Monday, January 27, 2014

30 things it took me (almost) 30 years to figure out

I don't know much, but over the past 29 years, I've found a thing or two that I believe.  This blog post took me months to write.  I'd jot a note down, and then another wouldn't come to me for weeks.  But I believe all the below to be true, or at least... true for me.

1) Figure out what makes you happy, and seek more of it, and more again.
This goes for personal and professional.  I'm still an amateur at most things, but the times I've felt best about myself and the world around me were the times that I was happiest at home and at work (in that order).  Joy begets joy. This can't be a coincidence.

2) Cultivate a healthy body.  And mind.
Work up a sweat, read the newspaper, go outside without headphones.  Even better?  Do them all in once day.  Knowing about the world around you is important; knowing about the world inside your head is critical.

3) Stop worrying about what other people think of you.
This is incredibly hard for me to do - but it's worth trying, and trying again.  There is no bigger joy-thief in my life than worrying how other people think of me.  And while I'll admit that I'd prefer if everyone thought well of me, there are people who don't like me, and there always will be.  There are also people who love me, and I'd rather spend my precious moments on earth worrying about them.

4) If something makes you uncomfortable/mad/sad, then (in the words of Katy Perry) ROAR.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".  When something is wrong, it's only going to get fixed if good people change it. Bonus: it feels good.  Though I am a generally calm person, when given the choices of "fight or flight", I choose fight nine times out of every ten.  I think that's because I feel so strongly about this - when something is wrong, it's up to us to fix it.  Stand up, speak up.

5) Find a sports team to love, and be loyal through the good years and the hard years.
As a Chicago Bears fan, I can relate to how difficult this is.  Invest in a t-shirt and wear it for every game. Attend a game at least once.  Learn the players.  Cheer proudly- in victory of course, but more importantly, in defeat.

6) Confidence can be learned.
Some people are naturally confident, some aren't.  As an outsider, it's impossible to tell the difference.

7) Every cloud has a silver lining.  It might be very small, or very hard to find, but it's there.  Look hard.  
If you don't find it, move on and look back in six months or six years.  I bet you'll find one.

8) Find a mantra (or two) and remind yourself of it frequently.
It's especially comforting to have at mile 9, or 8pm when you're still at work.  A few that I like:
- "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
- "It's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness".

9) Take photos of special moments, but put the camera away during sacred ones.
I took over 400 photos on Matt and Kelly's wedding day, and zero on my own.  That was not an accident.

10) Tell the people you love how you feel about them.
Every day, and often.  Life is fragile and we never know when a conversation will be our last.  There is great comfort in knowing that your loved ones know how much you cherish them.

11) There is no shame in being who you are.
There are probably a few limits to this, but... I can't think of 'em right now.  Be yourself, embrace YOUR life.  If you do this single piece of advice, so many of the rest of these fall in to place.

12) Recycle
This goes for the planet-saving kind.  The same advice applies to fashion, compliments and smiles on the subway.  You've heard the expression "what goes around, comes around"?  Spread the love.

13)  The cool kids in high school won't likely be as cool in 10 years, or 20 years.
There are a few exceptions to this, and the exceptions are obvious even at the time. (Kelli- I'm looking at you).  Don't waste your time worrying about what the "cool kids" are doing.  Cool changes, quickly, and you will never get that time back.  Instead, worry about what YOU think is cool, and do that instead. (I wish I could tell 16 year old Kate this).

14) If you choose to marry - pick wisely.
I'm convinced that who you choose to spend your life with (married, or not) impacts your life more than just about any other aspect (I can't think of anything more, actually).  I found my husband at age 21 on a bar crawl in Iowa City, IA, but didn't marry him for five years.  That's what worked for me.  You might know after eight days or six months or three years or 20 years.  There isn't a formula, but be sure. A happy relationship is worth waiting for, starting over for, and looking for.

15) Change your story, change your life.
I'm borrowing this phrase from an incredible writer whose blog I was recently introduced to, and I can't get this phrase out of my head.  She writes, "You’re awkward on camera. You’re too broke to travel. You’re a bad cook. You’re never going to find love. You’re always late. You’re afraid of commitment. You’re addicted to sugar. Until you’re not."  Face your fears and change your story.  Change your story, change your life.  (Come to think of it, this would be a great line for #8).

16) Less attention to idiots, more attention to awesome people
I don't think this requires much explanation.

17) Go to the doctor, floss your teeth, take your vitamins, slather on the sunscreen.
Health is something we take for granted... until we can't.  The better we care for ourselves in our youth, the more grateful the older version of us will be.  (29 year old Kate wants to sucker punch 17 year old Kate for the time I spent in the tanning booth).

18) Tap in to your academic side.  
Learn something new, every day if possible (and it's always possible).  The world is wide, and so is the world wide web.  In 2014, it's easy to expand your mind if you want to - I bet it'll take you only a minute or two.  A new word, the capital of Uzbekistan, how to make chimichangas.  The world wide web is your oyster.

