Friday, 8 May 2015

Not Quite 28 Things I've Learned in 28 Years

This is a little late, but I was too busy being a lazy bum last week to post anything.  It was my birthday last week and I’ve not reached the ripe age of 28.  So far, it feels pretty good.  This year should prove to be an exciting one.  I’ll be moving back to Canada in July, going to my older brother’s wedding on August 1, and settling down into Canadian life once more.  Oh, and that includes the dreadful job hunting.

I wanted to take this time to copy +Brent Jones on Google+.  Brent recently turned 30, which is a huge milestone because the number contains a “0” on the end of it.  To commemorate that wonderful age containing a dreaded three, he came up with a list of 30 things he’s learned over the years.

I figured 28 rounds up to 30 less ambiguously than 27, so I want to do the same. 
On top of that, I don’t actually have 28 life lessons, but only 25.  Though 25 is closer to 28 than, say, 10 (to throw a random number out there), so it works out.  Yes, this is flawed logic, but I read in an article somewhere that late twenty-somethings tend be pretty carefree, so it works out in the end.

Without further ado, here are not quite 28 things I’ve learned in 28 years.

1.  Mother is always right!

Growing up, I didn’t always agree with my mother.  As I grew older, however, I began to see that she was right all along.  I’m also finding that I’m becoming more and more like her as the years go on.  That’s not a bad thing.  I admire my mom, and think she’s one of the greatest people in the world.

You may not think you’re mom is right all the time, but, really, you should just listen to her.  Your room is messy and it needs cleaning.  So stop whining and go do it.

I look forward to being a mother, whenever that may be (I am single, after all).  Then I can always be right, too.  Either that or just really bossy and control the entire household.  I’ll be the queen of my dwelling.

2.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.

Do you remember Bambi?  Of course you do because you’ll be forever haunted by the scene where Bambi’s mom gets shot.  Well, there’s another scene where Thumper makes a mild comment and his mother scolds him.  Then we see a sheepish bunny kid say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

*Sigh* Times were so simple back then.  It’s a shame a lot of the Internet doesn’t take this advice.  Freedom of speech is one thing; rape threats are another entirely.  Sometimes the smartest thing to do is keep your mouth shut.

3.  Look with both eyes open.

Growing up, I remember being told on countless occasions to go downstairs to the pantry to get something.  So, I’d saunter on down and look around, not see anything, and return to the kitchen upstairs saying, “Mom, there are no Frosted Flakes.”

…To which she would reply, “Were you looking with your eyes open or closed?”  Sure enough, the box was right dead centre in plain sight.

It’s a comical example, but so many times we get caught up in our own dealings that we fail to what’s going on around us.  If we open our eyes, chances are we’ll see a lot better.

4.  Chances are, you’re going to turn into your mother someday, so sit back and enjoy the ride!

This is especially true if you admire your mother as much as I do.  Every now and then, I’ll do something that makes me think of my mom, and those moments get more frequent as time goes on.  No worries, though, because I think she’s the most amazing woman ever.  If I could be half the woman she is, I’d be the happiest person alive!

5.  You never know until you try.

I’m on a things-mom-always-said kick right now.  Sometimes, we don’t want to do or try something because we have preconceived notions that it’ll be hard, scary, what-have-you.  But most of the time, the task really isn’t that bad.  Trying new things builds character and opens you up to a whole new level of possibilities.

I can successfully tell you from trying that I still don’t like pickles.  I can also tell you that being in a large room filled with spiders is not the worst thing in the world.

6.  Be content with who you are.

Another wise word from my mom.  I made a comment once, and she backfired it with this saying.  If you’re curious, you can read about what I have to say about being content here.

Being content with yourself is not the easiest task to begin with, but it does get easier with time.  You may not have everything you always dreamed of having, but you have quite a lot already, and you should be happy with that.

