Today is my sister’s 25th birthday. While I am beyond thrilled that she can now rent a car to come see me whenever she wants (assuming I help throw a few dollars at her for said rental), I’m also stunned that my little sister who was JUST yea-high and escaping her crib at night is a 25 year old who just got a new job and is a high school teacher who lives in a major metropolitan area. Like, what? She takes the subway places like it’s totally not terrifying. (I may have some anxiety around public transportation I should work on).
For this momentous occasion, I have put together a list of 25 pieces of advice for her and for all people, especially people in their mid twenties who don’t have their shit together. (The secret of adulthood is that you never really will have all the shit simultaneously together).
I had every intention of grouping like advice together into categories, but I make no promises or guarantees. Happy reading, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
- Eat More Whole Food Than You Drink Alcohol: Mimosas are not a fruit, so make sure you’re getting quality servings of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other good stuff. Once I turned 21 it was very important to me to keep a few bottles of liquor in the house because I could. I bought this legally! With my IDENTIFICATION! Yes, whipped cream flavored vodka was the pinnacle of adulthood, or so I thought at the time.
- Hydrate: Drink some damn water. The going advice is “half your body weight in ounces” meaning a 200 lb person should drink 100 oz of water a day. Not a hard and fast rule, but a general guideline that serves me well.
- Don’t Sleep With People You’re Not Super Excited About: My wish for you is that every sexual encounter in your life is an enthusiastically positive one. Don’t sleep with somebody that’s into you if you’re not also into them back. But also, you can make your own decisions. This is just my two cents. Also, ask for the stuff you like – anybody who is offended by you knowing your own body probably doesn’t fall under the first part of this advice. Use protection. I know you know. But, you know.
- Have a Best Friend or Two: Having a handful or more of good friends is wonderful, but have one or two people you know you can count on no matter what. These are the shit-hits-the-fan friends who have your back. You might not always get along 100% of the time, but when you need them, they’re there.
- Your Best Friend May Change Over Time: People are in your life for a season. Sometimes it’s the rest of your life, sometimes it’s not. While losing a best friend in a falling out can leave a void in your life, stay grateful for the time you spent together and the positive things you learned, and stay hopeful for another excellent person to come be on your team. (PS. Your big sister is always on your team! Nowadays.)
- Be A Good Friend: You have to be on other people’s teams too. Own your shit when you’re in the wrong. Make sure there’s give and take from both parties, because just taking or just giving will not end well.
- Take Up Space: Whether it’s on public transportation with a stage-five leg-spreader or taking up emotional space in a relationship, you deserve to take up space. When I feel stressed or like someone might be upset with me, I tend to shrink myself down and become invisible. I don’t want to speak, I don’t want to be seen. I just want to be tiny and out of sight. This is no way to live your life. Ask for what you need and don’t feel bad about expecting people to treat you with respect.
- Stick To Your Guns: When you’re standing up for what you believe in, be true to your beliefs and stand your ground. Unless it’s in the comments section on a HuffPo article. I give you permission to just walk away from that trash fire.
- Check Your Privilege: This one sucks, because it’s hard to look inward and admit that we have biases and *gasp* privilege in life. Listen to the people who don’t have that privilege and trust them when they tell their story. Change the words you use, if your words are harmful or problematic. Call it out when you see other people use them too. Use your privilege to boost the signal.
- Go Somewhere Awesome: While world travel may not be in your immediate future, make it a goal to travel somewhere awesome once in a while. This could be a one-tank weekend trip to somewhere in your area, or it could be a trip to Tibet. I don’t know, man, you just gotta go see something new sometimes.
- Dump Toxic People: If someone in your life is sucking the joy right from your usually-joyful bones, notice that. If you always come away from hanging out with someone feeling drained and full of negative self-talk, consider spending less time with that person (or none at all). Peace out!
- See a Therapist: Seriously, everyone can benefit from therapy just to check in and make sure you’re handling life’s challenges in a healthy way. There are online therapists now that tout affordable rates, or you can check in with your local college to see if there’s a counseling program that has a sliding scale or free therapy from counselors in training.
