Turning 25: 4 Life Lessons That Have Kept Me Going

I turn 25 tomorrow.

25 on the 17th of 2017.

This boggles my mind so so so much. There aren’t enough so’s that I’m willing to type to accurately express how much.

In a way, I’m in shock. A lot of my life is in blanketed in a fog of surreal-ness at the moment.

My life today looks very different than it did a year ago. It looks way different than it did three months ago. And still different from just a month ago. It’s not that I’m surprised since none of what has transpired was by accident. But for some reason that doesn’t change the shock and disbelief I’m feeling.

Right now, I sit in a café in central Los Angeles while a year ago at this time I was most likely sitting in my childhood bedroom in Maryland.

Let’s follow the journey.

On October 16, 2016, I was preparing to turn 24 and similarly in between jobs, as I am now. I was just about to start a brand new job at a local Ad Agency. I had been hungry for change after working part time for a year and I was proud of myself for finally getting a nice paying salary gig — the first one I’d had since graduating from NYU in 2014. Even as I was accepting my new position and happy about the new money that was going to flood my bank account, a big part of me wanted to drop everything and buy a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to focus on my true dreams — dedicating my life to a creative lifestyle while writing and creating content that I believed in.

On July 16, 2017, I was living a stable life as a social media strategist while still living at home in the suburbs. I was making more money than I’d ever seen in my life and that paycheck hit every other Friday like clockwork. I missed city life every day but felt a fraudulent sense of peace from my rent-free, 15-minute commute existence. It disturbed me to my core, however, that every day I went to work in an office that was located across the school from my old high school. Not that I had any severe traumatic memories that I needed to avoid, but it certainly wasn’t what I pictured for my life. I was always meant to get out, get away, and explore! Not play it safe at home.

On August 16, 2017, I gave my 1-month resignation from my stable job with unlimited vacation days and benefits to give my real dreams a shot in different waters. Somewhere far away enough that I wouldn’t be able to run home when things got hard like I did when I was in New York. I would simply have to put all the spiritual teachings I’d been studying to the test and either sink or swim. It was time for independence and freedom. I was finally going to have the wild and free 20s experience that I’d been dreaming of and lusting after while scrolling through my Instagram feed. It was time to be an ADULT.

Fast forward to September 16, 2017, just last month. I was newly unemployed and beginning the process of transitioning my life from the East Coast to the West Coast. I needed a big and sturdy suitcase, a new laptop, a new car. I wanted to see some friends before leaving and alert my close-knit family about my plans to move. It’s crazy to think that all of that was just last month. I had been planning this move in my head for years but the logistics didn’t come together in my brain until just about 3 months ago.

It seems like such a daunting task to transfer your life from one side of the country to another but it ended up being much simpler than I had thought. I guess the secret of making a big life change is that once you’ve pulled together the necessary resources (money, contacts, and a place to live), there’s nothing else to do but take the plunge and do it.

Something that really helped me personally come to my deciding moment was sitting down with my friend, Aysia during one of our cozy catch up sessions in her apartment. She acted as my voice of reason and asked me “What are the actual things standing in your way of the move?” When I thought of the potential obstacles I only came up with about 4 things that were significant. I had enough money after saving during the past 9 months of living at home and working full time. I had reached my breaking point with working so hard for something that I wasn’t passionate about, so I had the motivation. I just needed a place to live and a car. I already knew that I didn’t want to take just any job and I had the luxury to not need to, so I was prepared to move without one (despite how controversial that apparently is and how many arguments it started with my Nigerian “work ethic over everything” mother).

I honestly just told myself that I COULDN’T be 25 and still living at home and it feels really good to have kept that promise to myself — as superficial and ego-driven as the statement seems.

Sunset in central LA

The winding journey of the past couple of years has taught me a lot about myself and given me some great life lessons. I’d like to reflect on some of them. As I reach a quarter of a century on earth, these are just a couple of the big things I’ve learned. Stay tuned for more as we approach the end of the year.

1. It’s okay, and even beneficial, to hit your version of rock bottom.

Our lowest moments hold the wisdom needed to propel ourselves to new heights. Gabby Bernstein has an amazing video on the benefit of our bottoms and I truly believe her theory to be true. As I’ve gone through my own rock bottom of feeling rejection on all fronts of my life and hitting the pits of despair and hopelessness, I can’t imagine where I’d be now had I not gone through that experience. It helped to build my reliance on spirituality and I know myself to be a much stronger and resilient person because of the experience. I believe life has specific lessons for every one of us and when we encounter serious challenges, they’re given to us to heal our most tender wounds. The key is to move through them and not get stuck at the bottom.

