What I Learned at 25

As I turn 25 today, I look back on the life lessons I've learned over the years; some have been brutally taught and others, took a while to learn. Although I dread turning another year older, I count my blessings and am grateful for the friends and family who provide me love and a home, unconditionally. I will say that I never imagined life this way, but then again, I also never saw life being this amazing, neither.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years (cliché or not):

Be kind to yourself and love yourself

Part of the reason why I despise turning older is because I’m afraid I’m not doing enough - not building enough, not creating enough and not being good enough to chase after my dreams or figure life out. I’ve learned that you can’t discover the answers in one sitting; that you have to go out and dip your toes in the water and smell the fresh air, before you even get a taste of what it is that you’re meant to do. For so long, I’ve been harsh on myself and I don’t think that’ll ever change, but I have learned to praise and be proud of the things I’ve accomplished and the person I’ve become. I’ve self published a book; I’ve built a good amount of online readers and friends; I’m starting a company/brand; I’ve worked at my dream job and I've walked away from that dream; I’ve moved by the ocean; I’ve traveled to many places I’ve only dreamed about; I’ve found the love of my life; and I’m slowly, but surely mending the toxic relationship I had with my parents.

Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally

I had a tendency of dating the wrong guys, which contained great lessons themselves, because who doesn’t meet toads and frogs before they meet their prince/princess? I don’t believe I learned my value, until I was rid of mine. I didn’t know my worth, until I felt worthless. I didn’t know what I wanted, until they gave me everything I hated. I didn’t find myself, until I lost myself, and that’s when I knew I didn’t need someone to complete me. Over the years, I’ve also made and lost friends. I’ve learned that you can’t hold onto friendships that are meant to end. Some people come into your life for a season, other for a lifetime. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learnt from those who have came and left, but I am also grateful to be surrounded by people I know will love me, despite of my mistakes and flaws. Those are the souls you hold close and love forever.

What’s meant to happen, will happen

To piggy off the last point, I’ve also learned that what’s meant to happen, will happen. I cherished some of these friendships and relationships deeply, but I know without them ending, there wouldn’t have been beginnings; and some of these beginnings led me to where and who I am today. Another example I wanted to share with you is this: during college, I worked part time at a bar and met a woman who I didn’t click with. Fast forward two years later, we lost contact but one day she reached out about a project. We are now working together on a digital magazine and lifestyle brand startup, focused on sustainability and social good, something I was always passionate about but never realized I could focus on until now. Fate has a funny way of working, doesn’t it? Trust the process.

Work for people who value you

If you’ve read any of my previous writings, you’d know that working in a publishing house was my dream. I worked for an independent publishing house for two years until I realized how toxic the industry was and how I didn’t love books enough to work under a CEO and management that didn’t have the same moral beliefs I did. I loved what I did, but my stress level accelerated and my mental health deteriorated. So I left. Yes, I left my dream job, and now I work in advertising; I work for company who values me, in a healthy environment and with non-toxic co-workers. Some of what happened in the publishing house scarred me and is still with me to this day, but when it comes to my emotional and mental health, I’m much happier and better (stronger too).

Do things you are passionate about and makes you happy

I bet you’re thinking, “Wow, what a cliche!” Yes, it’s a cliche. Yes, it’s also true. I also want to share the difference in how I view this statement a few years ago and how I see it now. If you asked me a few years ago, I would’ve told you to take your dream job even if the salary was low and you'd be unhappy about finances, but you’d love your job. Now, I’m telling you to choose yourself and what would make you happiest. I don’t necessarily love my job, but I know I am good at it and enjoy it. My position gives me the opportunity to have my dream apartment, in a great location, spend time with loved ones and allows me to save enough money to travel multiple times a year. That’s what makes me happy. I’ve learned that it’s all about finding that balance - do what makes you happy, but also what’s sustainable.

Love loud and with all of your heart

Explore not just destinations, but people as well. Open yourself up to others and you will see that the world isn’t as bad as you’d think. More often than not, we are made of the same atoms and seek love, support, security and happiness. Humans are all looking for the same things to make life worth living. I don’t think it makes anyone better when they choose not to love, I believe love makes you brave. I’ve learned that it’s hard to love and give your heart fully, and to do so with all your heart is courageous. The world always needs more love, so if you can, give it. Love with all that you can and all that you are.

