My 25th birthday has come and gone. I have now existed for a quarter century. It actually seems so small in comparison to the span of time– a mere quarter of but a fraction of all of time. Nonetheless, as the day quickly approached, I scoured the internet for some sort of semblance as to what it all meant. The notorious “quarter life crisis” was often referenced in Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog articles, but I rationalized that based on the average human life expectancy, 22, 23-years-old is a more accurate marker. According to that timeline, I was right on cue at 23. But that also meant that I was passed it. Now what?
Over and over I read the lists, deconstructed the articles, buried myself in words of what 25 did and did not mean. Though some of it struck a chord, none of them truly grasped what I was feeling; none of them said exactly what I needed to hear. I was on the verge of a full blown panic attack, contemplating my own mortality, ready to write a will and call it a good life. Dramatic? Of course. So instead, I decided to write my own– to remind myself of what 25 means to me and all I hope it to be:
1. No one has it all figured out. So often I look around at the people closest to me and read about those that are making billions by 30 and I fall into the pattern of comparison. It’s lethal. But then you really get to know someone and you take a step back to realize that they’re trying to figure it all out too. I admire people who know their purpose in life and pursue it with all of their might– they will be the ones to change this world. I may not be one of them, and that’s okay. So long as I do my best to lead a life I’m proud of. I don’t think any of us will ever really figure it out. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try. Isn’t that the more important lesson?
2. Everyone’s fighting their own battle. Literally, everyone. I can be a reactionary person, and I’ve worked hard to identify when that happens and combat it. From a moody coworker to a rough training partner, I’m constantly trying to dig deeper and find the root cause for people’s actions. Most often I find that people are waging wars within themselves and that manifests in different ways, different emotions, different reactions. I may not always agree with how, but it’s a lot easier to wrap my head around it when I know the why. Then again, sometimes people are just a**holes. Everyone’s got a battle to fight, but you don’t always have to saddle up at the front lines.
3. Just do it. Not so much in the Nike sense, but seriously, stop procrastinating and just do whatever “it” is. Whether it’s calling the cable company to resolve a bill, going to training when I’m exhausted or meal prepping the night before so I don’t have to rush in the morning, just do it. Send that text, say those words, reach out and claim what’s yours for the taking. Because inaction leaves too much up to the fates. Grab the bull by the horns and do whatever you have to in order to make it. Usually I walk away with a lot more peace of mind and that alone is worth it.
4. Ask questions. I am extremely stubborn. I don’t know if that’s because I’m a Taurus or what, but I’ve let it get in the way of progress more times than I’d like to admit. Training MMA, specifically jiu jitsu, has really taught me to ask questions because it could mean the difference between a successful submission or hurting someone. This has bled into my day-to-day life as well. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone to help me troubleshoot my computer and sometimes it’s as heavy and allowing someone to shoulder a little bit of my burden and help me make a big decision. Either way, the support helps and makes life a lot smoother.
5. Find something you love (and let it consume you). Hobbies have come and gone. I’ve started blogs and abandoned them months later. I get on kicks where I paint 15 canvases then pack my brushes away for years. When I was younger, I tried to do everything that interested me but it just ended up in a bunch of half-assed projects I never really saw through. Though it was awesome to experience new things and cultivate my interests, I lacked passion, I was devoid of dedication. Then I found MMA and that led me to jiu jitsu. I’m still a wee baby in the sport– I know some who would even call me a spastic white belt– but I am absolutely enamored with this sport and its community. I’ve yet to master a single technique much less nail it in a live roll, and there’s still so much to learn about its rich history and constant evolution, but I am absolutely consumed by it. I actually relish this phase in my training because everything is new and exciting. I’m wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, thirsty for knowledge. It’s a true passion and it’s opened so many doors for me. I encourage everyone to find something that does the same for them.
6. Step out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t have found my passion had I not bit the bullet and taken a class, even though the thought of it terrified me. To be honest, I still get nerves every time I step on the mat. I know that will ease with experience and confidence, but that also applies to all aspects of life. I’ve signed up for my first competition in June and nothing scares me more. But I know that I have to step outside of what’s comfortable and safe if I want to continue to grow. This also applies to my job, my social life, and my relationships. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m reluctant to do something stems from fear rather than general disinterest and that’s usually when I know I should. 9 times out of 10 I’m glad I did.
