Most of us like to think we’ve really got our shit together.
I’ve received (and overheard) a lot of advice over the years. Some of it is good, some not so good, but most of the time, it’s just a little bit maladjusted to our specific situations.
It makes sense, too – humans crave information, rather than advice. Yet people don’t like to give information nearly as much as we like to give our opinions. You can’t really give advice on something you know relatively little about – so we adapt our own experiences as if everyone else processes things the same way.
Information, on the other hand, is universal. The power of a lesson learned goes beyond anything that someone else could tell you – but most of us have to learn things the hard way. (That’s okay, though – if that’s how you learn, that’s how you learn.) We pass along the information we’ve learned in the hopes that it’ll help someone else, but since most of us screw it up and try to pass it off as advice, it falls on deaf ears.
I’ve put together a list of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years I’ve been alive, in the hopes that I can save one person from making the same mistakes I have. How many lessons have you already learned (that you want to spare others from)? Drop it in the comments!
1. Sex is important – but it’s not the most important thing.
I’m not sure why society in general has conditioned us to think that a love of sex is a bad thing. It’s not. Sex is great. It does all sorts of amazing things for your physical and mental health, and it helps to form a vital bond between you and your partner. But, just like everything else in life, moderation is the key – and if at any point your sex drive becomes your main priority, it’s worth digging deeper into. There’s so much more to life than carnal pleasures.
2. Travel as much as you can.
For the longest time, I resented the idea of moving around. I grew up in a so-called broken home so I was always being shipped back and forth from one parent to the other. As an adult, however, I’ve learned the beauty of new experiences, and sometimes you really do need a change of scenery to appreciate the little things again.
3. Anyone you need to impress is not worth your time.
When you’re a teenager, it seems like you need to seriously impress people in order to move up the social ladder. As a young adult, it can seem much the same. But after a while, everyone starts to figure out that it’s not about impressing people – it’s about finding somewhere you fit without giving up too much of yourself. If people can’t accept you for the best version of yourself you can be, they don’t deserve your company.
4. Build up your tolerance to fear.
It might not seem like it at the time, but doing the things that scare you is usually really good for you. You can’t move past your fears until after you’ve faced them head-on. Sure, sometimes the fear lingers even after you’ve tackled it, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are stronger than your fear.
5. Never stop learning.
In your younger years, learning seems like something you do because someone told you that you had to. You resent it and you end up trying to be “done” with school as quickly as possible – settling for the easiest options. It’s not until you discover the hidden joys of learning just for the sake of learning that you really get why everyone was always pushing you so hard. It really is for your own good.
6. Open up more (but at the appropriate times).
Most of us are far too closed off from those around us. We don’t talk about our problems until they’re totally unbearable – and unfortunately, sometimes not even then. We don’t talk about our problems when we’re in problem-solving mode. We try to handle them when emotion has taken over, and we’re a total wreck. If we shift our big conversations to a time when we’re calm and rational, the problems will often sort themselves out, at least part way.
7. You have to love yourself – even when it’s hard.
I spent far too long hating my body and my personality and not enough time changing anything. It’s fine to be dissatisfied with how you look, but that doesn’t mean you hate your body. Think about it: Would you hate your kids if they weren’t aesthetically perfect? No? Then why do the same to yourself? Once you learn to be comfortable in your own skin, other people’s opinions won’t affect you nearly as much anymore.
8. Don’t deny yourself the simple pleasures.
Humans are not designed to tell themselves “no”. It’s literally against our best interest, in most cases. By all means, practice moderation, but don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t do something that makes you happy, or that you can’t have something that brings you joy. If it’s worth it, find a way to spoil yourself. You deserve it.
9. It’s okay to be alone sometimes.
I spent most of my teenage years chasing after pretty much any girl who’d give me the time of day. I probably don’t have to tell you that this led to a lot of pain. As an adult, I learned to appreciate my time alone – after all, when you’re single, you can work on yourself, and that’s the best gift of all.
10. You don’t need any excuses – pure and simple.
When we’re kids, we look for reasons to throw parties, to have cake, to not do something. But excuses are bullshit that you use to cheat yourself out of what you want. If you have to come up with an excuse for something you want to do, it’s because you lack confidence in your pursuits. If you have to come up with excuses for things you don’t want to do, it’s because you’re disappointing yourself and trying to rationalize it. Instead, just do the things or don’t do the things – don’t lie about your intentions.
11. Don’t let other people push you around.
We all let other people sway our opinions for us from time to time. Whether we let our high school girlfriend push us into having sex earlier than we wanted, or we let our parents push us into a career path we don’t feel passionate about, we give up too much of our autonomy. Insist on keeping your own thoughts and doing your own thing. Take input from others, but don’t take any crap. You got this.
12. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
Just because you shouldn’t let other people push you around doesn’t mean you need to fly solo all the time, either. No one ever got anywhere in life all by themselves. The longer you put off reaching out to someone who can help you, the longer you put off your dreams. Don’t be afraid to ask.
13. You don’t have to have (or want) kids.
People are constantly being pushed by friends, family, and everyone else into having kids. Kids are an incredibly expensive and exhausting commitment and it’s no one’s choice but yours when you are ready to have them – and it’s perfectly fine if that day never comes. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you and your partner need to do. It’s not their decision.
14. Genetics aren’t the only measure of family.
Maybe it’s by the virtue of my own two-house childhood, or maybe my half-siblings on both my mom’s and my dad’s side. I never understood why other people put so much emphasis on titles and genes. My family is no less of a family because of our biological differences, and I’ve got blood-relatives who aren’t as big a part of my life as those who I adopted later in life. Once I stopped feeling guilty about that, my family only grew.
15. You don’t really owe anyone anything, by default.
Personally, I learned this in respect to my biological family, but your experience may vary. You don’t owe anyone anything in your life unless you make a promise (contract, oath, whatever) to them. Even then, if they don’t hold up their end of the deal, you aren’t really held to the things you said. Never let anyone take advantage of your kindness.
16. You’re allowed to negotiate.
Whether it’s your salary, your rent, your car payment… You’d be amazed at how many people are willing to work with you, if you just think to ask some questions and go in knowing your own worth. You are a freaking master of your own life, and just because something wasn’t offered doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not on the table. Ask and, usually, ye shall receive.
17. Don’t date anyone who can’t (or won’t) get you off.
When we look at sex as a lesser priority, it’s easy to forget that it does actually matter what kind of sex you have. You don’t get health benefits from bland, boring sex, or from faking orgasms. (Although, in some cases, faking orgasms can actually result in a real orgasm, so… The verdict is still out.) Be with someone who prioritizes your own climax just as much as – if not more than – her own.
18. Spend time outside, just because you can.
With all the modern advancements our world has gone through in just our short little millennial lifespans, there’s pretty much nothing that you actually have to leave the comfort of inside-ness for. We shop from inside a store, we drive more than we walk, some of us even work and shop from home… But avoiding the sunshine is so, so bad for you. Even just five minutes of sunlight every day can boost your mood. (And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why being happy is a good thing.)
19. Fall in love… More than once.
It’s easy to adopt either a totally jaded mindset, or that of the hopeless “one-true-love” romantic. Don’t get caught up in the hype. There’s good in falling in love, and there’s good in getting your heart broken. You need both to experience life to the fullest, and to appreciate that next love that comes along. Don’t settle for the first person you fall for. Trust me.
20. Take your sexual health seriously.
Unfortunately, sexual health (especially in the lesbian community) is still one of those things that most of us don’t talk about enough. But we really need to talk about them with everyone we sleep with, as well as everyone we might sleep with in the near future. If you’re not comfortable talking about your health, you’re not ready to have sex. It’s really that simple. (And no, being a lesbian does not make you immune to STDs.)
21. Learn to communicate as equals.
Most relationships go bad because of poor communication. Either one person doesn’t have the effective conversational skills to express what they want, or they lack the tact to deliver their message without insulting their partner. It’s worth having good communication skills for the other areas of your life, too – you simply can’t get things done unless you know how to talk to others. (See #12.)
22. Everyone else is faking it, too.
It used to amaze me that people older than me would come to me for advice. I was completely blown away that these older people were coming to me like I was some sort of guru. But after a while I realized… The difference between an adult and an adultier-adult is that the second one is better at figuring stuff out. No one really knows what they’re doing 100% of the time. You just learn how to use your experiences to shape your judgment.
23. Make time to have fun. Seriously. You need it.
Burnout is a bitch. Really. Instead of letting your day-to-day routine suck the life out of you, you absolutely need to find a way to have a life. Dedicate a little bit of time every single day to some downtime. Whether that means a soak in the tub, a walk in the park, or an hour or two with a good book, find a way to enjoy life. You deserve it.
24. Love the life you have while you create the life you want.
You don’t have to suffer to get to the life you’ve always wanted. You can work towards something better while still enjoying yourself – as long as you know what direction you’re headed. It takes a little organization, but you can absolutely find the path that works best for you. You don’t need to settle. Where you are now is not your final destination.
25. Make yourself a priority, every day.
A recurring theme of the quotes I’ve heard from the vast majority of my personal heroes is that you need to put yourself first. You simply cannot make everyone else happy, all the time, and you’re going to drive yourself completely insane if you try. But you can make yourself happy every single day – you know yourself better than anyone else does, and no one else is putting you first. Don’t you deserve a little self-indulgence?