This week, I’m celebrating my 27th birthday (😱 ), which has been bringing up mixed feelings as birthdays tend to do. On the one hand, I feel as though 27 has a much more “grown up” feel to it than being 26 or 25, and I wonder about what associations other people make with this age. On the flip side, I reflect on some of the teenagers I see as a therapist who are dealing with the hardships of high school and am honestly oh so thankful that I’ve exited that period of life filled with insecurity, ambiguity, and confusion. In a reflective mood, I’ve decided to write a blog post today on what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older.
1. I care less about what other people think.
There’s an expression that I love that particularly resonates with me now: “You could be the ripest, juiciest, most delicious plum in the world, but there will still be someone out there who doesn’t like plums.” As you grow older and become more comfortable with who you are, you realize that it’s statistically impossible - and unnecessarily exhausting - to try to please everyone. It’s an impossible task, and you become pretty okay with the idea that you are who you are, and while some people may love it, others may not. Whether or not people like you becomes their business, not yours.
2. I’m more selective of who belongs in my group of closest friends.
As you grow up and your time becomes more limited, you start prioritizing spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself, who you deeply connect with, and who your values are more aligned with yours. Conversely, there are certain people who you realize you just don’t connect with any more or who you find incredibly exhausting to spend time with, and you feel okay with just parting ways with them.
3. I feel way, WAY less into the bar and club scene.
While going out to bars and clubs was thrilling when I was in my low twenties, my ideal night today is going to a delicious restaurant with close friends, family, or my partner, and having great conversation. I inevitably reached a point of “been-there-done-that” and realized that at the end of the day, every club is the same. The music is the same, the people are the same, and the experiences become much less appealing and thrilling. Also, hangovers are just way too real now and it becomes totally not worth it to lose an entire day in bed because I went to some mediocre bar.
4. FOMO ain’t really a thing any more.
When I moved to Guelph for my Master of Science program, I was really nervous that I would be left out of things with my friends back home and miss out on great experiences. But the whole “Fear Of Missing Out” thing becomes way less significant as you start to seriously treasure time on your own. Sometimes, there is nothing that brings me more joy than the idea of staying at home so I can paint my nails and put on a face mask with a glass of wine. Ahhhhhhhh, that sounds good!
5. I’ve separated my own values from some of my family’s values and ways of operating.
When you’re younger, the way that your family functions just “is.” You don’t really realize if you agree with some things or disagree with others because ideas are unconsciously engrained in you. And then you live on your own, go off to university, learn new things, and you start to become a little bit more reflective about everything. You start to notice values, traditions, and habits that perhaps don’t really align with how you life your and start seeing yourself as a person who is separate - though still connected - with your family. And that’s okay.
6. I’m more okay with being assertive.
I’ve personally realized that it’s a lot more productive and valuable to just tell people how you’re feeling so that you can have an open discussion about everything. And I’ve become a lot more okay with standing up for myself when I feel it’s appropriate and/or necessary. Before, I would have “felt bad” or anxious standing up or myself, but you realize that you’re your best advocate. I’ve also tried to eliminate the word “bossy” from my vocabulary when it comes to talk about women especially. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go around just speaking my mind in a way that’s unhelpful or agitating to others, but I think having open, genuine discussions are important.
7. My expectations of relationships are a lot more realistic.
When I was younger, there were so many messages I felt that were imposed upon me from the media and other sources about what a relationship is “supposed” to look like. I was absorbing silly messages regarding how much you should see each other, how you should act in public, how often you should talk on the phone, etc. And oftentimes this pressure about what a relationship “should be” caused me soooooo much unnecessary stress. Eventually, you start to realize that you have your own priorities, wants, and needs in a relationship and you can drown out the background noise. And you know what? It’s super anxiety-reducing to realize, “Wait a minute, just because I want to hang out with my friends instead of my boyfriend one night doesn’t mean I don’t love him?” Amazing.
8. I’m much more aware of my place in the world.
I didn’t really realize how privileged I am as a white, educated, Canadian woman until about a year and a half ago (I know, I’m not proud of it). With that (albeit late) realization, I became a lot more aware of how other people experience the world in ways that are oppressive and harmful, and that level of understanding made me a lot more appreciative of my own standing, but a lot more empathetic towards other peoples’ situations as well. Additionally, this awareness has changed how I interact with people in ways that I hope have been helpful to those who are oppressed. For example, saying something like, “I don’t see colour! Everyone is equal!” Yeahhhhh probably not helpful to a person of colour who has faced racism for their entire life and has been very much aware of the fact that lots of people unfortunately do see colour.
You Tell Me!
I'm aware that I'm still quite young in the grand scheme of life and have OH so much more to learn. But it's nice to be able to look at what I've learned in life that has helped me and I'd love to hear about what YOU have learned over the years!