26 Things I’ve Learned by 26

26 birthday

FRAME dress, Lilly Pulitzer shoes via Poshmark (similar here and here), Rebecca Minkoff bag (extremely old)

I’m 26 aka in my mid twenties somehow, which scares the shit out of me! Can you believe how quickly this year flew by? I know I say that every year in this annual post but I truly don’t know where the past 12 months have gone. It literally feels like just yesterday I wrote these 25 things I’ve learned by 25 post, but this year’s one will have even more wisdom (hopefully) and experiences to share as we enter year 4 of COVID. Although 2022, just like 2021 and 2020, has been a globally traumatizing and devastating year for millions of people, I’m privileged and lucky enough to not have been affected like others have been by health or financial struggles. I’ve grown and healed more emotionally and physically this year as I reached 26 than any year prior, so here are the 26 things I’ve learned by 26:

  1. There is no better feeling than being truly known and seen. My partner truly listens to everything I say and he accepts every part of me, even the ones that are angry and depressed! Knowing that I can be my truest self no matter how I feel is an amazing experience.
  2. So many people are struggling and I need to help as best as I can. Ever since my partner and I started assisting our friend Troy (name changed to keep his privacy), I feel even more affected by Hawaiʻi’s widespread homelessness than I was before. My partner and I are busy and always have different schedules, but we’ve tried to stay in touch with Roy and provide him with resources as much as we are able to as well as continuing to distribute small funds to unhoused folks. If there’s anything we all should be doing if and when we have disposable monies, it’s helping others who don’t have that.
  3. Try not to burn bridges, but don’t let anyone walk all over me. At my last job I struggled with simultaneous people pleasing tendencies and anger problems when I was being mistreated and it was a tough line to tether between being a doormat and a “problem.” I tried my best to stick up for myself (although I should have done much more for emotional self defense) and now I know that I need to balance my reactions to the way I’m treated in the workplace.
  4. Change is good while simultaneously being incredibly painful and scary. I changed jobs around four months ago and it seems like I’ve been at my new office forever despite my also still being absolutely new and afraid! Around two months into the switch I fell into a deep depression and worried that I messed up my whole life by going to a new company and career path I was unfamiliar with. I was afraid that I would never be comfortable or settled in a job after leaving the one I felt safe in and while I’m not yet an expert in my new field, I’m learning and growing every week.
  5. The silent treatment isn’t healthy for anyone. Over the past 26 years I’ve experienced my fair share of silent treatment from people in my life and it’s just the worst type of tactic for all folks involved. I sometimes still invoke this behavior and I’m working on stopping for my own and my loved ones’ good.
  6. Developing a budget is crucial to achieve my financial goals. I started keeping track of my income and spending habits in September and holy shit the world looks so different to me now that I know how much I’m bringing in and throwing away!! I used to wonder where all of my income went every month, but over the last four months I’ve kept diligent track of my dollars and cents in my planner, which makes me feel so free!
  7. There are so many delicious foods in the world and it’s okay to adjust my likes and dislikes. If you knew me any time between my lifespan of 1996-2020 you’d know that I was a picky bitch who hated Chinese, Mexican, and any other Asian cuisine with my reaction to food offerings mostly being “no thank you, I don’t eat that.” However, something in my stupid brain switched when I was about to graduate from Baylor (aka when my best friend Yonathan told me about the most magical Mexican food place called Taqueria El Crucero less than four weeks before I graduated and I fell in love with it) and now I eat almost anything. My biggest food loves now that I used to hate are all cooked fish types (with an emphasis on salmon), all shellfish, turkey and cranberry sauce/all November Meal dishes, enchiladas, beef broccoli, clam chowder, and bell peppers.
  8. There’s nothing more important than my loved ones. My Grandpa got really sick for two months back in the late summer/early fall and it was scary to think that something could happen to him. I’ve always tried to treasure my family and friends, but Grandpa’s illness reminded me of Grams and Papa and how short life is. I want to make sure that I focus on and treasure the people in my life I’m lucky enough to love.
  9. (A repeated one) Hope is a discipline. Mariame Kaba repeats this mantra every time the world appears shittier and more doomed than ever and I’ve started doing the same. There’s no use in giving up or sitting back and watching people suffer as though there’s nothing we can do to help. We could all use a bit of hope, especially now.
  10. Walk away from people or situations who/that do not serve me. I’ve stayed in far too many relationships and organizational arrangements while being taken advantage of and I will never do that again. I only want to partake in connections with those who I love and respect.
  11. Arguing for the sake of arguing is never fun or productive. I choose not to engage with people who only want to correct or argue with me over my beliefs or opinions to save my own energy. There’s no use in entering in conversation with anyone who doesn’t have an open heart or mind and just wants to bring me down. I’m not changing their opinion and they definitely will not change mine.
  12. Shopping secondhand is everything. I discovered Poshmark this year after almost 26 years of ignorance and my entire life changed! My closet went from being 100% new items to now 50% new and 50% secondhand. I’ve bought some of my most beautiful and treasured pieces from Poshmark, Goodwill, and Savers and I truly understand the thrifting movement now.
  13. Always tell the people I love that I love them. My Hawaiʻi best friends and I are all very close and connected (Grandpa thought two of us were dating recently) and I try to make it known how much I appreciate and love them all. I want to prioritize vocalizing my adoration for the most beloved people in my life so I know I was open and honest about how I feel.
