What I’ve Learned.
Yes, today I am 29 and I am thankful for the blessing of another year of life. Pictured above is me, as I am, this past October when I was in Toronto for a conference.
Well, I am one step closer to 30 and even closer to the realization and acceptance that I am definitely getting older.
But wiser, right?
So, in honor of my 29th Birthday, I want to share 29 things that I’ve learned on my time on this beautiful Earth. Our life lessons are all very different and we learn them in different ways and in different times in our lives.
But, it’s all the same in the sense that they make us who we are.
These are the life lessons that I have learned so far…
1. Accept Who You Are.
Over the years, I’ve learned to love myself for who I am–rather how I look or how I am perceived. I’ve never been one to care about what people thought of me, did it ever cross my mind? Sure. But, other’s opinions never highly impacted my life.
I’ve always thought if you don’t bother to know who I am or take the time to get to know me as I’ve attempted to know you, it’s not worth it.
But, of course the opinions of my loved ones and my own perception of myself is important. I’ve learned to let go of all the physical, I’m comfortable in my own skin and I know that I have the power to control who I want to be, how I want to look and how I want my children to see me.
Whether or not that fits well with others, doesn’t concern me.
2. Life is too short.
Everyone knows that.
In saying that, I’ve definitely been reminded of my mortality and every doctor that has seen my file has reminded me of that. It never really hits home until you’ve come close to death or been told that you shouldn’t be here and are damn lucky that you are. That’s when you sit back and evaluate every single thing in your life, all the important people, all the special moments.
Everything that matters.
Appreciate life and all those that make your life worth living and tell them all how much they mean to you. I have so many people in my life that affect me in different ways.
So, I love all of you guys!
3. Learn to let go.
In life, we come across so many situations. Whether you disagree with someone, have an argument–don’t see eye to eye.
Life’s too short to be mad, to be angry.
I’ve had only a couple times where I can admit I’ve held a grudge and admittedly still feel kinda sore about things. But, I’ve learned to just let go, it takes too much energy to hate, to constantly be angry with people.
Tomorrow is never promised, so sometimes—even if you know you aren’t wrong, man up. The load lessens when you just let go.
When you let go and let God, you will see that life will teach those who have wronged you the lesson they were missing. With time, it’s a learning experience for all parties involved.
Not to mention, sometimes you are confronted with situations that impede the plan that you had set out for yourself, trust that things happen for a reason.
4. Enjoy your kids.
The more that time goes by, the more I realize how self-sufficient my eldest is becoming. While she’s still my little girl, she’s growing into a young lady and it scares the bejesus out of me. As any parent would, I worry that I haven’t done enough. Haven’t been there enough.
But, I always remind myself, even when I am overwhelmed with work to just STOP. PAUSE and take time to enjoy my girls.
Time is fleeting and it doesn’t wait.
5. Don’t second guess yourself.
If you want to achieve something, go and do it. Don’t doubt yourself, learn to trust your gut and go with it. Whether it’s asking someone out or asking your boss for a well-deserved raise. I know it’s easy to be afraid of rejection but, know that when one door closes, another truly does open.
Opportunity is everywhere but, you’ll never know unless you try.
6. Don’t settle.
If you don’t like your current living situation, your job, your relationship–whatever it may be.
It’s never too late, don’t think because some decisions are permanent ones that you can’t change it and make it work. You are not stuck and if it benefits your well-being and that of those you care about, do what you need to do to be healthy and sound of mind.
You will never regret it.
7. Get real friends.
At this stage in my life, I am happy with those that I have in my life and those who I’ve let out. I’ve learned that it’s not worth investing time or energy in toxic relationships and friendships that do more bad than good.
Appreciate the good people in life that not only take but, give too. Just as you should be doing too.
In life, quality is always better than quantity.
8. Pray and be thankful.
Whether you are a catholic or atheist, sit back and really count your blessings. You will be surprised at how much you have in your life and how much of these things aren’t material. Be grateful and whether you pray to God, Buddha, Allah or believe in no supreme being–just be thankful.