At the moment when you feel like there’s no way out, that’s the pivotal time to pick up your pace. Reach out for help when you feel stuck there. I’m so grateful to my family for helping me move through that season of my life. The quote “If you’re going through hell, keep going” is wise advice to follow. Everything truly is temporary. We can take solace in knowing that whatever life we’re living today doesn’t have to continue into next month or even next week. We just have to keep going. Block out the noise, connect with your true self, and take steps that feel right in your soul.

2. Shame is the most useless emotion.

My mom shared a great Christian teaching with me some time ago when I was terrified to tell her something. She told me that the devil likes to scare us into keeping things hidden in darkness while healing can only come when things are brought to the light. I used to experience bouts of intense fear where I was unable to express my emotions after years of being labeled “dramatic” and countless unsatisfying experiences of being misunderstood. I would literally be struck mute by fear which was especially crippling because what I wanted more than anything was to just feel heard and understood.

Shame is simply fear that others will judge us, reject us, and deem us unworthy of love. It can paralyze us, steal our words and build up walls so tall and strong that no one else can ever get in. We think that these walls protect us but really they just trap us. Letting go of expectations from other people and myself has played a big role in healing this pathology. Practicing compassion with myself and shifting the chatter in my head to kinder thoughts were also key in helping me to grow past the prison of shame.

3. You don’t have to plan every single step of your life in advance.

I know some of you type A people will have a hernia reading that, but there are plenty of people living life one step at a time and it’s okay to be one of those people. If your planning lifestyle is succeeding at giving you joy and peace of mind, then by all means continue about your path. But if you’re like me and the idea of planning out every single thing is exhausting and arduous, try considering that you can just take the next logical step from where you are while keeping your end goal in mind. This approach to life relies on having faith that things will work out but it takes a lot of pressure off of us as individuals. It can be overwhelming and paralyzing for my brain to attempt to analyze too much at a time. The most soothing phrase I’ve learned to aid with this is from Abraham Hicks. I just take a breath and think to myself “I don’t have to have it all figured out this red hot second.”

Oprah’s comforting voice comes to mind as I remember how she starts each of her Super Soul Conversations podcasts which I’ve been bingeing lately. They all begin with her saying “The most valuable thing that you can give yourself is time” and it’s an appropriate description of how I’ve been approaching my life. What am I hurrying toward anyway? Time gives me the liberty to enjoy both the journey AND the destination. And let’s not forget that we can plan out our lives in earnest as much as we want but chances are that we’ll get hit by things we didn’t plan for and will have to go back and plan again. By taking steps that feel good as I go, I’m eliminating the shock of being faced with a plan that’s off course and get to just focus on feeling joy — no matter how it looks on the outside. I won’t have to go back and re-plan. I can just do a quick pivot and keep it moving.

“When we make plans, God laughs.”

4. Be easy and enjoy it.

We tend to make small things into big things at the expense of our joy. In reality, the vast majority of the things we turn into big dramas aren’t even worth our energy to begin with. They’re just dumb distractions that we use cushion our insecurities. We don’t have to wait for a big traumatic event to happen before we wake up and realize that we’re wasting our time worrying about the little stuff. We can adjust our focus now. We can lessen the pressure to be perfect by remembering that all of this life stuff is just a practice. There’s no one “right” way, so we can stop making ourselves feel wrong. If we’re not enjoying this wild ride then what’s it all for?

“Nothing is ever the end of the world — except for the end of the world. We only like to treat things as so.”

I’m so very grateful and blessed to be at this point in my life, experiencing the unbelievably wonderful things that I’m experiencing. I wish everyone as much growth in their own experience. Each step along the way feels that much sweeter when you can look back and see how far you’ve come.

Here’s my birthday wish to you reading this right now:

If you’re in the middle of hell, I wish that you’ll lean on the ones around you, go deeper into your spirituality, and keep going.

If you’re feeling complacent and unfulfilled, I wish that you’ll have the courage to take the first step towards your wildest dreams.

If you’re on the other side of your personal hell, I wish that you’ll continue giving yourself compassion and never lose sight of what feeds your soul.

Always remember that you deserve the very best.

Originally posted on my personal blog Brightly Illuminated, where I document my perspective as a millennial post-grad trying to make sense of the “real world” through a lens of positivity and self-development.