27 Life Lessons by 27

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I've confessed my fears about turning 27 — I've shared my strange and undeniable connection to the number — and yet here I am. My 27th birthday. Twenty Seven.

And, sure, in the weeks leading up to my birthday, Justin may have found me crouched on the bathroom floor, hugging my knees and rocking back and forth, gasping for air — but that was only, like, three or four times. Five, at most. I've become pretty zen about the whole I'm-turning-27 shabang, mostly because the last four years — most specifically the last two months — I've felt a major shift in the way I think, the way I behave, the way I understand the world.

I'm finally becoming the person I've wanted to be.

Maybe it's because my brain is officially developed. Maybe it's because the 27s in my life are like a magnetic force, slowly opening my consciousness like a blooming flower. Maybe it's called growing up.

No matter the reason, I've learned some important lessons in the last few years — each lesson acting like an illuminated tile, slowly revealing a mosaic from the shadows.

Here are 27 life lessons by age 27 — all of which I've lived:

1. Some of the most beautiful moments and experiences come from the unplanned.

This has been the most profound lesson for me (as a life-long planner) because I lived it. I experienced the hopelessness and helplessness that comes from having your life take a left when you really meant to go right — and then I saw my life evolve in a way that I never could have planned. Some of my most memorable and important experiences, opportunities, and identities were built from the rubble, and I so clearly learned that sometimes I don't want to plan every step of my life. Because if I had lived the exact life I had intended, I wouldn't be here. And I really, really, really like it here.

2. It is what it is.

This has become my mantra — especially when I'm feeling stressed or anxious about what's coming. It centers me, encourages me to relinquish whatever control I think I have over a situation, and surrender to the fact that IT IS WHAT IT IS. Resistance or anxiety doesn't change that.

3. Stress and worry have no bearing on an outcome.

FOR REAL. It's almost always an unproductive waste of time, because me worrying about something happening isn't going to stop or encourage that something to happen. I can be negative or I can be positive — it's usually a very clear choice.

Speaking of which...

4. Happiness is a choice.

Happiness isn't found in a partner, a friend, a job, a certain amount of money...

Happiness isn't an end result — it's a conscious choice; it's in our control.

(I highly recommend The Happiness Project for practical tips on how to shift your mentality and live a happier life.)

5. You cannot change people.

Such a simple and obvious lesson, but when you really understand and accept it? Total game-changer. We all have dysfunctional people in our lives — maybe it's a family member or a friend — but trying to teach them, convince them, change them will only make you miserable. (And, by the way, it'll never work.) Release yourself from the cycle and completely disengage. You don't have to be distant or mean — just stop assuming any kind of responsibility. Accept people for who they are and focus on bettering yourself.

And it works! I promise!

Related: The best way to change others is to change yourself. It might be one of the cheesiest clichés, but MY GOD it's true.

(Can you tell I had control issues?)

6. Show, don't tell.

This is the first rule of writing (i.e. don't tell readers that the character is sad, show them with facial expressions, emotions, descriptions, etc.) — but it's developed into a full-on life mantra. Especially when it comes to parenting.

Kids absorb what you're doing more than what you're saying. Show, don't tell.

7. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." -Joan Didion

Didion is probably my favorite writer of all time, and she — as always — nailed it.

We have to share our stories, hear each other's stories, in order to grow and understand. But at the end of the day, our stories are just stories — with half-truths, distorted memories, and skewed perspectives. We tell ourselves a story of ourselves, just to get through the day.

And yet...

8. Sometimes our brains lie to us. And your story isn't your truth.

I used to look in the mirror and see a girl who wasn't skinny enough, pretty enough, enough. I remember accepting the fact that I wasn't creative or smart — that I could invent other attributes. I was so consumed in my own story — in calories and boys and obsessive analyzation — that I adopted those opinions as fact.

It's a startling realization to see how swiftly and cunningly our brains can tell us lies — but it's something I'm so grateful to have experienced first-hand.

9. Perspectives can shift, and you could be wrong.

I firmly believe that most people are just doing their best with what they know. And it's up to us to keep learning and growing and keeping an open mind.