7.  Life is a journey; be a lifelong learner.

You never stop learning.  Every day, things are thrown at you that will either challenge the way you think or enhance your worldview.  This doesn’t just apply to academics, but all the experiences you have in life.  Something new is always going to come your way, and you should embrace it when it comes.

To give you an example, my mom did a year of law school part-time over the course of two years because she had an interest in law.  In my case, living in Japan has opened up my life to an entirely different culture than what I’m used to, and I’m constantly learning new things about not just what Japan is in terms of culture, but actually living comfortably here.  It also gave me a desire to learn more about my home country and the many cultures that make up Canada.

Get out there and learn!  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” doesn’t apply to life.  My grandpa can tell you that since he bought an iPad to keep up with the changing times.  Just watch out for that anonymous text he sends you.

8.  Jesus loves you!

It’s more than just a children’s song.  It’s a reality.  Seriously, there is nothing more amazing than the fact that Jesus died for the sins of the world.  Think about it.  God sends his one and only Son not to rule over everyone with an iron fist (or in the Jews’ case, delivering them from the Romans), but to become the ultimate sacrifice for everyone’s sin.  That to me is incredible.  Who on earth would just offer their only son to die for the world?

Jesus was also the kind of person who hung out and interacted with the people most others hated:  the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and even lepers.  He loved them.  How much more so do you think he loves us?

9.  Don’t be afraid to be you, no matter what anyone else says.

No doubt some of you read #8 and cringed because I sounded like a preacher.  Or maybe hearing about Christianity isn’t your thing.  That’s fine.  I won’t judge you, but I’m not going to let your anger bring me down.  Being a believer and follower of Jesus Christ is the central part of who I am.  It affects how I think, how I portray myself to others both online and off, and it influences my worldview.

If you’re scared of coming out of your box, or the closet, or whatever it is that’s hindering you from being you, don’t be afraid.  You can only be you and if that’s not good enough for someone else, then so be it.  As long as you’re not harming others, just keep on living and enjoying your life.

I remember reading somewhere that it’s statistically proven that 10% of all people will not like you.  If that’s true, then focus on the other 90%.  They’re so much more worth your while.

10.  Be a better you.

Yes, be content with who you are, and don’t be afraid to be you.  You should also try to be a better you.  There’s always room for improvement, and if you want to change for the better, then go ahead and fly at her.  I’m always trying to better myself, and lately I’ve been focusing on time management and productivity.  I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m not giving up.

11.  Relationships are worth maintaining, no matter how far apart you are.

You have those friends who come and go in your life, but there are those that stick with you no matter how bad you are at keeping in contact.  That’s the case with my Albanian friend, who never gave up on our friendship all through university.  I come from a family that doesn’t keep in contact very well, so I thought it was common nature to just drift away.

In some instances, it is, especially in North America.

But my dear friend proved me wrong.  Even now, though I’m half way around the world, I send her the odd message telling her how much I miss her.  She taught me the importance of keeping in contact.  Some friends are worth keeping, no matter what the changes in your life.

12.  Social interaction is good for your sanity.

I’ll be honest with you.  I came up with this point after spending a good amount of time alone in my apartment.  When you live a considerable distance from friends and family and everyone goes away for the holidays, then it’s pretty tough to say you should be hanging out with people.  

But these days alone with minimal contact teach me that I need social interaction.  Otherwise I turn into a vegetable, lying on the couch reading articles or watching Youtube videos.  Those things aren’t bad in moderation, but there’s something refreshing about interacting with other people, especially the ones you love.

13.  Communication is key in any relationship.

Straight from my Marriage and Family class at university is this wonderful piece of advice.  If you don’t communicate with your partner, your friend, or someone who’s close to you, you end up losing contact and drifting away.  Think about it.  The more time you spend with someone on social occasions, the more you get to know them.  It’s as simple as that.

14.  Don’t compare yourself to others.

I wrote an entire blog post about this.  The less you compare yourself to others, the better you’ll feel about yourself.  If you want to read more, check out my post about it because I think there’s some information there that’ll really help you out.

