Twenty-Six

Today marks the start of a new beginning for me in more ways than I’d initially anticipated. This time last year, I was turning twenty-five, and after really taking a good look at my life, I set about making The List. I had every intention of tackling everything on it, but having experienced several of life’s most traumatic events in the last two months (resulting in a stress score off the chart), apparently I’m sitting about an “80% chance of stress-related illness in the immediate future.” Excellent! I’m not one for excuses, but then again I’m usually not one to deal well with underachieving either, so to facilitate being okay with falling a little short, I have to give myself a bit of a break.  

Making the list had to be one of the best things I’ve ever done – it forced me to get outside of my comfort zone and really put ideas into action. The past twelve months have been full of introspection, growth and self awareness, and for the first time in my life I can say that I’ve been an active participant in becoming the person I want to be. The biggest thing I’ve become aware of is that life can take the course of your desire if you consistently make an effort to take action, and turn “I wish” into “I will”. But as much as I like to think of this mentality as a strength, it has come to my attention in the last few weeks that it can be just as much a weakness. I think taking control of your life is a really good thing. But beating yourself up for not being where you want to be isn’t quite as healthy.  A friend e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago with this very idea, and it really took me by surprise: 

“I love that you’ve been setting goals to stretch yourself over the past year, but sometimes I’ve felt a little like you might be forcing yourself to bend in directions that are uncomfortable instead of focusing on accepting and loving yourself – which makes everything easier, and every challenge you take on more achievable! I’ve been reading a book that’s really resonated with me, and I think it would be a really timely thing for you to start reading while you’re going through all of this uncertainty and change. It walks you through the author’s process of working on the parts of her personality and heart that haven’t been working for her, and takes you through accepting yourself. It also shows you how to set boundaries for how other people treat you, how to be more compassionate, how to stop trying to force other people to live up to your expectations of them, how to be more vulnerable and how to stop trying to prove you’re worthwhile to yourself. It’s really moving and insightful, and I think it would be an incredible read for you to check out!” 

I’ve been so driven by the idea of “if you don’t like something, change it” lately that the idea of becoming the best version of myself completely passed me by. I still very much believe that anyone can make a conscious decision to make choices that correlate with the life they want to live and person they want to be, but after reading my friend’s e-mail, I can’t shake the idea of us all being programmed with our unique personalities, tendencies, preferences and eccentricities for a reason, and that if we just focused on honing what we already had instead of trying to be something that didn’t come naturally, that might just be the ticket. I’m definitely going to pick up the book. 

This is a question I remember struggling with at work on occasion, too. It first came up when I first started at my job a couple of years ago when delivering presentations, giving tours and facilitating group workshops were added to my job description. At the time, I was a nervous wreck seeing a therapist for an anxiety disorder, and the thought of speaking up in the lunch room terrified me, let alone standing in front of a classroom full of people. But I so desperately wanted to be someone who could speak publicly with confidence that I was determined to throw myself in at the deep end. Maybe it’s my lack of patience, but when I want something, I don’t waste any time in trying to get it. People say to take small steps, but I hate the idea of taking the scenic route when you could shoot straight for the destination; use more time in the place you want to be and less time getting there.  Again, a strength and a weakness. The reason I do this is because I try to remind myself at every opportunity that we’re each only given a set amount of time on this earth, and I don’t want to waste a second. It’s a common mentality that any new venture or major change is “going to take time.” But I can’t seem to get behind that. Things don’t have to be half as complicated as people sometimes make out. Sometimes things really can be as easy as asking yourself if your current behaviour is in line with how you want to live your life, and if not, making a switch. Anything new is going to be uncomfortable at first. It’s through making a decision to stick with it that things become easier – focusing on the big picture, and choosing to make every action and decision in correlation with what you want that to be. 

Random tangent over; back to today. One year since I made a list that changed my life. I want the next year to have just as big an impact as the last, but I don’t think another twenty-seven goals is the way to do it this time. I don’t want to spread myself too thin. The list has inspired me to take control of my life, and rather than tackle a bunch of one-time endeavours, I’d much rather focus on a handful of things that I can put into practice at every opportunity of every day in the hopes that this time next year, they’ll have transitioned from hopes to habits.  All that being said, here are my goals for 26: 

