In about two weeks I will be 25, a quarter of a century old. And man do I feel old: my sister can now drive and has a car, she just graduated from high school, I realized I graduated high school seven years ago and college three years ago, I can’t pull all-nighters, let alone stay up until 4 a.m. anymore, etc. There are many things that make me feel old, and since I’ve decided that makes me old and wise, I figured it would be a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned so far in my life. Plus I’m a fan of listicles, so here we go!
— You do you. Seriously, don’t worry about what other people think. Do whatever you want to do without worrying about other people. Everyone’s so caught up in their own drama that they don’t have time to even think about you. Once you realize this, it’s quite freeing. Try it.
— Cut out negative people in your life. Some people may have been important to you in the past, but if they’re a constant source of negativity, it may be best to just cut the cord. I’m not saying this will be easy, because it’s not, but sometimes you have to do something difficult to keep yourself moving forward. Also be sure to cut yourself some slack, too.
— Always bring headphones to work. Just trust me.
— Expand your horizons further than what you wanted to do when you were younger. I’ve always loved writing, and in 10th grade I decided I wanted to be a newspaper reporter for the rest of my life. I was on my school paper in high school and in college, I majored in print journalism and I worked and interned at The Forum, a local paper in Fargo, ND. Once I graduated college, I found there were no journalism jobs available in Fargo, and I couldn’t really afford to move anywhere, so I worked retail for a while before getting a gig at a magazine editing and helping with layout. If I had been stuck on the newspaper reporter path, I wouldn’t have expanded my skill set and learned what other tasks I enjoy (or don’t), which has changed my view on my future. I’m learning to not put myself in a box so much so I can learn what I’m good at and what I like.
— If you use makeup brushes, clean them regularly. In fact, clean them right now. I’ll wait.
— Focus on finding out what makes you happy, even if it means you have to work at a few jobs you may hate first. Like I said above, I worked in retail for about six months or so. It was not very fun, I’m not going to lie to you. I worked at a few different places, and customers more often than not would drive me a bit up the wall during every shift. There were some really good days, too, and I met some really great co-workers who turned into good friends of mine, even years later. Also, working customer service jobs made me more patient and understanding (or just better at hiding my frustration), which translates well to working a “real” job now as well. If I hadn’t done retail for a while, I wouldn’t have handled certain situations as well in the future. And while I was working those jobs, I kept writing in a journal and on my blog so I could keep up that side of myself even though my job didn’t require it. If you find something you love to do and it makes you happy, keep doing it as much as possible.
— Invest in a good pair of black flats and/or black heels. You’ll wear them more than you’d realize.
— Don’t hide behind your keyboard. Nowadays it’s all too easy to sit down at your computer and write mean or hurtful things to random strangers on the Internet. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should do it. Bullying online still counts as bullying, so please think before you post or comment. I’m not saying you have to agree with everything you read, but don’t purposely start a big battle and pick on other people. Rise above.
— Go through and deep clean your room/apartment/house once a month or a few times a year. While it may suck at the time, you’ll definitely thank your past self when it’s time to move or spring clean.
— Invest in a good purse. You will probably break the straps of a purse or two (or seven) in your lifetime. Sometimes it’s worth a little splurge to get something nice that will work great for you.
— Keep reading. A lot of people get burned out on reading in high school and college; I totally get it. I used to be such an avid reader, and that fell by the wayside a lot when I was in school. Once I started reading more for fun, I realized how much I missed it and wondered why I’d stopped in the first place. Go pick up a book right now and start reading. Transport yourself to a different time or place for a little while, and get lost in words. There’s no other feeling quite like it.
— Buy extra phone chargers, and leave one at least one at work, one at home and one in your car. Seriously. They’re a life saver.
— There’s no shame in rapping, headbanging or otherwise rocking out in your car, whether the windows are up or down. No matter how much traffic is around you, if you like a song and you’re really feeling it, don’t worry about other people. Lip sync, do hand motions, dance a bit, belt your little heart out. It’s such a good stress reliever, and you could meet a fellow headbanger at a stoplight, who knows.
— Always strive to improve yourself or the world around you. There’s always something that can be changed or improved in your life of the lives of those around you. If you see a problem, try to find a solution. Just because no one else has found it yet doesn’t mean that it can’t be you.
