Birthdays are my favorite holiday, and this year, it’s my 25th birthday! Birthdays are the time of year that you can reflect on all you’ve done in the last year; the achievements and the obstacles. For me, even more than New Years, birthdays are a time to evaluate where you’re at and where you want to be.
This is probably the last birthday I’ll make such a big deal out of (who am I kidding?!). It was different turning 18 and 21. 25 means I’m officially in my late twenties. 24 was one of the better years of my life. I learned so much and took a lot of risks, which is what I’m most proud of. Channeling the bravery from those risks, I’m ready to turn 25 and see what’s in store for me next.
*This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own*
In honor of my 25th birthday, here are 25 reflections. I divided this up a little so it looks like this:
5 Books that influenced me the most
The 5 most influential places I’ve been
5 goals for the next 5 years
10 lessons from my first 25 years of life
I have learned so much in the past 25 years and can’t wait to see what I learn next.
5 books that have influenced me
1- The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley was the first personal finance book I read, per the recommendation of my father. He said it shifted his mentality on wealth and money and I can see why. There are a lot of valuable lessons in this book, but the biggest impression it left on me was to live below my means and to use your money to build wealth; that putting money in savings alone won’t make you wealthy.
2- To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favorite books in the world, if not my favorite. As cliche as it sounds, this was the book that inspired me to go to law school when I read it in high school. Though I ended up declining my acceptances to law school, I still have carried the lessons of justice from this book into my life and now work for a nonprofit that fights for equality, which I love. This book is a moral compass of sorts and I try to reread it every couple of years.
3- Boss Bitch
Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin is a newer book, but I highly recommend it. First of all, I got in touch with Nicole in the fall and as a result, I was able to help her in the launch of this book. This alone was influential as Nicole is someone I greatly admire and I was happy to be (somewhat) behind the scenes in one of her achievements!
The book itself is like a handbook for millennial women who have turned their back to the corporate ladder and want to create their own path but understand the challenge that comes with it. The book isn’t for (only) entrepreneurs, it’s really for women who want to have it all: a rewarding job, a family, and control. She’ll break it down with actionable and fun ways to achieve that.
4- Eating Animals
Eating Animals is one of the main reasons I became a vegetarian about 7 years ago. I have read a LOT of books on health, nutrition, biology, ethics, and all of them point to vegetarianism as a healthier and more ethical way to live life. This book was the most entertaining, well-written, informative and relatable books I ever read about food or health. It even got my very skeptical father to stop eating meat! (Well, for the most part.)
5- A Thousand Splendid Suns
A Thousand Splendid Suns is written by one of my favorite authors, Khaled Hosseini, and is such a moving story. I read it fairly early on in college and I found it to be such a beautiful tribute to the struggles of women in other countries. Both this book and The Kite Runner always leaving me feeling inspired and motivated. I recommend both to everyone.
5 of the most influential places I’ve been
1- New York City
Coming in at number one is the place I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the past 7 years, The Big Apple. Moving to New York was my lifelong dream; the childhood fantasy everyone has that I never grew out of. Living here isn’t always easy. It’s expensive, it’s crowded, and it’s very competitive. But still, years later, I walk to work every day grateful that I get to be apart of it all. I love to travel but love, even more, I always get to come home here. There’s nothing better.
2- The Grand Canyon
Rafting the Grand Canyon might be the single coolest thing I’ve ever done. My family of 5 spent 14 days (and nights!) down there in the canyon. No running water, no electronics, we didn’t even sleep in tents (!). Nothing at all but the Colorado River, sandy nights, sleeping right under the stars, hiking waterfalls, and attempting to play the guitar. The entire two weeks was like a meditative state. I had never felt so removed or at peace in my life and if that sort of adventure interests you at all, I’d put this trip on your bucket list.
I can’t choose just one place in Vietnam, but this might be my favorite country to visit. It changed my life when I went there right after graduating from college and then changed it again when it pulled me back to Southeast Asia after declining law school acceptances and quitting my job. There’s a magnetic pull Vietnam will always have over me. I love it.
4- Ometepe, Nicaragua
I visited this little island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua while studying abroad in Central America and it stole my heart. It was so isolated, so peaceful and so beautiful. There was no wifi, electricity (or running water, I believe), and my friends and I had the best couple days playing in the water and hiking the volcano, one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done to date! I hope I make it back to this corner of the earth some day.
5- Bagan, Myanmar
I had seen the photos of the hot air balloons over Bagan since my stumbleupon days, but never thought I’d have the chance to one day see it. When I visited Bagan, it was during a fairly difficult travel time. I was alone in Myanmar and a bit confused about what I was doing next. Getting to see the sun rise over these temples, though, instantly calmed me and reminded me how much of a gift life is. I couldn’t understand (and never will!) why we got so lucky to experience such beauty.
