Aloha future Jen,
You’re one step closer to thirty and I must say you’re thriving more than you were at twenty-five. I’m psyched for you and what’s ahead! Before you get on your merry way to living yet another full year of life, I’ve paused and reflected a bit. I know you love lists so I put it in list form. Here I present to you the 27 bits of life advice I want you to carry this year as reminders to yourself:
Ten bits of wisdom on my relationship with myself
- Drink as you pour. You can show up better for others after you show up for yourself. Or as the flight attendant obligatorily shares before each flight, “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” Tending to your own needs first is *not* selfish. It’s helped me beyond belief to figure out what my unique needs are. For me, I’ve found that some of these include breaks with outdoor walks, sunlight, time away from my phone, daily exercise, stretching in hammock pose, and AM/PM journaling, which has allowed me to find what my personal protocol for living is. It also means my dad no longer needs to tell my roommates to feed me a cheese stick when I am hangry.
- To be creative, go create (anything). It starts the domino effect. Write a letter, or scribble out some morning pages. I promise: it’ll prime you to keep going. I wrote my first song on my ukulele and it’s inspired me to pay attention to song lyrics and poetry more ever since. The mere act of creation also helps me shield against that pesky fear of feeling like a fraud. In order to identify myself as the noun, I act on the verb. This goes with anything.
- Follow your strengths and seek out ease. Looming fears want to make you believe that you can crank something out by toughing it out, but instead, what would this project look like if it was easy? Seek out your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses and they will energize you.
- Believe in the infinite potential of the problems this world needs to solve. You can create work you enjoy, and that you are competent at, while still having many avenues to create growth. Plus, you can still do your part to impact and be useful to the world.
- If you feel lousy, let it be and accept it. It’s human to wake up not feeling great and decide to take some time for yourself. You are not a robot so stop expecting to operate consistently like one. There are highs and lows. Delay judgment on yourself and make some time for self-care.
- Take the leap of faith that your 80-year-old self would. What would my future self do in this situation? They don’t care about the trends. If you want to apply to the grad program to learn conflict resolution, then trust your gut. Go for it!
- Shoot your shot. The majority of folks regret inaction over action. Be the outlier and error for taking action even if it seems scary. If you meet someone at the surf break who wants to go surfing with you again, go for it! If you see a DM from a person who has taken the time to read your 30-minute-long 2021 annual review, go take the time to meet them. If you dream about a way to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, then find a way even if it means moving your flight back a day.
- Forgive yourself. Mistakes get made and you learn from them. You are the only person who can amend them, so don’t beat yourself up or let the shame sink into your core in the long term. Learn self-compassion to heal the wounded insecure bully.
- Go on a quest to find your quirks. Keep experimenting to find what makes you one-of-a-kind. My love of cheese, bananas in the morning, inspiring quotes, carcinogens on burnt toast, mailed letters, new words, voice notes, ribbits like a frog from drinking seltzer, jazz hands, foot cracking, scoliosis–induced crooked cat-cow pose, and clammy hyperhidrosis hands.
- Be your own cheerleader. Write up a card affirming who you know you are. Use it as ammunition to guard yourself against the doubts that swirl in your mind. Trust you are supposed to backpack that mountain or compete in that tri race because you can.
Five bits of wisdom on friendship
11. Surprise yourself with true close friends. The deep connections can fill you thrice as much as shallow ones. There’s no need to feel insecure about having a smaller number than you used to if you are content. For me, this has meant hot coco- filled nights talking about nothing but simultaneously everything. It’s that walk in the park walking Winny and spilling my beans of who I’m crushing hard on.
12. Have new or distant friends as sounding boards. They can offer outside perspectives on your creative endeavors or projects like your current job or whether to take the same writing class again for the 8th time or to focus more fully on traveling. The different opinions help you get a fuller picture. They see fewer variables than you do. I have the curse of knowledge of all of my own thoughts. Someone who only knows a bit about me can reflect back as a sounding board and zoom in on what the most valuable parts are.
13. Take permission to say what you need to say. Even if it’s unprompted or you think it might feel out of the blue. Before going home for the holidays, I mailed each of my parents a letter sharing what I appreciated about them. I’d be lying if I shared that the 4,483-mile distance between us made our relations easier. I felt more at peace after sharing my truth that I do love where I grew up and who it turned me into. It feels like common sense to affirm something but it can be powerful to validate something that is assumed and not regularly talked about.
