28 Things I’ve Learned by 28 - Part I
“And then it happens… One day you wake up and you’re in this place. You’re in this place where everything feels right. Your heart is calm. Your soul is lit. Your thoughts are positive. Your vision is clear. You’re at peace; at peace with where you’ve been, at peace with what you’ve been through, and at peace with where you’re heading.” – The Minds Journal
When someone asks me how 28 feels, this is the first quote that comes to mind. By no means do I have everything figured out (does anyone ever have it all figured out?), but this is the first year that I feel truly at peace with where I am at. This did not magically just happen; it’s been a product of the tough decisions I have made in previous years, and most importantly, the hard and extensive work I have done internally to improve my mental health and my self-acceptance. The following lessons have been impactful, and have directly led to the improvement of my self-worth. And while everyone’s journey is completely unique, I want to share them with you in hopes that they may help you too.
1. There is no timeline for when you are supposed to have accomplished things.
I always believed I would follow the cookie cutter “timeframe” of graduate from university at 22, get married, buy a house, have kids, and return to work to climb the corporate ladder. You can imagine my disappointment when not a single one of those things went the way I had always imagined. If I’m being honest, the feeling of failure that consumed me when I did not accomplish these things in this way threw me into one of my darkest depression episodes, and it took hard and consistent inner work to get myself back up. This is not lesson I immediately learnt and appreciated, but I am now at a point where I can look back and understand just how valuable it is. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the storyline you developed of what your life would be like as you got older, and by all means it is important to day dream and set goals for yourself; but I learnt that the biggest flaw with this is that when you create this storyline, you have no idea where your mind, emotions, health, and desires will be at in the future. Something you strongly desired when you were younger may no longer make your heart race. Or you may still desire those things but you don’t feel mentally or emotionally prepared for them. And that is okay! It’s healthy for humans to grow and evolve with every life experience they obtain. Graduating later in life is still an incredible accomplishment and testament of your hard work, waiting to get married until you find the right person is wise, having children at a later age can still be beautiful! Doing things within a different timeframe than you originally planned does not take away from the accomplishment itself. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of the decisions you made that led you to that accomplishment.
2. It's okay to change your mind.
To expand on the point above, it is okay to change your mind! We all have goals and desires that we lose interest in as we get older. Or maybe you simply find yourself realizing that something you wanted no longer brings you happiness or isn’t what you thought it would be. As someone who switched majors 3 times before graduating, I know exactly how disheartening it feels to no longer want something but being scared that backing out will mean you wasted your time, money, and are now “behind”. I’ve been stuck in relationships that I knew were no longer healthy or made me happy, but the thought of starting over felt terrifying. And, I also know how incredibly liberating and rewarding changing my mind about those things was! It was scary, and it was really hard, but I can confidently tell you that making the decision to pursue something different was the best decision I ever made.
3. Sometimes, things not going how you wanted them to, becomes your biggest blessing.
It’s wild to see how life starts to fall into place when you have the courage to go after what you truly want. By no means am I implying that things just fall into your lap or that it is a smooth process; most things take hard work and dedication, but life has a funny way of working out when you finally stop settling and you start only focusing your energy on the things you truly want to cultivate in your life. Things that are meant for you will not pass you. They won’t magically happen either. You have to be willing to put in the effort and make sure to take the opportunity when it presents itself. But when you are focused on the right things, those opportunities will start to present themselves often. Letting go of things not meant for you will make room for the things that are. And letting go of those dreams or things can take some time; time to grieve, time to make alternate arranges, or simply time for your heart and mind to both accept the loss - be kind to yourself and take that time. But don’t let the fear of letting go keep you from making those tough decisions and moving on to better things waiting for you.
4. Don't settle in romantic relationships. The right person won't be perfect, but loving someone should not always be difficult.
I think the most common piece of love advise people give or receive is “don’t settle”. Self-explanatory, right? Except, “settling” can look very differently in each relationship as everyone has unique deal breakers, and it is not always easy to identify what settling looks like. I personally don’t believe loving someone is a good indication of this. Humans are capable of feeling love towards harmful things, or towards harmful people in this case. Of course, loving a partner is important, but if you find yourself still loving someone and consistently make excuses for their behaviour, they are abusive in any way, or you simply can’t fight off a gut feeling, chances are you are settling. The right person will not be perfect by any means, and loving them won’t be easy every day of your relationship! You will have differences, disagreements, and moments when you may question if you will make it, but the good moments should far outweigh the tough ones. While you should always put in the effort, the right relationship will feel effortless the majority of days. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt when things are tough, but if you consistently find yourself having to convivence yourself the relationship is something you want, chances are you don’t actually want it.
5. Your parents don't have to like or understanding your decisions.
Some people are incredibly lucky to have parents who support and admire every decision they make, and if this is you, call your parents and let them know how much you appreciate them! While my parents are amazing and I have an enormous list of things to thank them for, I happened to make very different decisions throughout my life than they did, which consistently led to their disapproval of my choices. I don’t think this makes them bad parents in anyway; they were simply doing the best they could with the perspective and knowledge they had from their own experiences and decisions. But wow did this make things hard and painful while I was blazing my own path. I think deep down every child, consciously or unconsciously, seeks the approval of a parent, and when it is not received it can often leave you feeling like you are making the wrong decision. But part of growing up is learning to be your own advocate, and standing up for the things you believe in and desire - even when these things look differently than what your parents would have chosen. While this was a very tough lesson for me, I am happily at a point now where I no longer seek my parents’ approval; I feel confident in my own decisions and I feel confident in the life that I am choosing to build. And maybe if you are lucky, your parents, like mine, will come around and start to accept that your own path can be just as beautiful and successful as the one they wanted for you.
