I am quickly approaching the start of another revolution around the sun - I will turn 44 in a few weeks, and I thought I might share some of the lessons I have learned over the years. Some of these lessons I learned the hard way - through my own trials and tribulations. Some of them I learned by failing - repeatedly. And some, I learned from others who have shared their experience, strength, and hope with me, while showing me that I truly am never alone.

Life Doesn't Always Feel Like It Looks on the Outside

There was a time in my life, several years ago, when I felt completely alone in the world. Despite having people in my life who loved me, I felt perpetually alone, like it was me against the world. Even in a room surrounded by hundreds of other people, I still felt completely and utterly alone. It was in that loneliness that I attempted to end my life. That was in December 2012 about a week before my 34th birthday.

The night of December 7, 2012, after the merriment and revelry of a night spent drinking with friends in celebration of my upcoming 34th birthday, I was drunk and alone and those feelings of loneliness took over. Those same old feelings - that I wasn't good enough, that I was a burden to the people who did care about me, that the only thing I was good at was hurting people and that this world would be better off without me. Those feelings crept in and I believed them. And it hurt. My god it hurt! In that moment of desperation, I was in so much emotional pain, I felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside out. If you've never felt this way, count your blessings, but if you have - you know the exact feeling that I am talking about - and in that moment, all you want it to do it stop.

Several weeks later, in a room full of other people, I heard someone else say they felt the same way, that they too used to feel completely alone, and you know what happened? I felt a little less alone. Hearing someone else verbalize the feelings I felt, that I thought were unique to me, made me feel less alone in the world, and for the first time in my life, I thought maybe I wasn't so alone after all. Maybe, there was hope for me too.

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Authenticity Builds Connection

I truly believe that when we share the stories of our struggles, when we show our scars, and we share how we made it through to come out on the other side, we create deep connections and we can help each other not feel so alone in the world. When we share our experiences, we build connections. When we share our strength, we build a sense of community and when we share our hope, we breed more hope and build feelings of purpose.

Some of the most difficult and defining moments that have shaped and molded me into the person that I am today were entirely of my own making.

I have been through a lot of things in my time on this planet and I have learned a lot of valuable lessons. Some of those things I experienced, particularly as a child, were not my fault. Some of the most difficult and defining moments that have shaped and molded me into the person that I am today were entirely of my own making.

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Choosing Growth

A great deal of the suffering that I have endured over the years has been because of my inability to get out of my own way. I have learned to take accountability for my part even in some of my most traumatic experiences. After all, it was the choices that I had made that put me in those situations in the first place. There may have been times when I was a victim of other people's actions, but I refuse to live in victimhood - so I have chosen growth, and I have learned to look for the lessons, even in the truly ugly parts of my life.

My Gift to You: 44 Life Lessons

So, in celebration of my 44th birthday, here are 44 life lessons that I hope will help you in some small way. So let's get to it.

Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash

1. Stop comparing yourself to what you see on social media. It is a carefully crafted façade intended to show you only the best parts of someone else’s life.

2. Stop comparing yourself period. We are all uniquely wonderful in our own ways and we are all on our own journey.

3. Get to know yourself. What things do you like? What do you dislike? What hobbies set your soul on fire? What is truly most important to you? Determine your core values and then live your life accordingly.

4. Be authentically and unapologetically yourself. YOUR people will find you and stay. If they make you feel bad for being who you are, they are NOT your people.

5. Stop worrying about whether or not a person likes you. Instead, concern yourself with whether or not you like them.

6. Be selective with the people that you allow to have access to you and your energy. If someone constantly leaves you feeling drained, it may be time to remove them from your life. If you can’t remove them for some reason, at least establish some boundaries.

7. Healthy boundaries are your greatest ally. They help us maintain healthy relationships with others, but most importantly, they help us maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves.

8. When it comes to romantic relationships, you should be the only choice. If you are not the only choice, then you should not allow yourself to be an option.

9. Know your worth, act accordingly, and add tax.

10. If you find yourself unhappy with the person you have become as the result of a relationship, friendship, job, or situation - walk away. What is ahead of you will be far greater than what you are leaving behind.

11. Alcohol isn't your friend. It doesn’t make you funnier, more charming, or calm your anxiety. It poisons you.

Photo by Vinicius "amnx" Amano on Unsplash

12. Nice is a manipulation. Kindness is genuine. A person can fake nice. But you cannot fake kindness - it is part of a person’s character. Know the difference and stay away from nice people.