15.  Lazying around doesn’t always make you feel better.

Guess what I did during my week off?  Pretty much sat around doing nothing.  Words can’t express how awful I felt.  It’s one thing to relax, but wasting an entire week is another.  I did get some things done, like finishing Camp NaNoWriMo and coming up with this blog idea, but mostly I just sat around.

So this is a message for both you and me:  get up off your bum and get out and do something.  Meet up with a friend.  Exercise.  Enjoy a breath of fresh air.  Do something that requires you to move.  I think some of us spend too much time sitting around.  So let’s get out there and be active!

16.  Just starting will motivate you to get stuff done.

“…Except when you have writer’s block,” you writers might say.

No, especially when you have writer’s block!  Oftentimes, the hardest part about doing a task is just starting it.  But once you get that momentum going, you may just find that you can’t stop.

17.  When a task seems huge, take it in baby steps.

I look at the task of writing a trilogy and it overwhelms me how much more I still have to go.  There’s so much to consider:  pumping out a rough draft, the gruelling fun of editing, how to publish, marketing…the list goes on, and each one of those points is a huge topic to cover.

That’s why I’m taking it one step at a time.  For the past two years, I’ve been using NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as motivation to pump out two rough drafts by hand.  I’m currently in the editing stage, plugging away at the second book little by little.  My daily goal is roughly 1000 words, and that’s perfect for juggling work and blogging at the same time.  It’s a huge project, but I take small steps.

If a task seems daunting to you, break it up and plug away at it little by little.  Make a to do list and/or a schedule for yourself to motivate you to get stuff done.  And never ever say you can’t do it.

18.  Breaks are important.

When you’re going through chaos, then you really do need a break.  It doesn’t have to be long, but even ten minutes can be enough to refresh you.  I find my workload comes in waves.  Sometimes, I’ll have nothing to do and then all of a sudden, I’ll get a flood of work that may take hours.

Treat yourself to five to ten minutes.  My parents are the king and queen of this.  I don’t know how many times they kicked us kids out of the kitchen or bedroom just so they could have fifteen minutes to chat.  My dad’s an expert at disappearing after work to take a short nap.  My mom, though a machine, takes time for herself as well.  And they had seven of us kids to monitor, so you can bet it was a challenge.

I use them as inspiration.  After taking a break, you’ll be more productive.

19.  Even if you fail fifty million times, that doesn’t make you a failure.

I wish someone had told me this when I was nineteen and hiding away in my host family’s basement to escape the shame I felt for screwing up.  That was a personal low in my life.  But the good thing is that I eventually got myself out of that rut.  It took years, but here I am now, facing challenges head on.

I can’t stress enough how amazing and precious you are.  You need to believe that.  You have so much purpose in your life, you have no idea.  And you are not a failure!

20.  Keep an open mind.  Try to understand the other side.

I am very traditionally-minded, and I have strong feelings about a number of things.  Occasionally, those emotions come out in arguments.  But just because I feel strongly about something and have the capacity to argue about it, doesn’t mean I need to voice my concerns every time.  (I don’t mean constructive arguments to come to an agreement, but my cold-hearted opinion.)  Constructive dialogue is one thing.  Shutting people’s opposing opinions down is another.

I try to keep an open mind, to try and understand an issue from several angles before voicing my ideas.  (That being said, I don’t really like arguing in the first place.  What can I say, I’m an introvert!)  Living in Japan has really opened up my mind to a whole new way of thinking.  I don’t always agree with it, but I try to see things from a different angle, and listen to what others have to say.  Living here has challenged my patience as well.  Yes, much patience is needed here.

This is a lesson for both you and me.  The next time you’re passionately discontent about something, listen first and then respond.  Try to understand the other side and don’t lash out.  Keep things constructive.

21.  Shoot for your dreams.

Did you know that until recently, I wanted to get into animation?  I wanted to create stories for the big screen and make it big in Japan.  Half of that dream was realized when I moved here three years ago.  Finally, I thought, that dream would come true!

