39 Lessons

This Friday I am celebrating my 39th birthday. Whaaat?? How did that happen! With my impending birthday, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how I feel about this being the last year of my 30’s, and also about turning the big 4-0 next year. When I was 29, I was dreading turning 30; I just couldn’t believe that I was going to be 30… THIRTY!! I remember feeling such a sense of loss… almost like I was mourning. My 20’s were officially over and I felt like life was passing me by in the blink of an eye. It probably didn’t help that I was going through a really difficult period at the time, and wasn’t really enjoying myself or living my best life. Fast forward to today and I am feeling pretty, pretty good (see what I did there?) and rather calm about approaching 40. I also made the decision that I am going to spend the last year of my 30’s focusing on myself, getting in the best shape of my life, and going on a journey of self-discovery. I am really excited to see what’s in store!

I recently came across an interview with Chase Polan, the founder of green beauty brand Kypris Beauty, where she said she eschews the obsession with “anti-aging” and proudly views aging as a privilege; that really resonated with me. When I stop and think about it, what a gift it is to get to age: to grow older, to experience more, learn more, spend more quality time with family and loved ones — it’s definitely a privilege. Truthfully, I think that given the chance, I wouldn’t turn back the clock. I like who I am and who I have become at just-about-40: I am stronger, wiser, and so much more comfortable in my own skin than the insecure 30-year-old woman I once was. Things happen to you in your 30’s that really change you, and you figure out what you’re willing to fight for. Although some lessons were painful and difficult for me to learn, I am grateful for what I have learned thus far and look forward to the lessons that await me as well. So as an ode to turning 39, I thought I’d share with you 39 things I’ve learned in my 39 years. Whatever age you might be, I hope you enjoy reading through them!



All things (from happiness, to relationships, and success) begin with self-love. When you truly and wholeheartedly love yourself for who are, you allow yourself to love others the same way, and open the door to letting others love you in the same manner. But self-love doesn’t always look like a healthy green smoothie; self-love is flossing your teeth, taking time for yourself, reading your favorite book, buying yourself flowers, going to a yoga class, saving money for your future, it’s also speaking up and letting someone know they have hurt your feelings, self-love is saying “NO” to an event you know you’re too tired to attend, and sometimes it’s letting yourself eat your favorite cookie. Self-love looks different on everyone, but its sentiment remains the same.

Loving yourself when you approve of yourself is one thing, but what I’ve discovered along my own journey with self-love is that loving myself when I mess up, when I expose a part of myself I dislike, when I say the wrong thing, when I am not the perfect friend, daughter or partner, or even when I am irritable or impatient, THAT is the root of all healing. When we learn to be there for ourselves, that’s when we truly experience what unconditional love feels like. Loving and accepting yourself unconditionally doesn’t mean that you become apathetic or complacent; you can still work on things and strive to be better, but there’s a difference between working on yourself from a place of love, kindness and acceptance versus from a place that is full of doubt, judgement and self-sabotage. Sadly, most of us will not love ourselves until we lose the extra weight, get the dream job, or the guy, etc. We often put conditions on our self-love, but we can change that by practicing a little self-love every day, even on the most challenging of days. When we begin to love ourselves more each day, it’s amazing how much better our lives get.





Maya Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It has taken me a looong time to learn this lesson. Too long some might say. I remember hearing these words back in my late teens; I heard them but didn’t apply them, and so I have brought on myself a lot of anguish and needless suffering because I always trusted too easily, gave people the benefit of the doubt, and was “too nice.” People took advantage of that and abused of my kindness because they knew I would forgive them and give them a second chance, and a third, and a fourth… You get it. 

Friends and family would ask: “Why must you be shown 10 times before you can see who a person really is? Why can’t you get it the first time?” The truth is, I didn’t get it… I didn’t get it at all. You see, I’m the type of person who always sees the good in people, and the person they could be with a little TLC from yours truly. But over time, I eventually realized that you end up really disappointed when you go through life thinking everyone has the same heart as you. If you look closely, people will show you who they are when you pay attention to their actions. I’ve suffered many letdowns and even more heartaches because of this, both in friendships and in relationships. I expected people to feel a certain way, behave a certain way, or change who they are just because I thought they should. But at that point in my journey, I hadn’t yet understood that everyone is on their own path, and sometimes their spirit just isn’t in alignment with yours.



Accept yourself, encourage yourself, believe in yourself, love yourself and keep moving forward. Never doubt who you are, even for a second. You are enough, exactly as you are right now. You don’t need to do anything to be enough. You simply are. And you need to remember that everyday.