6. Don't pretend to like or care about something just because those around you do.
The need for approval doesn’t often stop with your parents, and usually it may feel safer to blindly agree, or pretend to agree, with someone for the sake of avoiding conflict. A sign of emotional maturity is understanding that you can disagree with someone and maintain a healthy relationship with them. You do not need to compromise your own believes or interests simply to fit in. You also do not need to hide or pretend you don’t value those things. If the people surrounding you don’t accept you for who you are, you need to surround yourself with new people.
7. Others’ success does not take away from your own.
It is easy to find yourself comparing yourself to family members, friends, coworkers, and social media influencers now a days, but please remember, most of what they allow you to see is a highlight reel! Everyone is fighting their own battles behind closed doors. While using this as motivation can at times be healthy, be disciplined enough to catch yourself when you start playing the comparison game and reframe your thoughts. Someone else’s success does not mean you can’t succeed as well! Someone else’s definition of success may look very differently than yours. Get clear on what is important to you, and focus all your energy on that.
8. Working with people you enjoy is more important than enjoying what you do.
After working in multiple, totally unrelated fields, the one thing that has remained true through all of them is that you will be spending the largest portion of your day with the people you work with, and they will undoubtedly have an impact on your happiness. The relationship you build with your coworkers and your boss can easily be the determining factor on whether you remain with a company or not. While you do not always have control over who you work with, do your best to develop a meaningful connection with these humans, as it will make your work days much more enjoyable. When you love the people you work with, going to work can feel more fulfilling and will minimize the “bad days” as you will have a support system around you to help.
9. Work hard and prove your worth, then ask for that raise!
I get it, asking for a raise can be difficult.; but so is feeling undervalued. To make it an easier conversation, make sure you can back up your case! Be a hard worker, offer to help without being asked to, respect others and have integrity, take time to learn new things and ask questions, stay organized. People notice your efforts, and while you cannot expect recognition for everything you do, these habits will create a lasting impression on your employer, and will make the money conversation a lot less intimidating.
10. You are replaceable to your employer, but you are irreplaceable to your loved ones. Prioritize accordingly.
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and having big career goals! If you are determined to reach a certain position, salary, or simply just enjoy what you do, fantastic! Keep going! But do remember, if something were to happen to you, even if your employer greatly values you, they will be looking to fill your position shortly after. Your loves ones, whoever, will grieve losing you every day for the rest of their lives. Make sure you are giving them the appropriate amount of energy and attention while you can. Nurturing these relationships can be as fulfilling as your career accomplishments, if you let them.
11. Diversify your income.
Times are changing, economies are diversifying, and staying with a company for 30+ years is rare now a days. Not only should you continue your professional education well into your career through self-learning and professional development courses, obtaining new transferable skills will allow you to adapt to changes your field may experience throughout the years. This will also allow you to secure multiple income sources so that you can better attain financial stability. Get a part time job, or start pursuing that side hustle. Pursuing different interest will keep your mind sharp, your wallet happy, and your soul fulfilled.
12. Find a way to monetize what you do for fun in your free time.
Let’s talk side hustles. Entrepreneurship is more common than ever, and with good reason. Being an entrepreneur does not always mean quitting your job and taking the leap of faith – although if that’s what you want to do, all the power to you! Starting your own business can begin small, and if you are more comfortable having a steady backup income while you pursue your passion, that’s okay! The only right way to pursue entrepreneurship is consistently! You don’t have to do it all at once, and you don’t always have to take huge risks; you just have to commit to sticking to it and your efforts will slowly amount to something incredible. The freedom to do what you love to do while making an income from it is a whole other level of feeling successful.
13. Save a percentage of every single paycheque and live within your means.
Living pay cheque to pay cheque is a reality for a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Learn to live within your means; if you want something you cannot afford, delay gratification and work hard until you can afford it rather than accumulate debt. Get creative with ways to save money and actually save that money rather than find new ways to spend it. Sticking to these habits will not only cut your monthly costs, but will gradually allow you to grow an emergency fund so you are better prepared for financial hardships or unexpected events. Don’t forget to save for retirement; the younger you start the lower your contributions need to be! While it is important to enjoy the present, be realistic about the fact that you will likely need or want to retire at some point, and waiting until that day to worry about your finances will not do you any good.
14. Get a personal low interest line of credit, for the sole purpose of emergencies, and only use it as so.
This one may be a controversial one, so please note that these are only my personal views; do your own research and decide for yourself what is the best course of actions for your own finances. Let’s get something straight - the goal is to be debt free, so the idea of more debt sounds counterintuitive. But getting approved for a small low interest line of credit and not using it can be beneficial. Proving responsible use of credit to any financial institution will improve your credit score, which will lead to being offered lower interest rates for debt you may actually need, such as a mortgage, student loans, etc. Having this available credit can also serve as an emergency fund. You can certainly simply save up an emergency fund separately, but we personally prefer to keep our savings in a higher interest return investment. These investments can be maintained in an extremely conservative fund and will still likely give you a better rate of return than any bank ever will. If an emergency arises, you can utilize your line of credit instead of using high interest credit cards, or missing important payments all together, and then make the decision about whether to withdraw those investments to pay back that line of credit, or enter into a repayment schedule. The idea here is simply to maximize the potential that your savings can grow, while still being covered during unforeseen events.