30 Lessons I Learned In My Twenties

I’ll be turning 30 at the beginning of March, and I am excited the same that I am for every passing year. It is a celebration of still being alive. I never expect age to continue blessing me so each birthday is beautiful. For the first time in my life I feel like I am turning an age that I was meant to be. I always felt out of place as a teenager or “20-something”. I’ve never voluntarily gone to a party, never tasted alcohol, never disobeyed my parents (except for that one time, but it was for love!), never had a “wild side”, never wavered on my convictions, never felt a need to belong. I was born to be 30, or older, or oldest. I’m pretty sure 80 will be my sweet spot.

They say that your 20s are a time for exploration and your 30s are a time for settling down. I think I’ve always done both and will continue. I want to explore until my feet won’t move and my mind shuts down. Curiosity is the fuel of the human spirit.

Life is the grandest teacher, and I am a pupil who seeks to understand every gift. This is what I’ve gleaned.

30 Lessons From my 20s

  • 1. Choose carefully those who surround you.
  • 2. Being a good person is the best life and business advice, consistently.
  • 3. Organization and respect are essential for business.
  • 4. Sharing your authentic voice sets you apart.
  • 5. Age is irrelevant.
  • 6. Ask for help when you need it.
  • 7. Never put deadlines on your dreams.
  • 8. Seek to set yourself outside of the center of your universe.
  • 9. Create as honestly, unapologetically, and powerfully as you can.
  • 10. Find humility in your mistakes and pride in your successes.
  • 11. Smile when you’re crying.
  • 12. Jump in every cold body of water you see.
  • 13. You don’t have to be naturally good at something to master it.
  • 14. See small wins as massive successes.
  • 15. Never treat anyone like they are less important than someone else.
  • 16. You are never only one thing.
  • 17. Feed your inspiration or it will die.
  • 18. All of the things you wanted to do will fall away unless you actively pursue them.
  • 19. When you hug people, hug them so genuinely that you pass your joy to them.
  • 20. It doesn’t matter how great or weak you think you are, we are all equals.
  • 21. We all have a gift to give.
  • 22. The more you go your own way, the more you’ll inspire others to do the same.
  • 23. If you believe in something, speak your truth.
  • 24. Never put yourself above learning new things.
  • 25. Stop glorifying being busy, it is not attractive.
  • 26. If something is important to someone else, it is important.
  • 27. You can never fully know someone else’s situation, so act with compassion.
  • 28. If someone doesn’t like what you create, create more of it and know that your tribe is out there.
  • 29. Just because you aren’t good at some things doesn’t mean you’ll never be good at anything.
  • 30. Begin, or begin again.

Which do you connect with or what would you add?

As I’m sitting as my desk writing this, I keep pausing to think about the most important moments in the last decade. I remember times when there were awards or prestigious shows or accolades, but they are not the moments that bring me joy or that get me lost in the memories. These are the times that stand out….

Running through a corn maze with my family who all complained about going, but I made sure to infect them with my joy. By the end we were all laughing.

Being pushed down the street in the dark in a shopping cart when I accidentally went miles away on a photo shoot with my friends and only after they left realized I had the car keys but no car. My husband started walking toward me and I toward him and we met in the middle where we packed all of my stuff, myself included, into a discarded shopping cart and he wheeled me all the way home.

Realizing that the people I’ve looked up to my whole life are fallible and human, and the mess of emotions that come with that realization.

Sleeping in my car at the beach overlooking the Pacific ocean the first night I drove out to Los Angeles to live. Our apartment was in such a scary neighborhood and it was half the size we were expecting (only one room) and had cockroaches all over the place, so we drove until I couldn’t stay awake and fell asleep looking at the ocean.

Creating a self-portrait while standing waist deep in the glacier lagoon in Iceland.

Writing my first novel.

Sand dunes.

Creating portraits with my sister on a beach in Australia.

Using my hair to express myself.

Countless strange things for photo shoots.

Teaching self-expression to survivors of human trafficking and starting a photo school in India.

…Memories I hope I will never forget.

If I had to sum up my 20s in a few words, I would say:

Embracing my weirdness
Cultivating community
Becoming a leader
Finding my compassion
Being an unwavering optimist.

I feel like I lived so much. Since I was 20 years old I…

Married my best friend
Started taking photos
Started a photo business
Wrote 3 photo books and a novel
Taught workshops all over the world
Gave motivational speeches to huge crowds
Visited 18 countries 
Bought my first house
Exhibited my art

Started my own convention
Met the cast of Doctor Who…

…and so much more. This life is a beautiful one – not without hardship, but I did mention my unwavering optimism? The bad stuff has no place in this blog post. If I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self what lies ahead, I wouldn’t dare. “Spoilers”. It was an incredible decade.

What lies ahead? For me a sign that I am doing what I love is wishing the future will hold more of what I’m already doing. I hope for more travel, more intimate time with my family (this year I’m traveling to Brazil with my dad and the UK with my mom, sister and aunt), more photo opportunities and platforms to express myself, more community…

But I also have big dreams. 

To publish my novel.
To make a documentary.
To create a more personal art series.
To be a represented motivational speaker.
To write more poetry.
To expand my charity.
To know myself.

I vow to always, always be open to becoming whomever I feel I should be, even if that person doesn’t align with who I thought I would be.

On to the unknowable, incredible future,
where though heartache waits
in the echo-chamber that I dare not dwell,
so too, and more so, the piano plays my sweet dark song
that beckons me on through the mysteries.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
– Walt Whitman

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