Our well-being is far more important than how most of us treat it, but without our health, nothing else matters. Health is important because it never goes away, it’s something you have to deal with forever… it’s difficult to enjoy life if your health is failing. The choices you make today will affect you later on down the road. You may not see it now, but it does catch up with you. I’m not just talking about our physical health, but our mental health as well. Mental health is equally as important as our health, and that’s why it’s imperative that we make it a priority in our overall health and wellbeing. Make sure to take good care of your body, mind and soul, eat nutritious foods, make time to sweat everyday, get your beauty sleep, and most importantly take some time for yourself to relax and recharge.






Never go into debt, in fact stay as far away from it as you can. This includes credit card debt, student and personal loans, car loans, etc. Debts cause way more headaches than they’re worth, they can ruin lives, and end up costing us way more than we get. Don’t get me wrong, some debts can be good for building credit, but others are capable of weighing you down from living a great life. So spend less than you earn, make due until you have the money, and pay off your credit card bill every month because it’s an incredible feeling once you do.



So many of us get trapped into labeling food as either good or bad, but associating food to such words doesn’t help or mean anything. What it does is create a sense of guilt and repeatedly makes us feel like we should be making better choices. Our relationship with food is one of the most emotionally charged, satisfying yet guilt-ridden of our relationships. A tub of ice cream might make you feel better in the short term, but it’s not addressing the real underlying issue you’ve been avoiding. You need a coping strategy other than food — connecting what you eat to how you feel about yourself only serves to reinforce the negative beliefs that revolve around conditional acceptance of who you are. It’s easy to blame food for being overweight or unhealthy, but the truth of the matter is that food is not the enemy… food is our friend. What has helped me on my wellness journey is to view food as good fuel for my body and by remembering how it makes me feel. For instance, I know that my body functions better when I eat nutritious wholesome foods, and that I feel lethargic when I consume heaping amounts of pasta or indulge in too many desserts. If you can think about food in that sense, there’s no guilt involved, and you also feel more mindful and aware of what your body is trying to tell you.



This lesson goes in conjunction with number 6. Being healthy can be described as a condition where both our body and mind are functioning optimally. The main reasons behind poor health are illnesses, improper diet, injury, stress, not getting enough sleep, and an unhealthy lifestyle. We are only on this earth for a short amount of time and given one body, don’t you want to live as long and as happy as you can? After a few health scares in my 30’s I now realize what a precious gift a healthy body really is. Don’t ever take it for granted. So eat your greens, walk don’t drive, take the stairs, fit that workout in, drink plenty of water… do whatever you can to take care of your body because it’s the only place you live. Remember YOLO: You Only Live Once.







There are people out there who will love and accept you just as you are, and who want the very best for you. They believe in you, make you feel understood, and they encourage you to go after your goals and pursue your dreams. These tribe members also help you to get through difficult times, and provide you with a sense of community and support. Find those people and devote your time and attention to them.



When we focus on the mistakes we’ve made in our life rather than on the lessons learned, we live in the past instead of moving forward. BUT, when we shift our minds and focus on the lessons rather than the mistakes, we convert that negative energy into something positive that allows us to grow and live in a more compassionate manner. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but I’ve learned that we must focus on the lessons because there is one in every mistake — we are human, perfectly imperfect, and mistakes are part of the journey so we don’t need to take them so seriously. When we forgive and forget, we allow ourselves to move on and create a fresh start, but when we hang on to anger, resentment or regret, we carry with us a negative energy that prevents us from tapping into our full potential and from moving on.



The soul has been given its own ears to hear things mind does not understand.” – Rumi

I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul.” – Rumi

Always listen to your soul because it is always right. Whenever I’ve gone against my intuition, it has been a complete disaster. Your soul knows more than your mind ever will, and it has wisdom far beyond your numerical years. Your soul is your wisest, most trusted adviser; it’s the voice that connects you to the entire Universe. Always trust that voice — you won’t find anyone as enlightened and as reliable as your own soul. I’ve been practicing this self-trust muscle more and more lately and discovering where it leads me. It’s frightening, exciting, and does take a lot of letting go, but it’s totally worth it. In times of doubt, always remember that within you lies the answer to all of your life’s questions. It’s all in your heart.






This lesson is a tough one to follow. We’ve all done this, but it’s important that we stop comparing ourselves to others. It’s hard enough not to compare yourself to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers — but nowadays we also have social media to worry about. The truth is, nobody’s lives are as perfect as they may seem. We are all on different paths and timelines, we all have different strengths and weaknesses and wish we had something that someone else has. We are human and that’s part of our nature, but a rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose. All flowers are beautiful in their own way. I saw this quote on Pinterest a little while ago that read: “Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” and it stuck with me. You never know the struggles, the grit, and the heartache they went through to get to where they are. Rather than comparing your low points to someone else’s high points, teach yourself to value the seasons of life: celebrate the good, learn from your mistakes, and find solace in the sad times. Comparison is the theft of joy and a vicious, never-ending cycle. Stop wishing you had what other people have and start loving all of the amazing things that you DO have. You do you and everything will fall into place!



