I planned to share this post a week ago on my 30th birthday, but I had a hard time finding the words to describe what I've learned in my 20's. If I'm honest, part of it was because I want to make my journey sound interesting. I want you to take away something of value. I want you to relate. Being relatable means being transparent. Being transparent is not about saying the "right" thing or writing quote worthy lines, it's about being honest. So here goes!
Here are 7 Lessons I've Learned In My 20's:
Take the Pressure Off
Some people come straight out of college and know what they want to do, who they will marry, how many kids they hope to bring into the world, and have a step by step plan of how they're going to make it happen. Then there is me. When I graduated from MTSU in 2009, I could not wait to get back to Atlanta to start my career in television journalism. Six months later, I was working an unpaid internship at a PR firm and living at home with my parents. I felt like I'd failed at life. I was watching my friends start new careers, get married, have kids, and here I was chasing my dreams without any stability in sight. Looking back at those years through my 30-year-old lens makes me laugh. I laugh because this idea that we have to have it all figured out the moment we step out into the real world post-college is ridiculous. I just turned 30 a week ago. There are days I wake up and wonder if I am making the right choices. I don't know that we ever have it all together, but we owe it to ourselves to take the pressure off.
Stay On Your Mat
Have you ever been in a Yoga class and you see the long, lean girl in front of class bending herself into the perfect pose, and you think to yourself, "I want to be that good." Yeah me too. Any yoga instructor will tell you to stay on your mat. Yoga is not about competition with anyone including yourself. The same philosophy applies to life. Comparing yourself to others will only make you feel like who you are isn't enough. Those thoughts will not benefit you nor will they help you grow into the person you are destined to become.
Let Your Passion Be Your Guide
When I landed at LAX last week, I stopped to grab a quick bite before heading to baggage claim. I ordered my food and sat down next to a young guy from San Jose who was traveling for work. As we started talking, he asked what I did in Atlanta. I proudly told him I owned a stationery company for brown girls. I went on to say that just a couple weeks earlier I was planning to quit Mae B, move to NYC, and take a job working in social media. I then told him about all of the opportunities Mae B received the same week I flew to NYC to interview for the job. As our conversation continued, I said, "I have a great company, but I'm not making a million dollars." He said "I'm doing something I hate, and I don't have a million dollars. At least you wake up every day doing something you love that has a purpose." At that moment, I knew our conversation wasn't a coincidence. I knew that I was on the right path and that letting my passion guide me is not a mistake.
Rethink Relationships You've Outgrown
Letting go of friendships and romantic relationships is difficult especially when people have been in your life for an extended period. Knowing someone for many years doesn't mean they have to remain permanent fixtures in your life. There doesn't need to be a grand announcement via a long-winded text or subliminal social media messages. Sometimes the only actions you need to take are known to you. You can love people from a distance.
Call Your Friends
I recently lost a friend to Sickle Cell Anemia. I am still having trouble processing the fact she's gone. We'd gone to see Beyoncé in May. I never imagined that moment would be the last one we'd share. She was on my list of people to call and catch up with, but I didn't get the opportunity. Shakira was very active on Facebook, and that is how I gauged how she was doing. How can a social media site measure how someone is doing? It can't. I should have called her more. I let "busy" get in the way. Careers will always be here but people won't. Pick up the phone and call your friends. You never know what battles they're facing that curated social media feeds don't show you.
Lean Into Your Fears
I love to travel, but I have a severe fear of flying. My fear is so great that I stopped flying until I decided I wasn't going to let my fear ground me. I want to see as much as the world as I can even if that means getting on a plane. I have taken eight flights in the last two months because I want to face my fear. Am I scared every time I step foot on an airplane? Yes. Do I want to hit an eject button every time I feel a little turbulence? Yes. But, I do it. That's the thing about fear it can rule your life, or you can say bring it on! The choice is yours.
Love Yourself Flaws and All
After high school, I had this love-hate relationship with my body. It started the moment I wanted to model. I would flip through magazines and envy the women on the glossy pages. My love-hate relationship eventually turned into an eating disorder. I would binge eat tons of food and throw it up moments later. There is a misconception that black women don't have eating disorders. I heard over and over again the disease is reserved only for one type of woman. Not true. For five long years, my eating disorder ruled my life. I looked up one day, and I had flunked out of my sophomore year of college and weighed in at 102 pounds. 102 pounds on my 5'8 frame looked scary so much so a high school classmate asked if I were on drugs. From that moment on, I had to learn to be comfortable with my athletic body. I had to understand that no matter how little I ate my body was not going to look just like the waif figures in my favorite magazines. I stopped counting calories, weighing myself, and let myself eat what I wanted when I wanted. I still apply the same philosophy to my life now. If I gain a pound or 10, I don't worry. I adjust my diet and workout a little more. My appearance no longer rules my life. I still have my moments when I don't feel my best, but I look in the mirror and find one positive thing to say about myself on a daily basis. There is power in loving your authentic self no matter how imperfect you think you are. Our imperfections are what make us stand out. They are the very thing that reminds us we are human.