November is birthday month and it’s the time of the year that I do a WHOLE lot of self reflection and sometimes a bit too much self reflection, but it always seems very needed. Every year is a year of learning and every year has a specific lesson or theme you’re suppose to take with you into your next stage of life.
This year I feel like the biggest theme was honesty and living authentically. Even at 33 I’m learning that self discovery plays a huge role in my life both in fitness, personal life, career life, EVERYTHING. When you take a step back to look at the big picture you’ll realize that everything in life is truly connected. The way that you approach your personal life, business, and even your fitness will have similar manners. And sometimes the greatest thing you’ll learn is to let go of expectations of what should be and learn to embrace what can be and what will be.
When I was younger I had this vision of who I was going to be in my 30s. Children and marriage were not one of them. In fact growing up I thought I would be roaming around back in NYC working at Bumble and Bumble as one of the leading educators and trainers at Bumble University. I imagined myself taking over the world one head at a time wearing Manalo Blahniks (I'm obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw) as I transformed lives through giving people confidence in their new hairstyles. That dream quickly changed when I became a mom at 21. Things had changed, but somehow I held on to certain truths that I believed in then and they governed my world, as they should. I remember turning 25 and a lot of things had hit me like a ton of bricks then. I wasn’t living the typical 25 year old life of someone who was just figuring adult life out, I was a young parent with a career that I had loved at the time. Looking back at my old blog, I thought man Jo you have grown in so many ways and there are things I wish I could tell you now.
My advice to my 25 year old self: Our jobs is to search for our own voice and vision. Don’t worry about trying to please others, because while you are in the messy middle of your figuring this all out, you will disappoint people. It's inevitable, you are HUMAN. Say sorry and forgive yourself when you make those mistakes. The sooner you come to terms with that, the sooner you can find your voice. You will always be working on discovering who you are meant to be and that is OK. Life will change and experiences will mold you, as they should. People will not always be as kind as you need them to be and they will come and go as change happens.
The longest relationship you will have is the one you have with yourself so learn to love yourself early on and you will be just fine. Your job is to be a mother and a friend to your kids and a lover to your husband. Don’t worry about the other relationships in life that don’t add to your purpose. If you continue to be intentional about how you live your life and the truths you believe in, then all the things that are meant to be will be.
The truth will hurt, but honesty governs your life so despite how painful truths could be they are meant to help you grow. Never dream small and don’t allow anyone to tell you that you’re too ambitious. You’re a trailblazer and you always have been. As lonely as it feels to blaze that trail, you’ll never be alone if you continue to fill your heart and world with love. Never stop being you despite not being understood by others. EXERCISE NOW NOT LATER! Build healthy habits while you're younger and stop thinking that you'll find time as the kids get older. You won't, you have to CREATE TIME. You are not a cupcake, a cupcake is just a muffin with beautiful decorations. You’re a warrior. Be a warrior for love.
I’ve enlisted the help of women whom I’ve had the fondest conversations with this year to share with me what they would’ve told their 25 year old selves. Enjoy.
I would tell my 25 year old self love yourself first, love your quirks, love everything about yourself. Don't let anyone make you question your worth. Because you are more than enough.
If I could give advice to my 25 year old self, I immediately think of my two favorite quotes; "life is too short to miss out on being really happy" and "nothing changes unless you change". There will be times in your life where you feel stuck, whether it's a relationship or your career. You will feel like you need to sacrifice your happiness, accept your situation and make the best of it. It will be times like those where it is so important to remember that you are only given one short life and it should be filled with as many happy moments as possible and that you deserve to be happy. You are the creator of your own happiness and that may require you to find the courage to be alone, to take risks, to struggle, but it will be so worth it in the end. Those moments in life when you are afraid to make a change are exactly the ones that need to happen.
I put my goals aside because I wanted to make everyone happy. Everyone is gonna keep doing them while you worry about making them happy when you coulda done you. I would tell 25yo me to take more risks and not be afraid of dreaming big (goal setting) despite the current situation/obstacles at hand.
Dear 25 year old me:
- Take care of your body. Being active and strong will help you recover through 2 knee surgeries. Also, just because you play volleyball 3 times a week, doesn't mean it wouldn't be good for you to pick up running. And learn how to lift weights and feel comfortable in a weight room while you have easy (free) access to a gym and someone to teach you!