I sit quietly and think of all the good in my life all the time and it almost always outweighs the bad. When times are rough, there is ALWAYS at least one thing that is good.
Never forget it.
9. Don’t drink or smoke.
But, if you must–do it responsibly and in moderation.
I’ve never smoked one day in my life and can’t knock it or those who do. But, you all know the health concerns about smoking! And drinking, well, I’ve never liked the loss of self-control and at times of self-weakness how much it can really take over your life. I don’t think any substance like this can be good in in abundance but, if you love your glass of wine or that beer with wings–enjoy it.
I do, occasionally and I love my beer and wings!
There’s always a time and place and if everything is done in moderation, you are good to go! So eat food that tastes good, drink and be merry–but maintain a balance. This is something I am ALWAYS working on, I’m a total gastronome.
10. Help people.
Time is money. At least that’s what they say but, we all can’t be Mother Theresa 24/7. Try to do something nice for someone at least once a day. Hold that door for the mom pushing that stroller by herself, compliment someone and mean it. Small things go a tremendously long way and you never know how a few small words or a small action can affect someone’s day.
11. Stand up to bullies.
I’ve always been a firm believer of this and at 5 feet tall, I never been afraid to tell someone how it is. Especially when they are bullying someone else. Even at this age I see it and I still continue to say something because it bothers me. I think it always will and I will always say something if I feel it’s wrong. No one has the right to make YOU or anyone feel powerless. If you stand idly by, you are helping take away that power.
12. Stand up for yourself.
Do NOT allow yourself to be bullied. At this age, people should be ashamed of themselves for ever trying to get in your mind and heart and make you feel powerless and vulnerable.
Put them in their place and do it however you need to. Sometimes you may need to be blunt and other times you don’t have to be. If you are being taken advantage of, do something about it. There are many ways to go about it and if you can’t do it.
Come find me.
I’ll do it for you.
13. Laugh and Listen.
And do it a lot.
It’s so healthy to laugh and have a good time and it’s even better when done in good company. Never forget to stop talking sometimes and just listen. Sometimes words don’t need to be said but your presence is enough.
14. Get ownership.
With time and lot of hard work, Dara and I have come a long way. While we are still relatively young, we have worked hard to get what we have. There’s so much freedom in owning your things.
Be proud. Be happy. Be grateful.
Never stop working towards your next goal because it’s never ending. Know that there will always people who don’t want you to succeed nor do they like seeing you succeed.
Don’t pay them no mind.
15. Love your family.
Whether you have tumultuous relationships, whether you are best friends. You are the only person that can love them unconditionally and them you. There’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t give for my parents or my brothers and sister. My brother, sister and Dara are my very best friends and I know without a doubt, that I can ALWAYS count on them. My parents are my rocks and have always, through thick and thin, ups and downs–been there.
Family is forever.
Love them for it.
16. Make a bucket list.
This goes back to my lesson that life is too short. Having come close to not being here, I’ve complied a list of things that I want to do before I die. No, it isn’t morbid but, this year and next I would have already accomplished 5 things from it. They don’t have to be extravagant but, things that make your journey in this world unforgettable.
17. Give wholeheartedly.
Give without expecting in return. I have learned this with years and with age and my mother is the one who taught me this. When you give something to anyone, it being your time or something material, give it with the goodness of your heart and do not expect one thing in return. This is beyond rewarding and good karma. Even though sometimes we have to remind ourselves of this, always keep it in mind.
18. Make time for YOU.
Always make a little time for yourself. Whether it’s reading a book, going to the spa, taking a weekender or taking a nap. If your body is telling you to take a break–take it. And the opposite, get moving and make time for your health NOW.
You deserve it.
19. Sing and Dance.
It’s healthy for you and do it like no one is watching. I am one of those people who will sing at the top of her lungs in the car while dancing along–with the window down. Or that person singing at the department store. Music makes me feel alive and I take it with me wherever I go.
My apologies in advance.
20. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
This is one of the oldest lessons and one you should learn when you’re a kid. It’s also one that even us big people forget since some times we are too quick to judge. Take your time in forming an opinion, trust your gut and then make a decision about someone. You’d be surprised at what lies inside a person, you just have to give them a chance.
21. Get mad. Be happy.
Don’t be afraid of your emotions and don’t keep them cooped up.
It’s not healthy.
Get angry, let it out and then let it go. Same goes to when you are happy, when you are happy, excited, proud–relish in it.
It’s healthy to let out your emotions and don’t be afraid or ashamed to do it.
22. Drive safe.
I’ve become a mini-van driving, soccer mom and that’s okay. That being said, I’ve also changed the way I drive. There’s no point in driving fast or in an unsafe manner. The only point is getting to point A to point B and to arrive alive, people. So, even if you are running late, I always say…
It’s better arriving late than not arriving at all.
Think about it.
23. You cannot and will not always please everyone.
And that’s just fine.
I’ve learned that in life, most times and with certain people–you are damned if you do or damned if you don’t. Just do what you think is best and what you feel is right and go with it. Live your life with an insatiable thirst to be better, do big things and do what you want to do. Don’t let other people hold you back.
24. When you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
I know sometimes we think we can do it all. We really can’t. So, if there’s ever a time when you do need help, don’t be afraid to ask. But, just as you ask for help, be open and ready to help others in return.
25. Take care of the planet.
This world is changing everyday and one thing that I have learned is that it’s up to us to take care of the planet. I know we all can’t be completely green and waste-free but, I do know that you can make small changes that make big differences in the long run.
I may not be the most GREEN person but, I try to be. I make the effort to buy better products that are eco-friendly, sustainable, eco-responsible, ethical and good for this planet.
I reuse, reduce and recycle.
I don’t litter.
I buy local.
You can make a change by starting small.
26. If you fall down, get back up again.
I think I’ve failed a lot more times than succeeded. That goes to say that I never stop trying and you shouldn’t either. Sometimes you fail hard but, you need to pick yourself up and try again. You WILL succeed. I promise.
27. There’s not one problem that lasts a hundred years.
This is one lesson my mom taught me so long ago. I’ve been through a lot in my life as I’m sure you all have too and this is something that has got me so many tough times. There have been low moments in my life and my mom always told me, “Nancy, there’s not one problem in this world that can last a hundred years. You’ll find a way.”
And she was right, there is ALWAYS, always a solution to every problem.
You just have to look.
I know that I’ve talked about letting go but, one of the most important thing I’ve learned is to forgive. You can forgive someone and they never have to know it, especially if you’ve removed them from your life but, it’s healing for YOU. Whether you choose to forget it is up to you.
Learn to accept others no matter what. Whether you agree with their religion, orientation, decision making–whatever.
I’ve learned that to be accepted, you must accept.
Be open minded and accept people’s mistakes, even if it’s those of your parents or loved ones. Keep in mind they were young once and life taught them along the way too.
Remember, you make mistakes too.
29. Treasure your partner and loved ones.
If you have found someone that takes your breath away, treats you like a King or Queen, that loves you for who you are and loves you even with your imperfections.
Just as you are.
Never ever let them go.
Nurture the relationship, forgive and accept that there will be ups and downs and that love is so powerful that you will make it through. Be forever in love and stay in love but infatuated at the same time. It’s that butterfly in your stomach, heart racing, weak at the knees feeling that never goes away.
If you have it and I do, appreciate it and work at it always.
That’s it folks!
Thank-you to everyone who has taken time out of their day to send me wishes!
This made for a very long post but, I am so very grateful for every single one of you. Whether you come by often, whether we talk or even if you are a silent reader. I’m so very happy to share my life with you and so very honored you take the time to listen.
My Birthday wish is for all your health and happiness, time well spent and in good company!
You’ve heard my spiel.
What are life lessons that you’ve learned along your journey in life?
Til next time–cheers m’deres!
Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela, and wife to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.