I learned this valuable lesson fairly recently — when someone is a constant negative influence or presence in your life, you need to let them go. Anyone who makes you feel anything less than amazing doesn’t deserve to be a part of your life, so you should never feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. Whether it’s a family member, a love interest, a childhood friend, a work colleague or an acquaintance, remember that you don’t have to make room in your life for anyone who causes you heartache, pain or makes you feel small in any way. If a person disregards your feelings, bullies you, ignores your boundaries, or continues to treat you in a damaging way, they need to go. Period. Respect yourself enough to walk away from all the drama and people who create it. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. As the saying goes “Misery loves company”, so steer clear of people who bring out the worst in you.



Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” – Lao Tzu

For the longest time, my need to be liked overshadowed all of my other needs. But I’ve come to learn that no matter how kind and loving you are, no matter what you do, and no matter how much good you put out into the world, there will always be people who don’t like you, who have something against you, but that’s their problem… not yours. I have wasted so much time trying to please everyone and worrying about what other people think of me. Not only was this completely and utterly exhausting, but it also made it really hard to figure out who liked me for who I really am. If you’re a people-pleaser like me and have ever tried to make everyone happy, you know that it’s a vicious cycle that leaves you mentally drained and frustrated. Making other people happy for approval, acceptance and validation might feel good in the beginning, but eventually you start to dim your own light and become resentful. Make yourself happy first and give to others based on conscious choice, not the desire for approval. Don’t waste your precious time and energy attempting to convince these people of your worth, they won’t ever want to buy what you are selling. You are not for them and they are not for you. You are not their cup of tea and they are not yours. The moment you stop paying attention to what other people think about you, that’s when things start looking up. You start feeling better about yourself, and you strive to achieve more in your life without constantly worrying about how others will judge you. You you do and keep facing your true north.









Say what you mean and mean what you say. I’m a notoriously agreeable person who avoids confrontation like the plague because the thought of having an awkward conversation makes my stomach queasy and turns my armpits into Niagara Falls. But sometimes, those not-so-nice conversation need to be had and this year, I’ve definitely become bolder, more assertive and have spoken up a lot more. The power of saying “NO” has been a huge lesson for me this year and has meant that I haven’t stretched myself so thin, giving me more time to relax and unwind.



Being thankful is not just for Thanksgiving — it’s a frame of mind that will drastically change and improve your life. When you have gratitude, you don’t need anything. It’s easy to feel like there’s something missing in our lives, especially these days when we are repeatedly told that we need so many things in order to be happy. But if you continuously focus on what you don’t have, you will never, ever be satisfied. Learn to recognize the good in your life and be grateful for it everyday. Soon your focus will shift and your life will improve. 





Did you know that worrying about something bad happening is actually worse than if that thing actually happened? Worrying only serves a purpose if it leads directly to a solution, but the very nature of worry is to take us out of the present moment and into the past, reflecting over what has already occurred or into the future, projecting what might possibly happen. If you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” that aren’t real, and obsessing over worst-case scenarios, worry creates unnecessary stress and becomes a problem of its own. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t prevent bad things from happening, but it will keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. I’ve been a worrywart and suffered from anxiety my entire life, so I know all too well that relentless doubts and fears can keep you lying awake at night and be downright paralyzing. They cripple your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels through the roof, and interfere with your daily life. There were days where it was practically impossible for me to be productive in any way because my thoughts were completely consumed with worry and anxiety. But in the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that worrying is a massive waste of time and energy; worrying leads to stress, stress leads to illness, muscle pain, chest tightness, anxiety and depression… it all stems from worry. Time spent worrying is time spent not living. When you worry about something bad happening, you’re much more likely to behave in a way that actually prophecizes the very thing you were most afraid of — so stop worrying and let it go. 



We all look at the world through different glasses; some days they are rose-colored, portraying everything in a beautiful light; other days they are gray-colored, making everything appear dreary and grim. Our past experiences, achievements, challenges, childhood and environment help shape the very color of these glasses. As a recovering people-pleaser, I often need to remind myself “It’s not always about you.” We are all on our own path and there is a myriad of factors that could lead to peoples actions and responses: financial worries, trouble at home, health issues, an argument, etc. The impatient cab driver giving us a dirty look as we fumble through our handbag looking for change, the sharp remark from a work colleague during a meeting — these digs can easily cut through the toughest skin and prompt us to question ourselves: “Did I do or say something wrong?” I don’t think it’s possible to be immune to other people’s opinions and actions because we treasure our relationships so much and care about what those people think. Oftentimes what clouds our vision is the underlying assumption that everything is about us. I don’t mean this in a narcissist or conceited way, but that we often find ourselves either absorbing unnecessary blame or taking things too personally when they don’t really have anything to do with us in the first place.