19) Be ridiculous.
Dance in the rain, buy leopard print anything everything, wear red lipstick, buy white carpet, drink champagne on a Tuesday.  You know the phrase "YOLO"?  It's a little cliche... but also?  True.  Ridiculous is fun; fun is ridiculous.  Get crazy.  (Call me first - I'll join you).

20) Cultivate friendships.
Four years ago, my apartment was broken in to.  It sure was nice to pick up the phone and have several people who would not just let me sleep on their couch, but would come over, wait with me until the police arrived and then drive me home.  Girlfriends matter.  Work building relationships is some of the best work there is - join a church group, start a book group, introduce yourself to your neighbor, call your college roommate. Sometimes it's easier to watch Real Housewives instead, and while there is a certainly a time and place for that (Thursday nights if you live in my house) there should also be time for our real friends.

21) Get rid of anything toxic.  
The "skinny pants" in your closet from 2006?  Gone.  The friend who always tries to one-up you?  Byebye!  Life is too short for things - and people - that bring us down.  Cut that sh*t from your life (and your closet).  SNIP SNIP!

22) You teach people how to treat you
This is one of my mom's brilliant, signature expressions, and I think of it often.  People will treat you how you let them treat you.  Speaking up is hard, but so is dealing with being treated in a way you don't want to be.

23) Know when to let it go
You can't do much about the choices you made yesterday, so breath in and let go.  When you know better, you do better. (Just make sure you do better).

24) Jumping in beats standing still
The expression "not all who wonder are lost" is something that I remind myself of daily.  Wander, take chances.  You might be the worlds next Al Roker - you won't know unless you take that meteorology class you've always wanted to take.  Try something.  Try anything.

25) Travel is good for the soul
It doesn't matter what the destination - a different part of the world, a different part of the city.  A romantic trip, a trip to see family, a trip by yourself.  When you leave your world behind, you are bound to learn something - about the world around you, and about the world inside your head.

26) It ain't over til it's over
This goes for football games, Poli Sci classes, snowstorms and just about everything else. See it through, wait for the buzzer.  You miss a lot when you leave early.  (But when your gut says to leave... then ignore this and trust your gut).

27) Say yes to your life
My uncle Dan once made an off-handed comment about not being someone that stays home with the doors locked and the blinds drawn, and that really stuck with me.  Say yes - to adventures, coffee dates, roadtrips.  Looking back on your life, I bet you won't say "I wish I would have stayed in more".  Home is where the heart is, but life happens outside its doors, too.  Saying "yes" more than "no" makes you interesting and interested.  A great combination.

28) Cherish your family
Develop relationships, make memories, make it a priority.  Just like Carl Winslow taught us: "family matters".  When your family is spread across the country like mine is, this can be challenging - but not impossible.

29) Own your life.
Own your choices - good and bad.  Don't apologize for the choices you have made or are making.  It's your life - and you only get one.  Own it, work it, live it.  It's impossible to live without regret, but it's worth trying.  When you truly own your life and choices, many of the rest of these fall in to place (see also: #3, #11, #13, #16, #23).

30) Follow your conscience, and trust your gut.
Don't listen to anything someone else says if it contradicts what you know to be truth in your heart.  (Even if that someone is your priest, politician or parent).  (Or the author of this blog post).  Your instincts don't lie, pay them heed.

What do you think?  Anything you would add?


  1. Item # 1: I'd change it "Chose to be happy". if I just did things that MAKE me happy i wouldn't get much done. Nuanced difference, but I think there's a difference.
    Item # 3: not sure I agree. I'll think about it and get back to you.
    Item # 7: I'm positive I don't agree. Some things (death of a loved one?) are just bad, no silver lining anywhere. What's wrong with that? Why does every bit of news have to have some good news in it?
    I agree with everything else and can't think of anything to add.

    Nice post, thanks.

    1. I see your point about #1. I do believe that happiness is a choice - I guess I was trying to suggest seeking out things that help with that, trying to stack the deck in your favor. Something like that. You have a good point!

      For #3 and #7... I dunno. Agree to disagree? :) There are certainly exceptions to #3 (professional exceptions immediately come to mind) but it's a waste of (my!) time to focus much on that. And #7 - point taken.. that's a scenario I hadn't thought of. :) I'd argue that silver lining doesn't always mean good news.. MIke's death made me more cautious about addiction, more focused on living without regret, etc. I'm sure you're right that not every bad thing leads to a silver lining, but I still think many do. Just my opinion - I could definitely be wrong :)

  2. I've got 30 more things in my life to do "better"... thanks "YEAR OF THE KATE"

    1. Haha! The best part of "advice' (if that's what this is) is that you can always ignore it. :) Thank you for reading!

  3. Good for you, Kate for having 30 more things in your life... most of us couldn't come up with half that many. Easier to critique than put your ideas out there. You always give me something to think about!

    1. You ALWAYS have my back! Thank you, Aunt Barb! xoxo

  4. You are a family treasure. Thank you for your posts - they are happy meals. Let me know when I should cut off my arm for you, it's yours you know.

    1. I learned from the best!!!!!!! xoxox


I've turned word verification on because of spam comments. Apologies! I love your comments!