14. At least show up. A 5-minute phone call is better than none. A quick note or follow-up text shows thought even if it’s imperfect.
15. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. To have a friend, be a friend. I’ve learned a lot more about companionship from my roommate. Spontaneous back massages. Buttered corn on the cob between Zoom meetings just because. Beautifully formatted emails. Long lingering hugs. When you give love, finding love is easier. If I light candles, write letters, and eat tasty food for myself, it feels seamless to bring light, write kindness and share tastiness with others around me.
Five bits of wisdom on health
16. Go photosynthesize. Nourish yourself. Just like a flower flourishing in the sunlight, soak it in when you can. Take a break and be a sunflower, I guarantee that you will feel better.
17. Health is holistic. Look at the whole picture. If your neck hurts maybe it’s not your pillow’s fault but how you sit while working all day.
18. Body and mind are connected. Use this to your advantage and affirm in your mind that your body is strong. Allow your body to remind you that your mind is brilliant with its flowing (endorphin high) thoughts.
19. Inputs create your outputs. Look at what you’re consuming. Zoom out and be like a bird soaring over your life and take stock of what’s in your fridge, web browser history, camera roll, journal entry, and text messages. Ask yourself: What am I digesting in my mind? Similar to if I just munched down seven tootsie pops, and feel lousy, if you see a bunch of clickbait titles in your Google search history, then notice that and choose to channel a choice of change.
20. Technology tools can validate. Thank you, Garmin watch, for telling me to go rest. Thank you for also validating that I am nervous as I see my heart rate spiking. Thank you, ChatGPT, for distilling my writing piece.
Seven bits of wisdom on living
21. When in doubt, let it out. This goes for sailing downwind, and also with sharing what’s going on in your life with the people in your circle to process life. When in doubt, flock to the pages of your journal. As Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “paper has more patience than people.” Release it and you feel at ease.
22. Don't let everything build and bubble up inside. Pop the pop and let it fizzle long before you explode. Getting by earning your living as a human being is hard. Find what relieves stress and go make time for it. Whether it’s lying in a hammock alone, running, or throwing axes, go do it. Lean into ease to sail at an even keel. Choose less pressure. Relax.
23. Sleep on it. What I learned from getting scammed out of $1650 in 2020 is that your brain can get hijacked without time to process. Learn how this hardware of our brain works and build a sense of trust within yourself. Take as much time as you need to mull it over. Have the patience to process your big decisions over some time.
24. Breathe your chill pill. Piling on more will not solve anything. I’ve taken the enneagram personality test multiple times and when I am defined as a Type 5 Thinker, it makes me think that thinking is my superpower, but in actuality, layering more thoughts on top of thoughts solves nothing. It causes more headaches. One thing at a time.
25. Pretend there’s no spotlight. Everyone is in the light and also no one is. Nobody cares that much about what you’re actually doing. Walk across the grassy field without shoes on. Talk to the chickens in the garden if you feel compelled to. Make a goofy face at a friend for fun.
26. Reminisce on your bliss. Look at the joy in your life. Dive deep to figure out how it happened. You can recreate that again. Write out in your journal what you love doing and then hold yourself accountable to doing it more often without any other reason than seeking joy. In time, you will flourish and find success along the way, and you can see the miracle that is life. Gratitude pours out when you realize the possibilities of chance encounters and creations.
27. Beauty is all around if you choose to notice. Like in the beautiful flowing words of the song like Aloha Ke Akua by Nahko And Medicine For The People. Or while seeing the smiling face of Hugh Jackman performing The Music Man on Broadway like it was his first-time tap dancing. Or noticing how much wonder and imagination went into the cinematography to capture a movie the Avatar. Or in the mindblowing Fibonacci sequence that sums up the number of petals on any flower I walk by outside.
Last but certainly not least, have patience, young padawan. Life is long. You are young. You’ve got a beautiful beating heart in your chest, a vibrant smile, a bright brain in your noggin, two squid-like flexible hands, and two flippity flat feet that can take you anywhere you dream of going.
Now, may you take these bits and continue to live a full life full of love, light, laughter, and learning.
With unconditional love 💞
Your past younger self
This piece wasn't written alone. Thank you to my friends and Foster editors for making these bits of wisdom better including: Ben Schneider, Alicia Kenworthy ,Russell Smith , Joshua Mitchell , Amber Williams, and Sena Gürdoğan
Originally published in 🎁 Letter 147: 27 Bits of Wisdom from 27 Years.