Another year in my grand old life has passed, and, a month out from my birthday, I’m burrowed into 26.
It’s strange, this 26. It’s the oldest I’ve ever been of course, but it feels like the oldest I’ve ever been. It feels notably different, somehow. And for the first time, I’ve started to think: maybe I should start acting like an adult now? Not that I’m horrifically immature, but should I stop being such a goofball? Should I set up all my bills to automatically withdraw from my checking account? Should I try not to trip as much? Should I smile benevolently at teenagers? I don’t plan on overhauling who I am, but some of the things I’ve been throughout my life don’t seem to fit anymore. I’m thinking about those things, and also thinking about who I want to be as an adult. Elbow patches, books with notes in the margins, moderately tamed hair, devastating puns, impressive movie trivia, and a Subaru, I’ve always thought. And a career I love. And people I love around me. Some of these things I already have. As for the rest, we’ll see what 26 brings.
In the meantime, here are some things I learned in a year of being 25:
- I can do hard things. The thing is, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly brave. When I was offered a job across the country on a Thursday and had to start on Monday, I did what I needed to do to pack, find a place to stay, and transition my life. I’ve always felt that taking that job was the best choice, and I simply made it. But applying to graduate school, and actually getting myself here, I’m proud of that. I did that. I didn’t have to; I had a job already. But I desperately wanted to, and I managed it. It was hard, but I managed it. I think I need to learn to give myself some credit.
- I get by with a little help from my friends. Look, I’m an introvert. It’s often my reflex, especially after a long or trying day, to curl up on my bed and read or Netflix by myself. When I’m stressed out, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to internalize until I drive myself crazy. But you know what I’ve learned this year? I need other people. I need to talk to other people about things, and I need to laugh with other people, and I need other people to survive things like Winter Storm Jonas.
- People are exactly who they say they are, and who they show you they are. Exactly. They can change, of course, but don’t wait around; they likely will not be changing anytime soon, despite your kindly offers to help.
- There’s not much more satisfying than spending a snowy afternoon making homemade bread. Even if it doesn’t rise properly. See “hard things” above.
- Enjoy your life. Enjoy every minute. Cherish even the hard minutes, the embarrassing ones, even the worrisome, painful, tragic minutes. People (and Pinterest) will tell you this a lot, but that doesn’t make it less true: this is it. This is your life. Welcome, you’re here. What are you making today? Who do you love? Which songs make up your Spotify playlist? Cling to the miracle that is being here, all of us, together, living. And when in doubt, remember that baby pandas exist.
- Life is change.
- Dancing is only awkward if you believe it’s awkward. If you’re unselfconscious and having fun, no one will look twice at you. Even if you’re doing your signature, bewildering, karate-chop-the-air move. (I can teach you that sometime.)
- When the entire world is telling you to watch a certain show, watch it. Don’t try to be hipster, don’t fight the mainstream. Watch the damn show. It’ll be as good as they promised.
- Ask them out. It’ll be awkward, it’ll be nerve-wracking, it might not go the way you hoped. But you’ll be glad you did. And if possible: DO NOT corner them in an elevator to do this. (I can tell you that story sometime.)
- That thing you lie in bed and think about before you go to sleep? That thing you preface with “I wish I could” or, “wouldn’t it be great if?” That thing you make time for even when you don’t have time? That’s the thing you should be doing with your life. Go do it.
And now, a brief Game of Thrones spinoff series: