June 12, 2015


All hail the birthday queen.
I'm turning twenty-nine on Sunday. Give me a moment to process that. While I keep referring to this as my first twenty-ninth birthday (as a joke--but like all wannabe and real-life comedians, my jokes don't always land), I'm in no way mourning my advanced age.

Still... It's weird. I only have one more year of my twenties, and I wonder where they've gone. It seems like I was celebrating my twenty-first birthday five minutes ago. It seems like even less time since I was twenty-three and packing my bags to move to Houston. It seems like no time since I started at the museum shortly after I turned twenty-six.

I'm turning twenty-nine on Sunday, and I have so much more to learn about life.

But even while I reflect on what I have yet to discover, today I wanted to take a few moments to celebrate what I have learned during the past twenty-nine years. While I'm by no means an expert, and I don't always follow my own advice, I at least hold these to be true in my own life.

Twenty-Nine Lessons Learned as I Turn Twenty-Nine

1. Think before you speak. Not doing this is how you frequently ending up saying things that hurt others or embarrass yourself (like announcing that you'd "love to catch crabs" when someone tells you about crabbing).

2. Relationships change. Some last forever, but some are only supposed to last a short time. Some are strong and intense, others quiet and easy. Some of the best friends I've known were only actively part of my life for a few months. Others have been around most of my life. All of them have been important and shaped who I am. While I miss some of the people who have come and gone, it's more important to celebrate that they ever happened at all than mourn that they're gone.

3. Say I love you. I don't think you can ever tell your friends and family you love them enough. You never know how many more chances you'll have to say it, so why not let them know how you feel?

4. Be passionate about something. Whether it's reading historical fiction, watching documentaries, going for runs, or developing a craft, find something you enjoy and pursue it. Better still, be passionate about lots of things.

5. Reading is one of the greatest pleasures. I will forever thank my parents for giving me a love of books when I was young. Transporting into other worlds through words has always been and continues to be the constant joy of my life.

6. Try something new. Change is scary, but it's also wonderful. And sometimes you may discover a new love or passion, because you did something new. Which means you must...

7. Be brave. It took me years to realize that bravery isn't the same thing as being fearless. Bravery means acting even when you are faced with fear.

8. Sometimes you have to say no. If someone approaches you with something that goes against what you believe, or is something you know you can't commit to full-heartedly, it's okay to say "no." You also have to make sure you don't become involved in too many tasks that you don't have time to accomplish them or enjoy life.

9. Sometimes you have to say yes. This is particularly important when it's paired with something that will help you fulfill your dreams. Tina Fey wrote about this in her memoir in how it relates to going with the flow.

10. Travel is important. The more I see of the world, the more I want to see, and the more I realize I won't ever experience all of the places I would love to visit. And some of my favorite experiences have involved going places I never knew I wanted to go, like small towns or non-famed natural spots.

11. Don't overpack when you travel. It's only natural to want to give yourself lots of options, but the truth is you probably don't need three or four wardrobe changes a day. This isn't Downton Abbey, it's real life. My dad offered me this advice when I was beginning my business travel days. "Take only what you'll need to wear. And maybe an extra pair of underwear in case you fall into a lake or something." That reminds me of another piece of Dad advice...

12. Sometimes you have to play hurt. There are going to be any number of days when you wake up and just aren't feeling it. That doesn't mean you have to give into the urge to lay in bed all day. At some point, you have to get up and start your day. But...

13. Stay home when you are sick. Seriously, people. This is how germs get spread. Even staying home one day, when you're most contagious, can spare other people illness. Also...

14. It's okay to take time to relax. You can only operate all of your cylinders for so long before you burn out. I used to feel guilty when I would spend a Saturday binge-watching Netflix. Now, I give myself permission to do this on occasion--usually while giving myself a pedicure and facemask. I come out of that time better for it.

15. Experience art in all its forms. Some of my greatest memories are linked to performing and listening to music. Others include seeing a painting, watching a play, reading a story, and so on. Even if you are not knowledgeable on the subject, your interaction with art is just as important and valid.

16. Treat others with respect. Even if you disagree with them or find them impossible, you should still treat each person well. In the railroad, they used to say, "Treat others the way you would want the people you most care about to be treated." It is one of the hardest things to do, but think of how much better our world would be with more respect? That leads to the next point...

17. Be kind. Sometimes this is even harder than being respectful, and you won't always succeed at it (I know I don't), but you have to try. Sadly, cruelty is often louder than kindness, but that's no excuse to fan the fire.

18. Live for today. This is a tough one for a planner and dreamer like me, but I constantly remind myself that I need to make the most of each day, even if that equates reading a book I love or snuggling with my cats.

19. "It's never too late to be what you might have been." That's a quote from George Eliot, and it's something I've tried to practice in my life ever since. Whether your five or ninety-five, there is always a chance for you to be the best version of yourself as you can. Being a human is a never-ending quest.

20. Giving up isn't the same as failure.  While you might never fulfill your dream of becoming an Oscar winner or unicorn, you are not a failure for abandoning that dream. Especially not when you replace it with another. And as I just mentioned, it's never too late to try something else.

21. Your actions and beliefs are the only ones you can control. While it might be tempting to try to make others do what you want or have the same opinion as you, it's an impossible quest. Debate can be fun and even beneficial, but it stops that when you set out to try to force others to change. For this reason you should...

22. Be open-minded. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it is wrong or bad. Practice empathy, because you never know another person's full story. Even your closest friends could have more going on than meets the eye.

23. Laughter is wonderful. I don't know if it's always the best medicine, but I have found I enjoy the times in life when I am laughing and smiling more than the ones in which I'm crying or frowning.

24. Be your own biggest cheerleader. Even if you are blessed with a great group of supporters, no one can cheer louder or help you achieve success better than yourself.

25. Be informed. I'm always amazed when I hear of people who read multiple newspapers every day of their life. I'll never be that disciplined, but I've learned that the better informed I am, the more I understand. (Sometimes I also discover the more I know, the less I understand, but it's worth trying.)

26. Leave the world better than you found it. Whether it's a short-term job, a relationship, or the world at large, the best thing any of us can do is to try our best to make it better.

27. Recognize, and appreciate, that there's no such thing as "having everything figured out." Even if it seems like others do, this isn't the case. We're all works in progress from the moment we're born.

28. Share your life with people (and critters) who make it better. I was lucky to be born into a family I both love and like, and I've known some great people in my life. They've made this ride all the better.

29. Wash your face before bed. I always resented being told to do this when I was younger, but I've since changed my tune. Taking the time to do this (and brush your teeth twice a day and wear sunscreen) will pay off in the long run.

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  1. Fabulous! I'm looking forward to your first 29th, too, Laura! You kid you. 😉💗