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31 lessons for 31 years

Happy Tuesday, cuties! Today’s blog post is a bit of a break from all the wonderful traveling I’ve done. I took yesterday off from blogging since it was my 31st birthday and spent the day relaxing, enjoying homemade breakfast sandwiches, paddle boarding at Marina Del Rey, opening so many thoughtful gifts, getting my free birthday coffee at Starbucks (you know I made that coffee worth $10 with all the add-ins) and my favorite sandwich in Larchmont, eating a pandemic-themed ice cream cake, and reflecting on the main lessons I’ve learned in the past 31 years. So although I’m not usually the type of thought-and-adventure-provider that writes a lot of lists, below are the top 31 lessons I’ve learned in the past 31 years—

1. There is no set path. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to family and friends and acquaintances throughout my life. There’s literally not one perfect way to do anything, including life. If you want to be married with kids in the next 2 years, maybe there’s someone out there for you who’s ready for that, or maybe it’s a huge promotion you’re working for that may or may not pan out in your favor. Whatever that thing is that will “finally make you happy,” just know that there is always the chance that things won’t go according to plan. Maybe consider loosening up the reins on your life plan a little bit. Some of the happiest people I know are the ones who don’t stress about their life plan all the time; they’re simply going with the flow and figuring it out. Stay in the present and enjoy each moment - that’s the fastest way to be happy and achieve your goals.

2. Make new friends. I really don’t understand the “no new friends” approach to life. In Girl Scouts we used to sing “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” That is also kind of a silly way to look at friendship since sometimes you can meet someone later in life who it feels like you’ve known forever. Don’t worry as much about when you meet someone; how long you’ve known someone matters, but it doesn’t matter if the person is a bad friend.

3. You are responsible for your own happiness. The minute you give that validation or approval to other people, you’ll spend your time looking to other people and things to make you happy instead of taking accountability for yourself, your thoughts, and your choices.

4. Ask for help. If you need help, everyone has needed help at some point in his or her life. Just ask for it, and the help will come.

5. Travel travel travel. I figured this one out pretty early, but I didn’t end up moving to a foreign country to live on my own until my late 20s. It was the best thing I could’ve done at that time in my life, and I am a much richer person because of it. The places I saw, things I experienced, and people I met have made my life so much better in so many ways.

6. Do that thing you’re thinking about. I don’t know what it is, but it is whatever popped into your head when you read that first sentence. If you’re worried about people judging you, some of them will. F*ck those people, seriously. The true people in your life who care will encourage your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

7. Make time for you. Whether it be running, yoga, meditation, baking, journaling, playing an instrument whatever it is, give yourself 20-30 minutes a day to do something for you. Giving yourself that mental break of something you enjoy will refresh you and revitalize you for all the things we all have to do as adults.

8. Don’t focus on trends. Yes, sometimes they can be fun - like the latest dance move - but ultimately, not every trend is going to fit into who you are as a person. That’s perfectly ok.

9. Run a marathon. I’ve run multiple now, and finishing that 26.2 is life-changing. You find out exactly what you’re made of when you’re alone with your thoughts on a long run, especially at that 18-21 wall. If you know, you know.

10. Eat a healthier diet, but don’t obsess over it. Life’s about balance. You can achieve your goals and have the body you want while still making time for pizza and ice cream. (Spoiler alert related to number 3 - happiness is an *inside* job. I know plenty of beautiful people who are absolutely miserable.)

11. LOVE YOUR BODY. Your body gets you moving. It runs, stretches, jiggles, dances, and produces weird noises (and smells) sometimes. And it’s the only one you have. There is no such thing as a perfect, sexy body, so don’t aspire to that. Be comfortable in yours. Not only is that sexy, it’s healthy (which is the sexiest thing of all).

12. Read more books. I’m a collector of books, and I devour them as if they were pizza. Reading makes you a smarter, more empathetic person. And even if you don’t believe that it’ll make your smarter or more empathetic, it at least will make you more interesting. There’s no true loss to being someone who reads. Learn to get back in the habit even if it’s only 20 minutes per day/night.

