The calendar tells me I’m turning 28 this month. I compiled some life lessons I’ve learned during Year 27.
1. We assume others show love the same way do – and if they don’t, we worry it’s not there. This lesson, I have learned, comes with everything. We assume others communicate the same way we do, or that they’ll react the same way we do to a situation. But they don’t, and when they don’t that sets off red flags in our minds. We go on alert or on the defensive. We spend so much energy locking down that we forget to realize where they are coming from or why they reacted in such a way. We have to slow down and not fall haphazardly into panic mode assuming something (love, understanding, fond feelings) is not there. It’s most likely there, we are just reading it the wrong way.
2. Maturity doesn’t mean age. It means sensitivity, manners and how you react. The more years that pass in my life the more I realize that maturity has absolutely nothing to do with a number. I have seen children whose parents are in jail be admirably mature. I have seen grown adults with full-time jobs of stature be undeniably immature. Maturity is understanding yourself and how your personality travels within this world and how it touches the lives of others. Taking on the responsibility to be pleasant and kind… that’s maturity.
3. Some things are not important. I feel as though I keep having to learn this lesson. It comes to me in different forms, for example: “Pick and choose your battles” or “Make good choices” or “Create priorities” or “Decide what’s important to you.” I am the person who thinks everything matters and everything counts and everything is important, so this lesson has been a difficult one for me to comprehend. But it’s true, some things are not important. Like getting completely frazzled and worked up because of traffic: not worth it; not important. What’s important is arriving to your destination safe. What’s important is the rest of your day and what you have to accomplish and for whom. Some things are not important.
4. Letting go isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something you have to do every day, over and over again. When something bothers me, it’s like a pebble in my shoe until it’s corrected. This can be with anything: something on my to-do list, someone I need to forgive, a grudge that’s hard to let go of, a hurt feeling or bothersome feeling that’s lurking, a job I want to do myself but don’t have time for (and have to trust someone else to do). Letting go is hard for me, because I like to be involved and I like to feel life, even if that’s completely overwhelming to me at times. But learning to let go is a skill that I’ll need in the future. (Note: I have not perfected this lesson. At all)
5. Yes, I’m a strong person. But every now and then I need someone to take my hand and tell me it will all be all right. This is the dag-on truth.
6. Sorry isn’t enough. Sometimes you actually have to change. Behavior patterns. Know your own. Know others. Sometimes you actually have to change.
7. It’s OK to miss people you no longer want in your life. This lesson came with a lot of heartache. I think Danielle Koepke said it best, “Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people but they aren’t the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and – as much as you care – you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your well-being a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful, you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.” (Note: This doesn’t mean you won’t miss them deeply.)
Photo by: Chelsie Darling Photography
8. I love the person I’ve become, because I’ve fought to become her. Working hard pays off, and I have seen this happen in my years of life. I’m thankful for every person and every moment that has brought me to where and who I am today.
9. Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter. We all get frustrated and we all (as humans) are very likely to say things we know we don’t mean. It’s a difficult lesson, but stopping to breathe and stopping to look at the big picture can be tremendously helpful to many situations.
10. Show your work. My teachers used to say this all of the time in math class. But I have learned that this rule applies for everything. Showing your work means your work will speak for itself. You don’t have to be prideful about every process you go through, but your results should show all of the work you have put into something. Be that losing weight, or dancing, or studying, or working on a project. Your work should show and show beautifully. It should speak for itself.
11. Tea and coffee are great drinks. They keep you going. When I am feeling overwhelmed, stopping to sip tea or grab coffee is soothing to my soul. It’s a ritual that hushes a troubled spirit. Tea and coffee have helped me through a lot of stressful moments in graduate school. They’re like my secret high-power calming weapons.
12. The moment you realize that someone is better than you (for reasons you cannot change)… that’s a hard moment. I have witnessed this a lot this year. Young girls in dance realizing that they will never have as flexible of a back as so-and-so simply because she was born that way and the other one was not. Realizing that someone is “better” than you at something is an upsetting moment. It shakes us to the core and it makes us feel suddenly very vulnerable. Not only have I had to witness this moment a lot, but I’ve experienced it a lot as well. Growing past that moment and living through it to the next phase of acceptance is how you have to do it. You can be wonderful and great, too.
13. Stay single until someone compliments your life in a way that makes it better. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. This subject is one that comes up often when you’re female and you’re 28. It also indirectly comes up a lot through social media as I have watched all of my friends settle down, get married, buy houses, have children. I’ve watched as they’ve posted pictures of engagement rings, first-home keys, holiday kissy photos, ultrasounds, baby bump updates. But you have to be stronger than all of that when you’re on the other side of it (you know, the single and focused-on-work-and-school-and-self-development side). Please know, I am not saying that my friends are not focused on work, school or self-development while also doing all of those things. I know they are, too. Just in a different way. I have let this subject bother me even though I vowed to never let it. But the truth is, I’m waiting until I find someone who compliments my life. And I think I’ll just know when that time (and person) comes.
14. Create the things you wish existed. I have followed this rule many times during year 27. For example, I wanted there to be a camp for children of prisoners. So I made Dance Camp. I wanted there to be a clothing line for dancers with fun, motivational sayings. So I made one. I wanted there to be a collaboration of dancers spreading cheer to other dancers around the world. So I made Dance Swap. I wanted there to be a book club for dancers to learn more about dance history and technique. So I made Dancer Book Club (#DancerBookClub). I can’t say all have been super successful, but I keep trying and I keep working until they are. Mostly, I began to believe in the power of making dreams exist.
