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17 Years Ago I Turned 17: Part 2



Last week, I celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the day I turned 17 (yes, I'm now 34!) by sharing some of the life lessons I've learned over the past year. Like so many of us, I'm always learning and growing and changing, and I really enjoy reflecting on what I've learned over the past year. (I highly recommend doing it whenever you have a birthday. We're often so busy and moving so quickly through life that we don't often pause to reflect on what we've learned, and b-days are a great time to do this!)

Without further ado, here's Part 2 of the 34 life lessons I've learned this year. (And here's Part 1 if you missed it!)



This might sound superficial, but the way people react to your birthday says a lot about them and your relationship (even if they're not a big "birthday person.") Birthdays are kind of silly, yes, but they're also symbolic of the day you were born. If the people in your life aren't excited about that, well... That's not great. Birthdays are a great time to assess where you stand with people, and whether or not those people are having a positive impact on how you feel about yourself. 



Over the past few years, I've had to deal with health issues, which is something I'd not encountered before. It's taught me a lot of things, but mostly it's taught me that health is a kind of wealth (see: Health Is Wealth: How to Cope When You're Feeling Poorly), and you have to work hard to achieve it. While I've been very consistent about my yoga practice, I definitely need to step up my game when it comes to eating healthy food! 



Sometimes being nice is really, really hard. Depending on the situation, your mood, the other people involved, etc., being kind can be the most difficult choice to pick, but I've been reminded over and over again this year that you'll never regret being nice. Even when you have a completely different point of view, when you're angry or upset, being nice is the right choice. For some tips on niceness and compassion, check out:  Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now



Every one of us encounters bad days from time to time, but I've discovered that most bad days are only as bad as you make them. Once things start going downhill a little bit, it's difficult not to feel like everything is going downhill, to take notice of all the little annoying things you might not think about on a good day. Over the past year, I've had a lot of stressful days, so I made this for myself: Stressful Day?: 20 Things to Add to Your To-Do List. If you're stressed, it might help you too! 



"Do what you love" is one of those cliched phrases that's wonderful if you have the ability to make it happen, which isn't always the case for everyone. This year I've had to do a lot of things I don't really love, but I've realized that there's something you can also do what it comes to things you're passionate about: learn about them! There's a freedom that comes from being passion about something, and there are lots of ways to connect to it. Check out this for ideas: Finding Freedom: 6 Ways to Connect to Your Passion



For some people, doing new things is easy, but, if you're like me and really love that comfort zone, it can be hard to push yourself out of it, but it's worth it. I've rarely looked back and thought, wow, I wish I hadn't tried that thing. Even if I hated it, it gave me an experience I'd never had before and experience really is the greatest teacher. One new thing I did this year was create and launch a new product, the Instant Insta Self-Love Card Deck, and it was so great to try something new!  



The good times? They're fleeting. The bad times? Also fleeting. When things have been tough this year, I kept coming back to this concept because, whether it's a good time or a bad time (like when you're coping with a meltdown), reminding yourself of the fleeting nature of life usually brings you back to the present and allows you to either enjoy the good moment or cope more effectively with the bad. 



The concept of magic has become a trend over the past few years, but I've always been drawn to it. I'm not talking about magic in the witchcraft sense (though that is fascinating too!); I'm talking about the magic of everyday things and experiences. So often we focus on some grand future moment that we're not realizing how much magic is already in and around us. This year, I've focused a lot on self-love, and part of that had to do with learning to reclaim my own magic



One of the reasons I started Positively Present all those years ago was so that I could share what I was learning as I was going through my own growth. I always love learning life lessons from others so it made sense that I'd want to share my own, like some of the ones I shared in How to Make Your Life Uncommonly Good. Despite our differences, we all go through a lot of the same experiences and emotions and you can create real connection with others when you share what you know. 



Like most people, I don't love being afraid. But I've faced some pretty dark moments over the past year, like when I wrote this Clearing the Clouds: How to Cope with Panic, and those difficult times have reminded me that fear is a part of life. No matter who you are, you're going to experience some fearful, panic-inducing moments, so rather than try to run from them (as I'm always tempted to do), this year I really learned to sit with my fear.  