  1. Don’t take the easy option. The things that are worth doing are often at the end of the most treacherous path, but they say that with great risk comes great reward.  I want to make a conscious decision to always prioritise courage over fear, and do what’s right instead of what’s easy or convenient.   
  2. Stop wasting time and go for the things that matter in the long run. There are infinite avenues this could be applied to, and though people say I may be young and have the rest of my life to do lots of things, I could also be hit by a bus tomorrow. I want to live every day as if I may not have another one, and use up every last drop on things that matter. Time spent dreaming is wonderful, but not quite as wonderful as time spent living.
  3. Work hard on being the best version of myself I can be. Sure, I might want to be someone who’s comfortable in front of a crowd, someone who can think on their feet, someone with the strength to not take things personally and someone who lights up a room. This past year, I tried. But that’s not me. I’m an introvert, and I need to learn to be okay with that. I’m a deeply emotional creature, and I’m not going to stop feeling for the sake of avoiding potential heartache. Instead of trying to change things or seeing parts of myself as weaknesses, I want to learn to embrace them and somehow, see them all as strengths.
  4. Practice acceptance. A book that changed my life planted this seed in my mind, and it’s taken root in my heart and grown inside my soul. Related to the goal of not wasting time, I want to live in the present and focus my attention on this point forward instead of this point backward. Everything that happens in life has already happened, and we all have a choice as to how we’re going to react to it. We can linger for hours, weeks or months over events, but spending time musing isn’t going to change something that’s already taken place. But though none of us can go back and change the past (I may think differently after my TARDIS arrives), but we can choose to accept it for what it is, and the only thing we can control is our own course of action and the spending of our own time and mental energy. The past truly has no power over the present moment, and as said book’s author stated, “negative feelings are resistance. Whenever they arise it is a signal to wake up, get present and get out of your mind. Pain is self-created as some form of non-acceptance or unconscious resistance to what is.” By simply accepting what is, I want to free my mind to focus on a better future from the present moment on.
  5. Invest my heart and soul fully into every relationship. I refuse to hide who I am, and if anyone is going to be in my life, I want them to be in it for who I truly am inside. Genuine human connection is one of the most wonderful things in the universe, and life’s too short not to take that risk for the sake of not getting hurt. I return to something one of my best friends once said: “I have this dream of being best friends with everyone in the world. I’ve also always been a proponent of using the word “love” more in everyday life. People in general are just a little more scared to use it I guess.”  I want to give my heart to the world. If it gets trampled a little, it’ll earn a few battle scars and garner a few war stories. It’ll build character, and it will always bounce back. People that are important to me deserve to know that at every opportunity. 

A common thread throughout these goals is risk. And I don’t think it could be said any better than in the words of one Mr. Roosevelt: 

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” 

Here’s to a year of putting it all on the line, taking risks, and living with passion and integrity. Here’s to hoping that with practice, it’ll all become second nature. And here’s to hoping that this time next year, I’ll be that much closer to being the best version of my genuine self I can be – and be comfortable in my own skin. Huge thanks to my good friend for inspiring my path for the year ahead.  🙂

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49 comments

  1. Aw Emily, thank you so much for such a lovely shout out- and I’m glad that that e-mail sparked some new ideas for you and for the coming year 🙂

    Happy birthday! This year is full of so much possibility for you, I’m glad you’re holding fast to that ❤

    ps – if anyone's interested in the book I was talking about you can find it here, and the author has a great website too, with online courses and a great blog.

    1. Thanks for answering the question I was about to ask. 🙂

      Emily, I think you are an absolutely admirable young woman and I wish you a very happy birthday and the best for your 27th year.

  2. You’ve got some fantastic goals set up for yourself this year and I know you’ll accomplish them no problem! You’ve been through some tough stuff but you’ve also come out the other side a better person for it. Happy Birthday, and here’s to a new year filled with great things ❤

  3. This is a line I’m always struggling to walk, but it really does get easier with age (and because I’ve been working on it). Congrats on the year ahead!

  4. Visiting your blog is always such a pleasure – you write the most interesting and varied posts of just about anybody I know. Anyway… here’s to you, and may your 26th year on this ball of mud tick a few more things on the list 🙂

  5. Love this, hey. I love that you’ve taken the hand dealt to you and will play it the best you possibly can. Your attitude is astounding and awe inspiring. You are amazing, hey. Happy birthday! x

  6. Happy birthday, Emily! You are such an amazing person and have been an incredible inspiration to me for the past year. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead of you for 26, because I just believe good things are coming your way soon.

    1. Sweet lady I hope you know that those words mean more to me than I could EVER say in a little comment box. I adore following your journey and your strength and determination are inspiring to me! 🙂

  7. What great thoughts! Self-love is a tricky, tricky thing, one that is often pushed aside for the thought of “improving oneself”. Sure, there are things we mess up on, and things we could improve on, but when you get down to the basics, we’re good folk.