13. Let go of anything that doesn’t serve your goals. This can be material things or this can be relationships. Most relationships fit into one of three categories: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Don’t force any relationship into a category in which it doesn’t belong. Let it go.

14. Take care of your feet. When I started running marathons, I realized that with all the training my feet couldn’t handle the types of shoes I’d been wearing in my casual, non-running time. I bought Birkenstocks for the first time since boarding school and haven’t worn heels in ages. Now when I think of purchasing anything that goes on my feet, I remember that my feet are the two little dudes on my body that carry all of my body weight and take on all of the gravity. If I can thank marathon running for anything, I can thank it for a few of the above points but also the awareness that I was not taking good enough care of my joints in my choice of footwear. (Also, I can thank marathon running for a number of things, but the most helpful hint that feels applicable to everyone is the ‘take care of your feet' part!)

15. People don’t care that you’re tired. Seriously. Unless they’re your closest friends and family, they have their own stuff to worry about. If I showed up to work on set with a bad attitude because I worked a 14 hour day the day before, well, so did most other people. It can be fun to commiserate sometimes, but ultimately, it doesn’t serve any greater purpose. Whinging is needed once in awhile, but it usually just slows things down and brings down the mood. If you notice you’re complaining a lot and your venting is getting out of hand, maybe you need to slow down. I had to slow down a couple years ago because I was around people who did nothing but complain, and it left me feeling exhausted and bitter. I realized what I could personally do about the situation, set some difficult boundaries, and pulled myself away from the circles of people that affected my happiness the most. See number 7 and number 13.

16. Stick up for yourself. This can go hand-in-hand with 13. Most of what happens in a relationship breakdown is someone’s insecurities getting the best of them. You get to decide if it’s an oopsies, once-in-awhile thing that we all deal with that you can shrug off or whether or not you need to dig your heels in and tell someone to F off. Have grace for other people always because being a human can be complicated sometimes, but don’t be a doormat.

17. Focus on your relationships. Remember in number 2 when I said “make new friends?” Well, do that! And also make sure you’re doing your best to nurture your older friendships. Each relationship has its own communication habits. Do your best to stick to those habits, and allow your closest people some wiggle room.

18. Hold yourself accountable. If you make a mistake, admit to it, forgive yourself, (say sorry if you need to), attempt to fix it, and then, move on. No use crying over spilled milk, right? We teach children not to cry over spilling milk because we can instead offer them a lesson in cleaning up a mess. If there’s way you can clean a mess instead of crying over it, clean it up.

19. Let yourself cry. Seems counterintuitive to number 18, but it’s not. If number 18 is being able to hold yourself accountable for things you can control (like cleaning up spilled milk), then you need to let yourself feel (and sometimes cry over) the things you can’t control. Key word is sometimes. There’s a whole lot you can’t control in this world, so best to focus on the things you can.

20. Dress appropriately for each occasion. With just a few staples in your closet, you can create many different looks. Whatever those items are for you, you can dress them up or down depending on what accessories, shoes, bags, outerwear, etc. you choose. I don’t consider myself a fashionista by any means, but I do know how to present myself for whatever the situation calls for.

21. The world is not going to cater to your every whim. This goes along with number 3. If you expect other people to see the world the way you see it, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Some people will share your point of view, but a lot of people won’t. Human beings all have their own individual thoughts, family systems, internal beliefs, and life experiences that shape their world view. Don’t expect others to validate yours. If you’re an empathetic person who tries to put yourself in other people’s shoes, that’s wonderful. I always try to keep in mind that anyone I encounter is also someone’s family member and loved one. Not everyone you meet will do that, and you can’t expect them to.

