26 Things I've Learned by Age 26

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In a few hours, I am 26. I'm not nearly as excited about it as I've been about past birthdays, though I can't pinpoint why - maybe because I've now reached that dreaded "late 20s" period, or maybe because there are a lot of (yet-to-be-announced) changes on my horizon, or maybe because in adulthood, birthdays just become less exciting, period.

But I've been thinking a lot lately about 26. What have I learned by 26? Surely I've got stories to tell & things to say & lessons to impart. So what are they? Inspired by my boy @BlakeTheMega over at Food for Thought, here are just a few. Twenty-six of them, to be exact:
  1. When you don't trust yourself to verbalize your feelings, write it down. It shows that you care, that you've put thought into it, & maybe that you were big into signing yearbooks in high school. Two of these, at least, are good.

  2. If you would be forgiven, be forgiving.

  3. Moms don't, in fact, know everything (sorry, Mom). But they know a whole heckuva lot, about everything from household chores to current events, so file away all your mom's knowledge for future usage.

  4. Skills in life worth having include the abilities to: write a sincere thank-you note, leave a succinct voicemail, & deliver a eulogy that is both properly somber & appropriately humorous.

  5. Being brave enough to love is one of the scariest things on the goddamn planet. Everything about loving is scary - most notably, the opportunity to get hurt. But I’d rather have my heart broken a million times over, by friends & lovers & enemies & strangers, than have never cared enough to let it happen.

  6. Freaking out is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to rule your (my) life. When I think about it now, I can remember how I felt when freaking out, but I can rarely remember what it was actually about. Boss was yelling, plane was delayed, friend was angry? Rarely are any of these blips big enough to warrant freakage. If no one will care about it in a month, it's not worth worrying about now.

  7. Things will always, always get better. Even if they get a whole lot worse first.

  8. For every one of life's little problems or major calamities, there is an episode of "Dawson's Creek" to dispense appropriately sage advice. Sleeping with your high school English teacher? Dad in jail for trafficking? Drunkenly stumble off a pier & drown? There's an ep for that.

  9. Nothing is more relaxing or refreshing than spending time alone - particularly at the movie theatre.

  10. Our lives are not meant to be the same. She may have a hot husband & he may have a great job & they may have gotten an adorable puppy or a beautiful new house - but as enviable as all of these things are, it's extraordinarily likely that there are quite a few aspects of your life that are worth envying, too. And someone is probably envying them right now.

  11. People you've never met can be your strongest supporters, your biggest fans, & yes, the creepiest motherfuckers you've never met. (Hi, Twitter.)

  12. I am not my hair or my weight or my eyeliner. I am my laugh & my sense of humor & my writing skills.

  13. We may be defined by the things we do, but there's wiggle room. You do not need to be defined by the things you did when you were 18 or by the way that insipid small-town people feel about those things.

  14. Live for the living.

  15. Dating sucks. If you'd rather spend time with people you know you like - you know, your friends - that's OK, too. Yes, you should put in an effort not to be closed off to the world & to do some networking, but no, you do not need to go speed-dating or be on OKCupid or beg your friends to set you up if you just don't effing feel like it.

  16. In kindergarten, I asked my mom if I had to like everyone. "No," she told me, "But you have to be kind to everyone."

  17. Not everyone is the friend you want them to be. Find better ones & keep them instead.

  18. There may come a point in your life when you're too old or too full to seek out new music or get hooked on new television shows. Embrace your newly retro tastes.

  19. Be courageous. But don't be so intent on being courageous that you make decisions that fly in the face of your gut instincts.

  20. There's no shame in having bad taste sometimes, as long as you have good taste sometimes, too. The former includes watching "Home Alone" on repeat in June & making mac & cheese with sriracha for dinner; the latter includes... well, I guess I'm not there yet.

  21. Tell the people you love that you love them, or at least how much you value them. Even when you're mad at them & want to hang up the phone or punch them in the face. And even if you do those things, make sure they know how much you value them. But maybe wait a few days & throw an apology or 20 in between.

  22. Traveling to visit new places is not as important as traveling to visit old friends.

  23. Just because it's right for you right now doesn't mean it'll be right for you forever. Something, someone or someplace you once loved may not fit the bill anymore. And that's OK. Something/someone/someplace else will - but only if you let it.

  24. Even the people who know you the best don't know you as well as you know yourself.

  25. It's seriously OK to not like dogs & babies. But please refer to #23 & know that someday you might want a dog &/or a baby, or multiples of each/either.

  26. Love yourself, believe in yourself, & give yourself permission to listen to yourself.
And trust me on the sunscreen.


  1. Happy birthday! Great list. :) 26 was an epic year for me. I hope it is wonderful.

  2. Happy Birthday, my love! These are great lessons :)

  3. Haha I love the last line.

  4. LOVE this list. And sooooo fully agree on the sunscreen. You have no idea. Happy birthday!

  5. well done SKB! happy 26th.

  6. First of all, 26 is not "late twenties!" You still have a few more years until that, so enjoy it (says someone who will be entering a new decade this year...yike!) Love your life reflections, especially #17; it's amazing what we learn about our friends and those worth keeping! Happy B-day :)

  7. I love love love this post hun! Happy birthday!

  8. icantbelieveabletumblrAugust 5, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Haha, last line is classic! This is a great list. Happy birthday!! From where I'm sitting, 26 ain't so bad. ^_^

  9. LOVED this list. Amazing. Also amazing call out to Baz at the end. :)

    Happy Birthday Girl. YOU are awesome!

  10. Happy Birthday, my friend! I'm not one of the creepy ones.

  11. Happy Birthday Hun... This is awesome :)

  12. Happy Birthday! This is a great list. I love #'s 12 and 13!!


  13. Good stuff! Happy birthday!

  14. Happy Birthday!! I love that you put so much thought into this list. I feel like I'm going moving into a stage of my life where a lot of things aren't defined or figured out yet. I felt a lot better after reading this knowing that eventually I'll have some more perspective on things <3

  15. This is a beautiful post; I had to laugh at the yearbook thing because, um, I liked to sign yearbooks =)

    So many great words of wisdom in this post that we can all learn from; my favorite probably had to be the loving thing, even if you get hurt. Love is worth the fall.

  16. Is Dawson's Creek on DVD? I think I need to catch up (I never got into it when it was on TV).

    Nos. 21 and 26 are super important for me, and I'm glad you included them. I don't do No. 21 enough and No. 26 is my ultimate struggle and battle. So here's to growing up and growing all the wiser :)

    Happy belated, toots!

  17. Hope 26 is great for you! Enjoyed this post, #23 especially speaks to me.

  18. This post is EPIC. You are wise beyond your 26 years.

  19. Ha! 52 or 26...Its all in the journey...Very insightful. Thank You.

  20. Oh no! I was in Bear Country during your birthday. I had no idea. HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  21. What a great post! So many of these resonated with me, and I give you credit for realizing all of these in your 20s. Here's hoping that you decided to celebrate this year and all you've learned. You deserve it! xoxo


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