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July 15, 2011

Turning 30…and 20 Things I Learned in my 20s

Mugshot? Nope. In fact, this is the license picture I have held for the last 9 years, taken at the tender age of 21 (and which I will be happily getting RID OF next week). I laugh every time I see this photo in my wallet and it has provided plenty of laughs for friends and family, but I have to admit that I love this photo. It reminds me of my early 20s–and pretty much sums up that time in my life: sweaty, bloated and drunk.  Even though I am not technically drunk in this picture, I am most certainly bloated and fresh off a nasty workout–makes me wish I had taken the time to shower and blow out my hair, considering I was carrying this little gem around for the last 9 years…

Anywho! As I will be turning 30 years old this weekend, I have been thinking a lot about what it means, if anything, and reflecting on my 20s–how far I have come, where I am going. I guess similar to New Years, ringing in a new decade can act as a catalyst for introspection.  I have never been one to think back to “good old days” as I have always felt happy, fulfilled and excited by what I am doing right now, today, and at my current age.  Perhaps that is why I have never freaked out over age or getting older. But there is something about jumping from 20s to 30s that seems so serious: Am I where I am supposed to be? Have I accomplished enough? Do I have to get a “real job” now?  All questions that I could certainly pose from society’s point of view,but…WTF. Don’t questions like these only mean something if we give them credence?  If WE decide they are important?

So, I have decided as my first decision in my 30s that I don’t care what society says as 30-year-old-life should look like (or a 40 year old or a 50 year old, etc…).  I will be as young as I decide I am :) And my second decision as a 30 year old is that I will look forward to the next decade and promise myself to be happier, more fulfilled and still hungry for knowledge throughout my 30s.  And my third, I will get a kick-ass license pic!

In moving forward and continuing to grow, I thought I would reflect on some of the key lessons I have learned in my 20s–a few of these came easy, but most came kicking and screaming.  I learned most of these “the hard way” but it was worth it in the end. Disclaimer: These are the lessons that I have learned and love being able to share here. But for most of you, you will have a completely different set of lessons you have learned. I love that. No lesson is better or worse than another, there is zero judgment about this. All lessons learned are simply insights into how to live with greater awareness and personal fulfillment.  You can take or leave any of these :)

So here they are, 20 Lessons I Learned in my 20s:

1] Life is too short to live your life according to someone else’s hopes for you or out of obligation. Choose a career/relationship/path that fulfills and makes you the happiest you possible–making life decisions out of fear of letting others down ultimately ends with you letting yourself down.

2] Make your friends and loved ones a part of your journey by including them, and they will support you no matter what you decide to do or which direction you go in. Keeping them out only increases their suspicion/disappointment/resentfulness towards you. Parents anyone? :)

3] Show ridiculous amounts of gratitude to those who have influenced you along the way–it is cheap, easy and always pays off for both you and them! If you can’t find anyone to thank, start looking harder.

4] Have no expectations for anyone–the only thing you can be sure of is that a person will do what is best for him or her, and that is only natural, right? Expectations for others only leads to disappointment and unhappiness when they do not do what we want them to do. And why should they? Who are we to decide what is best for someone else? They should do exactly what makes them the most happy–and their choices don’t mean anything about us.  Likewise, no one can know what’s best for you except for you–especially if you are committed to introspection.  The only expectations I have for myself are that I will do what makes me happy and I will always greet others with kindness and understanding.

5] Be open to all possibilities. Open-mindedness never back-fires–it makes us more empathic, allows us to experience more, broadens our perspectives and ultimately increases our chances of realizing success.

6] Everything that happens in our lives is a manifestation on our part. In some way, consciously or subconsciously, you have created your world exactly as it is–happiness, sadness, love, hate, success, failure, peace, mania, etc. This is a toughie, and there have been hundreds of times that I blamed other people for X, Y, Z…yet all those times, it has only left me feeling disempowered. When I know and feel that I am a co-creator in my own life, I feel like I finally have the tools to reach my potential and am free to be as happy as I want to be.

7] Falling in love is easy. Partnership and deep, meaningful relationships takes work–they take a commitment to communication, co-creation, selflessness, gratitude, honesty, introspection and self-awareness. And many of those things can only be realized and practiced when tested.

8] Getting drunk is never worth it in the morning :-(

9] Never withhold praise for others. Genuinely and freely compliment others–it does not take away from you or lessen your contributions in any way. In fact, it empowers you! And them!

10] The person in your life that challenges you the most is your greatest teacher. Ask yourself what lesson that person trying to teach you (unbeknownst to them!).  Then, stop blaming them for simply being themselves, and begin looking inside yourself for the answer. I learned this particular lesson with my parents (have conviction when it comes to your passion and follow your dreams, they will still love you) and my husband (we are lovable, just as we are and we don’t have to be perfect all the time–it is the person I am, not what I do or don’t do, that warrants love).

11] Time is worth MORE than money. Spend it wisely.

