I’m turning thirty soon, which has led to a time of reflection as I close out my twenties. My twenties saw a great deal of trauma and heartache, but also lessons that have come invaluable as I enter my next decade of life. Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned on my way to my thirties:
Look At What Someone Is Doing With Their Own Life Before Taking Their Advice
My absolute favorite professor of all time was the head of public relations at the university I attended. It wasn’t his personality or harsh scores on pop quizzes, but the fact that he was still practicing public relations is what truly won me over. I was surrounded by professors who had never worked in a public relations agency or for a corporation in their life. They went straight from college to teaching. How did they know what it was really like to practice what they preached? Take a look at what people are doing with their own lives, before deciding how seriously you are going to apply their own advice to your life. In fact, one of the professors who never worked as a public relations professional told me that I would never make it in the real world in a career. The head of PR who practiced it in his own agency believed in me and helped guide my career. Hmm…
Your Faith Is Your Own
I grew up in the traditional church, always on time to Sunday school every week and participating in every special music session. One of my most haunting experiences of the Christian church was when my best friend questioned how our pastor knew what heaven was like during one of our confirmation classes. The pastor was utterly offended that my friend chose to question him, taking it as an attack on his authority. He was quick to silence him, nearly kicking him out of the church. A few years later, that same best friend committed suicide. The same pastor did his funeral service and spent most of it condemning suicide as a sin. I was mortified, and this most likely shaped my opinion of organized religion, since I was only fifteen years old.
After that moment, my relationship with God became my own. I always was close to Him, since I was a small child, having private conversations with him about life. However, when I saw what human nature was doing to His word and grace, my relationship with him became a private one. I decided at that moment that no one, not even a pastor, could influence how I viewed God, my faith, and grace.
Don’t Take Advice From Those Who Don’t Have To Live With The Consequences
It is so damn easy to give advice, and sometimes people do not even think twice before they give it. Understand there is a HUGE difference between giving advice, and actually living that advice out in your life.
You Can Have More Than One Soulmate
I grew up believing there was only one person for me and everyone else would just fade into the background when I met that person. As I approach 30, I’ve learned several people come into your life, shake things up, love you so hard, and then move on due to consequences outside of anyone’s control. This does not make them any less of a soulmate. We need multiple kinds of people, for multiple lengths of time in our life, to help shape us into the very best human being we can be. Sit back, and watch your life unfold the way it needs to. Let people walk away when they need to, and let people break down your walls when needed. Everything truly does work the way it needs to shape you into, well, you.
Your Job Might Not Exist Yet
When I was in college, social media as a profession did not exist. In fact, if you had brought it up, we would have laughed in your face. Who could honestly build a career by ‘playing’ on Facebook all day? A year after graduating, I fell into the social media space for brands, and have created an entire career out of it. I found it paired well with my obsession with research and public relations, and made it work for me. Find what you love, and create your job. Don’t feel like you need to be pigeonholed into something that already exists to be successful.
Family Should ALWAYS Come First
I’ve gone back and forth during different times of my life between putting my family on the backburner and bringing them to the front. No matter how hard you fight it, family has a connection that is deeper than anything else you will find. There is something about having the same blood that bubbles up when you are experiencing challenges in your life. I am so grateful for mine and have learned to prioritize them where they belong. I even moved to be closer to my mom this year, and have no regrets. Family is everything.
1 Out Of 3 People Will Automatically Dislike You
This is a nice little stat my mom shared with me just this year when I was complaining about someone who made every attempt to belittle me when I was in the same room with them. When you start thinking about life in the terms that people just won’t like you, no matter what you do, it is incredibly freeing. My thought process changed from, ‘Why the hell does this woman not like me?” to “So what, she is one out of three who does not like me. Moving on.”
Love And Infatuation Are Two Entirely Separate Things
I went through some phases where I was surrounded by guys who were infatuated with me. They wanted me to be a trophy girlfriend to flaunt around at holiday parties, or they wanted me to look exactly how I looked in modeling photos from college. Once I opened my mouth and started discussing my writing, my faith, or anything else that was important to me, I realized they were looking back at me with void stares. Once I made the tiniest ‘mistake,’ in their eyes, there was no room for understanding, only judgment. Watch out for people infatuated with you. They might be nice and give you a lot of attention, but there is a stark difference between indifference to who you actually are as a person, and someone loving even your flaws. The best way to test if you are in an infatuation or love situation is to decide whether you are being judged most of the time, or someone is actually trying to understand you and is interested in you beyond your appearance.
Actions Really Are Everything
I was in a relationship for longer than I’d like to admit where the best words ever were always said to me, the best things always promised, yet I found myself feeling alone and isolated. Family and friends quickly reached out and pleaded with me to look at his actions. I would defend him by telling them what his words were to me, and that it would get better. They would still push for me just to decide if this was the life I wanted. So, one day when I had nothing else better to do, I stripped our relationship of all the words ever said and just looked at the actions of the past year. It was full of missed doctors’ appointments, forgotten important dates, gifts that had nothing to do with me as a person, showing up at least forty minutes late to multiple dates. While the words were full of love, optimism, and hope, the actions represented someone who just did not have the time of day for me. Pay attention to what people are actually doing, not just what they are saying.