10. Forgiveness!

It's a term that's thrown around a lot — "Yes, I forgive you" — even when you're really just stuffing anger and hurt down into that dark area that slowly seeps gossip and judgment and explosive fights.

But to forgive people for who they are, to forgive yourself for who you've been — well, it's made me a lighter person.

11. "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Again, this goes back to the story we tell ourselves — and it's an especially important lesson for young moms.

(See more from my girl Eleanor.)

12. Stuff is just STUFF.

I used to work in a magazine's beauty closet where I could try any makeup or skincare or hair product — from Clean & Clear to Chanel.  Then I reviewed baby products, where $1,000 strollers and other pricey gadgets showed up at my doorstep on the regular.

And I learned a very important lesson: STUFF DOESN'T MATTER. Stuff is just stuff.

It's easy to get caught-up in beauty ads and baby product reviews — you think they'll add something to who you are as a woman or a mother — but please take my word for it: It's just stuff.

13. Someone will always disagree with you. And that's a fact.

And nowhere is that more clear than here on the Internet. I've had to deal with some pretty nasty comments on pieces I've written for various outlets, and it's done more than just give me a thick skin. It's given me a clearer understanding of people.

14. Being a people pleaser is the fastest way to being unreliable and unhappy.

It's better to say "no" from the get-go than say "yes" and not come through.

15. Live in the present.

After years of losing my keys and my phone and my wallet — and years of living inside my own head, listening to the noisy narrative chattering away in my brain, even while other people were trying to have a conversation — I finally understood that I wasn't living in the NOW. The more I'm consumed with my past and my future, the less I'm experiencing the moment — and the blurrier my memories are.

And that's not living.

16. Situations don't define you.

So don't let them.

17.  Find your tribe, and surround yourself with people you want to be like.

One of the coolest parts of growing up is that suddenly friendships aren't rooted in convenience or necessity, like they were back in elementary and high school. We can consciously surround ourselves with people who make us better versions of ourselves. As difficult as it seems, it's so important to cut out the negativity — whether it's on your Facebook feed or in real life.

18. Comparison is the fastest way to get in a bad mood and zap your productivity.

So stop letting Facebook, Pinterest, and sunny-sunshine mom bloggers get in your head. It's just a story they're telling and a story you're believing.

19. If you're doing everything at once, you're doing nothing well.

Multi-tasking is overrated, you guys. Focus! Be present!

20. Letting go is more powerful than hanging on.

...Whether it's an emotion, an identity, or a friendship.

21. Oftentimes the things you don't like about someone else are really the things you don't like about yourself.

THIS IS SO TRUE.

22. Be mindful of not only your actions, but your thoughts.

Because it's our thoughts — our stories, our assumptions, our insecurities — that cause the bulk of our unhappiness. The more mindful I am about what I'm thinking and where those thoughts are coming from, the easier it is to prevent a full-on spiral into moodiness.

23. Stress is not ambition.

Stress and ambition were so entangled that I couldn't see where one ended and the other started.

We live in a go-go-go society, where we value working through lunch and skipping vacations. Yet I've been so lucky to experience a more flexible work environment, where I can test out the theory that taking time to rest, exercise, and take some mental breaks are way better for productivity and focus.

And that theory is so true.

Go lie down and take a break. Everything else can wait.

24. Children come through you but not from you.

A poetic truth and an important reminder that our children are their own people with their own individual lives.

25. When someone attacks you, judges you, cuts you down — that's their insecurity and unhappiness showing. Find compassion before defensiveness.

 And also recognize it in yourself.

26. Kindness is all that matters.

Especially in a marriage. And especially toward yourself.

27. Find your breath

I've had a relationship with breathing techniques throughout my life — to manage stomach pain when I was a little girl, to meditate during yoga, to get through labor. And the powerful, transformative nature of our breathing is incredible. I've been using it as a stress management technique lately, and even just to ground myself. Explore it. It might change your life. (Stay tuned for meditative techniques from EM contributor Heidi.)

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YOUR TURN! What are some lessons that changed your life? Share below...