22. Be proud of your accomplishments, and be humble, too. You can absolutely be proud of the things you’ve worked hard for and never be afraid to speak highly of yourself and your work, but remember that everyone is learning all the time, including you. Find the balance of achievement and humility. Don’t downplay the things you do and accomplish. You need to toot your own horn and be proud of yourself, just remember to keep things in perspective for how much more you still have to learn.

23. Be there for your friends. In tough times it can be hard to know what to say. There’s a lot of advice out there for “what to say to someone who is ___” or “what NOT to say to someone who is ___.” These articles drive me crazy sometimes. If you have a friend who is going through something difficult, just reach out to your friend and try your best. When I’ve gone through hard stuff, my friends haven’t hit the nail on the head every time, but I knew they were there for me and that was the most important thing. When my friends have gone through difficult things, I’ve tried my best and spoken from the heart. Don’t overthink being a decent person. Clunky, awkward, and heartfelt is a million times better than silence.

24. Spend time in nature. Me? I love trail running, paddle boarding, hiking, outdoor yoga, and even just sitting outside on the porch, peacefully watching the world go by. Spending time in nature helps me slow down in a world that moves pretty fast. It’s a spiritual experience for me. Although the movie’s even older than I am, Ferris Bueller was right when he said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Nature has a nice way of reminding us to slow down and be present with the world’s beauty.

25. Spend some time reminiscing and reflecting - on the good times, on how far you’ve come, and on the lessons you’ve learned from the difficult times. Don’t dwell on all the hard things and end up ruminating. Take what you can, leave what you can’t.

26. Try new things (except like heroin, obviously - leave the hard stuff alone). Read new books you might not necessarily think to read, try new foods, play new games, meet new people, welcome new experiences in work and life. If you don’t find new things to try or new ways to get creative, you could start to feel stagnant. There is no one in the entire world who knows everything, and even long-standing fields of research make new discoveries all the time. If you’re bored and feel stuck, see number 3 and number and number 4.

27. Listen to music. Music has such a wonderful way of comforting us when we feel down and inspiring us to dance party no matter the situation! Whatever music you like, lean into it, and don’t listen to what anyone says about what you like. If you like it, sing with abandon and let those booties flail! Your body and mind will thank you for the fun, rhythmic free-flow!

28. Let go of fear. Not all of it because some of it is healthy (like my small fear of almonds due to an allergy = healthy fear)! But let go of the fear you have of things you can’t control. The fear will cripple you and limit you from living your best life. You might get hurt again, but you can fall in love again if you let yourself. You might absolutely bomb whatever test you’re going to take or fail at whatever DIY project you’ve got lined up, but guess what? You’ll survive. Humans make infinity mistakes - it’s how we learn.

29. Learn to cook. You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain (RIP) to prepare delicious meals. Going with numbers 7 and 10 on this list, learning to cook will help you set aside some time for yourself to get creative in the kitchen, while also helping you live a healthier diet (relax, though - I make homemade pizza like all the time).

30. Listen. It’s fun to chat with friends, but make sure you’re actively listening. If you learn to listen - really listen - everything in your life will get better. And while you’re listening, remember people’s names and things they share with you. It makes number 2 much easier.

And finally—

31. Celebrate everything. The little wins, the big moments, the quiet victories, the milestones. Life flies by and isn’t always guaranteed, so savor its joys - both big and small. Dance, eat, love, savor.

There were so many other things I could add to this list, but since it’s a birthday reflection list, I can only post 31! If you’ve made it through the list, congratulations! It’s a bit long, so a pat on the back is in order! And if you feel yourself disagreeing with anything on this list, just know that you’re entitled to how you feel, I respect your personal compass, and my doors are closed to debate (see numbers 15 and 21). It was an incredible birthday, and it’s been a great 31 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 31 have in hold for me! And for everyone out there who reached out in any capacity to wish me well on August 24th, I felt so loved and cherished. Thank you from the very bottom to the very top of my very full heart.

Love to all!

- Johny

P.S. - big love shoutout to my boyfriend and my wonderful friends and family for managing to make a pandemic birthday still feel special.

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