My happy place. A photo posted by Jessica Ballou (@jessicamballou) on
— Don’t become stagnant. Don’t get so stuck in a routine that you forget to really live. It’s great if you want to watch Netflix after you get home from work to unwind, but don’t watch it for four hours every single night if it means you ignore your laundry, dishes, other responsibilities, etc. Mix it up sometimes and try something new: mini golf, bowl, read, write, look for a new job, blog, talk to people more. Your life will become even more rewarding.
— Stop editing your Instagram photos so much. Seriously. Instagram is supposed to be fun and trendy, and it’s no longer fun for anyone involved really if you have to spend hours staging and editing your photos. So what if you don’t pick the “perfect” filter? You’re still sharing a moment of your life for other people to see; if it’s not perfect, that’s just life, man.
— Do things you think you don’t like but don’t know for sure. Getting out of your comfort zone and doing something you think you don’t like but don’t know for sure is a great way to test yourself. Maybe your whole life you thought you hated a certain food and then you tried it, loved it and wondered why you hadn’t been eating it this whole time. Take risks, even if they’re small, and even if you still don’t like something, then you know you at least gave it a good ol’ try and move on.
— Keep going. I’m going to let you in on a little secret about being an adult: it really freaking sucks sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. But you can’t just give up even though something bad happens to you. Because I hate to break it to you, but many bad things will happen to you in your life, and most probably won’t be your fault. But I’ll also tell you something else: even more good things will happen to you. The good will always outweigh the negative. Even if it seems impossible to move forward and you just feel like curling up in the fetal position and staying that way forever, I feel you, but you need to get up and keep going.
— Pay your bills, loans, insurance, car payments, etc. early or at least on time. Necessary, yes; fun, no.
— Don’t be afraid to be a giant goofball. I may be almost 25, but I’m still obsessed with 90s music, Disney, musicals, pop, candy, dancing around my room and playing board games. Some aspects of my life may change, but my childhood side will always be there. I’m goofy, sarcastic and a big kid at heart, and that’s how I like it. If you think I’m too childish, that doesn’t bother me. I’ll be in my blanket fort playing Mickey Speedway USA on N-64 or watching Spice World with my boyfriend.
A photo posted by Jessica Ballou (@jessicamballou) on
— Go thrift or discount shopping. You can still go to Target or Kohl’s or wherever to shop, but don’t disregard thrift or discount stores. We’ve found a bunch of wall art for $15 or less at Gordman’s and TJ Maxx (see above) and tables and lamps for cheap prices at thrift stores, and no one could even tell a lot of the stuff we have is used. You don’t need to buy everything brand new! You can find some really fun treasures for good prices, and chances are that no one else will have it.
— It doesn’t matter how popular (or not) you were in middle and high school. Nobody cares about all of that once you’re out in the “real world.” Nobody is going to ask you in a job interview what group you belonged to; they’ll ask you about your skills, experience, hobbies, etc., none of which really rely on popularity. I wasn’t popular at all in middle and high school, and that bothered me at the time because I just wanted to fit and blend in, but that’s just not me. People are meant to be different, and if someone didn’t appreciate that about you when you were younger, they likely will now, at a time when individuality is one of the most characteristics a person can have.
— Let it go. No, I don’t mean the song from “Frozen,” although that is pretty wonderful. You will obsess over meaningless things all the time until you wrestle with yourself and finally decide to let it go. You know what you have control over, and if there’s nothing you can do in a situation, just let it go. Tackle the next issue (because there will always be issues) until it’s time to let that go of that as well. Do your best and move on. Stop being so hard on yourself.
— Be responsible and own your mistakes. Yes, it sucks when you mess up. But it happens, and the only way to make that situation worse is to blame it on someone or something else. Own up to your mistakes and find a way to move forward and learn from everything. This will get easier the more you do it.
— Don’t forget to have fun. Some people may find Netflix marathons incredibly boring, but if you love putting on your PJ’s, queuing up a show or some movies on Netflix and eating ice cream, do it. Some people hate being outdoors, but if you love mini golfing even though there are mosquitoes like crazy, do it. Figure out what makes you happy or laugh and make sure you do it as often as possible. Life’s too short to be unhappy. We’re not going to be pleased as punch 24/7, but we can’t forget to add some fun into our chaotic schedules every now and then so we can remember who we are and what we really want out of life.