What I know to be true at (almost) 35 years old:
1. You are no more intelligent than anyone else.
2. Calm and kind will always win against riled and self-righteous.
3. You can never say "I love you" too much.
4. Manners matter. Always.
5. Vulnerability binds. If you want to connect, you've got to open up.
6. We are ALL connected.
7. Emotions are fleeting, but the consequences of our actions are lasting.
8. Be more concerned with growing as a person than growing your bank account, social circle, or "friends" list.
9. Who you are at your worst doesn't lessen one damn bit who you are at your best.
10. Mistakes carry meaning. So stop beating yourself up for them and just figure out what you've learned.
11. You can find/make a friend in anyone. Even if just for a split second, a spontaneous camaraderie can uplift.
12. A dozen Dunkin Donuts munchkins are a great "just because" gift to almost anyone.
13. Know which rules to follow and which ones to break.
14. If possible, give a compliment to everyone you encounter in a single day.
15. Don't carry the weight of your weight for too long. You've got one life, so make healthy decisions 60% of the time, and live it up the other 40%.
16. Who you are at 16 is so drastically different from who you are at 35. Love them both.
17. It's okay to cry. When you're happy, when you're sad, or when you're anything in between, and please don't dare ever tell a boy it's not okay for him to cry.
18. It's hard raising kids, but it's harder being one. As a parent, don't forget to remember what youth was like and try really hard to make that of yours both enlightening and meaningful.
19. Everyone is your teacher. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.
20. Laughter is the best medicine. But sometimes so is a cocktail, a hot shower, some meditation, a little bit of prayer, a dance party, a walk, or some frozen yogurt. The doctor is in, and I prescribe you whatever the heck form of self-care brings you the most peace.
21. People are just people, so don't let 'em make you anxious, and don't fear things like meetings with the "big bosses" or job interviews. If you always remember that a person's just a person, there's nothing more you've got to do than just respectfully and honestly converse.
22. Remember what mistakes you made at 22, then revel in how much you've grown since then.
23. Try your damnedest to leave everyone you encounter feeling better than they were.
24. Don't be busy, just to be busy. Do be, just to be.
25. Tell people when you're thinking about them. 26. Check in with yourself regularly. Are you meeting your expectations? Why are those your expectations? And are they helping you become the person you want to be?
27. Believe in yourself and regularly affirm the crap out of your fantastic, top-notch, impressive self.
28. Get outside, especially when it's the last thing you want to do because, often, that's precisely when you need it the most.
29. Don't walk on eggshells for people but don't step over people for eggshells either -- meaning you can and should have your morals, and it's okay if they differ from another's, but it's never okay to use them as an excuse for disrespect.
30. Give more than you take or ask for at home and work, but never give more if it leaves none for you.
31. If you wanna feel God's love, hug a child, hug an adult who needs it, or be on the receiving end of one when you do.
32. They say it takes a village, and if you want one, you've got to be a participatory and selfless member of yours.
33. Realize that being flawed makes you uniquely beautiful and that the second part of your life will begin when you wholly live unabashedly.
34. Accept that you're constantly evolving in a world jampacked with others who are continually changing in a world that's invariably (and God-willingly) maturing.
35. View the world as a place full of God's children, all bearing a diversity of strengths, and suddenly the world will seem more strong and less weak, and so will you, and you'll feel just a bit more optimistic.
I'll never stop making these lists near/on my birthday because they serve to remind me of all that I have and continue to learn. And, damn, though it is exhausting, confusing, and sometimes nerve-racking, I really freakin' love this getting older and somewhat wiser stuff.