15. There is still so much I have to learn. Year 27 brought new opportunities to my life. Opportunities I never imagined. For example, I would have never thought Answers.com would ask me to be their Dance Expert writer. I never dreamed I’d be writing dance reviews for newspapers. I never thought I would take and pass the exams and become a member of Dance Masters of America. These were all magical things, and they are still magical to me. I carry them in my heart; little sparkles that make me smile and realize hard work pays off.
16. Accepting feedback (I mean REALLY accepting feedback) is not easy. We can all sit here and say, “I love feedback! It makes me better!” We can all say that because: 1) It may be true 2) It does make you better. But actually accepting feedback and changing your actions or your product is the difficult part. I always thought I was fabulous at accepting feedback until I moved up into higher levels of work which meant the feedback got extremely detailed and very real which translated in my head to “very personal.” I would find myself mentally in defensive-land holding a stick with glaring eyes (when really I was just listening), but I felt my heartbeat racing and my mind kept thinking, “How dare they?!” But once I went back to review my work: they were right! *gasp* My work could use work and then a little more work and then even more work. Really learning to listen was difficult but it has been pretty fantastic results wise.
17. Spoil me with consistency. As I have grown older, I find more and more that I enjoy when someone is consistent. I like when someone does what they say they will do. I like when they show up on time and they bring positive attitudes every time. I like when they work hard every day. I like when people respect deadlines and follow through. When other people are consistent, I find that I understand the world and the rules around me a lot better. I am, therefore, more consistent.
18. You will know when you’ve made the right decision because you’ll feel the stress leaving your body. I have learned that running your own business and running your own life takes a lot of decision making. Sometimes these decisions have to be made so quickly, you can’t even think about the pros and cons. I have learned how to trust my gut and move forward. I know when I’ve made the right decision because my lungs fill with air and I can breathe. Stress leaves. I know when I’ve made the wrong decision because I can’t sleep at night, my heart flutters (in a bad way) and I feed this need to find solutions. The good thing is, solutions can be found.
19. I hope I never stop changing. I know I just wrote about consistency, and I mean all of that. But what I’ve also learned is that I enjoy changing my work and growing every day. I love learning new concepts, reading new words, finding new inspiring people. I love growing up.
20. Sometimes it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe. This is a lesson I am still trying to learn, but it has pressed upon my heart lately. I’ve actually felt (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) tired. And I had to reserve days for rest and breathing. And I had to learn to accept that is OK.
21. The ideas and thoughts we send to ourselves are powerful. This lesson is something I remind myself every day. How I think about everything (my day, myself, my plans, my goals) sets a foundation for how I build on everything in my life. The ideas that come into our brains help inform the way we approach life. So I made sure all of my ideas stay positive. Some days, it’s hard work to stay positive. I made a dance about this called “Intransigence.” And that dance was chosen to be performed at the American College Dance Festival in 2014.
22. Running your own business is hard work. There is so much to running a business that you don’t know about when you have “an idea.” But then you start putting together the idea and it starts manifesting in front of you and you are proud and happy. That’s when all of the things you didn’t know about come out! But you can’t let the hoops of life scare you from life. Learn how to jump through the hoops and start jumping! Preferably, with grace.
23. Sometimes people around you won’t understand your journey, and that’s OK because it isn’t for them. This is always a difficult process for me to move through. If I’m experiencing something, I like to fully experience it whether that be sadness, happiness, joy, loss, pain or pleasure. But sometimes it is difficult to figure out how selfish one should be in a journey and how aware of others one should be. For me, I strive to always be aware of others and – if I can – I take them on whatever journey I’m traveling if they want to travel with me. But the hard work, I keep for myself. The analyzing of situations, the learning of lessons, the changing. It is with their support that I am successful, but it is through the personal journey that I learn.
The last four lessons, are very personal lessons that I’ve learned about myself this year.
24. I love work where I feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life. I like my work to show demonstrable results. I also like that my work may not show these results until years later, but I like knowing that – however small my work may be – that it’s making a difference. This kind of work doesn’t pay the big bucks (and I’ll never understand why society doesn’t place HUMAN WORKING WITH HUMANS as a priority). But it means a lot to me. And if I never “make the big bucks” but I can help inspire, change or motivate someone else’s life… I’m happy.
25. I have stayed single until I find the kind of love that my family and friends think I deserve. The kind of love that inspires me and helps me flourish. The kind of love that feeds my personality instead of distracting it. This hasn’t always been easy. I attend weddings, engagement parties, events alone, and when everyone walks home with someone special, I walk to my car alone. But learning how to be alone has helped me learn about who I am and what I want and what I need. It has allowed me time to achieve my own personal goals and decide what I want out of life. But it has also taught me loneliness and that sometimes you need someone where to support you when you’re weak. These lessons have been difficult. It isn’t easy turning 28 and answering everyone’s questions. But I know that waiting has been good for me, and I trust that someone amazing will come into my life – one day.
26. I need to learn how to say “no” better. I love working, and I love supporting my friends, small businesses, programs, people. I love moving forward and submitting things, financially supporting things, writing things. The list goes on. I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way, and that has been lovely. But for the first time in my life, I’ve felt tired and overwhelmed and stressed out more than I should be. I forgot to live and I only worked. Next year, I am putting time aside for investing in life moments that have nothing to do with work. And I’m hoping this refueling will show through my work and continue to inspire my life.
27. Love and kindness are what the world needs most. In my work (paid and volunteer) throughout this year, there is one fact that remains: we need more love and kindness around. These two things are life-changers. When someone strikes out at you, it’s not because they hate it, it’s because they want to be heard or appreciated or loved. It’s there call for help. The children I work with want their observations, goals, dreams and questions to be heard. The adults I work with want to feel happy, accomplished and motivated. Showing them love and kindness helps them glow and then they pass that glow to someone else. It is so important.
So much I have learned in year 27. Here’s to Year 28!