13. Become aware of your traumas and do the necessary work to heal them. They color the lens that you use to view the world and if the lens is muddied by unhealed pain, the world won’t look as beautiful as it really is.

14. Find the beauty in the mundane. Stop on your way into the house with your arms full of groceries and breathe in the air. Close your eyes and really smell it. Feel it fill your lungs as your chest expands. Remember what a blessing it is to have breath in your lungs. Not everyone woke up so lucky today.

15. What happened to you is not your fault. What you do with your pain, is however, your responsibility. You can let it make you bitter and angry or you can find the places to grow from that pain.

16. Learn to pause when agitated. This is vital in our relationships to help us avoid saying things we do not mean simply because something or someone has triggered one of our old traumas.

17. Know your triggers and learn to recognize when they have been activated. This will help you tremendously with #16.

18. What is meant for you will always find you and if it is meant for you, you cannot screw it up.

19. Be vulnerable. That’s where your strength really lies.

20. Surround yourself with people who are focused on growing their futures. Observe their habits. Ask them questions. Learn from them.

21. A small circle of good friends who are focused on growth and healing is better than a large group of friends focused on parties and gossip.

22. Eat your vegetables… and fresh fruits. Get plenty of protein but don’t forget your healthy fats and carbs – your body needs all of these things to function properly.

Photo by Jeremy Ricketts on Unsplash

23. Speaking of your body – stop trying to shrink yourself to look like someone else (See #1 & #2). Focus instead on getting strong. Lift heavy things. Build muscle. Maintain bone health.

24. Go to the gym. Go for a walk. Get up and dance. Just move your body.

25. Drink more water. Good hydration = good heart function, good cognitive function, good muscle development, good skin, and more.

26. Never stop learning. There is so much in this world that you haven’t learned, read, or experienced. Pick up a book. Learn a new skill. Experience life.

27. Stop spending money on stuff and start spending it on experiences. I promise your kids would rather you leave them with memories of the adventures you shared than your old TV and collection of Pop Vinyls when you’re gone.

28. Invest and start doing it early. It doesn’t have to be a lot to start but do it. Make it a habit and do it consistently.

29. No. < This is a complete sentence. Anyone who does not respect your no, does not respect you.

30. Start saying “Yes!” to the things you have always wanted to do but have made excuses not to. Always wanted to attend an EDM festival? Do it! (and don’t forget the glitter!) Always wanted to learn to play guitar? Do it! Always wanted to learn how to juggle and breathe fire? DO IT! Start saying “YES” to yourself. (Read about how I have been making 2022 my Year of Yes!)

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

31. When a person’s words do not align with their actions, believe their actions and when someone shows you who they are through their actions, believe them the first time.

32. Not everyone you love will be able to love you the way you need or deserve and that’s ok. It is not because there is some defect with you. The sooner you can accept these two truths, the easier it will be for your heart.

33. Keep your heart open. If you have been hurt, and we all have, keep your heart open. Do not lock away the love that you have to share with the world because someone else did not know how to love you properly.

34. Your ability to love will be your greatest weakness but it will always be your greatest strength.

35. Sometimes the price of peace means not wasting energy defending yourself against the lies other people tell to make themselves feel better about the way they treated you. The truth always has a funny way of coming out anyway.

36. Starting over doesn’t mean you have failed. True failure is staying where you don’t belong because you are too afraid to start over.

37. Your failures do not define you. How you get back up and keep moving after you fail, however, absolutely does.

38. If you are the smartest person in the room, move to a different room. You cannot grow if you are not surrounded by people who challenge you.

39. The old adage about no one loving you until you learn to love yourself is bull$#!%. You are loved and you are lovable for no reason other than you exist in this world – regardless of whether you can see it for yourself. (See #4 & #21) Find your people. They will love you until you can learn to love yourself.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

40. Your body reacts to the words you speak – both out loud and inside your own mind. The things you say about yourself impact the very cells within your body. Speak kindly to yourself.

41. When you find yourself speaking poorly of others, look at what it is within yourself that you don’t like. It will almost always be what you are picking out in someone else. “If you spot it, you got it!”

42. Life is hard. Struggle sucks. Look for the lessons and stay grateful. Gratitude changes everything.

43. Everything is always working out for your greatest good – even when it doesn’t feel like it, even when it’s really hard. I promise everything is always working out for you.

44. When life is hard, take things one day at a time. If you can’t take it a day at a time, take it an hour at a time. If that’s too hard, take it a minute at a time but do not ever give up.

45. *One to Grow On* You matter. You are valued. I'm glad you exist. I love you. 🖤

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