Cheesy as this sounds, today is not guaranteed. Every day you wake up, regardless of what you wake up to, is a fresh opportunity. I've always been well-aware of the value of gratitude, but this year I started keeping a detailed gratitude list, and I think it's helped my mindset in some big ways. If you're looking for some gratitude inspiration, here are three posts I've written this year about it: 26 Things to Be Grateful For (+ a Free Download!)100 Things to Be Grateful For (Part I), and 100 Things to Be Grateful for (Part II)



This spring, I wrote Springtime Simplifying, Sorting, + Selling while I was in the midst of getting rid of a lot of things. Not only did it feel amazing to get rid of things I no longer used or needed, I also made a good bit of extra money selling some of my things. :) For a lot of people, I know letting go of things can be challenging, but I recommend giving it a try, waiting a few days, and assessing how you feel. More often than not, you'll have completely forgotten about what you got rid of! 



I'm so thankful for the people I have in my life who provide me with support, encouragement, and love. Because I've been fortunate to have a great group of people around me for most of my life, it's sometimes easy to take them for granted. Still, with the help of my gratitude list, I've been reminded daily of how lucky I am. Here are two posts about the wonderful benefits you might get from those around you: 10 Positive Benefits of Having a Sibling and The Positive Power of Pups: How Dogs Can Help You.




One thing that's definitely topped my life lessons list this year: you might not think you could ever handle a certain situation / person / job / etc., but if faced with something difficult, you will be stronger than you ever thought you could be. We, as people, are pretty darn resilient, and we can adjust to new situations surprisingly well. I learned this first hand a few times this year, and shared some thoughts on it in this post: 5 Tactics for Conquering Positive Change.



It's fine to dislike certain things, but not without having given them a fair shot. Unless something truly terrifies you, try giving it a chance. It won't kill you to try a new food or get out on the dance floor for a song or two. The minute you say, "I don't..." or "I can't..." you limit yourself. Open-mindedness is an important life skill and one I've used a lot over the past year. You can check out me lettering a piece and chatting about it here in Lettering Life Lessons: Being Open-Minded.



If you want to make the most of your life, I've learned that it really, really helps if you try your hardest to imagine where other people are coming from. So much of what we think and experience has to do with our personal perspective (read more about the power of perspective in Sky or Screen? : The Power of Perspective.) While it's not always easy to be aware of your own perspective, practicing doing so will help you cultivate compassion and empathy, which leads to better relationships! 



This is a lesson I find myself learning over and over again each year. There are some things I get really into (Halloween, October, dogs, rainbows, just to name a few) and not everyone gets my weird little obsessions. For the first time in a long time, this year someone called me weird (and not in the nice, jokey way!) and it really inspired me to think about what it means to embrace your weirdness. I, in fact, like being different, and I like people who are different. Embracing weirdness (and having other people around you who do the same) is actually pretty awesome! 



Whew, that's quite a long list of lessons! It's fascinating to reflect on all that I've learned since my last birthday — both new lessons and old ones brought back into the light — and I hope reading these has inspired you to think about what you've learned recently. If you have any great life lessons you'd like to share, leave them in the comments below! 



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17 Years Ago I Turned 17: Part I



It's 2017, and 17 years ago, on Wednesday, I turned 17, making me officially the big 3-4! 

As I often do on my birthday, I'd like to share some life lessons that I've learned this year (or oldie-but-goodies that've become particularly relevant to me over the past 365 days). Because we're always learning and growing— at least, we should be — even a year or two ago seems like another lifetime in terms of what I've learned about life, and I find it incredibly useful to write these life lessons lists — not only as potential guidance for others, but also as a way for me to reflect on how far I've come (and how far I still have to go!).

This year has been a transformative one for me (and for a lot of other people!) in so many ways, so here are just a few of the things I've taken to heart this year: 



While I've always been a big believer of standing up for my beliefs — after all, one of my nicknames in college was "Beliefs" — this year I've learned more and more about the importance of identifying, standing up for, and speaking out about your beliefs. You can read more about this is in my post How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree). (And if you're looking for more on standing up for your believes: 5 Ways to Fight Hate (Right Where You Are!)



Over the past year, I've encountered a lot more negativity than I'd like, mostly because I spend way too much time on Twitter, scrolling through the news which, let's face it, is often pretty negative. My news anxiety has been quite high (see: Break / Make / Take: Coping with News Anxiety) over the past year, and it's reinforce what I've known for a long time: negativity can be really powerful, seductive even, and simply being aware of that fact can help me cope with (and, when possible, avoid) it. (For more on how to keep yourself sane in a negative world, check out How to Distance Yourself from Negativity). 



