Every birthday, people love to ask me if I feel any different. As if the day of each birthday I grow another gray hair or develop a new wrinkle. In reality, the day of my birthday often feels just like the day before. Aging is more marked by big life events, new revelations, and dietary intolerances that my body seems HELLBENT ON DEVELOPING.
Tomorrow, I turn 29, and odds are that I will not feel any older than I do today. However, this year has come with some of the biggest challenges and changes that I’ve ever had in my life. So on this, the eve of my 29th birthday, I want to share 29 things that I’ve learned in my 29th year of life (in no particular order). Here we go!
1. If you have 1st act problems, you have 3rd act problems
Starting off this list with a huge life revelation that I’ve made recently. This year, I began a Daily OM course called “A Year of Writing to Uncover the Authentic Self.” As someone who loves writing and discovering more about myself, this course jumped out at me (from targeted Facebook and Instagram ads, of course). I originally learned about this course mid-December, so I decided that I would start it in January 2022. The prompt for the very first week hit me like a ton of bricks.
The first week was all about “Roadblocks” that hold us back. Essentially, the questions were designed to make you realize that fear of failure was a main thing holding you back. I already assumed that this was the case for me, so I just journaled assuming that I wouldn’t be making any grand revelations. Boy, was I wrong.
It took me a few minutes of writing to realize that one of the main roadblocks in my life is self-hatred. Failing bothers me some, as it would anyone, but nothing compares to the hatred that I throw at myself afterwards. If I don’t complete a task or the result is less than satisfactory, the problem is that I won’t let myself live it down. I realized that I was having “3rd act problems.” I couldn’t initiate because I was worried about my response to the outcome. On the bright side, this fix is all in my control. Even naming the self-hatred has helped me to begin to weed it out. Soon after this, I realized that this is also my issue with starting new shows…it might involve a bit of anxiety from not being familiar with the cast and storyline, I primarily wanted to avoid the empty feeling that I got after finishing a show. Who would’ve thought?
2. Putting myself out there pays off
This year, I received an email out of the clear blue sky from an undergraduate student who wanted to reference one of my blog posts in their thesis and interview me about it. It was so freaking cool! The fact that putting myself out there was only reinforced when I lost my job in September and I was networking constantly and leveraging my connections. Connecting with others is everything to me, and the only way to do that is to put myself out there!
3. Non-lyrical music is awesome for work
I typically don’t gravitate towards non-lyrical music, and at my logistics job, I was able to get done all of my work with my favorite artists crooning in my ear. Since I’ve started jobs that require me to be more meticulous with words (drafting blog posts and emails, typing up interview notes), I now need music that I can listen to that will still enable me to think without getting swept up in the lyrics. Early in 2021, I began listening to the Spiritfarer soundtrack or a playthrough while I worked. Since then, I’ve downloaded all of the Disney piano albums and just put them on shuffle when I need to focus but still want music. While I may not love listening to non-lyrical music while driving or dancing around the kitchen, it’s really lovely music to work to.
4. More fun writing!
This year, I learned (or rather realized) that I’ve almost completely stopped writing fun, quirky posts, sticking only with inspirational and deeper content. Over the holidays, I was working on the book and wrote the fun, quirky, silly back cover text and that just felt so awesome. It hit me then that I hadn’t written that way in a while. Since writing fun content makes me happy, I decided that I would start writing some more fun posts, at least occasionally.
5. Mush love
After spending 8 months working for a functional mushroom beverage company, it is safe to say that I know more than I ever thought I would about mushrooms. I know all about their benefits, which climates they grow in, what they want to be when they grow up, etc. Okay, so that last one I made up for a joke post, but let’s be honest, you want to know the career aspirations of a Shiitake mushroom, don’t lie.
