In the First Decade of Adulthood

28 things I learned about life in the first decade of adulthood. Written on my 28th birthday as advice to my 18-year-old self.

9-minute audio

 

  1. Life is not a multiple-choice test with a secret answer key; it’s a chapter book of choose your own adventure essays. Write often, and edit as you go.
  2. Living in Truth is always better than living in desired perception. But truth seekers, take note. When you pray for God to “wake you up,” buckle up for a wild ride, because reality is truly a thrill.
  3. Good things come to those who ask. Ask God for wisdom. Ask for the sale, the scholarship, the secret recipe, the side story, and for sermon clarification. Do live curiously. But don’t ask Google your most haunting questions at 2 am.
  4. Remember the big picture always wins the fight, after all, it is bigger. That said, the best way to steward the big picture is by showing up—consistently, and often awkwardly—to the small picture, also known as, the present.
  5. Learn to enjoy the paradox of living fully content where you are, while simultaneously longing, and pushing forward to where you want to go.
  6. Coed companions can create a fun and healthy balance to your social life, but when in doubt, define the relationship. Instead of complaining about being led on, take responsibility for your heart, and ask where the ship—friend, relation, or otherwise—is headed.
  7. Satisfying relationship closure is an inside job. Don’t put your well-being on hold as you wait for a grand Olympic style closing ceremony: those only happen every two to 4 years, anyway. Instead, redirect your energy to repairing, recuperating, and returning to the field when ready.
  8. Willpower is important, but annoyingly, and scientifically, finite. Sometimes the best thing to do is muster up just enough internal motivation to reach out to the right external structure. Tackle fitness challenges with friends. See a therapist to get unstuck. Or do as I am with this very post, and set a deadline with monetary consequences.
  9. If you feel lost, follow your stomach. Start by devouring some curiosity crunch for breakfast, and next, pay attention to your upset stomach. Which injustice makes you want to puke? What testimony makes you slightly queasy to share? Who is the person that gives you butterflies? Walk boldly in the direction of your nausea, although try not to literally hurl.
  10. Asking for what you need is not dramatic. On the contrary, ignoring your needs, or holding others accountable to unspoken expectations, can lead to a full-fledged dramatic emergency down the road.
  11. Learn to differentiate between physical, social, and spiritual needs. For example, if you suddenly feel like you have no friends and need to attend a raging party, check to verify that you’re not suffering from a bout of hangry thoughts–completely curable by bowl of cereal. Or, if you devour large bowls of rice whenever you feel empty inside, try filling yourself with scripture and prayer first. Finally, if you instinctively head to the prayer team after every tough week, consider that sometimes you need friends more than prayer, and go play at the sand volleyball courts instead.
  12. Friends and family are more important than chores. But since everyone has to cover their survival basics, bond over mundane activities whenever possible. Crank up the beach boys while washing dishes with siblings, wheel around the grocery with your classmates on a study break, or discuss difficult debacles while folding laundry adjacent to a roommate.
  13. Once you leave home, try to separate love and logistics when you go back to visit. For example, set aside some time to talk about your health insurance, and then put the paperwork away and enjoy a leisurely Sunday breakfast together.
  14. Abandon the search for permission. It turns out, you already have it.
  15. Failure, heartbreak, and disappointment are undeniably painful experiences. However, when weathered well, these storms serve as rocket fuel for growth. Keep your heart tender, and trust that you will come out on the other side with more compassion and wisdom than you imagined.
  16. Regard attention and focus as precious forms of love and generosity. Pay the highest dividends to who and what matter most. It helps to turn off notifications every once in a while.
  17. Whether homework, or professional projects, the majority of multistep wiki-how productivity hacks are accurately summarized by the titles alone of Steven Pressfield’s, and Jon Acuff’s respective books, “Do the Work” and “Finish.”
  18. Quality coffee is good for the mind, body, and soul. It also has a point of diminishing returns. Manage your energy by drinking responsibly, and sleeping when you’re alive.
  19. Don’t allow jealousy and comparison to distract you from your own hero’s journey. Harry Potter conquered evil at age 17, but Frodo Baggins didn’t defeat evil until he was 33. In other words, everyone has a unique timeline.
  20. Scrolling—through everyone else’s Facebook posts and Instagram stories—is not a legitimate evening past time.
  21. Feedback from trusted sources can take you a long way.  To be powerful later, you must be willing to expose weakness, today.
  22. The parking police are real, not merciful towards small town folk. Unless you want to allocate a budget for parking tickets each year, ask Siri for regular reminders.
  23. Fashion fouls. a) It’s illegal to wear socks with sandals. b) Leggings are, supposedly, not pants. c) Despite the advertisements, Lash Boss mascara does not actually result in triple voluminous self-esteem levels. However, crying with a friend while dressed in leggings and fuzzy socks, can be quite healing. In which case, a good waterproof mascara can help you feel better about looking more human than racoon.
  24. You are good enough, and pretty enough. Case closed. These are not interesting ongoing mental debates.  Now, go spend your energy on more important life questions.
  25. While revelation might feel like a bright beam of knowledge and euphoria shining straight to your heart, the actual breakthrough part, is not nearly as glamorous. Typically, a breakthrough happens when you face a familiar fork in the road, and make a simple connection with God. Aha! you realize, the last 4 times I turned left here, and it wasn’t good. So today, even though everything in me still feels like turning left, I’ll choose right. In that moment, an old pattern breaks and a new one begins.
  26. Between ideation and creation, there is a gap of hesitation. Shorten it. Perfectionism never delivers on its promises. Better to drive one idea all the way home to the imperfect finish line, than ponder in paralysis about 99 others.
  27. Stay playful. Not every aspect of your life has to function in service of saving the world, or meeting a personal development goal. Go ahead, and race across the swimming pool, sing, stargaze, bike through crunchy leaves, and take a taco Tuesday.
  28. Don’t chase after comfort and happiness. Instead eat a main course of connection, truth, beauty, courage, healing, humor, metaphors, and understanding. And then, quite often, happiness comes as a delicious side dish.

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