  14. Rats are the cutest pets in the world. When my partner brought our rats Michael and Quentin home last year, I was absolutely appalled by their size and tails (my best friend Brandon would appreciate that tail comment), but now I’m absolutely obsessed with them. Michael and Quentin are like my little pocket puppies who are inquisitive, friendly, loving, and playful and I’m lucky to be a rat mom!
  15. Maltreatment in any situation, especially a medical one, is absolutely not okay. Back in the spring time I had to get an upper endoscopy to hopefully diagnose the stomach pain I’ve experienced since I was in fifth grade. Unfortunately, that experience was extraordinarily traumatic and I paid several hundreds of dollars after being mistreated by nearly everyone I interacted with. I wish I would have said something in the moment when the nurses stabbed all over my arms 20+ times looking for a vein to insert my IV in, pressured me to get a pregnancy test despite my rejections, and left me shivering in the recovery room for 2 extra hours to get my blood pressure up even when I and my chart said I have low blood pressure already. I was stomach sick for days after my procedure and the interactions I had with multiple of their medical professionals were horrific. Sometimes I tend to freeze in a fight or flight situation and I wish I didn’t allow myself to be treated terribly in an already vulnerable environment.
  16. Weight loss and self image are ongoing journeys. I lost the weight I aimed to last year, but I still deal with body dysmorphia and image issues on a weekly basis. I thought at this point I would be completely settled and at peace with how I look, but I’m learning that I’ll always have to work on accepting who I am and how I appear. I’m hoping that my 27th year of life will include peace with myself and my self image!!!
  17. Don’t impulse buy that satin robe just because I saw it worn as a cute outfit on TikTok. Listen, when Carla Rockmore wears a gold robe to go out, I had to recreate her exact outfit! However, I need to remind myself that what I see on Instagram and/or TikTok aren’t always going to fit into my lifestyle and spending outrageous amounts of money (even secondhand) is only ever acceptable if I can fit those pieces into my daily looks.
  18. I can’t swallow the ocean! Pick a lane of assistance and stick to it. I have so many interests and passions (see No. 23) and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of suffering in the world. I’m trying to remind myself that I am just a girl and I can’t solve every single problem or struggle people have. If I’m doing my best and helping even just one person, I should focus on that angle.
  19. Depression comes and goes and it’s not a personal failure when it comes back. As I mention before, my depression came back in the spring and I was simply not okay. When I eventually talked about what I was feeling with my partner, I felt embarrassed that I was sad and lost and I didn’t want to be vulnerable in front of him for some reason. I had to realize once again that depression is only one part of my life that will most likely never go away, and it’s not my fault when it returns. I also shouldn’t be ashamed of expressing myself with my partner when I share the inner workings of my mind with strangers online!
  20. Find creative ways to keep long distance friendships alive. My Waco best friends Jonathan and Lo and I still talk all day every single day and we’ve found that sharing memes and Marco Polos as often as possible are some of our favorite ways to communicate. We are always texting as well and even sharing occasional voice memos, so we’re constantly in tune with what’s happening in each other’s days and lives. I believe that’s why we’re still the best trio of best friends and we will always be that way.
  21. Branch out of my comfort zone especially when it’s scary to. Despite my fairly intense social anxiety (would you even guess I’d have that??), I attended a few in-person larger work gatherings for my new job so as not to appear a hermit or non-team collaborator and all of them turned out to be great experiences! I hate being the new kid in a setting where everyone else knows each other, but I’ve gotten to know more of my coworkers on a personal level by meeting them outside of the regular work environment, which has been immensely comforting!
  22. Football outcomes shouldn’t determine my mood. As recently as last season, a Baylor Football loss would have wrecked my entire attitude and life, but now I’m grown up and I’m only mildly disappointed when we don’t get the outcome we want. It’s good to remind myself that I’m neither an 18-22 year old child athlete (I’m somehow a 26 year old) nor a coach whose job is based off of the talents and decisions of said children athletes. I can and do love football, but I’m not entirely devastated even after a season like this one.
  23. No one should ever be homeless or incarcerated. I already knew this, but my passion for housing and freeing folks grows stronger every day. I truly hope I’ll one day find a political/organizing home where I can put my passions to good use with people I trust.
  24. If you work with a vulnerable population and you don’t care about the people you serve, get a different job. If there’s a lesson I’ve learned and internalized the most this past year before I turned 26, it’s this one. I’ve interacted with and learned of far too many service providers who truly despise the people they choose not to provide services to despite that being their employment purpose and that’s really not okay!! Particularly marginalized populations such as homeless or incarcerated people rely on service providers to help them navigate this carceral, capitalistic hellscape and said providers too often choose to leave their clients in the dark or abandon them completely. I wish to abolish the nonprofit industrial complex and social work industrial complex on the way to dismantling capitalism so everyone can have what they need without relying on cops cosplaying as social workers!
  25. Early retirement so I can finally do what I love is the goal. I plan on saving and investing enough to retire by the time I’m 40 (yes, my dad has already told me this isn’t realistic!!) so I can cook, travel, provide houseless and incarcerated folks with material resources, and sleep as much as I want. I simply will not be working after I reach the next 14 years and I encourage this type of manifestation for all.
  26. We can and will see a world without prisons, policing, and the military!
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