Always Go With Your First Impression
I have dated a couple of people who I absolutely hated upon meeting. Something about them just rubbed me the wrong way. Yet, they were persistent, and friends and coworkers insisted that we give it a try. In every single one of those situations, the person ended up being the same person that was rubbing me the wrong way when we met. I now trust my gut when first meeting someone more than anything else. No second try here.
Self Care Is Essential
I spent the majority of my early twenties ignoring self-care and doing everything possible to get ahead in my career. But then my sister died, and I had to find some way to cope with the unimaginable. I found yoga, meditation and one of my favorite authors. My life changed. I now rarely miss a yoga and meditation date, and even have a room reserved in my house strictly for yoga. It’s a room I go to when the world is hectic and crazy, where I can truly be at peace with myself and just think. Making dates with yourself will be one of the most important things you ever do. You, of all people, deserve first come, first serve with yourself. It is amazing what a few hours of self-care can do for the rest of your week when you are faced with stressful decisions and everyone wanting a piece of you.
Map Out Your Personal Values
So essential. You cannot make the best decisions for your life if you do not know what you value most. I spend some time each year reflecting on what’s most important to me, and I revisit that list when life gets tough, and I need to make decisions that will have a strong impact.
You Know Your Body Better Than Anyone Else
This is a recently learned lesson. About a year ago, I was having such sharp pains in my right side that I drove to the hospital and have to have a gardener get me out of my car and take me to the emergency room. The doctor took one look at me, dressed up with a full face of makeup since I was on my way to work, and told me that nothing was wrong with me and he was sending me home after running a few routine tests he had to run. Well, something came up in one of the tests, so I was admitted to the hospital. Another physician then told me he also didn’t think anything was wrong and was sending me home. I pushed for an exploratory surgery that they were reluctant to do. Come to find out; I had appendicitis the whole time, as well as something wrong with another one of my organs.
I have had intense complications since, and have been told nothing is wrong, and I am fine. However, I found a new physician after I moved, who has now found out that they missed something even bigger while I was in the hospital…that I have now had to live with (untreated) for the past year.
You know when something is wrong with your body, and you are your best advocate. Fight for yourself.
Spend Time Saying Yes To Everything
I went through an awful breakup with my college boyfriend (we ended up getting back together two months afterward, but whatevs), and committed myself to say ‘yes’ to every date or social outing I was invited to for one entire month. That was seriously one of the best months of my life. One of my favorite ‘yes’ moments from that month was when I was invited to a basketball game by someone I had met out. I HATE basketball, but I had committed to saying ‘yes,’ so I went. Come to find out, this person had courtside seats to the game (something he failed to mention in the invite) and Gabrielle Union was sitting directly behind us. Something I usually would have said no to ended up becoming an awesome experience and even grew a fondness in my for basketball (as long as the Miami HEAT are playing ).
Boundaries Do Not Make You A Bad Person
I always felt that if I was putting up boundaries, I was being a b*tch. I think this is something ingrained in our culture, especially the American culture. We glorify being busy and stretching ourselves so thin that we can’t actually enjoy anything. Then I was given an awesome opportunity to learn from a pastor at a local United Methodist church. He took me under his wing and even let me preach a few times. In one of our lessons, he handed me a book on boundaries. “Marji, you are a talented person with a lot to give, and if you do not set some boundaries up in your life, you are going to lose what makes you special– your passion and light.” It was a complete wakeup call for me that a pastor, of all people, was actually permitting me to set up some boundaries in my life.
To be completely honest, this is one of the things I struggle most with still, but I am working on it. The boundaries I have set so far have literally saved me, and have helped me stay focused.
Expensive Does Not Equal Quality
Going to college in Miami, and starting my main portion of my dating life in Miami, exposed me to expensive lifestyles that I could only dream of growing up in a small town in Wyoming. I found myself getting lost in the culture of needing to only wear name-brand clothes, and only going to the most expensive restaurants.
Then I spent a New Year’s in Brooklyn a few years ago. My friend, I was staying with had to work during the days, so I spent them exploring his up and coming neighborhood. There were no name-brands, and there were no fancy restaurants. I fell absolutely in love with thrift shopping and scouting out offbeat cafes. I realized that the best clothes are gemstones found in grimy thrift stores, and the best food I’ve ever had is cooked on a single stove in the back of a one-room converted apartment underneath the subway. Just because something is expensive and flashy, does not mean it has the best quality.
Style Is An Expression Of Self
This lesson came straight from my mama. She would take me on trips whenever I wasn’t in school, and would only buy me clothes in cities that were not in Wyoming. You cannot imagine how much I was made fun of when I returned to school wearing hot pink pants from Paris, or an orange leather jacket from NYC. My mom encouraged me to wear what most made me feel like myself, no matter how much I got made fun of. That has stuck with me, and now I love getting dressed and pulling together my thrift store pieces, with name-brand pieces, with my grandma’s jewelry. It is an outward reflection of who I am.
Others’ Judgments Are Your Opportunities
I had a professor single me out in a class in college and tell everyone that he just knew I was one of the sorority girls who just wanted her ‘MRS’ degree in college. I was mortified, but it also started a fire within me to prove him wrong. All he did was provide an opportunity for me to show off my skills and education. He ended up becoming one of my biggest advocates when it was time to get a job after college. When other people quickly make judgments about you based on stereotypes, use it as an opportunity to prove them wrong.
People Do Lie
I want to believe people, as most of us do. I want to see the good first, and then if there is bad later, I will deal with it then. So, it was a difficult lesson for me as I grew up to realize that people do lie, and a lot do not even feel bad about it >> they just find ways to justify it. This has not caused me to be some negative, cynical person who does not trust anyone. It has made me more aware, though, and has taught me to look for signs that someone might not have the best intentions for me.
Build Your Own Tribe
This was a high school lesson. I looked around my high school and realized there was not one single clique that I wanted to be a part of, so I invited each person I liked (all from different cliques) to a movie night. We met at my house, played a few games and then went to the movies. This soon caught on and we had monthly movie nights, with one new person invited each month. We all still get together when I make it home to Wyoming, and we are all still in awe of how people from entirely different backgrounds and cliques somehow are now friends due to our movie nights.
I’ve carried on this lesson as I’ve moved around and met new people. There’s no reason you need to fall into a particular clique that does not fit you. Build your tribe out of the people you admire most throughout your journey.
Your Flaws Are What Make You Successful
I was made fun of to no end, especially in junior high, but everything that I was made fun of actually contributed to making me successful as I became an adult. Having unique, weird things about you helps you stand out from the crowd. You can read more about how I truly believe our flaws as children make us successful adults here: Your Flaws Are What Make You Successful.
Speak Your Truth
This took me awhile to learn, but I learned it! Always, always, always be honest. It’s like one of my favorite quotes goes, “If people wanted you to write better about them, then they should have acted better in your life.” Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, especially when someone is threatening you to keep silent. Once you stand up for yourself, you will be amazed at how many people are willing to stand with you.
Forgive, Forgive, Forgive
I have a pretty strong stubborn streak, so forgiveness has never come easy for me. I’ve been known to hold some grudges and never, ever speak to certain people ‘for the rest of my life.’ Then my sister died, and my whole philosophy on forgiveness changed. Life is truly, truly short, and forgiveness is so necessary to live an authentic life. I have a whole meditation now that I do whenever I feel anger coming on towards someone, and it is all about letting go and releasing someone by forgiving them. Not forgiving someone only kills you, so save yourself.
Revisit Your Social Media Usage
Weird coming from a social media pro, huh? Seriously, though, as much as I love my job and social media, even I can acknowledge the devastating effects it can have on someone’s life if it is not used with care. It’s great to be on social media and share a piece of yourself, but don’t let it become an obsession in your life. Delete social media apps from your phone, so you only check it when you are on a desktop. Commit two days a week to not checking your notifications and just relaxing. Do anything to put some space between you and social media.
Look For Opportunities To Help
When we are in school, even in college, there are always opportunities presented to us to help our surrounding community. When we leave college and begin our careers, there are not always intentional ways to volunteer dropped on our laps. Make an effort to become a part of the community you live in, and, in essence, become an adult.
Tragedy Is Inevitable, But You Decide How To React
Tragedy hit me harder than I ever could expect on my way to 30, but I am still here and I still love life and all of the people who have been a part of my story. Use uncontrollable tragedies in your life to become a better person and redirect the negative energy into a positive mission.
Always Act In Grace (Because Sh*T WILL Come Back to Bite You)
You never, ever know when you will need someone in your life, or meet them again, so always act in grace. I’m only seven years into my career, and I have already had people that I didn’t necessarily get along with in the beginning, resurface in influential roles in new parts of my career. It’s tempting to tell someone off or give them what they deserve, but when you act in grace, you end up surprising them and keeping doors open that you both might need in the future. As good as it feels, sending that nasty email or telling someone off is never worth it.
Keep A Heart Of Thankfulness
Being grateful for what you currently have in life is one of the best ways to stay positive and make better decisions in the future. I have a mason jar on my desk that I put a note in every day with something I am grateful for. Whenever I’m having a tough day, I pour out the notes and read through them to remind myself that there are incredible things in my life that I should always be thankful for.
Stay Close To God
As a Christian woman, this is my ultimate life-saver over the past 30 years. He is there when I need advice, He holds me in the palm of His hand when the rest of the world feels a bit colder than usual, and he sees me through every single storm that rages through me. My faith is the most important thing to me, through all moments in life.
Hopefully, there are some lessons here that you can use on your own journey to 30 (and beyond .) I am grateful for three decades of life lessons, and cannot wait for what this next decade has to teach me!
-Marji J. Sherman