, I hopped on a plane to Vegas to meet up with 14 friends for a drunken, loud, obnoxiously stupid, amazing shit-show of a weekend, to say the least. Was it the responsible thing to do? Absolutely not. Was it AWESOME? Hell yeah. There are so many moments in your life that require you to be an adult, regardless of whether or not you want to be or are ready for it. Living a good life is about balance, so every once in a while, you need counteract that and make time in your life to just be an idiot and be unapologetic about it. We have to remember that growing up is simply having more responsibility in your life; it doesn’t require you to abandon everything that makes you happy. Just. Have. Fun!

So that’s that. 25 years and all I’ve got to show for it are 10 pieces of advice that you can agree or disagree with. Sitting here and writing this all out has actually helped me define for myself who I am today and who I want to still be when tomorrow comes. Here’s to 25 more years (and hopefully more to come)!

Yu Live, Yu Learn

Photo from here.

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