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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Joy

26 Things I've Learned in 26 Years

It’s my birthday weekend! On Sunday (yes, Mother’s Day) I am turning another year older, and I’d like to think I’ll be getting a little wiser as well. Because while I don’t love the idea of inching a little bit closer to 30, I am so incredibly thankful for all of the experiences and lessons that life has thrown my way. So on the account of me turning 26 in two days, here are 26 things I’ve learned throughout my life so far:

  1. Don’t sweat the things that are out of your control. I’m notorious for worrying about EVERYTHING. But I’m learning to let some problems and worries go if I can’t actually do anything about them.

  2. Family is everything, but you don’t always have to like everyone in your family.

  3. Eating right is important. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling I get on some Sunday evenings/Monday mornings after going on a weekend junk-food binge. It can be hard to find time to meal prep and grocery shop, but I can definitely tell that eat healthily makes a difference for my skin, mood, and overall health.

  4. Exercising is also important - make it a regular part of your routine because... “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands - they just don’t!” -Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

  5. The planet belongs to other animals as much as it belongs to humans. Have compassion and empathy for all living things!

  6. DRINK WATER! I bring a reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go and I make sure to keep it filled at all times. I used to struggle with migraines, but I’ve been able to keep them more under control in recent years - and I think staying hydrated has helped tremendously! Not to mention, it helps to make my skin glow as well!

  7. You don’t need to load your morning coffee with sugar and cream. I take my coffee either black or with a splash of milk. To me, coffee has one purpose: wake me up and keep me sane enough to get through the day!

  8. Set priorities and stick to them. My to-do list seems never-ending sometimes, but I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out what tasks or responsibilities are most important. And speaking of priorities…

  9. Make yourself a priority. Learn how to care for yourself, and do it! Self-care is so vital for your physical and mental health. Take a few minutes out of each day to do something you enjoy!

  10. Speak up and be an advocate for things you are passionate about.

  11. Love can’t be forced. Stop chasing after people who don’t suit you well or give you the time and attention you deserve. I wasted plenty of time on people (specifically men) who were never going to love me like I wanted them to. And - as cliche as this sounds - as soon as I stopped chasing the ones who didn’t want me, I found the one perfect man who did.

  12. Minimize! You don’t need a bunch of “things” to survive. I truly believe that too much clutter causes anxiety. I can think more clearly and I can be more productive when things are clean and organized. The more stuff you have, the harder it is to organize. Recycle or donate anything you don’t use, and don’t buy something unless you absolutely need it.

  13. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. That new job you were offered that pays well but doesn’t grow you as a person or fuel your passion? That relationship that leaves you feeling unfulfilled? That “Totally Free!” product you saw advertised on Facebook? All of those things should make you cringe just a little bit. If you’re questioning a decision, relationship, etc., trust your gut on it!

  14. Don’t try to please everyone. You’ll never succeed if you try to, and at the end of the day the only person you need to please is yourself.

  15. Oatmeal is the most versatile breakfast food. Anything goes with oatmeal: fruit, nuts, peanut/almond butter, protein powder, chocolate, etc. I eat oatmeal just about every morning and I never get sick of it!

  16. Have confidence in everything that you do. And if you don’t actually have it, “fake it til you make it.”

  17. You can’t make other people feel or think the way you do. I’ve spent way too much time being frustrated with people because they didn’t deal with or react to certain situations in the way that I expected them to. Pro-tip: It’s not worth getting frustrated over because you can’t change the way people think, feel, or act.

  18. Counting calories is a habit that’s harder to break than make, and restrictive dieting is no way to live. I’ve tried it (I’m guilty of still doing it sometimes) and all it does is leave you feeling sad and hangry.

  19. Manners matter! A simple please and thank you help more than you realize.

  20. Failure is inevitable, resilience is imperative. You’re going to fail at things in life, but you need to pull yourself together and move on from the failures.

  21. Avoid tanning beds. I feel like a hypocrite writing this one because there was a time n my late teens when I spent a fair amount of time in tanning beds trying to look my best for proms, vacations, special events, etc., but I regret doing that to my skin. While I still love getting that sun-kissed color for summer, I’m trying to be smarter about it by using sunscreen and sunless tanners. My current favorite is Australian Gold’s Sunscreen+Instant Bronzer. It provides me with the protection from the sun’s rays, and it also gives me that sun-kissed color I’m looking for!

  22. It’s better to dress conservatively - I think most people would describe my style as being “basic,” and I’m okay with that! My signature casual look is a black t-shirt and denim jeans or shorts. I’m not going to lie - I love getting dressed up and flaunting “what my momma gave me” from time to time, but overall, I prefer casual and comfortable dress.

  23. Get enough sleep, but don’t waste your whole day sleeping in. I’m most productive in the morning, so I try not to sleep the day away - unless I really need the sleep, that is! But I try to get to bed at a reasonable time, or else I find myself grumpy and unproductive (not a good combo!)

  24. There is no “direct path” in life that you need to take. I’ve seen too many people get married and have kids because “that’s what the next step in life is.” If you would have asked me ten years ago, I would have told you I would be married with kids by now, but I’ve found that life goals and priorities change. Embrace where you’re at in life, and don’t ever think what you’re doing is wrong just because other people are a a different stage/place in their lives.

  25. Buy experiences instead of “things” - trips, adventures, and hands-on experiences are way more valuable than material things. And the memories you make doing things with someone special last way longer than anything you can buy at a store.

  26. Attitude can really make or break your day - start every day off with a positive attitude!

Thank you to all of my friends and family who always make me feel so incredibly lucky on my birthday. I’m so grateful to have such special, loving people in my life to help me thrive and grow as a person. Let me know in the comments about some of the life lessons you’ve learned!

Thanks for reading!

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