After declaring this the Year of Self-Love, self-love become even more important to me. Self-love is the foundation for all relationships. If you don't love who you are (or you're at least not trying to make that a priority), all aspects of your life will suffer. You know that whole "put on your own oxygen mask before helping others" thing on airplanes? That applies to love, too. If you don't help of yourself first, you're going to struggle to help others. Like most of us, I still struggle with this, which is why I wrote Struggling with Self-Love? 10 Must-Read Reminders just recently!



You're probably well aware of the notion that life is short, but how often do you really think about that when choosing how to live your life on a day-to-day basis? I've spent a lot of time curating my life this year (particularly when it comes to social media; see:Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice), and it's reminded me of this very important truth: wasting your time — on people, activities, careers, etc. — that don't make you feel fulfilled and joyful is a bad idea. Of course, we can't always do what we want to do, but more than we realize, we have the power to control how our time is spent.



If you don't know where you're strong and where you're weak, it's going to be tough to improve — and to thrive in the areas where you can be really successful. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses isn't as a easy as it sounds. It involves a lot of soul-searching and self-honesty, two things that require a lot of emotional and mental effort. Still, this year I've really tried to think about The Power of "I Am" and How to Harness It, trying as much as I can to honestly get in touch with my true self. 



Feelings will tell you a lot about what you should / shouldn't be doing. This isn't news to me (or probably to you either), but over the past year I've become more in tune with my feelings and, after writing this — A Life-Changing Question + Why You Need to Ask It — I've become even more aware of how important paying attention to feelings can be, and I've learned that I benefit a great deal from listening to them (even when I'd rather not!). 



Not everyone has the ability (or the desire) to pursue some sort of calling or passion, but I've realized over the past year just how fortunate I am to do what I love, to do something I've chosen mindfully. Back in February, I wrote The Great 8 Challenge + 8 Years of Blogging! and it was so amazing to reflect on how far Positively Present has come. Though I'm still working on making this whole thing as financially successful as I'd like, I'm still incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend so much of my time doing what I love. 



Whether you have a lot or you barely have any, money is a tough topic, and one that I generally try to avoid thinking about (suuuper healthy, I know). This year I've been working on getting more comfortable talking (and thinking!) about money (see: Making Merry (When Not Making a Lot of Money), and while I definitely wouldn't consider myself in a great place, I'm on a much better path than I was a year ago, and that's all because I've been able to open my mind up to thinking about money in new ways. I've learned that my state of mind has a great impact on my financial state.  



Since the rise of the internet and the instant access of smart phones, my offline reading level has decreased dramatically, which makes my book-loving heart heavy. While I do read a ton online, that's not quite the same as reading a book, either fiction or non-fiction, which gives such a deeper experience. This year I created The Ultimate Book Gift Guide, and it was one of my favorite activities because it reminded me how wonderful books are and how I need to dedicate more time to reading!



Recently, my obsession with Kesha's song "Learn to Let Go" inspired me to write Your Happy Ending's Up to You as a ode to the the idea that I've learned (and am always learning again and again): you have to let go of the things you cannot change if you want to live a positive, present life. The past is over and you cannot go back. Likewise, this year I was also reminded of how important it is to choose to let thing go, as I wrote about in Let the Dead Leaves Drop: Lessons from Autumn on Letting Go



Like a lot of people, I'm not always the best at tooting my own horn (a life lesson I definitely need to improve in the years to come!), but whenever my sobriety anniversary rolls around, I somehow manage to find the courage to be a little bolder about celebrating myself. (Read this year's post: Self-Love + Sobriety : The Perks of Being Sober) Every time I achieve a big goal like this, it's so exciting to celebrate it, and I highly recommend celebrating your own accomplishments (no matter how big or small!) as much as you can. 



This year, my phone use has gone up dramatically, and I've learned that it's up to me to look closely at how (and why!) I choose to distract myself so much. I wrote about phone use in Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present, but I've also been doing some soul-searching recently to uncover why I seek distraction so often and how I can make those distractions more positive. (For example, when I really want to zone out, I try using Song Lyric Therapy and drawing illustrations for Instagram, rather than just mindlessly scrolling through social media.)



