Today is my 25th birthday. Though I still think early 30s is considered young, but damn do I all the sudden feel like an ancient dinosaur.
I realize I still have much more to learn, but I thought it’d be fun to share some lessons I’ve learned from my 25 years on this planet.
1. I finally understand what it means to “love yourself.“
Mica talked about embracing running for vanity, and I think that’s a great example- whatever it takes for you to be healthy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your responsibilities and daily functioning. Another example: I used to deprive myself of socializing time because I didn’t “deserve” to hang out with friends when I haven’t studied XYZ amount. But that made me miserable because I’m an extrovert. So why cause myself so much grief? Measured fun is totally acceptable, and, well, having been depressed for the last 2 years, I obviously haven’t been taking adequate care of my mental health. So now I do things to “love myself” i.e. allotting measured socializing times.
Other things I’ve learned about myself, having the “middle child syndrome,” I am quite needy and desparate for affection. I also LOVE arts and crafts, hiking, good food, and enjoy intimate relationships with lots of over-sharing.
2. It’s YOUR LIFE, so STOP MAKING LIFE DECISIONS BASED ON WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.
I’m super type A perfectionist, and always want to do the hardest thing possible. I worked my ASS off to be a dean’s scholar honors science student, MADE myself take a graduate level biochemistry course and law school course as an undergrad to boost my resume, slaved my life away in science research labs because I was so thrilled to be working at some of the top institutions (UCSF and Washington University in St. Louis med school) so of course I HAD to impress my bosses. At times I was perhaps quite delusional, i.e. considering applying for the Winston Churchill scholarship LOL, but even if my chances were slim, my chances would’ve been ZERO if I didn’t apply at all right?
I had contemplated about doing the M.D./Ph.D. dual degree program because, well, I couldn’t think of anything that was more prestigious than that. Plus, how awesome is it when people ask “what kind of Dr. are you” and to be able to say “actually, an MD doctor and a PhD doctor.”
BUT I REALIZED THAT I WAS INTERESTED IN THE M.D./Ph.D. PROGRAM FOR VAIN REASONS ONLY.
Who the fuck am I trying to prove to anyway? So I asked myself, if there was nobody else on the planet, WHAT WOULD YOU want to do?
And, the answer was NOT research, so I gave up on the lofty M.D./Ph.D. aspirations.
Though this seemingly contradicts my previous point about loving yourself, there’s still a boundary between loving yourself vs. living for other people.
3. It is dangerous to base your self worth off of external things.
When I came to med school, this was my biggest downfall, and the reason for my depression.
All my life, I have based my self worth on academics, so naturally, when I didn’t get an A on my first test in med school, my world just came crashing down. The reason for my behavior, is due to the fact that I was the middle child and never got much attention. I was always compared to my brother unfavorably. I was asked “why aren’t you as smart as your brother?” ALL the time. So, the only thing I was able to rely on to make myself feel better about being told that I was as dumb as a pig, was to do well in school. At least on paper, I was “smarter” than my brother because I was earning better grades.
But obviously, there is so much more to a person than just academic performances. There’s ALWAYS going to be people smarter than you (unless you’re Albert Einstein), so stop comparing!
Besides academics, most other external things are also dangerous to use as a basis for self worth. Case in point: in college, I was super fit and completed a half ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run consecutively), trained for a full ironman (2.4 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 26.2 mi run nonstop), and loved being known as the fit chick (also because point #2 of wanting to do the hardest thing possible). When I didn’t have nearly as much time in med school to train, because who has the fucking time to bike for 8 hours straight?, that also took a toll on my ego.
4. You have a brain, so use it.
My boyfriend actually nagged on me for spending my free time “killing all my brain cells” because I’d pinterest, browse Etsy, and online shop when I wasn’t studying. MY BF on the other hand, is a really big intellect so he encouraged me to read/learn more.
Now after taking up on his advice? I LOVE IT. I LOVEEEEEEEE listening to podcasts. My favorites are: NPR TED radio hour, the moth, RadioLab, and NPR intelligence squared. I like listen to them on 1.5x on my way to the coffee shop to study. With the Podcast Apple app, the episodes are downloaded onto your phone so you can still listen to them even when there’s not adequate signal!
And to further elaborate on this point,…
5. Don’t be close minded about learning different topics.
One regret I have is not having taken enough liberal arts courses in undergrad. I thought science was the best and refused to take interest in subjects other than science, but I now realize I was depriving myself deeply. I LOVE HISTORY! I like to use the little free time that I have to watch lectures available through university Youtube channels. My most recent favorite is Yale’s Roman architecture class.
6. You don’t always have to be “cool” and “fun.”
Work isn’t going to get itself done. If you have aspirations, you have to work for them. Partying every weekend just isn’t going to cut it if you’d like to get into a top 20 med school.
7. Quality over quantity. It’s better to do fewer things WELL, then to do lots of things shitty.
This IMO applies to relationships, work, etc. Lol hello freshmen year overload of research, volunteering, tutoring, and taking physics/multivariable calculus/bio/chem/physics lab then getting straight B’s.
