Today is my 30th birthday. Honestly, staring down the barrel of my thirties isn't scary. It actually feels pretty amazing. It finally feels like I'm there: that sweet spot of happiness, accomplishment and comfort with myself and my life.
Or, as Olivia Wilde so accurately calls it, "The cut the bulls--- and go be awesome stage."
So let's cut the BS and get to the being awesome part:
Understand the difference between your happiness & what makes other people happy
This is a tough one. It's an easy concept and a difficult practice. I am a people pleaser. And in constantly trying to please others, I lost my voice. Speak up when you have an opinion. Say what you feel and understand that those who hate you for your truth don't deserve to be in your life.
Because it's your life. And you have to wake up every day and live it, so you might as well be happy with your choices. Stop trying to please other people so they'll like you and start doing what you want. Right now. Without shame.
Listen more. Talk less.
If you listen closely, people will tell (and also show) you who they are. And you'll be amazed by what you learn by listening and speaking only when you have something important to say. Talking is just noise. The more you talk, the less people listen.
Don't take the first offer. Don't settle because you think you can't do any better. And don't stay in a relationship because you feel guilty about breaking it off. When you raise your standards, the right people will rise to meet them.
Find your "thing."
Find something to be passionate about and do it, over and over again. Search until you find something that is uniquely yours that makes you giddy with happiness, even after the novelty wears off.
Running is my thing: it gets me out of bed well before the sun rises and keeps me pounding the pavement long after my legs have given up. It's therapeutic tough love. And it makes me deliriously happy.
Learn to say no--and mean it.
If you don't want to do something, don't. Saying yes is sacrificing a part of yourself, little by little. The world won't end with your "no." Seriously.
When you find the one, you'll know.
The right thing always feels like the right thing, no matter how you slice it: your wedding dress, your home, your partner, your profession. I was 23 when I got married. Too young? Perhaps. But there was never a doubt it my mind that my husband was the one--and time won't change that. Keep searching until it feels right. And don't hang on for too long when it doesn't.
Understand the power of words.
What you say and how you say it is more impactful than you realize. Choose your words carefully. Give compliments. Apologize. Tell someone when they've done something well. And be firm but calm when you're wronged--it gets you further than exploding with anger.
Don't let anyone steal your joy.
I used to work for a school district and one of the receptionists was a ray of sunshine, even though her job was dealing with unpleasant (and typically angry) people. Even when people were screaming at her, she smiled and let it roll off her back. I asked her once how she did it. What she told me felt like a light turned on in my head:
"I just smile and tell myself, 'You can't steal my joy. It's mine and you can't have it.'"
The truth is, miserable people can only be happy if you are miserable, too. You can usually spot them from a mile away; misery loves misery. And be wary of those who try to steal your joy.
Life is really about living and letting go, over and over again. Letting go of what could have been, what you believe should have been and all the opportunities you missed along the way. Of hatred and anger to those who have wronged you, also known as drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Let it all go and know that life rolls on, with or without your permission.
Embrace your faults.
The sooner you're honest with yourself (and others) about your shortcomings, the easier things will be. It's part defense mechanism, part truth: to know who I am I must also know my faults. And trust me, I have a lot of them.
Be a student of life.
You can only learn if you allow yourself to be taught by your life. Everything--and I do mean EVERYTHING--is a lesson. Even the really crappy senseless stuff that you don't understand. It's all meant to teach you something, make you stronger and ultimately, more resilient.
My greatest lesson will always be the one branded across my lower stomach in the form of a 6" scar. It's a reminder of what I can't have and a tattoo of what it took to learn my life's most meaningful lesson. You cannot control everything. Some things just aren't meant to be. And from your greatest pain comes your innermost peace. It was terrible and unpleasant, but it's part of my story.
Today, I'm happy. Like pinch-myself-every-morning happy. I walked through fire to get here, but I'm here. And I understand that all the pieces don't have to fit together perfectly in order to have a beautiful life.
Trust your gut.
That guy that seems creepy to you for no other reason than it makes your neck hair stand up when he looks at you? Trust that---it means something. Always listen to the part of yourself that says, "Hmm, that's weird." Because it probably is. And you don't have to have a reason to feel that way.
To others and to yourself. To the people who are the most unloveable. Forgive, even when they aren't sorry. Say please and thank you. Hold open the door, even when it feels inconvenient. Give something you have to someone who needs it more. And don't brag about any of it.
All work is hard work.
Even when you love your job, it's work. Tough work. But if it challenges you and makes you feel like you're doing what you were meant to do, stick with it. The rewards will only come when you put your heart into your work.
So here's to thirty. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go be awesome now.