27 Lessons From Turning 27

 Image by  Ryan Gingery

Image by Ryan Gingery

My birthday is in 3 days (eeyy!) and I'm turning the big 2-7. 27 is a disrespected and forgotten age. It's passed all young milestones (16 driving, 18 voting, 21 drinking, 25 quarter life crisising) but not quite old enough to join the dirty 30 club. Regardless of it's lack of hooray for most, I'm so happy to be turning 27 because it's an age that pushes immense reflection.  Turning an age close to 30 makes me take a lens to all the life choices I've made up to this point. I'm excited and contemplative about what will unfold with each day in the ever present future.

Last year my birthday gift to myself was a piece I wrote on 26 truths everyone should learn by 26. This year, I have 27 lessons I've picked up in my short time on earth that I'm going to share:

1)  Drinking excessively is overrated and unproductive but habitual for most adults - 'po' up drank, pass out stank, regret that, dang' is the mantra for most people who are 21 and older. Drinking is one of those habits that most of us develop because it just comes with adulthood and is the cool thing to do, but time and again, the more drinking becomes a person's main social outlet and hobby, the more their life derails into a loop of catching up. Alcohol fucks up your brain, health, sleep, depletes your money, and fogs your decision making. It's also a depressant and can cause trips of anxiety and (duh) depression when the fun is said and done. Drinking can be fun, but the culture of drinking to oblivion every weekend or most week nights, is just not a good use of time in the long run. Analyze your motivations if you're into heavy, habitual drinking - are you escaping something that will be the same in the morning when the hangover comes? Do you not feel free to be yourself or speak your mind unless alcohol is in your system? Are you using alcohol as an excuse to maintain shitty relationships, justify shitty social experiences, or worse? Allow yourself to be you at all times without having to alter it through alcohol and start investing the time at the bar back into your life. I learned this the hard way many hangovers and 40 extra lbs later.

2) Discovering your motivations for doing anything is more important than the work itself -Simon Sinek has a great book called Start with Why  that highlights how we're happiest when we're deeply tapped into our motivations for doing what we do every day. There's always a deeper reason any of us gets up each day and works, even if we aren't aware of it (besides keeping the lights on and food on the table). Figure out what makes you tick - do you like helping people, beautiful design, or building something with your own hands? Tap into it, and get at it. Once you find that sweet spot of what makes your stomach do the Nae Nae, you'll be more directed in what you chose to do with your time and where you invest your energies, which will make you happier.

3) Uncertainty is a necessary (and fucking painful but also exhilarating) part of life - Why is there no class or manual in grade school about the impossibility of planning for the future? We're all taught to meticulously plan to go to school, get a good job, land a house, snag a husband or wife, pop out a few babies, make gluten free cookies, run a marathon, and attend a PTA meeting - all in this order. Nothing is ever guaranteed and that's the beauty of life. We can only direct the ship and see where it lands. That takes the overwhelming anxiety and pressure off of trying to have your entire life mapped out, because that's impossible.

4) Visibility is the most powerful form of currency - There's TMI (too much information) on the internet, especially in my Facebook feed (like people taking pics of their birth in the heat of labor 0_0). We're all in search of our tribes on and offline, and the more you can rally a larger group to a common cause, idea, or creed the more power you will have and can use (hopefully for good, because we don't need any more evil). Having a platform is one of the most powerful things anyone can do in our day and age of instant information and access.

5) All those sappy love songs make sense now - I used to hate love songs - they bored me to tears and made me sad. Not because I'm a scrooge hating naysayer of love, but because I hadn't experienced what the songs were talking about. Being in love (romantically or not) is the most soul warping emotion any human being can experience. Thank you millions of artists that pen about that gumbo of feelings on the regular.

6) True freedom is having your sense of self validated - We all want to feel accepted and wanted. When you live in your truth, and can authentically be you with every choice you make - that's real freedom.

7) Use lotion religiously - Getting older means my skin is starting to tap out. Avoid looking like a one of those volcanos that ominously erupt ash every few years by treating your skin to a daily lotion rub down.

8) The most important part of your health is mental - Your thoughts and emotions effect everything you do. Take the time to get your brain and mental health right. Seek therapy to let go of self defeating behaviors and traumas from the past. Invest in books that grow your spirit and personal development, and find a combination of daily habits that can keep your mental health at peace and in balance.