7. Recharge. I feel emotions very deeply. This used to be something I actually really resented about myself but I’ve come to terms with the fact that this isn’t something I can nor truly want to change. But it does come with some needs. After a weekend full of socializing or a week packed with client meetings, or even helping someone process some intense emotions, I need time to myself– to unplug from the world and plug into myself. I used to be ashamed of this and make excuses, but now I have no problem saying no to plans because I need some “me” time. I’ve figured out that most people are totally okay with it.
8. Everything is temporary. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were definitely on to something when they compared love to a roller coaster, but I’m going to take it a step further and confirm that life is in fact a series of ups and downs and you’re pretty much just strapped in for the ride. Just when I think I have it figured out, there’s another twist or turn to derail me. Though now I know it never lasts– pain is inevitable, but it will end. And the beautiful thing is that the reason it stops is because happiness happens just as quickly, more often if you’re lucky.
9. Don’t give in to the hype. Social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s been awesome in regard to training because I get to curate this huge community of grapplers and practitioners that post new techniques or great articles about mat etiquette. It’s a never ending encyclopedia of information. But I think one of my biggest obstacles is, when it comes to personal friends and family, reminding myself that the versions of us we post on social media are simply our best possible selves. For the most part, people don’t air their dirty laundry on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter; their posts are simply a display to the world, usually boastful in nature. I’ll like every single one of your cats, all your babies, the cute thing that person did and that super rad picture of you laying out by the water. Lord knows I post plenty of my own. But there’s more to people’s lives than what the internet may hold, so just because someone looks like they’re doing better or have more than you, doesn’t mean they do. Like Louis C.K. says in his show: The only reason we should be looking in our neighbors’ bowl is to make sure they have enough.
10. Cherish the moments. I’ve mentioned my fondness for “movie moments” before– those times of pure perfection where you look around and you just can’t believe how lucky you are to be alive. I think my standards are sometimes too high when it comes to deciphering which circumstances in my life constitute a “movie moment”. I tend to lend that decision to a feeling– complete contentment– but it’s important to recognize it in the little things too. It’s more than the perfect setting or company. It’s when laughter brings tears to your eyes or the pep talk at the end of a hard training session. It’s a Friday night when you don’t have to set your alarm before falling asleep or grocery shopping early in the morning when there aren’t any lines. Those are also the moments I should be grateful for and stop taking advantage of how great the simplest things in life can be.
11. Don’t be afraid of failure. As I prepare for this tournament, failure is my greatest fear. But really, what is failure? It’s ill managed expectation. In jiu jitsu especially, you’ll hear people say all time, “Never a loss, only a lesson” and it’s good to remember on and off the mats. I may go in to this tournament and get my ass handed to me or I could come out victorious. Either way, I’ll have gained the experience of competing and have a better idea of holes in my game that I can continue to improve upon. The same goes for life: even if you fail you can always learn something from it and use that to evolve. Failure means at least you tried, and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
12. Actually manage your money. One of my life’s greatest paradoxes is the effort to build a future for myself all while knowing that it is not guaranteed. There is only one thing that is inevitable in this world and that is the fact that one day we will all die. I struggle a lot with mortality and money plays a weird part in that because one part of me says, “f*ck it, I could die tomorrow!” while the other quietly whispers, “But what if you don’t?” And then I can’t bring myself to buy the thing that I really want (yet another tattoo or some really cool expensive spats) and I’m riddled with “what ifs”. As much as I’d love to live life completely as if I’ll die tomorrow, I’ve been through enough phone calls to Mom and Dad (and Nana and Pawpaw…) to know better. Being financially stable is actually kind of great and relieves a lot of unnecessary stress. Don’t take that for granted.
13. Be soft. Life has not been easy on me. I’m well aware that a good majority of the population has had it much rougher than I, but that doesn’t demean my own personal struggle. I’ve always kind of envied hard people, those made stone from experience, but I’m just not one of them. I will forever see the good in people and I will always do my best to be kind. I’d like to think that though I have some scars that have given me a tough skin, there is still softness to me– that I can still look upon the world and see that there is good and want nothing more than to contribute to it. I jest in my cynicism and any noticeable jadedness is mere facade. I may not be the eternal optimist, but my realistic sensibilities are not passive in nature. I am not hardened by hard times and I hope to never be.
14. Try something new. I really like routine. Change can be a little scary to me. But I always think back to how walking into the UFC Gym for the first time terrified me. Fun fact: I was actually trying to get them to be my client when John suggested I try a class and see what it was all about. I was nervous as he wrapped my hands and barely made it through the hour without puking. But I was hooked and soon enough it became a part of my routine. Then jiu jitsu classes started and I held off, even though all the women said I’d love it. After watching the last season of TUF, I decided it was time to finally step in the cage. 1 hour and I was hooked and now it’s a part of my regular routine. Now I’m gearing up to make the transition to jiu jitsu full time and training in a gi. It still gives me anxiety but now I know that I have to try it, because I’ll be hooked and my life will be better for it. Maybe this year I’ll take up a regular yoga routine, or try a cooking class. The possibilities are endless but stagnation will always scare me more than change.
15. Listen. I hate small talk. This is probably a part of why I hate dating so much. I’m an open book and I love to discuss the touchy no-no subjects like politics and theology and things I have absolutely no comprehension of because my thirst for knowledge is absolutely insatiable. There are few things I love more than sitting at a low-lit bar (preferably by a fire) with a beer, engaged in deep conversation; it feeds my soul. But I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t really listen, they’re just waiting their turn to talk. Maybe I read too much Chuck Palahniuk, but I try to be more conscious of it now. I really love to learn about people and get to the root of who they are. Some might think it’s intrusive, but there’s nothing more beautiful than a person in the raw. Maybe it’s my attempt to match them with myself, to strip them down as I am, but listening is a huge part of that. There is little that excites me more than when people are passionate and peeling off the layers of themselves. I get lost in words, and listening is my vessel. Do it often, do it well.
16. Travel. Pretty much everything I read that’s written for twenty-somethings preaches the value of travel, but sometimes their ideas are a little unrealistic for most people (or maybe just me). Not everyone can pack up everything they own and jet half way around the world on some massive Eat Pray Love self-discovery mission. Paradise is all around us, and there’s something seriously magical about exploring your own backyard. Living in Austin may make me biased, because there’s something new to do every weekend and somewhere new to discover all the time, but even the quickest day trip to a place you’ve never been before can ignite that wonder you only get from experiencing something for the first time. I implore everyone to get out of their current surroundings, whether that’s 20 minutes or 20 hours away. No adventure is too small.
17. Don’t look back. Nostalgia is a cruel mistress that I flirt with far too much. It’s easy to look back and romanticize the past. This was so great, or that was the best. But as a whole, the past kind of sucks. Memories are great, but they hold nothing for personal growth, other than lessons learned. And let’s face it, the memories in which we learned something are usually not all that pleasant. So I try to live in the present as much as possible. Sure, I fall victim to my own self pity every now and then or I reminisce of “better times”, but I know its a fallacy so I never let those moments last long. Today is all you really have– the past is gone and the future far from guaranteed.
18. Own your independence. I will never, ever be the damsel in distress. Even before I started training MMA, I was very independent– I had to be. I landed my first job on my 16th birthday and I’ve worked ever since. I open jars just fine on my own and have even learned to handle (most) bug situations, though not without some squeals and yelps. That’s not to say that I won’t let someone hold a door open for me, or lift something I’m just not physically capable of doing (though I’ve moved an entire couch flipping it end over end all by myself and without a scratch). I’ve had my times where I’ve needed help, financially and emotionally, but for the most part, I pride myself on my independence. Because the fact of the matter is that no matter what anyone says in this world, the only person you can truly count on is yourself. There will always be a handful of people that are willing to help however they may be able to, but that won’t always align with your need. I have my moments of weakness, but for the most part I’m the loudest one singing along to when Independent Woman is spinning.
19. Be vulnerable. Like I said, I have my moments of weakness. But I like to think of them as moments of vulnerability, and they’re okay. It’s okay to put yourself out there, to step out on a limb and offer yourself up to the world. I’m reckless with my heart, I’ll be the first to admit it. I guard it with everything I have, then once in a blue moon someone or something comes along and all my walls come tumbling down. It’s not always a romantic interest, either. I’ve experienced it with new friends and coworkers. I’ve felt it when taking an especially risky step in life. They’ve easily been the scariest moments of my life, but somehow they always end up being the most paramount. It’s as if when stripped of my barriers, I am my true self and the path I choose is ultimately for the best. I’ve stepped out on that limb, and I’ve plummeted to the ground. But I’ve also soared.