A question I've found myself pondering a lot this year is: Would someone automatically answer "yes" if asked, "Does Dani love herself?" Honestly, I'm not sure everyone would because loving yourself isn't all about feeling. It's about action, too. I've been giving a lot of deep thought to self-love as I work on my next book (yay!) and I've uncovered a lot about how self-love plays out in our day-to-day actions, as I wrote about in R-E-S-P-E-C-T Yourself: 11 Things to Do Daily. I'm still a work in progress, but, hey, aren't we all!?



I've always been a lover of learning, and I spend countless hours each week trying to absorb new information through articles and books and people. One lesson I've been especially in touch with over the past year is seeking out knowledge on new topics. For example, before this year I'd never heard of the concept of "hygge," but I ended up researching it and writing about it (Hygge: What It Is + How to Do It) and striving to embrace, and it serves as a reminder that there's so much to learn, particularly from other cultures. 



While I've been writing about the power of no for years, this year I've been embracing it even more. I've been striving to get in touch with what I really want (What Do You Really Want? (+ a Worksheet!), and doing so has reminded me of how important it is to say no to the things you don't want in your life. There's only so much time, space, and emotional effort available to each of us, so it's vital to know what you want so you can say no to the things (and people and vibes and experiences) you don't want. 



My desire to be more present in my life is one of the reasons I started this site, but, eight years later, it's still a struggle for me. Each year, I learn more and more about how important it is to stay in the moment (and more and more tools for embracing that mindfulness), but one of the best lessons I've learned is paying attention to others, particularly non-humans, stay in the moment. Still as it sounds, this article I wrote actually taught me a lot: A Pup's Guide to Being Present



Older people always go on and on about how youngsters shouldn't waste their youth, about how wonderful it is to be young. Youth is great — but so is the freedom and knowledge and self-awareness that comes with age. This year I realized (particularly after writing this What I Wish I'd Known 20 Years Ago),  if I had a choice, I'd much rather be the age I am now than a younger version of me. Sure, there are some downsides to aging, but there's a heck of a lot of good stuff too.



It's my hope that, in writing about what I've learned this year, you've learned something too! Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week!  And if you want to help me celebrate my b-day, check out some of the things I make below and support Positively Present with a purchase! :)



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5 Ways to Fight Hate (Right Where You Are!)



In recent decades, we've seen some wonderful, positive progress in our world in terms of tolerance and inclusion, but we've yet to rid ourselves of the terrible ailment of hate. It is still pervasive in society, especially here in America, and it is causing pain and heartache every single day. Hate is not an inherent human trait. It's not something we're born with. It's something we learn. As Nelson Mandela famously said,

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

If you're reading this, you're probably the kind of person who's pro-love, anti-hate, but rejecting hate in your mind (or even online) is not the same as actually fighting it. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. When I see some of these horrible situations on the news, my first thought is, This is terrible. This needs to stop! And then, from the safe and privileged position in which I was lucky enough to be born, I feel the inevitable resignation and shame that comes with my next thoughts: But what can someone like me do? Can someone like me even make a difference? 

Online, I see thousands of people condemning acts of hate, but few offering advice or guidance on how to make it stop. Lots of anger and shock (really? how is anyone surprised by anything at this point?) and sympathy swell in my social media feeds, but much of what I read is, in fact, hate-filled, rhetoric that simply turns the hate back on the hateful. And, as much as I understand instinct of outrage, I can't help but think of the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

It's easy to hate those who are hateful, who are committing heinous acts, but, in doing so, it's only hate that wins. I want to do better than simply condemning acts of hate. I want to help change things. But it's difficult to even know where to begin, to know what's effective for change. I sometimes see those in the most vulnerable communities, those most impacted by acts of hate, saying not to ask them for advice on what to do. I completely get where they're coming from — it's not the job of the oppressed to tell everyone else how to help them — but this leaves those of us who (I'll be perfectly frank here) could ignore a great deal of this and get along just fine at a loss for what to do. 

Here's the honest truth: I want to help in a real way, but I don't know how. I want to ask, but I'm fearful of being shamed or blamed or ridiculed because I've seen it happen to others. I could certainly handle the minor discomfort of being dismissed, but then I'd be right back where I started: uncertain of what to do. So, like any good millennial, I turned to the internet for answers. Unsurprisingly, I found a lot of what you'd expect: attend a rally, start an anti-hate group, volunteer at a local organization, etc. All of these are great ideas, but what if those options aren't available to you. What if you're too anxious to attend a rally? What if you're physically unable to march? What if you have zero organizations nearby at which you could volunteer? Does that mean you can't help? 