But it didn’t.  You know what happened instead?  I was shaped and changed into a better person, and compared to an ideal career, becoming a better person was so much more worthwhile to me.

So shoot for your dreams.  Even if they don’t come true, you’ll find the journey worth it.  And if you lose your dream?  Find a new one.  Mine is to become a fantasy author, to captivate readers with the worlds and characters I create.  It’s not animation, but it’s in the same ballpark.  What’s your dream?

22.  Self discipline is an acquired skill.

No matter what you say, we are all capable of being disciplined.  I’m not kidding.  You just have to work on it, and it can take time to develop.

As an example, I used to HATE jogging, but you know what made me get in the habit of doing it?  (Besides my mom’s nagging and the invention of mp3 players, that is.)  Getting out there regularly, whether I felt like it or not, in rain or shine.  Now it’s not only habit, but I really enjoy it.  I can thank my iPod for that because I use music to solidify scenes for my book in my head.

Developing self discipline begins with your attitude toward it.  Change your attitude, and self discipline will come a little easier.  Just remember:  it takes time.  Self discipline is not an overnight gig.  You have to work at it.

For more about self discipline, I went into more detail here.

23.  Budgeting your money is an acquired skill.

This goes right along the lines of self discipline.  Being able to budget and regulate what you spend your money on is a vital skill and can be overlooked.  It’s also not a one time thing, but something that requires frequent attention.

It was because of budgeting my money when I first came to Japan that allowed me to pay off my student loans in just two years.  It’s because of budgeting that I will have a small surplus for when I move back to Canada at the end of July.  It takes dedication, commitment.  But most importantly, it takes self discipline.

24.  Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you need it.

This is probably some of the best advice my mother has ever given me.  It’s the thing I always ask myself before making a big purchase:  do I really need that?  It is especially hard to manage the small things you spend your money on.

Budgeting will help put your spending habits into perspective and help you manage your finances.  Many times, we buy things because of this instinctive desire for more.  Instead of waiting until that initial feeling of want dies down, we just go ahead and buy it.  But you have to ask yourself whether or not it’s worth your while getting it, how it will benefit you, how much use you will get out of it, etc.

So the next time you go to buy something, ask yourself:  do I really need that?  It might just save you a few hard-earned bucks that may come in handy later.

25.  Age is relative!

Someday, I want to be as agile as the elderly Japanese.  Seriously, I have never seen people in their seventies and eighties walking around, riding their bicycles to the grocery store, and working the rice fields.  It makes people back home look pitiful.  I’m not joking.

We can all learn a little something from the Japanese.  How healthy they are is one thing (aside from the smoking).

When I talk about how sore I am the day after playing soccer, I might get a comment about how old I am in Canada.  In Japan, I get floods of comments about how young I am.  I love that mentality.  My younger sisters keep telling me that 28 is old, but here, I’m seen as young, even to my students!

Now, I simply embrace age.  Whether it’s 28, 60 or 90, I never want to stop believing I’m young or capable.  I don’t want age to be an excuse.  Perhaps you can do the same.

And there you have it!  Twenty-five things I’ve learned over the years.  What about you?  What’s the biggest life lesson you have learned?  If you liked this post so much that you just can’t get enough of it, spread the love and share it around.  All it takes is a couple clicks.


  1. Loved this article, Kellie-Ann! I did something very similar for my 30th birthday.

    My favorite point on your list was 'You never know until you try.'

    That really has been my mantra for the past 10 years... I've tried and failed at so many things. It's taught me what I love, what I don't love, and plenty of other lessons along the way.

    Thanks for sharing some of your life advice!

    1. Hi Brent! Thanks for leaving a comment. It was your 30th birthday list that inspired me to make a list of my own.

      I hear ya about the trying and failing. You learn so much if you just give stuff a shot, and if you fall down, you can always pick yourself up again.