6. I’m ready to move out
I am a homebody living in the only home I’ve really ever known. When I went away to college (a 3-hour drive away from home), I cried literally every time I went back to campus. Needless to say, the idea of moving out has terrified me on the whole. Dan and I have talked about getting a house for a while now, and while I wasn’t sure that I was ready when we started looking, I feel in my soul that it’s time. Dan and I have been looking at different decoration options for our future house, and as it turns out, I have opinions about how I want my space to look! I never even considered the possibility that I could design my space to fit my personality, but now Dan has helped me to realize that we can really customize a space any way we see fit. He already installed several new pieces of furniture in my bedroom that have made things neater and more aesthetically pleasing. Now, if only I could find a stable job and the housing market could level out a bit, we’d be set…
7. What my engagement ring and wedding band look like
I found the rings that would eventually be my engagement ring and wedding band on Twitter a few years ago. Once I sent the link to buy them to my fiancé, he bought them, but had them hidden in plain sight. I wasn’t allowed to look at them until he gave them to me, but the box sat up in the cabinet in the living room taunting me. I showed many friends and relatives the rings by handing them the box then closing my eyes until they were done looking. This summer, Dan made me a mancala board and gave it to me with my rings in one of the wells. My family thought that it was so funny that I couldn’t see my rings until then that many commented on our announcement saying “Oh, you finally got to see your rings!”
8. Uncertainty is metabolically expensive
There’s a tweet that I read this year by @stopchasingpain that talked about how people retreat into patterns because “uncertainty is metabolically expensive for the brain.” As someone who compulsively analyzes patterns and struggles with any amount of uncertainty, I felt this tweet. My therapist and I also discussed this year about my need for expectations to be laid out as explicitly and exactly as possible. I’ve always known that I rely on very strict expectations of myself and others, and this year, I finally started to understand why.
9. Hormonal BC SUCKS! (TW: depression, thoughts of suicide)
After college, I started on hormonal birth control for various different reasons. For a long time, it was my saving grace. As a childfree person, it helped me to avoid pregnancy. As a person who gets periods, it made my PMS symptoms milder. No downsides, right? Well…
I stopped taking BC at the end of 2020 to see if it would help my depression. Since I didn’t see any noticeable change to my mental state, I decided to get back on it in April of 2021, and wow, did it mess me up. Suddenly, I was having suicidal thoughts regularly. Also, my sleep, which had gotten better over the last few months, was screwed up again. During one particular 4am Google session, I learned that it’s possible for birth control to mess up your sleep. Suddenly, it all made sense! That’s what had been ruining my sleep for years! After I realized that the pill was causing both the sleep issues and suicidal thoughts, I stopped taking it. Since then, I have taken a supplement that also affected my sleep, but besides that, my sleep has overall gotten better. Thank goodness!
10. I should be writing about what I want to write about
Several times this year, editor Josh and I went back and forth about the blog content that I was putting out. Almost every time, Josh commented that I need to write about what I want to write about. I have to stop overthinking my work. I write for fun, for crying out loud! I need to start writing for myself again, and not worry about my work being successful. Not everything I write needs to be a blog post. If I can write something and enjoy the process, that’s far more important than it being a “wildly successful” article. I also need to stop getting hung up on my works-in-progress. If I write half a blog post over the weekend but decide on Tuesday that I want to write an entirely new post for Wednesday, I need to just let it happen. I’ll come back to that other post eventually!
11. Puzzles are fun!
Before this year, I cannot remember the last time that I did a puzzle. After backing a puzzle kickstarter and buying some cool and colorful puzzles, I dove into the world of puzzling and realized how cool puzzles are. They keep me interested and engaged and not looking at my phone. Pretty damn sweet!
12. Puzzle juice is delicious
Over the summer, Dan and I sort of stumbled into a new mixed drink that I really enjoy — Disaronno and Ginger Ale (essentially an amaretto sour without the lemon). Since I’m not a huge drinker, it’s always interesting when I find another drink that I enjoy and can sip on while I do my puzzles (hence the name “puzzle juice”).
13. There’s no shame in sticking with something you suck at
I joined an axe throwing league over the summer, and I was downright terrible at axe throwing for several weeks, even several seasons of axe throwing. I’m finally starting to understand how to throw the axe well and win some matches, but I’m honestly just so proud of the fact that I stuck with it in the first place. I’m a perfectionist who can give up on things that I can’t do perfectly. Instead of giving up on axe throwing because I was a literal disaster, I stuck with it! I kept showing up just to have fun and meet new people. The skills eventually came.
14. How to throw an axe two-handed (kinda)
Like I said, I haven’t quite perfected my throw, but at this point, I do think that I have a good grip on how to do it decently well. Check out the end of this post if you’re looking for guidance!
15. How marshmallows are made
After working with an artisanal marshmallow company for a few months now, I understand better how marshmallows are made. While I still couldn’t make them myself, I found the process to be interesting. Did you know that no part of the marshmallow is baked and they have to set overnight before cutting? Me neither! Who would know that?