12] Don’t make assumptions. I inherited the “sensitivity” gene in my family…cute at times, but mostly it has been a drag being overly sensitive (I am a genuine Cancer through and through) and making assumptions has gotten me into trouble in the past.  For example, in the past, if someone said “I don’t want to do x, y or z” I would assume it was because they didn’t want to spend time with me or didn’t like me, for example. When in reality, it was just that they simply did not want to do x, y or z. Simple, right? But because of my own insecurities and oversensitive nature, I always assumed the person’s intentions had to do with me (how egotistical, really)–in other words, it meant I was doing something poorly or I was in some way inadequate, when in fact, it was just that person making a decision that had nothing to do with me.  When I assumed the worst (as is the usual assumption), it only led to misunderstanding, insecurity and unhappiness.

13] I will no longer succumb to Irish guilt :) For me, love is not about service or sacrifice or being indebted. Love is a free expression, with no expectations, no trade-offs, no asterisks. For those of you non-Irish (or Catholic for that matter), this particular brand of guilt stems from a feeling of obligation or owing someone something. If someone feels like I owe them something, I have decided that it is their issue and my not fulfilling their expectation for me doesn’t mean I don’t love them, it just means we show love differently. In fact, I love to tell people that I love and appreciate them, but now I show them, not out of obligation, but out of honest feeling, joy and genuine gratefulness for them.

14] I love food, but have learned in my 2os to have a balanced and loving relationship with it. In my teens and early 20s, I ate whatever I wanted, knew and cared nothing for nutrition and was basically treating my body like a garbage can. In the last 6 years I have come to have a balanced relationship with food–not too much, not too little, not too deprived, not to indulgent. Just right. It has taken time and learning about how my body responds to food, but I have never felt more in control of my eating and physique. And I hope to continue to learn and get better!

15] Fat loss is about hormones, not calories :)

16] Kind is the new cool. In my late teens and early 20s, I was an apathetic, bitchy hard-ass…embarrassing to admit, but true. I thought I was “too good” for this or that, when really I was painfully insecure and socially unaware. A light went off at the age of 22 (with the help of a mentor/friend), and I started greeting anyone and everyone with kindness and dropped the attitude.  I started to understand that no one is better than anyone else, there is no “right way” and everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with kindness. It was a change that completely altered my 20s and allowed me to be more open and be myself–there was no worry about not being cool or about being too vulnerable. Embarrassing to even write, but such an important lesson for me in the fitness business especially, when many times I see fitness professionals putting down their peers to make themselves look better, when in reality it tends to just make them look bad. This is my own personal opinion of course, but dropping all pretenses has allowed me to be more open, more fulfilled and operate within my integrity.

17] Stay true to you! Operate from a desire to understand yourself and your surroundings, not from a place of having to prove anything or garner affirmation from others. This is a toughie for me and honestly, I am still working on this one very hard. For people who want to be liked or don’t want to ruffle feathers, before you know it, you can be doing everything to make other people happy or like you. I know this because I have been that person, and in many ways, still am. For me, I am learning that I have to stay mindful. Getting a little “woo woo” on you guys in this one, but try to follow :) I become clued into a situation like this when I get a reaction from someone (a friend, family member or client) that is not what I am expecting. They are upset by something I did (or did not do), when I was just being myself, going about my life as Jill. It is at this point that I stop and ask myself, “was I being malicious or hurtful?” (which of course I would hate) OR is this a situation where I am simply being me and it is not meeting someone else’s expectations of what I was supposed to do?  I allow myself to look at both possibilities honestly, and if it is the former, I apologize genuinely and offer to make it up to them as best I can. If it is the latter, I usually apologize too, for them being upset, but I remain authentic, knowing that it really has nothing to do with me–in other words, the discrepancy between their expectation of what I should do and what, in fact, I did do, leaves them unhappy. For that I truly am sorry, but I also have learned not to change myself for it, especially if it is not a change I want to make. Stay true to you and operate from self-awareness but remain loving and understanding towards others. This process is starting to work for me, though it is a tough nut to crack.

18] It is in giving that we receive. Give freely to others and don’t hoard knowledge, guidance, love, help, support, compliments, money or success! There is enough of it all to go around!

19] Whatever you want to receive, you must first give. If you have a relationship with a close friend or family member that is not the way you would like it to be, work your end of things to create the relationship you want. We cannot expect anyone else to change (see #4) so recognizing that we can change how we interact with that person to help facilitate a potential in change in how they interact with us is the first step. If you want to feel love, give them love. If you want them to be proud of you, show them gratitude and support. If you want to be able to do your thing without judgment, allow them to do theirs without critique from you.

20] The key to dropping 5 lbs in a week :) Though it is mostly water, this can come in handy in a pinch! Lots of green veggies, 3-4L plain water per day, lean protein, zero processed foods or high GI carbs, no sweeteners (artificial or natural), no dairy, no bars/shakes, all real food. Good luck!

That’s the list! Thank you all for allowing me to share here and for taking the time to read this (very lengthy!) list of lessons learned. Once again, remember, they are only suggestions based on my specific experiences, and not everything will jibe with you. I hope you enjoyed reading them anyway! And I will report back next week with the new license pic! lol! ox Jill

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