- Set SMART Goals: Oh god, she’s talking about goals and motivation! Yeah, you need to set goals if you want to go anywhere. Even if that goal is “lose five pounds this summer” or “visit Iceland next year.” Make sure your goal is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to travel” isn’t specific, measurable, or time-based, so you probably won’t achieve your wishy-washy goal very easily without a plan.
- Try Outside the Box Stuff: Practice meditation to see if it works for you. Practice positive affirmations, visualizations, gratitude, astral projection, interpretive dance – whatever sounds interesting that might help you focus on the important stuff. Try it out and see if anything puts a little cheese on your mental macaroni. (Weird metaphor, let’s just go with it).
- Invest in Yourself: At some point in your life, try paying someone to help you get your shit together. Like a life coach or a personal trainer, depending on what exactly you’re working on. (Or a RESUME WRITER! Did you know I do that? Email me! *finger guns*). Alternatively you can get some personal development books from the library. My favorite is You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. Everyone should read that. It’s even better on Audible. You’re welcome.
- Do Something Creative: Whatever creativity means for you, do a little bit of that. You like to paint, or make found-word poetry by crossing out words in magazine advertisements, or do complex math problems? Rock on. Work your brain, especially in ways you don’t do in your main gig. For instance, I’m now working as a full-time writer. Writing for fun isn’t always my jam, since I’ve already been staring at a screen for 8+ hours a day. So I go running and occasionally paint! (Is running creative? Yes, if you’re brainstorming).
- Be Generous: Whether you donate hours or dollars, contribute to something that helps someone else. Bonus points if you also get to pet dogs while you do this.
- PET DOGS: Unless you are allergic or the dog’s owner is like “Please don’t” then find ways to pet dogs and other animals once in a while. It lowers stress. Dogs are so good for you. +1 Good Boy.
- Give Compliments: If you see somebody rocking great hair, jewelry, etc., it’s ok to say something! Note: This is generally cool for women to do, but mostly less cool for men to do. It’s not you, it’s the patriarchy. When we can stop worrying about being assaulted for not smiling or thanking you, then we can talk about the equality of giving a compliment.
- Get Moving: Exercise is important, and I hope that you find a way to move your body that you can really enjoy and get into. Maybe it’s kickboxing, or running, or yoga. Whatever it is, I hope you feel strong and healthy every time you do it!
- Wear What You Want: You want to wear a bikini or crop top or skinny pants when the fashion magazines say you definitely should not be doing so? Wear the thing! Walk tall and proud. You look great.
- Trust Your Gut: Your intuition is a powerful thing. If everything seems like it’s logically fine, but you still have the heebie-jeebies about it, trust your gut. It’s almost always right. Or you need a Gas-X. But you’re probably right about the thing.
- Don’t Forgive & Forget if You Don’t Want to: Forgiveness is great if you want to grant it, but you actually don’t have to do anything. Some things are actually unforgivable, and I don’t just mean in Harry Potter. Don’t let people guilt you into maintaining a relationship with someone who you aren’t ready to forgive. (And you might never be ready, and that’s okay).
- Breathe: When everything feels like it’s going wrong, take a deep breath into your belly, then your chest, then empty your belly, then empty your chest. Repeat as needed. You got this.
- Write Love Letters: This doesn’t have to be romantic. It can be a thank-you note, a letter to a family member or friend to let them know you’re thinking of them, or a text to your boyfriend/girlfriend/personfriend to remind them how much they mean to you. It can even be a recommendation of a colleague on LinkedIn – anything that lets somebody know that you value them.
Bonus number 26. This Is Just Beginning: If you feel like your ovaries are crusting over and you’re going to die alone, please try not to roll your eyes when I tell you that there is still time to do things. You are only 25. Even though it has taken 100% of your life to get to 25, you will go so far and do so many things in your life. Twenty-five is nothing. The world awaits you. And you are a blessing, a miracle, and a treasure in my life. You are my number one hero because no matter what life does to knock you down, you get back up with a smile on your face and unconditional love in your heart. Everyone who knows you is better because of you. I hope you know this.
Happy birthday, my darling sister, my best friend, my former-mortal-enemy-turned-buddy. I am sorry about that time I didn’t get sour cream on your Chalupa.