8. Chemistry is not the most important thing in relationships and can develop with time.
Be it friendship or dating type relationship. I’ve learned this the hard way by putting wayyyy too much weight on “chemistry.”
Example: ignoring so many red flags on people with a very different moral compass than mine because “we just clicked so well.” Those friendships/relationships all ended with me getting hurt badly. I was just clinging on to the silly notion from TV that BFF’s and BF’s had to be like OMG LOL ROFL all the time.
9. Throw away lofty relationship expectations from TV.
Just because people depict a “good relationship” as one where your man falls in love with you more with everyday, does NOT mean your relationship is lackluster because that criteria is not met.
I used to get COMPLETELY worked up when my BF told me that he loves me the same as when he first met me.
However, he has sacrificed the world for me, and I am PRETTY certain that he’d still love me if I gained 100 lbs and wouldn’t pull the plug if I became a vegetable. That’s not something I can say about many people, so why create a fuss over some silly societal standard that isn’t met?
At the end of the day, the expectations that TV sets matters NONE whatsoever. The fact that he will always be there for me outweighs other silly things by FAR.
10. In order to have a good relationship, you need to KNOW YOURSELF well first.
The reason being, you can’t demand EVERYTHING. I think it’s only reasonable to have a less than a handful of non-compromisable things to ask your significant other to work around. But to come up with the list, you have to first know yourself well in order to determine what’s most important to you.
11. You cannot change other people. The only thing you can change is yourself.
So, why spend all your time being miserable that this person acts this way? Isn’t it easier for you to change your mindset about it?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve slowly learned to accept my family the way that they are.
12. DON’T TRY TO PLUCK YOUR OWN EYEBROWS.
Just. Don’t. Especially NOT when you’re in middle school. Trust me on that one.
13. I think the secret to a happy relationship is to accept each other.
After 1.5 years with my current BF (while that may not sound like much time, we literally spend every. single. day together and practically live with each other), I’ve realized that why the fuck do I keep getting frustrated when he says things tactlessly and bluntly? That’s something that maybe he can work on if it bugs the shit out of me, but if I already know that about him, WHY GET MAD every single time? Acceptance of these little things will lead to happier times. I don’t get as frustrated each time since I expect and accept it, and he doesn’t get irritated by my nagging. Win win.
14. Don’t spend your adolescent years up all night. Well, unless if you like being short. I’d prefer to not be a midget (ok I’m not one literally).
15. FUCKING CHERISH the hell out of the people that treat you really well and love you.
If I could have ONE WISH granted, I’d wish for my Aunt to not have a stroke. I often fantasize about doing BFF’s things with her because we love all the same things and she treated me like a daughter…
16. Treat everyone with nicely. It will make both their day and your day better.
I try to be nice to everyone with no ulterior motive. However, it’s SUPER nice when I can score free boxes and bubble wrap for moving because I’m friends with the janitors.
17. Don’t try to cut your own bangs.
Think THIS TIME will be miraculously be different and perfect? Nope.
18. When it comes to dating, actions speak far louder than words.
Guys are pretty good at sweet talking. It all means nothing until plans are actually executed. Don’t be tricked by the bullshitting.
19. Mother nature is the most beautiful thing ever. Spend more time in the great outdoors.
Next time when thinking of vacationing, try a national park instead!
The U.S. is stunningly beautiful. In fact, landscape paintings have been considered the inferior subject of art for the longest time until people started painting North American landscapes. My dream is to go to maybe 80% of all the U.S. national parks.
20. When it comes to style, THE FIT is the most important thing!
The reason why celebrities always look so good is because they have clothes tailored to them!
21. Everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Easier said than done, but try to not worry about how you wish you were taller/slimmer, or that your nose was smaller, etc. Trust me, SOMEONE FINDS YOU DROP DEAD GORGEOUS AND PERFECT just the way you are!
22. Comparison is the thief of joy.
This applies to everything be it appearance, lifestyle, etc. etc. People tend to parade around the sparkly things in their life exclusively, so it’s not fair to be envious of this fun trip this person got to go on, or that sweet thing her boyfriend did for her. Those are not accurate depictions of their lives. But either way, THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The point is to stop comparing.
23. Don’t eat high fiber foods before any meetings.
Ahem, that time when I literally farted every other minute during a meeting sitting RIGHT NEXT TO MY BOSS. That was awkward
24. If you are going to pursue higher education beyond undergrad, it doesn’t really matter THAT much where you go for college.
I cried a river when my parents refused to pay the out-of-state tuition for a higher ranking college. But in the end? I LOVED my college experience and I still ended up at the same place as some other people who have gone to Yale or Princeton. (Sorry just trying to make myself feel better, BUT THE POINT IS NOT TO COMPARE. See #22)
25. Sunscreen and sunblock are the MOST EFFECTIVE anti-aging agents!
I started thinking about shelling out $$$$ for some anti-aging products, because, maybe I’m starting to get to that age. But then I thought, it makes zero sense to break the bank when it’s FAR more effective and money savvy to do UV protection!
START YOUNG, FOLKS.
Phew, that was a long post. That’s all for now!