29 Years Old: The 29 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

Last week I turned 29 years old. It’s a big milestone considering next year I will officially be leaving my twenties and entering the much feared thirties.

Truthfully, my twenties haven’t been the most fantastic. I peaked around 23 and for the last couple of years have struggled a bit to find my place in the world. I don’t know if it is a struggle that really ever ends, either.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate that the struggles I have had in my life have lead me here. To put it in more eloquent terms: the shit I’ve lived through got me here, and I’m grateful for it. So without further ado, here are the 29 lessons I’ve learned in my first 29 years of life.

1. The terrible, heart-breaking moments in life are usually the ones that will change our lives for the better.

In 2011, I had my life plan set and determined: I was going to move to Chile with my best friend for a year, teach English and live out of a hostel. We would travel the world, spread our wild oats and make amazing memories. Instead, my friend bailed a week before the trip and I had to summon every inch of strength to get myself on that plane and push myself to do that trip solo. Eventually I ended up back home with no idea what to do with my life. That is when I ended up meeting my husband.

2. Have some trust in the unknown.

Seriously, you can’t control everything. Gotta have some faith.

3. Don’t worry- no one knows what they’re doing 

I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Like none. I am absolutely astounded as to how I am still alive.

4. Your mistakes will define you. 

But that doesn’t have to be a negative thing! Listen to my friend, Oscar Wilde:

5. Live your own life. 

You can’t live your life by other people’s expectations. Set your own dreams, chart your own path.

6. It’s okay to burn bridges. 

6. Save your money

Seriously, Social Security is going to be gone. Life can hit you with unpleasant surprises. Save yo money.

7. Chase your dreams. 

You only live once. Chase your dreams. But learn sacrifice. You also need to eat and some dreams just don’t pay the bills.

8. Learn to forgive.

Holding onto hate and regret is toxic. Leave it behind. Learn to move on.

9. Everyone. Should. Be. In. Therapy. Yes. Even. You. 

10. Read. A shit ton. Then read some more. 

Reading educates you, opens up your world and transports you to better places. Read more. And branch out of your genre. Read anything you can. Even the back of the soap bottle while you’re on the toilet. It all counts.

11. Volunteer

Find something you love and volunteer your time. If it’s once a year or every week- find a passion and share it with the world.

12. Leave your comfort zone. 

Nothing good happens in your comfort zone. Push yourself out of it. Try new things and cultivate amazing stories.

13. Travel. And travel alone. 

One of the best things I’ve ever done is to travel solo. It forced me to trust myself, to try new things and tap into my own resources. It changed me and I am grateful for the experience.

14. Everyone has a story. 

Everyone has a story and a rich life filled with love, regret, loss and passion. Take the time to hear someone else’ story. Open yourself up for these conversations. Especially as writers, you will never know how someone’s story can inspire you.

15. Be intentional. 

Be intentional with the words and the way you live your life. Don’t waste your time on things or people that don’t matter or don’t bring you joy. De-clutter your life of meaningless things. Live life purposefully.

16. Stress less. 

Stress will kill you. It ain’t worth it. And especially don’t stress the things you can’t change.

17. Say “No”.

You don’t owe anyone anything (unless they like gave you a kidney or something). Learn to say “no” and learn when you need to re-charge your own batteries.

18. Be positive. 

Give out positivity, get it back. Being negative may be the easier or more popular thing to do, but it gets annoying. That being said, it’s okay to not always be positive. Just make sure your positive days outnumber your negative ones.

19. Fake it til you make it. 

Half of life is acting like we know what we’re doing. Just fake it until something seems to work, then repeat that thing.

20. Trust yourself. 

At the end of the day, you are alone. This shouldn’t feel depressing to you. Love yourself, trust yourself. You are enough.

21. Get a dog, 

I mean, this one’s obvious.

22. You don’t need to post everything. 

Leave some things up for mystery. Don’t feel like you need to broadcast everything in your life. Curate the best parts and leave the rest.

23. Do your best to avoid getting in debt.

Debt succccccks.

24. Work hard. But not too hard. 

Your twenties are the time to work hard, impress your bosses and advance in your career. But don’t make life your work. For a long time, I would obsess about work, check my work email at home before I went to bed and first thing in the morning. My boss does this and it conflicts with her life. I don’t want that so I made a conscious effort to stop. And surprisingly, I feel a lot less stressed and I still get my work done.

25. Learn that you cannot change anyone but yourself. 

You can’t change other people. Stop trying. If they wanted to change, they would. The only thing you can change is how you react to others.

26. Don’t be afraid of dying. Be afraid of not living. 

Yeah, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Everyone dies. It sucks. What sucks more is not living a full life. And by that, I don’t mean travel the world, go to a yoga retreat in Bali or camp out at Burning Man. Because that shit’s expensive. Which brings me to…

27. You don’t need money to have a great life. 

The greatest things in life are experiences. You don’t need money for those. Sure, you can get some pretty amazing experiences at that yoga retreat in Bali but if you need to travel across the world for that, you’re missing out. There are so many incredible opportunities in your backyard and so many amazing people to meet down the street. Live like every day is a new adventure waiting for you.

28. The best cure for illness is prevention. 

Now is the time to get your act together and get healthy. Brush your teeth at night, get a good skin care routine and try not to gorge yourself on M&M’s.

29. You are enough. 

You are enough. You have everything you need to accomplish your dreams. Work hard. Take a break and then get back to it.

I am excited for this upcoming year and the many exciting challenges it will bring. I also have a feeling I will be turning 29 a few times over, so I am excited to fully enjoy my first stab at it.

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