20. Find your balance. I’m an all or nothing girl. I’m all in or I’m totally out. As my best friend calls it: the “fuck yes” or “no” way of life. But there’s definitely an art to finding a balance in all of it. I either train too much or not at all, I love with a fiery passion or never even bother to ignite a spark, I eat a whole package of Oreos or realize I’ve yet to eat a thing at 5 in the afternoon. I know not of “gray area”, but I’m trying. It’s tiring living in polar states and that’s something I’ve committed to working on. For my sanity sake (and probably those around me), balance is a continued battle, but I’m getting there.
21. Make the time. Probably more so than my money, I’m really bad about managing my time. I procrastinate. Though I’ve read that’s common in creative types, I think it’s probably something we tell ourselves to make us feel better about the fact that we’re up at midnight trying to finish something we’ve had weeks to complete. But this bleeds over into my relationships as well. I don’t make enough time for people that matter in my life and, though I hate to admit it, spend too much time on people who really don’t. Even if that time is not physical, too much energy is wasted on those undeserving of it. This goes for training as well. Sometimes it’s inconvenient to train when I’ve had a really long day at work or some social gathering is taking place, but this is something that I love and want to continue to grow in so I need to invest in that. Time is one of the most precious things you can offer someone. I need to pick up the phone more, write those letters more, cultivate those relationships that aren’t always physically present and remind those that matter to me of that fact. If you’re reading this (and have made it this far), you’re probably one of those people. I love you, and I’ll call soon.
22. Rid yourself of pride. This is probably the first lesson I learned when I started training jiu jitsu. It’s also one that I constantly have to reaffirm. Pride is an ugly beast. Though I loop self confidence into this– taking pride in ones self– it’s the “better than that” mentality that will turn any training session into a nightmare. There will always be someone better than you. There will always be another submission. There will always be a technique you struggle with. There will always be an obstacle, but whether you grow from that all comes down to pride. I hold myself to an extremely high standard and I think that’s fantastic, everyone should know their worth. But it’s when I become boastful that I get knocked down. Swallowing your pride is a hell of a lot better than swallowing a mouth full of blood.
23. Forgive. I’m pretty hard on myself. I’m actually really hard on everyone. My mother’s often challenged my intolerance and it’s something I continue to struggle with. I hold people (including myself) to high standards, but I tend to forget that not everyone can meet them. Not even myself. And that’s okay. Managing expectations is hard, but I’m working on it. Though many people quote Buddha, the 12-Step program actually coined the idea that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It is toxic only to the self. So I’ll forgive myself for eating that whole bag of Oreos (though like, really, I should probably stop that) and I won’t get so down on myself when the filters from my mind to my mouth weren’t quite effective. And I’ll forgive those that have wronged me. Most times, they failed to meet my expectations and that’s not their fault. Other times, they were just a**holes, but that’s not my problem.
24. Love. Oh, love. What a bitch. I’ve been scorned, I’ve been hurt and lied to and cheated on and deceived and made a fool of. My love has been unrequited more than not. I read a line of poetry that really hit home the other day: “How foolish of me to give you everything I have without making sure you wanted it first.” That struck me like lightning. At first, I relented in the realization– it just made so much sense. But to be honest, I reject the notion that we should be guarded in love. I have so, so much love inside me and I want nothing more than to give it away. What I’ve realized, though, is all that love doesn’t have to be delivered to one person, or one thing. I can take this bottomless barrel of my heart and divvy up rations to those I hold dearest. My love can be channeled into friendships, family, coworkers, teammates, my cat (even though he hates it), complete strangers, spoiling the like with my affections– the absolute best pieces of me. My love can flow from my fingertips into my writing, seep from every pore onto the mat, spill from my lips unto the world. My love is not reserved for one, but made for all.
25. Never stop learning. Be a student of the world.
If you’re still with me, you’re a champ. I admit, 25 is far too many and somehow not nearly enough. I needed to write this more than I needed anyone to read it. But I hope you gained something from it if you did. Maybe I just needed a little peace of mind. Maybe I had some things I just needed the world to know. Maybe I just really like lists or have some delusion of grandeur that some of this might actually be insightful and not just mindless drivel.
I don’t the answer, and I doubt I ever will.
But I can promise that at the ripe age of 25, I hope I never do.