16. Some other fun things about foodservice
While I wasn’t working as a server or anything, I still work in a commercial kitchen for the marshmallow company, so I’ve learned that a commercial kitchen sink has 3 tubs: wash, rinse, and sanitize. Also, when handling food, gloves are changed not only after handling common allergens like nuts and gluten, but also after handling strong flavors like mint that could easily permeate and overpower another flavor, at least in our kitchen, anyway.
17. Motivation comes later
In the past few years, I have fully given up on delayed gratification. I realized that I spent too long waiting to be happy and decided that I would do what I want to in the moment and screw everything else. However, this year, I realized that sometimes, it’s important, even beneficial, to do things that might be uncomfortable but will help in the long run. For example, if I wait until I want to get off the couch to go out and do something, that day will never come, even if it’s better for me mentally to get off the couch and leave the house. An object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest, so resting indefinitely and assuming that motion will happen organically is absurd. I read recently that motivation often comes after we start doing the thing that we don’t want to do, not before. So if I can objectively say that I will enjoy an activity, I want to get into the habit of steeling my resolve and going to that activity, whether or not depression brain is trying to keep me on the couch.
18. I’m a multipotentialite
Up until this year, I always thought that I was defined by my busyness. I have always said that college was when I really felt like myself and like I was living my best life. For the longest time, I assumed that was because I was so busy in college. Maybe I just craved running myself ragged? Sure sounds like me!
It wasn’t until I learned about being a multipotentialite that everything clicked together. I am just a multi-passionate person who likes to do all different things! No wonder that I struggled to find a job in our highly-specialized world. I wanted to be a multi-passionate generalist who did all of the things! Now that I know this, I’ve sought out other generalists and generalist communities to belong to. I’ve found people who relate to me and understand the feeling of being restless and wanting to learn something new. Hopefully, our career climate will soon move away from having highly-specialized people in all of their roles and people will understand the inherent value of generalists!
19. Your people are out there
There were several times during the job hunt that I felt worthless and that I would never find something fulfilling. One of the things that kept me going was remembering how my manager at my last company reacted to my work. I just wrote blog posts, emails, and Instagram posts all while being myself. I took his directions, and added my own humor and wit, all while having a great time. He was consistently blown away by my creativity, and I found myself weeping a few times with gratitude. I had never been in a job where being myself and being creative were so valued and celebrated. Since I’ve left that job, I’ve found a few other people who connect with my work in this way, and I just have to remember that while putting my authentic self forward will alienate some people, it will resonate with the right people, which feels pretty damn cool.
20. Photoshop is really awesome
If you had told me that I would learn Photoshop for my work and that I would actually enjoy using it, I would’ve thought you had me confused with someone else. When my manager at the functional mushroom beverage company asked me to learn how to use Photoshop, I agreed although I was not eager. My use of Photoshop quickly went from drafting emails and short animations to creating all different kinds of memes and social media posts using mushrooms and axolotls, simply because I loved using Photoshop that much. While it is a program with a lot of functionality that can prove to be daunting, it’s also just a really amazing tool that can help you make some really cool stuff.
21. You can make an axolotl meme out of anything
I mean it, anything.
22. How to make an Instagram filter
In my various creative pursuits for the aforementioned company, I also created an Instagram filter. It was not the easiest process to figure out, but it was really cool to see the result! I don’t necessarily look forward to the day that I have to do this again, but I think it’s such a cool thing to learn.
23. The Monty Hall problem
Okay, so it took me forever to understand the Monty Hall problem. I learned about it originally years ago from a Brooklyn 99 episode (the episode with the oft-quoted scene where Captain Holt screams “BONE?!?!?” several times).
For anyone unfamiliar with the Monty Hall problem, the idea is that you’re on a gameshow and asked to pick between 3 doors to figure out which one has a new car (or anything desirable, really) behind it. After you choose your door, the host (who knows which door has the car) opens one of the doors that you didn’t choose but doesn’t have the car behind it. The question is: should you switch doors?
