So. It's my half-birthday. I know to most people it's not a thing, but it's totally a thing to me. I will take any and every chance to look back and reflect and assess. For the past two years I've written myself a letter and sealed it for the next year. Since my next birthday will be a landmark - I'll be turning 30 - I thought I should publish this year's letter. I was inspired by Evan Rachel Wood's piece about turning 30 for Nylon, and found myself echoing a lot of the lessons she learned in her twenties.

I'm in the last six months of my twenties, and this decade was nothing like I thought it would be, but it was both the best and worst one yet. I learned a lot. A lot. I went from being a dumb kid to being a decent adult and pretty soon I'm actually going to get good about sticking to a budget, calling my family when it's not a holiday, and eating my vegetables every day - it's a growth process folks. Poor attempts at humor aside - these are the big lessons I learned. These are the ones that kicked my ass and made me cry and made me wake up and changed me and made me into the person I'm proud to be today.

Build Good Relationships and Start With Yourself There are a ton of platitudes about how you have to love yourself first - and they're all true, even if they are corny as fuck. It's damn near impossible to really be there for someone else if you're not attending to your own mind, body, and spirit first. It isn't being selfish - it's necessary for your health. Furthermore, if you don't the wrong kind of people will leech onto you, exploit you, abuse you, and make it that much harder to take care of yourself and those that you care about. I am an empath. I love people and I always want to help people. When I was younger, I was a fucking garbage dump for people who didn't give a shit about me - just what I could do for them. I had a series of codependent relationships with narcissists and selfish people. When I was finally able to cut them out, I realized I needed to turn my emotional intelligence inward and care for myself the way I cared for those people who had broken my down. I built myself back up. I, now, have the best relationships I've had. I invest in people who invest in me. I have a much better bullshit meter and I can tell when someone just wants something from me and doesn't want me. 

Go Places Alone Take time for yourself. Get comfortable being by yourself. Be your own friend. Don't miss that concert or that movie because no one wants to go with you. If you can't be around yourself and feel good about it - you can't really feel good about around other people. Being introverted and an empath - I need to be alone. Being around too many people literally exhausts me. I need down time after social gatherings; I can catch people's shit and hold onto it like it was my own shit. I treasure my alone time - but I had to grow into that space. I had to truly be left alone by people I thought cared and learn how to be okay being with only me. 

Check In and Ask Yourself Hard Questions I had a theater teacher who made us "check in" every time we gathered for class or rehearsal. Just one or two words about how we felt. No explanation, no qualifications, no judgement. Check in with yourself and always ask yourself two questions: “What am I feeling? And why am I feeling it?” Answer as deeply and honestly as you can. And don't judge yourself for the answers. Adapt, change, adjust, but don't judge.

Say I Don't Know and Ask for Help You don't know everything. You can't. It's literally impossible. Tell people you don't know if you don't know - and then volunteer to figure it out together. Don’t be afraid of asking questions—any question, anytime, to anyone - be curious, be childlike. There aren't dumb questions - but there are assholes, and do you really care about the opinions of assholes? 

Be Authentic and Honest and Speak Your Truth and Trust Your Intuition Be honest. Just be honest. It doesn't matter if it isn't necessarily the nicest thing you've ever said, but lying spares no ones feelings - least of all you own. Say no to people often. Tell the truth at all costs. That extends to how you dress, how you act, what jobs you take, what people you spend time with. Be authentic in all of those things and let who you are deep down inside show in your words and actions. Speaking of deep down inside? Listen to that voice deep down inside and let it guide you. It knows what's best for you. The more honest and authentic you are, the easier it is to hear that voice. Don't make people guess, don't let them assume, don't play games, don't think they can read your mind - BE. HONEST. 

Own Your Shit Everyone has shit. Traumas. Ticks. Quirks. Fears. Insecurities. We all have shit. Own your shit. It's your shit. Claim it and be freed from it. Don't use it as an excuse for anything. Don't try to pretend like it's not there, even though everyone can smell it. There's no air freshener that's gonna cover the smell of that kind of shit. BE. HONEST. You've got shit. We all do. Own it, before someone tries to take it from you and use it against you. Yes, there are some monkeys in the jungle who are going to try and throw your shit and their shit at you. But if you own your shit, they can't throw it at you. And if they try and throw theirs at you - well, you've been handling your own shit, so you'll know just how to deal with it.

Success and Money Success means a lot of different things to people. Your own meaning of success will change. The truth of the matter is - it's not an exact science, no matter what you call it. It's luck, and skill, and timing, and preparation, and talent all thrown together. Some days you're gonna feel successful and some days you won't. The most important part is to define it for yourself. Money is not success. Money isn't real. If you get caught up thinking too much about money - start singing the old Prince tune, "Money don't matter tonight, and it sure didn't matter yesterday. Just when you think you you've got more than enough, that's when it all up and flies away.That's when you find out that you're better off makin' sure your soul's alright. 'Cause money didn't matter yesterday, and it sure don't matter tonight."

Social Media Isn't Real Your Instagram feed is not an accurate representation of your life - no matter how authentic you are on it. Neither is your Facebook wall, your Twitter feed, your Tumblr blog, your Snapchat story, your LinkedIn profile, or your personal website. They're snapshots. They're a curated highlight reel. And that's true of everyone you know. Don't you dare lurk on her Instagram profile and start comparing yourself to her. It's not even 180 degrees of a full circle. It's all fake.