Extroverted activities are wonderful and can lead to positive change, but you don't have to be marching in DC or volunteering at the ACLU to make a difference. There are a lot of things you can do right where you are, wherever you are. Here are some of the best ways I've found to fight hate, regardless of where you are or what your capabilities are: 



Even if you're just one voice in a sea of many, that voice matters. The more people who condemn acts of hatred (even if the only thing you do is retweet someone else's words or share something on Facebook), the better. You might think that you don't have a big audience or you're not in a position to comment on a specific incident or it's not really your business to get involved, but hate — whether its occurring in your home town or across the world — is wrong, and if you're a human living on the same planet as all of these other humans, you have a right (and a duty) to speak out against it. (Reminder: you can speak out against hate without being hateful, which is something a lot of people don't seem to be very good at!) Speak out on social media. Talk to people you know (especially people you disagree with!). If you're not sure where to start, check out How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree)



Tolerance isn't just about accepting people of a different race or religious background. Tolerance can begin in small doses, in tiny little shifts in your mind. Look around you at all of the various people in your life, and do what you can to be more tolerant of them. No, this won't lead to major sociological changes, but if everyone made an effort to be more tolerant of other people, of the differences and all the little things that can drive you crazy, that tolerance will spread to bigger things. Remember: you weren't born disliking certain traits or habits, but you've grown to dislike them and you most likely reinforce those beliefs by thinking, Ugh, I hate it when [insert name] does [insert annoying activity]. This isn't to say you have to love everything everyone does, but practice being tolerant of it. (Side note: practicing tolerance does not mean tolerating hateful speech or actions.)



It's so tempting to stay in your bubble (particularly if you're born into a nice, safe one), but one of the reasons hate blooms is when we encounter others who don't hold the same beliefs we do. If you're really passionate about something (like, say, equality) and someone else challenges that beliefs (like, say, Nazi-flag-waving white supremacists), it's challenging not to feel enraged or even hateful. But, if we really want to get out of a hate-fueled cycle, we have to step out of ourselves and look for the big picture. We're all human. We're all here. Right now, there are so many reasons to feel disconnected, to feel as if there are sides to be chosen, but, hard as it is to recall sometimes: we're much more alike than we are different. We're all struggling to make the most of whatever we have, to do what we believe is right. (Another reminder: anger doesn't have to equal hate.)



Honestly, it might seem overly simplistic, but I believe if everyone in the world loved him or herself, the world would be a much more peaceful place. I keep reading about the notion that "peace starts with you," and, while that's great in theory, it's really difficult to create outer peace via inner peace if you don't love who you are. All hate comes from fear, and most of what we fear has to do with some story we've told ourselves about certain people or situations. It's human nature to be fearful and to avoid things that make us afraid, but one of the great things about being a human is self-awareness. We can become aware of what we're doing and change it. Cultivate self-love is no easy task, but it's essential for finding both inner and outer peace. Dig deep into the things you dislike about yourself, the things you're afraid of, and challenge them. Fear, as you might have heard before, is a liar. Don't let it guide how you see yourself — or the world around you. 



My political M.O. used to be: "politics is a patriarchal, dishonest system and I want zero part in that!" Ah, that old ignorance-is-bliss concept seems so foolish to me now. Political engagement, regardless of where you stand on various issues or people in power, is important. It's one of the greatest ways to affect change. You might be one person, but you can make a difference with your political actions. Reach out to your representatives, to those on the local and state and federal levels, who have access to making major changes. Tell them what matters to you. Tell them how you feel about hate and ask that they stand for the things that will bring more unity, connectedness, and love into our communities. And, of course, when it's time: vote, vote, vote for those people who shut down hate at every chance they get. 


Of course, this is just a small list of things you can do to make a difference. If you have children, you can teach them to value equality and inclusiveness. If you work in an organization with political influence, you can speak to those at the top and urge them to reject hateful acts or policies. If you have the time and ability, you can volunteer or even take a job at an anti-hate organization. If you're loaded with extra cash, you can show your support financially. If you're a march-goer, you can attend rallies and marches in your town. There are countless ways you can make the world a less hateful place, but, as cliche as it is to say, it does start with you. It starts with how you think, how you speak, how you act. You might feel, like I often do, that you're helpless, but you're not. Every single one of us has more power than we realize. And it's completely up to you how you use that power. Choose love and keep choosing it. Again and again and again. 



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