Similar to Holt, I assumed that there was no point in switching doors and you should just go with your original choice. In reality, it is actually smarter to switch doors. I Googled extensively when I learned about this problem, but couldn’t understand the solution, so I let it go. Well, this year, during the fall season of Survivor, the Monty Hall problem came into play. Like most nights during that season, I was on the Survivor subreddit as I watched. There were several redditors trying to explain to the rest of us exactly how the Monty Hall problem worked, and it finally clicked. If you’re struggling to understand the Monty Hall problem as well, this explanation helped me to understand best:
If there are 3 doors and the door with the “X” has the car, there are 3 options:
X O O
O X O
O O X
The odds of you choosing the correct door right off the bat is approximately 33%. Not great odds, right? So if you choose one of the incorrect doors, which the odds are 66% you will, then there is a door left with the car and an empty door. The host will open the empty door for you, knocking that possibility out. Since the odds that you chose incorrectly are 66% and those odds have not changed even after the host opened the door, it is in your favor to switch.
If you’re still struggling to understand, try the example with 1,000 doors instead of 3. Now, imagine the odds of choosing the right door right off the bat. Not great!
This problem has haunted me for years, and I’m glad to finally have an explanation!
24. Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies…enough said
This year, I discovered the wonder and majesty of apple cider vinegar gummies. As someone who regularly suffers from acid reflux, these gummies have been a blessing and have kept many tummy aches at bay. I recommend these miracle gummies to anyone who will listen. Seriously, go out and buy them right now.
25. How to get creative with the job hunt
Since I lost my job, I had to dive back into the job hunt full-time for the first time since college. I had previously struggled with casual job hunting while in jobs that I didn’t enjoy, but now that I had no job at all, I had to make sure I was giving myself the best chance possible to succeed. So I changed up my approach. I wanted to work for a startup first and foremost, and my experience was primarily in wellness startups, so I started looking for those specifically. Soon, I was frequently looking at Google shopping searches, collaborative Instagram contests with several small wellness brands, potential new LinkedIn connections, sites that solely worked with startups, and curation sites with wellness products. I made so many new connections and learned about a bunch of new wellness brands!
26. The first thing you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day
Okay, so I technically knew this already, but didn’t have a chance to act on it until this year. Whether I was waking up early for class or work, for most of my life up until this point, I was jumping out of bed at an ungodly hour and sprinting to get myself ready. Now, with only a couple of part-time positions that are flexible, I can make the most out of my mornings. Most days, I read, write, or meditate when I wake up, and damn does that feel good. After doing this for a few weeks, I found myself looking forward to waking up in the morning. Sure, sleep is awesome, but the thought of getting my alone time in the morning where I could start my day in a way that centered me had me excited to wake up before I even went to bed.
27. Just because something seems right doesn’t mean it is (and vice versa!)
I have a tendency (much like Spongebob Squarepants) to be an eternal optimist that romanticizes everything. As soon as I apply for a new job, I am already imagining how cool it would be to work there. Any time I sign up for an event, I think about how much fun it will be. My default mode is optimism, and that can come with a high price. As you’d imagine, when living in a state of optimism and assuming everything will work out, it can be a downer when it doesn’t. I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that not everything that seems perfect will be, and on the flip side, just because something doesn’t seem perfect, doesn’t mean that it won’t prove to be in due time. I’m a huge believer that what’s meant to be will be, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as I navigate life.
28. How to chill out (yknow, a little bit)
As you all know by now, my work life is very nebulous. My jobs have flexible hours and I sometimes don’t even have enough work to do during the day. Since uncertainty is metabolically expensive, as you just read, this has been incredibly challenging for me. Never have I had such a flexible schedule and such nebulous expectations. At first, all of this uncertainty was starting to get to me, especially around the holidays. I felt constantly overwhelmed and also like I had no reason to be overwhelmed. I felt guilty when I wasn’t working, even though there was no work to be done. This guilt and stress obviously doesn’t do anything besides give me stress-induced acid reflux, so I’ve vowed to be a bit more flexible with myself and my situation. This season of my life has taught me to go with the flow, at least a bit more than I used to.
29. Resilience is not just an island in Animal Crossing
Years ago when I started playing Animal Crossing, I called my island “Resilience,” as a bit of an affirmation. I wanted to name it something inspirational to remind myself to remain resilient. That resilience was really tested this year with how tumultuous my career life has been. I had just started at an entirely new job when my last birthday rolled around, and since then, I did several different tasks for that company, had to job hunt again, worked various part-time jobs, and connected with so many people. Every day, I get up and keep going, even when I don’t feel like it. If I ever questioned my resilience before this year, I don’t think that I will again. My resilience is truly undeniable.