Create more art

I always think about doctors and surgeons, and how heroic they are for saving lives; I’ve always wished I was talented in science to be one of them.  Yet, I think art can save lives too, maybe not in open heart surgery, but art can help mend your heart. If you want to create art, create it. If you want to write, write it. Don’t let life or fear hold you back - the world can always use more artists.

Health is important - both mental, emotional and physical

I love junk food, but I’ve also learned to find to find a balance. Your body is your home, and that’s something you must take care of. Your mind is the light in your home, and you must be cautious not to overwork it. When you think you’re doing too much, take a break. It’s not a crime to pause and smell the fresh air. Remind yourself that you are human and we all need to give ourselves time to rejuvenate and heal.

You don’t need everything (materialism)

When I was younger, I always wanted the newest iPhone or to never repeat my outfit because my parents could never afford to get those things for me. So, when I finally was able to buy these things for myself, I bought it all. It took me a while to learn that I didn’t need everything materialistic to make me happy or to build a better reputation for myself, because at the end of the day, the only people I care about seeing me in a positive light were those who genuinely cared about me. Nowadays, I’ve cut my shopping habits by 200% (not an exaggeration) and my spending on things that aren't a necessity. This leads into my next lesson...

Doing good for the Earth

As much as I try to be mindful of my body, I’ve learned to be just - if not more - mindful to Earth. This means less plastic, less waste, less pollution and more social good. Growing up in a poor family meant that sustainability was a way of life, not something we did to preserve Earth. My parents bought me clothes that were too big or gave me hand-me-downs so we wouldn’t waste more articles of clothing. We reused everything so we didn’t have to spend money. We took quick showers because my father didn’t believe in wasting water. We barely turned on the AC or electricity unless we needed to because of bills. We never bought anything we didn’t need because of finances. We never threw out food and always had to finish our plate because we didn’t believe in food waste. All of these little lessons my parents taught me developed my innate sense of caring for our planet and its inhabitants. There’s still a lot to learn, but I am thankful for my parents for building that foundation.

You're not always right and there is more than one way to do something

Yes, I said it - you can be wrong. I've always been a bit stubborn, so it was my way or... reluctance. I've learned that people are different; the way you do something, isn't the way some one else will but that doesn't mean anyone's wrong. You can't always be right, and that's me being right.

Don’t give up

It’s easy to get discouraged and lose your motivation. Some days, you don’t want to get out of bed; some nights, fear is stronger than your courage. There’s been many times I’ve felt uninspired, but that hasn’t gotten me any closer to my dreams. Doing something, no matter how small or big, pushes me forward. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger to keep moving and don't stop - don’t let what people say or do make you feel as if you won’t succeed. The world is big enough for all of us who are passionate to do what we love.

Love outweighs mistakes and forgiving is brave

The gift of arguing is a hard lesson to learn, and even now I continue to learn it. People make mistakes, but that isn't what defines them. Forgive and love, forgive and love - that’s the motto. Love isn’t about making them feel guilty for their past and what they’ve done. It’s about accepting them and seeing past it, to truly look at the effort they are putting in to be better. It’s about the love they give you, even on both of your worst days. Love them despite the ghosts that haunts them and their tendencies to have faults. Forgive them for yourself.

Take a break from electronics and social media

When you look at your social media, it seems like everyone’s out there living their life and you can’t help but compare your lives. Know that people only post what they want you to see, and there is much to be grateful for in every breath you take. I've learned that the people who seem the happiest, are not, and you can't compare yourself to a picture you find online.

Never turn down an adventure or trying something new

Over the last few years, I did things I had never before: jumping into pretty deep waters (I can't swim), zip-lining, road tripping up the coast of California, climbing mini cliffs, kayaking with sea otters and probably a few more I can't think of right now... my goal is to continue doing the things I haven't done and experience the things that scare me (but not life threatening). Life is too short to hold back and not explore what's out there. I've learned that there is extraordinary in the ordinary. There's a different world out there, even in my backyard; and much to see even if I don't always have the finances or time to travel across the globe. I'm ready for it.

Enjoy what you have while looking for happiness

A lot of us are searching for that undying happiness, so much that we are missing what's right in front of us. Don't look so far into the future that you forget about the present. Live, breathe and enjoy life for what it is and the happiness will come with it.