9) Sleep is the best natural drug  - I struggle with getting to bed on time, but I love some sleep. I don't understand people who are like, "I had 2 hours of sleep last night and I'm up and feel great!" No you don't. We all know you're one second away from vomiting from exhaustion and falling asleep face planted in your next meal. The body needs sleep to repair and recoup and the more you get the proper amount, the better.

10) Friendships become harder to make and keep, so put the work in - Friends are easier to come by in school. You're forced into social settings with people you see all day everyday, which gives you more chances to navigate and find circles where you fit in. As an adult, time and social interactions for most people becomes more limited, focused on coworkers and friends from childhood or school. You have to really make an effort to stay in touch with people as lives diverge. Take the time and value the people who contribute to your life. Reach out and put the effort in no matter where your life turns because everyone needs friends, just like that Golden Girls show.

11) For better or for worse, you are the company you keep - If your friends are negative, constantly complaining, or unsupportive people who don't do much with their lives, it'll be hard to achieve your own goals. It's like trying to run uphill with boulders tied to your ankles, and that's just silly (unless you're Beyonce because I'm pretty sure that's how she keeps in shape).  The company you keep influences you, even if you aren't aware. Surround yourself with people that will be your biggest motivators, inspirations, and cheerleaders on your journey to being the dopest version of yourself.

12) Questioning your assumptions = being a well adjusted adult - We all get a default set of beliefs from our parents and childhood that we can expand on or completely cast aside. It's up to you to question your own beliefs and figure out if what you were raised with really fits who you are today.

13) DO NOT STOP LEARNING - There are adults that are proud that they haven't picked up a book since high school, and it makes me want to body slam them and shake some sense into their non-reading brains. There is never a time in life where not learning anything new is ok. We should all continue to learn about ourselves, society, world - hell universe no matter what age we are at. Our gifts are our minds and to let that become stagnant is a damn shame.  

14) Not making a choice is a choice in itself - Inaction isn't a way out of anything, it will only lead to a life of passively having choices made for you. Staying in a bad job, relationship, or habit for too long does have consequences that can't be ignored.

15) Our generation is part of the most disruptive technologies known to man - Technology blows. my. mind. In my 27 years on Earth I lived without the internet, saw the dawn of cellphones and texting, social media, and even google glass (will that ever really catch on)? I'm holding out on the hope that teleportation will be happening before I turn 60.

16) Racism (and other isms) are still alive and well - Inaction and pretending inequalities don't exist is also an action (read #14 if you don't get why). Educate yourself on the flaws of the social systems and issues we face today and become vocal in the best way you know how with family, friends, and even wider audiences if you're feeling froggy. That's how social change happens.

17) Toxic relationships should be kept at a distance (or removed from your life), even if they are family members - Family ties aren't an excuse for normalizing abuse. If you are dealing with mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive relationships of any sort, it's best to stay away or keep your distance so you can be the most loving and healthy version of yourself.

18) Stop saying yes to things you don't want to do - There comes a time as an adult when saying no feels really awesome. If you are saying yes to many things in your life that you would prefer not to do, that's a problem. You have the right to say no - and you're doing a favor to people by investing your energies where you really want to.

19) The more you can directly express what you really need, the happier you'll be - Directly speak on what you need and become vocal with what you want. No one can read your mind, and playing games is for children and Monopoly board game contests.

20) Meaningful travel trumps buying shit - You'll expand your understanding of the world, create memories you'll never forget, and probably eat some amazing food along the way. Hard to beat that.

21) Push yourself to not be comfortable all the time - Comfort breeds complacency in many ways. Pushing past your physical and mental limits will show you how bad ass you really are and how much you can change your own life and the lives of those around you.

22) Gratitude is the best anxiety killer - Anytime I'm having a bad day, finding just one thing to be grateful for can help me pump the breaks on depression.

23) There isn't a one size fits all approach to lifestyles - Some people would prefer not to get married, or have babies, or work a 9a-5p, and some people would really love all those things, and those choices, among others, are absolutely acceptable. The beauty of being an adult is finding a tailor-made lifestyle that works best for you.

24) You're going to set goals and fail at a lot of them, and that's ok - Changing habits is uber hard. Achieving goals that require changed habits is even harder. You'll fail at some of your goals but keep on going and pushing until you hit a stride where there's no turning back.

25) Death is a scary but motivating absolute - Not one second is guaranteed on this planet, so use them as wisely and lovingly as you can while you have them.

26) Stand up for something outside of yourself - See #16 if you don't understand why this is important.

27) Everything will change - Who you are and the world you live in today will probably be different 1, 2, 3 years and beyond from now. Embrace change with open arms because that's part of life's crazy plan.