Don't Be Ruled By Shoulds There's no magical age that you're going to turn and everything is going to fall into place. Life just doesn't work like that. Stop thinking that you should be married by that age, or you should have that kind of job or you should feel some type of way about certain news, or you should whatever the fuck. Those are all just as real as social media - they're fake as fuck. You move at your own pace and you do things when they feel right.

Texting Texting is a highly fallible form of communication. Don't have important conversations over text message, call them or meet up. Don't get goaded into text arguments. Things get misconstrued really easily. Don't confess your feelings over text. Do take screenshots and keep receipts. Especially if you know shitty people. And we all know at least a few shitty people.

Learn How To Swim and Stop Waiting To Do The Thing Everyone is scared of something. Sometimes we can get so scared about something bad happening we get paralyzed and do nothing and bad things happen anyway. That's life. Bad things happen. Sometimes we worry about them so much we cause them to happen. My worst fear was drowning. I was so terrified of drowning; I never learned how to swim. That makes a lot of sense, right? I learned how to swim in my twenties. I'm still not a strong swimmer. I'm still very tense and scared in water, but I won't drown. I know that much. I stood up to my worst fear. It made standing up to the little ones that much easier. I don't need to be afraid some boy won't text me back - I fucking know how to swim. Stop being afraid. Stop waiting to do the thing because you're afraid - whatever the thing is. Just do it.

Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt One of grandfather's favorite sayings and one of the truest. Don't speak just to fill the air with noise. Make people earn your words. Take a few moments and think before you respond. 

Say Sorry and fucking mean it when you do. Correct your wrongdoings. You are going to fuck up. Everyone does. You don't have to BE a fuck up, though. And don't expect an apology in return. You usually won't get one.

Dance. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. You don't have to be good. "Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion" - Martha Graham. And when you dance, whatever gross energy you're carrying around - leave it on the dance floor. 

Sing. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. It gives you a voice when you feel like you don't have one. Sing in grocery stores and the shower and your car and at concerts and when you're dancing. Sing it loud and play your music louder.

Forgiveness  Forgiveness is really just understanding. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. Understand why they did it. And let it go. You wouldn't have done it that way. It hurt you. It's also over. If you want to keep them - you can't keep punishing them. If you don't want to keep them - carrying that bitterness will only hurt you.

Be a Vessel. Fill yourself with love and kind words and thoughtful actions and carry them to everyone that you meet. If someone is struggling, carry them. Give them food, or a cup of coffee, or just a few minutes of your time. Be someone safe for those that you love. You will always need a vessel, and you even when you feel like you have nothing, you will need to be a vessel for someone who has even less than you do.

Pay It Forward It's as simple as it sounds. 

Read Reading captions on social media doesn't count. Read goddamned books. 

Travel Even if you can't afford to go far, go somewhere. Broaden your horizons. Accept invitations, go outside of your comfort zone, be open.

Our Thoughts Become Reality So think good, empowering, helpful thoughts. It's hard. You might have to lie at first. But, tell yourself good things about yourself. Think happy thoughts for others. Be thoughtful and watch how your life changes.

Show Up and Be Present Don't give anyone half attention. Show up and be present, or don't go at all. Don't be on your phone when you're out with people, don't be half engaged. Be all the way there and be around people and things you feel comfortable showing up and being present for.

Imagine Life Without When you start to get frustrated - say in traffic or in line at the grocery store - imagine life without your dependable car, without the money to pay for groceries, without the time to buy yourself healthy foods, without the reason to have somewhere to driving to. Then take a few deeps breaths and check in and ask yourself if you're still frustrated. Repeat until gratitude replaces frustration.

Never Forget That You Used To Ride The Bus You came from somewhere. We all did. Some of us came from the hood and used to ride the bus. Some of us came from acne covered faces and headgear style braces. You weren't any worse than anyone back then, and you're not better than anyone now.

Quit Your Goddamned Job If you're unhappy there - leave. Success is circumstantial and money isn't real, remember? Your health is more important in the long run.

Write Everything Down Write down your appointments, and meetings, important phone numbers, grocery lists, etc. If you tell someone you're going to text them, set a reminder. Don't trust your brain to just remember. Write shit down, and hold yourself accountable to your word. You are only as good as your word.

Eurocentric Beauty Is Fake Blonde hair, blue eyes, and slim figures aren't the end all be all of beauty. Beauty is honestly deep inside. The prettiest looking people are sometimes the worst. Embrace yourself. embrace your inner beauty. Embrace your ethnicity and things that are unique to your people and your family. Honor your ancestors and love your body. It's got to carry you through this life and that's going to be so much easier if you aren't fighting with it every step of the way. 

Eat That Thing Donuts are delicious. Eat the fucking donut. Go for a walk in the afternoon. It'll balance out. Stop depriving yourself.

Be Patient and Believe Sometimes life sucks. Be patient and believe that it will stop sucking. Eventually, you'll be proven right. 

Dream Don't sensor your dreams. Thoughts become things and dreams are just fancy ass thoughts. Look back at the dreams that have already come true.

Have Courage and Be Kind 

And that's it. I turn 30 in six months. I've never imagined what my life at 30 would look like. When I was much younger and much more self-destructive - I didn't think I'd live to see 30. That is a hard truth to sit with and admit, but it's the truth. I didn't allow myself to look that far ahead and really think about what it would mean, I had no concept of this part of my life - because I was either unrealistic and assumed that adulthood just meant marriage and kids - or because I didn't think I'd still be here. I don't know what the next six months are going look like, let alone the next ten years, but goddamnit, I can't wait to see it actually happen.

Until next time.