Five goals for the next 5 years
1- Pay off my student loans
I am so over them. I don’t regret going to the school I did, but I do wish that I would’ve known more about what I was getting myself into when I took them out. The best I can do, at this point, is pay them off at a faster rate (and here’s my plan for doing so) and try to keep the conversation going about realities of student debt.
2- Go to graduate school
Taking time to work in between undergrad and graduate school will help me along the way in school (I think!). I still definitely want to go to graduate school eventually. Just not quite yet.
3- Serve on a nonprofit board in NYC
This is an exciting way to learn more about causes I care about. I’ve served on the board of my local Rotary International chapter, which I love. Now I hope to serve on a board of an organization that focuses on NYC.
4- Stay in NYC!
It gets harder as you get older! It’s so expensive and the job market only gets more difficult. Every year I remain able to afford to live here and have a good job here, I consider a big success. Here’s to five more!
5- Focus more on relationships
My friend Natalie Bacon wrote about lessons from turning 30 and one of her lessons was putting as much into relationships as you put into work, and that really resonated with me. As she says, work calls you and work demands you, your relationships are flexible. But they are NOT less important, so I am making it a goal to start treating them with the same importance as work because they deserve it!
10 greatest lessons
1- Embrace fear and find motivation in it
This is has been my most valuable and more recent lesson. You know how I said above the 24 was a wonderful year? It was because it was followed by 23, which was a tougher year. I spent that year studying for the LSAT (twice!), stressed about law school applications, and feeling financially out of control. I wasn’t being true to myself and I felt it.
Then, when I turned 24, I bagged the “comfort” I was living in and did some scary stuff; walked away from law school, quit my job, traveled alone, etc. and I was SO much happier. I realized that fear never went away (and it’s never will), but that I could embrace and know it meant I was taking a risk, which is a good thing.
2- Listen to yourself
The voice inside of you is there and it wants to be heard! I have found that the more I focus on my relationship with myself, the stronger that voice becomes, and the easier it is to say no to things.
3- Dream big and dream bigger
One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Alexa Von Tobel, says that one of the biggest mistakes she sees is people not dreaming big enough. Of course, we don’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment. But your dreams are meant to be what your life would be like in your absolute wildest fantasy. That is NOT a time or place for you to settle in.
4- “If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t stress about it for another 5 minutes”
This is one of the best pieces I’ve ever received and I keep a sticky note that says it on my desk at work. It’s SO easy to get frazzled in our lives with money, our jobs, deadlines, health, etc. The truth is, though, that those things are only going to get more intense as you move higher up in your job, have more money and more people counting on you, kids, and so on. Stress can easily destroy your health and happiness, which would be such a shame because even when things do feel like a mess, that mess is your life! Your only life. So, keeping the big picture in mind has helped me stay level-headed and SO much less stressed.
5- Stop saying sorry if you’re not sorry
This has been one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 and I’ve been really happy with the result! It definitely took a while to cut the automatic “I’m sorry” for when you bump into someone, when you interrupt someone, or worse, when someone else is upset about something that has nothing to do with you, yet you still apologize (i.e. “I’m sorry you’re hungover- what?!). Saying sorry all the time reflects a lack of confidence and most importantly, it takes away the sincerity for when you truly apologize for something.
6- Get. Things. Done.
Stop procrastinating. Don’t blame others for things not working out the way you want them to.
7- Your handshake is important. Be firm and make eye contact.
8- Never, never ever give up.
I got a bracelet that said this when I was going through a really difficult time with my scoliosis a couple of years ago, and I looked at it when I was hurting. I’ll never forget one day, doing yoga, I was in pain and looked at my bracelet and it broke! It was like the universe was playing a trick one me haha. But that has not shaken my belief in the mantra.
9- Giving means getting nothing in return
This is a lesson I’m definitely still learning, but I think it’s important to remember that giving to others, or doing for others, means getting nothing in return. It doesn’t mean we can’t get anything in return, but we should not expect it.
10- You are responsible for every part of your life. Find freedom in that!
It’s much easier to blame other people, things, or circumstances for why your life is going the way that it is. But in almost every case, your life is the way it is because you made it that way or you allowed things to make it that way. This isn’t meant to say that things are “your fault”, rather, this has been an empowering lesson for me and exciting! Realizing that everything about your life (your finances, your happiness, most of your health, your job) is in your hands is an amazing feeling. It means you can create the life you want! No one else will do it for you.