  8. Great insight Emily jane. Your friend’s words were spot on with what I think is best for you. I think self acceptance is your next great path for you, and you can really unfold into a beautiful person for it.

    I’m SO excited for your future and all the growth you have ahead of you, the new list is amazing! And your idea for it is wonderful; Instead of spreading yourself thin with the exciting frivolity, you’re focusing on the few, the powerful, the things that matter, all that can truly change your life for the better. You’re grown so much in the year that I’ve read your blog, and I am so amazed by your strength and resolve given all you’ve been through. Keep to your practice, and this world will be a beautiful place for you! I’m proud of you kiddo : )

    1. Awww thank you my dear sweet friend! I am so glad we got to know each other over the course of the last year and I’m excited to share your next year ahead 🙂 The lesson is absolutely what you said – it’s great to spread yourself out and try all sorts of things, but when you focus on the few, most meaningful points and put all your effort into that, then you’ll be far more successful and have far more of a lasting impact than if you check off a list of one-time things 🙂 Thank you so much for such a kind comment!

  9. Darlin’, this is just wonderfuly. I am proud to call you my friend and I can’t wait to see how you focus more time and energy onto yourself in the coming year. You’ve had to deal with a lot of drama (at which other people were the center) and you have dealt with everything admirably. I hope you know you deserve the same love and acceptance as everyone else. Treat yourself with love and kindness and make this the year to celebrate all-things Emily Jane.

  10. Awesome Em. I like that idea too, that we should accept how we are. it goes along with when you posted about Introverts. Realizing that I was an introvert was a step in me accepting a part of myself…it’s truly enlightening to do so.

    I have a hard time giving my heart out again after it’s been ripped apart. I envy your ability to do so. Keep loving that way.

    1. I’m going to try…. as much as it might hurt sometimes, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to stop because the desire to experience the depths and heights of the human heart far outweights simply avoiding being hurt…. it’s tough, but I think it’s the best way to live 🙂

  11. “Work hard on being the best version of myself I can be.”

    I think that’s something so important for everyone to consider. As much as it sounds like a fortune cookie or kids’ film, all we can be is our very best. And I think you don’t give yourself enough credit: you’re constantly trying to better yourself and despite your recognition of your weaknesses, your willingness to tackle them head on shows real strength. Happy Birthday, Emily x

  12. Happy birthday Emily and I wish you all the success on your next year’s of life goals. You’ve selected some great core values I know you’ll pursue because these are the topics and issues you address in your writing. I hope you’ll keep us posted on your journey, and this 26 year old is wishing you the best! And of course asking for tips on 27. Dum dum dum DUM!!!! lol.

  13. I think this is going to be a wonderful year for you. Just think how much you have grown over the past year. I like that you included working on self-acceptance on your list. That is one of the biggest gifts of my late 20s – I finally figured out how to love myself. That’s a tough one to figure out, especially when we live in a world that places so much pressure and emphasis on being perfect.

    I hope you had a very, veyr happy birthday!

  14. Beautiful!
    I love your list of goals, but most of all, I am loving that I see you are on the path to accepting yourself “as you are” . Just remember that you are fine “as you are” in each moment. Even if the moment is not what you want for yourself, there are lessons to be learned in everything.
    In truth, there are no failures in life.
    Happy Birthday Emily!

  15. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
    I admire you for taking an honest look at yourself and really analyzing yourself closely. That’s not something most people can do. I’m proud of you. I think you have a great year ahead of you! I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. BIG Hugs and much LOVE!

  16. one word comes to my mind after reading this: moderation. it doesn’t sound anything you are trying to do is bad, the question is, to what extreme are you trying to take it? we should definitely work to accept ourselves, but i believe that we ought to work to make ourselves better. however, we shouldn’t strive to be so much ‘better’ that we become someone else completely.

    i think you’re right. you are who you are for a reason. work on the things that make your life better and let the things that don’t fall by the wayside.

  17. You truly are such an incredible person…and with every challenge in life makes you learn something knew within yourself and you understand and except that…i have a friend with horrible anxiety also and she never does anything to help it, where as you just go for it, you don’t let something like anxiety get in your way of growing and learning and that is absolutely wonderful!!!!

    I hope this year brings you so much happiness…happy birthday again..

    xx amber

  18. It sounds like you have learned SO much about yourself over the past year, and I feel like 26 is going to be even more amazing for you! Congratulations on the journey and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  19. Happy Belated birthday emily!!!!! You are one of the smartest people I know, so full of good ideas, dreams and wishes – each year will just be better and better I think 🙂 I look up to your ability to learn from the past!

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