- Learn how to network better. You might be an introvert and not want to meet new professional people, but suck it up buttercup. It's a skill that will only improve with practice.
- You can afford to put away more for retirement. Really.
- Prioritize spending your money on life experiences over material things. I don't wear that one leather jacket anymore and you'll lose those sunglasses you bought in Hong Kong by the end of the summer.
- Talk to people who are older than you and learn from the experience. Ask dad what it was like to grow up during the cultural revolution in China. Ask mom what Hong Kong was like in the 60s and 70s. Embrace the details of their story because it becomes a part of your story.
- Date more. Not as in have more boyfriends, but as in just go out on more dates for fun. Figuring out what you appreciate and look for in a man will happen as you get to know people. And throw out that list you made in college with your roommates about the 10 characteristics of a perfect boyfriend. Seriously. It's unrealistic and nobody will match up to that.
- Don't carry baggage and a grudge from something that happened 5 years ago. It's not helping you in any way. The sooner you can resolve to forgive and move on, the less you'll have to work through 5 years from now.
- Tell mom, dad, and your sibs that you love them and appreciate that time you have together. I know that our family just doesn't do that, but when you move 2000 miles away 4 years from now, you won't be able to tell them as often.
- And your friends. Make and keep the kind of friends that will check in on you for no reason other than "just because." Cultivate the kind of friendships that can be separated by 2000 miles, but still be connected by the heart.
- Integrate your faith into life and don't be afraid to share that with others because that is a big part of who you are. Being a Christian is not just a checklist of things you need to do, it's strengthening your relationship with God and from that will naturally stem a desire to know Him more whether through prayer, through the bible, and through serving and loving others. You cannot imagine the kind of joy and freedom that will bring you as you grow and mature.
- Learn how to love yourself. Not the version of you who has finally earned a master's degree, or is making more money, or owns a home, or is 20lbs lighter, or has a boyfriend. Learn how to love yourself as you are, where you are, and however you are in the moment.
Well, I had moved to Chicago alone with my oldest daughter who was two at the time. I was a newly single mother and totally lost. I would tell my 25-yr-old self:
Get emotional support; stop trying to find happiness in other people; go for your dreams because someone is out there doing it. Stand up for yourself and stop putting time into relationships that are clearly unhealthy. Spend less time worrying about what things LOOK like, and spend more time on what things feel like. Trust your intuition and don't ignore your heart. Skip buying that clothing and hoard your money. And, time is going to move really fast, so breathe slowly and live with intention NOW.
When I was 25, I was very career-driven. I wanted to feel fulfilled and at the time, I thought that fulfillment would come through career advancement. I wanted to advance so badly that I became hyper-aware of what my superiors and co-workers might think of my words and actions. What would they think of me if I did this or if I phrased my thoughts like that? As a result, I took myself way too seriously and felt paralyzed by the opinion of those around me.
In hindsight, I see that my preoccupations made me appear nervous, inauthentic, and insecure. My best moments, both at work and outside of it, were in the rare instances when I was just being me. Even when I did get a promotion, I didn't feel nearly as fulfilled by it as I was expecting nor did any sense of fulfillment that I did feel last for the long term. On top of that, getting ahead at work only made me feel more paralyzed since I felt like I had to continually prove my worth and maintain a facade lest people discover that the real me didn't measure up.
If I could give my 25 year-old self one piece of advice, it would be to let go what people think of you or your ideas. Just be you," and know that ultimately, fulfillment comes from embracing who you truly are.
- Ask questions. Don't pretend you know everything. You don't. Ask questions and LEARN.
- Don't settle. Job...marriage...where you live. Don't settle for anything less than everything.
- Exercise. Drink water. Sleep. Call your mom.
- Don't put all your energy into several superficial relationships. Quality over quantity. Focus on the bonds with the women who really get you.
- Start anti aging products before the damn wrinkles show up!
- Say yes to as many new experiences as you possibly can.
- Don't apologize for saying what you feel and being who you are.
- Just wear the fucking bikini.
- Broken hearts DO heal.
- It's ok to choose being a good mom over being a good friend. Your friends who love you will understand.
We all learn things from one another, this is a part of life and healthy growing. What precious pieces of advice would you give yourself 5, 10, 15 years ago if you could?