"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count;
it's the life in your years."
One year ago today I turned twenty-five years old. 365 days ago I had no idea what kind of adventure I was launching on, a quarter of a century old and surfing through life wide-eyed and uncertain. The year I spent as a twenty-five year old was the worst year. The year I spent as a twenty-five year old was the best year. I did some pretty awful things. I did some pretty amazing things. One of the most amazing was a single decision I made one night in mid-February -- to change my attitude from a negative to a positive one. The day I made that decision, almost half-way through my year as a twenty-five year old, everything changed. Everything.
For the first time, I'm looking back on a year and realizing how amazing it was and how far I've come. I've woken up on many August 23rds and thought to myself, "What am I doing with my life?! I'm another year older but still doing the same stupid shit." This year it's different. This year I woke up and thought, "Wow, what a year! I've changed so much and so much of it has been for the better." Looking back on the year I realize what an amazing 365 days it really was. I've changed more in the past year than I think I ever have in all of the twenty-five years that came before it. I'm not sure how much of it others can see. Sure, there are the obvious things like the missing vodka drink in my hand or the loud, half-slurred story of my latest disaster or the quick jump to see the positive in a negative situation, but I'm not quite sure how much the people around me can really see, really know, how different I feel on this morning -- the first birthday morning in so long that I've woken up happy, relaxed, and at peace not only with where my life is headed but also about where it's been over the past 365 days. I'll admit, some of those days were horrendous. Some of those days were the worst days I've ever had. But those days, and all of the drag-myself-through-this days to follow, were what brought me here, to this morning, to the launch of my next year as the new (and, in my opinion, improved) me.
I won't say that my year as a twenty-five year old was perfect, but it was pretty successful for me as far as years go. And I know that I want next year to be even better. So I'm giving myself some advice. I'm writing myself a letter, filled with wisdom on how I can make the next 365 days of my life worthwhile. I hope reading it helps you to realize that you too can make your year an amazing one. You have the power to make your life exactly what you want it to be if you just take a moment to listen to your own excellent advice...
Dear 26-Year-Old Dani,
Happy birthday! It's been a great year and so much has happened to you. You've written a novel, stopped drinking excessively, began working on your personal development, taken some leaps forward in your professional career, and started two blogs that bring you tons of happiness. Congrats! This year was pretty awesome, but next year is going to be even better, but you have to listen up. I have some advice for you before you jump headfirst into your next year. As your younger self, I've been through a lot this year and I've learned a ton of important lessons. Here a few that you should carry with you as you move on to the next year of your life...
Don't be so impatient. Life, lessons, love (yes, everything worth having) takes time. Stop rushing so much and sit back and enjoy this life. It's yours and you never get more by rushing. Don't talk over others. Don't drive so fast (yes, you will lose your license if you don't stop that!). Don't hurry through assignments and blog posts. S-l-o-w down. Life is exciting, I know, but it will be waiting for you even if you take your time.
Love yourself unconditionally. You're a pretty awesome person, even if you don't always see it. Look at the way other people talk to you and look at you. They love you. They admire you. They respect you. Love, admire, and respect yourself. You deserve praise and you deserve to hear it coming from your own lips. You've accomplished so much in your life. Remember that.
Focus on the positive things. As much progress as you've made this year, I know sometimes it's hard not to slip back into a negative way of thinking. You've been doing it for so long that it's one of the hardest habits to break, but you can do it. Listen to yourself when you speak and recognize when you're letting the negative thoughts take over. Do whatever you can to get rid of them because you and I both know that you don't need them anymore.
Cut yourself some slack. You work hard at everything. You are dedicated and determined. But just like everyone else, you're not perfect. That's okay. Accept your imperfections, your flaws, your slip-ups, and refrain from judging yourself too harshly. These moments will pass and you will still have all of the progress you've made. You are not perfect, you will never be, and that's okay.
Keep doing what you're doing. You know what you want in your life, and if you keep it up, you will have all of those things and more. You've worked so hard to get to where you are right now. Keep it up. If you do, I just know you will be successful. It won't always be easy (but what great things ever are?), but don't give up. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep doing.
Your twenty-fifth year was a great one, Dani, and I know this one will be even better. Listen to your own advice. There's a reason people read your blog. There's a reason your friends come to you seeking guidance. You give the world great advice. Now it's up to you to open your ears, your mind, your heart, and listen to your own words of wisdom. Listen to your younger self. She has some pretty good ideas if I do say so myself! If you listen -- really listen -- to your own advice, great things will happen. You know what you want. You know what you need to do. Keep doing all of the great things you've been doing, listen to yourself, and I know this year will bring you just as much happiness as the year that came before it. Here's to another great year living happily ever after now!
I always give myself really great advice, but over the last year I've actually started listening to it. Now that I'm actually taking my own advice and listening to what I really need, I'm happier than ever. And, to be honest, I'm pretty darn proud of myself right now. Accomplishing the things I have over the past year was not easy (especially all of this personal development, soul-searching stuff). It's taken a lot of hard work for me to get where I am right now and I still know there is so much to be done. How exhausting and endless self-improvement can be at times! But I'm working on it. I'm doing it -- pushing along and doing whatever I can to make my life what I want it to be. After all, it's my life and no one is going to make the next year of it a great one for me. If I want another great, eye-opening year of my life, I have to take the reigns and take control. I have to seize the present and make every day the best one. As Jimmy Eat World sings: "Things are never gonna be quite what you want/Even at twenty-five, you gotta start sometime/I’m on my feet, I’m on the floor, I’m good to go/Now all I need is just to hear a song I know/I wanna always feel like part of this was mine." It was at twenty-five that I finally realized that I want this life to be mine. I want to have control (and, no, not in that perfectionist way of mine) and I want to be able to look back and say that I lived my life the way I wanted to live it.