I know, I know. Another blogger making another blog post about all of their wise “life lessons”. Original, no? Some of you might find these kinds of posts transparently narcissistic, while others might consider them obnoxiously preemptive (like that 21-year old you know with a life-coaching business).

But it’s my birthday and I’ll write if I want to.

I spent yesterday reflecting a lot about the last 26 years. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the last few weeks in general. Quite a few things have happened in a very short period of time, and they’ve forced me to really stop and evaluate the person I am vs. the person I want to be. It’s been a wild month.

I won’t get into the gritty details, but I do feel like today is as good a time as any to take a little snapshot of myself. A moment, frozen in time, as I turn 26. I know that I will likely change my mind about many of the things that I write here. In fact, I hope I’m wrong about most of the things on this list. I hope that next year, on my 27th birthday, I can look back at what I wrote here and marvel at how naive I was just twelve months ago.

But for now, let’s get into it.

1. People > everything else. You can build skyscrapers and start a movement and own fifteen mansions across six continents, but without someone to share it all with, you will never feel truly fulfilled. I’d rather live in poverty with my family and best friends than be a billionaire who has to pay for my companionship.

2.  It isn’t always about being right. Sometimes, people are just looking for a little empathy, not a way to fix their problems.

3.  My generation has a massive problem with patience. I don’t think it’s really our fault—we did grow up in the age of the Internet and 10-second Snapchats, after all. But I do think that those of us who become the most successful will be the ones who can learn to put off instant gratification for the sake of future happiness. It’s something I still struggle with.

4. The grass is greener where it is watered.

5. Being left off the invitation isn’t as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Especially now that everything we do is captured in the form of social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like the world is against you. We’ve all been there—we see a Snap of our friends at a bar together, and we’re home without a single text or call. What happened? Why weren’t we invited? Do all our friends hate us? I’ve noticed this happen a lot, especially since much of my social group originated from a business frat (hello, unintentional cliques), and I’ve seen quite a few people take it very personally when they’re left out.

I’ve learned over the last few years that this is almost never intentional—it’s honestly just because people are lazy. We form our social calendars based on convenience and primacy. We make plans over lunch or spontaneous FaceTime calls, and we neglect to tell others because we just don’t see it as a big deal. Most of us don’t keep a list of our closest 20 friends in our sock drawer and reference it every time we make dinner plans with a few people. Learning to be okay with this, and to take initiative when you really want to be social, makes all the difference.

6. Talent is a combination of aptitude for learning and passion for a subject. It just means that you pick up on the concepts more easily than most people and that you love the subject enough to practice for 3+ hours every day. Nobody is born great.

7. The prestige of your company matters a lot less than what you do with your time there. Even if you’re not working your dream job, find some way to take initiative and impress your coworkers. Being able to talk results and source glowing reviews will take you 200% farther in your career than a big name on your resume.

8. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

9. Similarly, the way you wake up is the way you live your life. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. You don’t have to get up at 5am and smash out a 10k run, but you do have to be intentional about your choices. If you eat sugar in the morning, expect to crave sugar all day. If you sit in bed scrolling through Twitter and answering emails, expect to spend the day reacting to other people’s needs rather than your own.

10. The only self-improvement advice you’ll ever need: Do. The. Work. Every self-help book, every diet, every anything is just a clever way to get you to work. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. If you want to be a good person, you have to do good things. If you want to be strong, you have to go to the gym. You could read a 100 books and follow Tim Ferris religiously and still be years behind your goals because you’re never actually taking any action. It will probably suck at first and you’ll cringe at how awful you are, but you will improve over time. Prolific is better than perfect.

11. I hate Instagram. There, I said it. It brings me no joy and I’ve all but stopped checking my feed, with the exception of the first 2-3 posts and a handful of stories once or twice a day.

12.  You will never regret a workout.

13. Choosing between helping others and helping yourself is one of the most difficult ethical battles, and I still haven’t figured out the right balance between the two.

14. Our identities are fluid. One of the greatest ways we can hold ourselves back is by attaching to the person we once where, both the good and the bad. Our future should always been bigger than our past.

15. This is probably (definitely) TMI: It’s better to give into PMS than to fight it. I used to get so upset when I’d be on a good roll, feeling on top of the world, then BAM I’m on the floor curled up in fetal position, crying about how my favorite pair of socks turned pink in the laundry and wanting to lock myself in my room with two chocolate bars and a pound of gummy bears (not based on a real-life example of course).

The worst thing you can do in these situations is to beat yourself up about feeling bad in the first place. Nowadays, I give myself a day or two to just let go. I put on my favorite 90s rom-com, make a cup of tea, order some Chinese food, and stay in bed for 10 hours without moving. If my mood gets especially dark (okay, I may have occasional PMDD), I don’t try and convince myself to reason through it logically—I just acknowledge and accept the feeling, and remind myself that it’s all temporary.

16. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anyone else to?

17. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Literally, no one. Even the most successful CEOs experience anxiety and doubt. In fact, they’re probably the ones that feel it the most—being a pioneer means having no precedent, which means that every move you make is only an educated guess. As the late-and-great Bourdain once said, “Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying…If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”

18. Partying is the antithesis of everything I want in life. I know this sounds dramatic, but I can’t remember the last time that getting drunk improved my life in a positive way. It interferes with my health and fitness goals. It drains my bank account. It makes me less productive. It takes precious time away from the things I want to accomplish, of which I already don’t have enough time for. It makes me feel ashamed for my choices and my actions.

Drinking has this slope of diminishing returns—after you’ve had enough nights out, enough trips to Vegas, enough Coachella experiences, you start running in place. You end up having the same experiences over and over again, with the same people, and it becomes a way to distract yourself from your real priorities. I think everyone should have a time in their life where they get to make memories and build friendships and just enjoy, but I’ve been doing that for half a decade and I know that the late half of my twenties will need to look a lot different than my first half if I want to keep growing and changing.

19. You can’t lead an extraordinary life by making ordinary choices.

20. It’s a lot easier to live in extremes than to live in balance.

21. Always sleep on it. Before you send that angry email, before you commit to something important, before you make a big purchase just because it’s “on sale”. The amount of times you will miss out due to delayed timing will be absolutely dwarfed by the grief and heartache you save yourself from by being patient.

22. True love is a choice. It’s choosing over and over again to continually support another person and to choose kindness, even when said person drops your hard drive with your life’s photo collection from the top of a bunk bed.

23. Never drink coffee after noon. If you get the afternoon slumps, try getting 8 hours of sleep and ditching the carbs at lunch.

24. Self-promotion sucks. It’s also 100% necessary if you want to be successful.

25. It’s better to approach success than to avoid failure.

26. Everything will always be okay in the end. Humans are remarkably adaptable. I’ve had so many “my life is over” moments over the last 26 years and it has always, always been okay.

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2 Comments

  • Jenssa
    Posted October 18, 2018 at 1:25 pm 0Likes

    Anna, it’s been a million years – but I loved this. And it’s made me miss you all over again. I’m a little disappointed a comp gov “A line / B line” lesson didn’t make the list though haha. Happy late birthday! Hope this year is the best year for you. xoxox

    • thetravelsketch
      Posted October 18, 2018 at 2:14 pm 0Likes

      I’ll have to add that one to next year’s post haha! Love you, hope mom life is freakin special 🙂

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