There’s something about a milestone birthday that causes us to pause and reflect on the moment to ask: who are we becoming? Where are we at in this moment of life? Is this the direction I want to be going in? And how did we get to where we are today?
This year I turned 30; I celebrated three decades of life that I have been gifted. In those three decades, I have experienced the joy of marriage and deep friendship, and the pain of broken relationships. Giving birth to new life, and sitting beside another during their final breaths. Unexpected horrific news, and unexpected awesome gifts. Real, life giving community, and draining, fake community. Sleep deprivation, and amazing rest. Career building and career pivoting. Travelling to world-class cities, and travelling to volunteer at the margins of society. These experiences taught me invaluable lessons about life, love, community, psychology, and humanity.
Here are the 10 lessons from my 20s that made me wiser:
Claim your unique story
Every single person on earth has a unique story that allows them to empathize in certain ways with others. Appreciate your story and others’ stories. If you had a book of your life to date, what would the chapters be called? If you flipped to the most painful moments of your life, what would they be? Embracing your personal story – and sharing it with others – can be the gateway to human connection, healing, and empathy.
Embrace your strengths, manage your weaknesses
You were made with certain strengths, abilities, and talents that make you uniquely you. Lean into those strengths and recognize we all play a part in the body or system of society. Whatever your weaknesses are, identify them and learn to manage them. I know my strengths are in big picture thinking, learning, communication, and building relationships. I find ways to use those strengths in every area of my life. On the other hand, one of my weaknesses is time management; I make sure I put most of my tasks into a google calendar, and thoughtfully prioritize my time at the start of the day.
Self awareness leads to empathy, and healing
Your worldview and core beliefs shape your actions. Your core beliefs about who you are are often deeply ingrained from childhood experiences. If anything happened during that critical period that distorted your ideas of love or life (i.e. caused you great pain or suffering), it’s likely to have shaped your narrative and consequently, your actions. But self awareness and empathy enables you to heal; to break the cycle of pain.
Don’t settle for faux-community
How do you define community? Is it your family? Instagram friends? Gym or yoga friends? Your workplace? We all seek human connection and community; that place where we can be fully loved and accepted by others, and part of a group working towards a common goal. But please – do not settle for faux community. Community is meant to be a place where you can rely on people to be there and love you in the best of times, worst of times, and everything in between. Community is meant to be long-term, committed to being by your side over the years. Anything less than that is just profiting off your desire for real connection.
Diversity is more than what the eye can see
Diversity has become a buzz word, especially among our institutions. I have lived and breathed diversity since the day I was born, having been born into three cultures (Filipino, Portuguese, and Punjabi) and then later marrying into an Argentinian family. But diversity is more than what meets the eye. It’s not just about diverse food menus or having a group of diverse looking people together in one room. It’s the ability to find common ground with people who have a different worldview, valuing humans for their human-ness, listening to people’s story, and recognizing that deep down, we are all the same.
Loving someone means fully loving them
Many people claim to love another, only to be confronted with the recipient of love saying they don’t feel loved. You’re left feeling perplexed by their perception. How can you say I don’t love you? I did this and this for you! Through years of marriage, life long friendship, and being in a huge family, I have learned that loving people means loving them fully; with your actions (serving), with your affections (body), and by listening to them so that they might be seen by you. It’s what we all desire.
Recognize that goodness is all around you
Believe it or not, goodness is all around you. A strawberry in season. A playful child. The charities showing radical love in your community. The love and acceptance of a grandmother. A sunset. The daily news benefits off of stories about evil. It plays to our disordered desire to see the bad. If you wake up every morning and flip on the news, or read through your phone’s curated list of stories, you’re bound to find yourself feeling more hopeless than hopeful (at best), or worse – in despair at the ugliness of humanity.
Become a conscious consumer
As a society we have become so disconnected from the things we consume. Everything from what we eat, to what we watch, to what we wear. There is great danger in shutting off our consciousness towards the thing we are letting in. What you let into (or onto) your body and mind is part of a system. Does that system align with your values? Does that system cause great suffering in the world? Asking these questions before you consume will allow you to better align with your values. What you consume ultimately feeds into who you are becoming.
Find rest for your soul, and do it weekly
Are you killing yourself and/or your relationships for the sake of the hustle? It’s time to pause. Hustle culture is the dominant culture and is becoming more and more pervasive. The unhealthy relationship we have to productivity, hard work, and money is causing people to become more fatigued, anxious, and unhappy than ever. We are not meant to live this way. We are meant to live for so much more than our paycheques, job titles or the car we drive…house we live in… or clothes we wear. Eventually you will find that those things are meaningless without health and relationships.