This year I invested in myself and learned a great deal about who I am. I’ve turned in early in the evenings to finish a good book, carved time out of my busy schedule to workout, cleared out a whole Sunday just so I can food shop and meal prep for the week ahead, and not to mention give myself a little spa day at home. These are all things that allow me to recharge my batteries and in return become a better partner, daughter, friend and overall nicer person to be around. Make sure to invest in yourself because at the end of the day, you are your longest commitment.






Isn’t it strange how we can be our own worst critic or our biggest cheerleader? We’ve all experienced both of these in our lives, but what I can say is that I am much happier when I am cheering myself on and when I am building my self-esteem. Sometimes I forget how hard I work or how awesome I am. Other times I lose faith in myself and worry that I can really pull something off. During those times, I find myself needing the support and encouragement of the people closest to me, but what I’ve come to realize is that the person I really need cheering me on the most is none other than myself. There will be times in your life when it feels like nobody believes in you… always believe in yourself. If you believe, you can achieve. Build your confidence and your self-esteem one moment, one choice, or one accomplishment at a time. Don’t be too hard on yourself, that will erode your self-esteem. Be a loving and supportive friend to yourself instead. So break out those pompoms, cheer yourself on and become your biggest fan!



Laughter will keep you young and happy. Treasure those laugh lines!



Sometimes what you really need to do to brighten someones day is to take time to really listen. Not offer advice, not share your own personal experience… just listen and let them off load. Really listening is one of the best things you can offer someone.



We are stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway

Certain hurts and betrayals are hard to forget, but forgiveness will bring you the inner peace you need in order to move on. When you forgive, you welcome love and abundance into your life. The act of forgiveness opens your heart and allows you to receive many of the beautiful gifts that others may have taken away from you. Lugging around unwanted baggage and resentment will consume you and eat you alive. Forgive someone for you and your own inner peace, don’t do it for them.



We’ve all heard the clichés “Everything happens for a reason” and “This too shall pass” at some point in time in our lives, but these expressions can be difficult to understand when you don’t see the forest through the trees. My 30’s brought about many points where I finally started connecting the dots from my life experiences leading up to this point. You begin to understand why some things happened, as awful as they may have felt at the time. Everything starts to make so much sense.








When we’re young, we have this sense of invincibility and the unchecked idea that our loved ones will always be there for us in the same way that they are now. But as I get older, I am becoming more aware of mortality — my own and other people’s. My mom and I talk every day, sometimes it’s for a quick thing, sometimes to rant, and other times it’s for advice or just to chat. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I love her to the moon and back. There is no one quite as special as your mom; she has been there for you through thick and thin: bringing you medicine when you felt sick, making your favorite meal to cheer you up, holding you in her arms as you wept over a broken heart. She’s your number one fan and never fails to brighten up even the darkest days. Having a mom who supports you is one of life’s most wonderful blessings. It can be easy to take her and her love for granted because you know it’s unconditional… she is always going to be there for you no matter what. Yet, what you need to remember is that she’s a person too with feelings of her own. And although she might not admit it, she’s definitely lonely now that you’ve left the nest and are living your own life. She wants to hear your voice and is genuinely interested in every mundane detail of your life, even if it’s the most insignificant thing… she wants to hear about it all. The reality is that she’s not going to be around forever, so pick up the phone and give your mom a call, you will both feel better!



I once read something that said friendships ebb and flow, and it’s so true. There will be seasons of your life when you are completely on the same page, and seasons of your life when you have a really hard time relating to one another. Just know that both of those things are okay. If it’s a “forever friend”, you will always come back to each other.



Treasure your parents for as long as you’re lucky to have them. Call them frequently, spend quality time with them, send them a card, take them out for dinner; show them how much you really love and appreciate them.





Collect memories not things. Traveling is good for the mind and for the soul.



Believe me, you will be much, much happier that way. When you expect others to perform their best every single time, you will always be left disappointed. That’s just a fact of life, because nobody is perfect. When you can learn to not expect anything, you learn how to be more easy going and how to roll with the punches when they unavoidably happen.



Fear will always try to stop you; you’ll shy away from doing amazing things, from trying new things or even from going on new adventures, and for what? All because of self-doubt and fear. But the truth is that fear has no essence and no real power over you (except the one which you give to it.) Your fears are nothing but illusions that prevent you from reaching your full potential. Don’t let fear make your decisions for you. As Oprah puts it: ‘‘Turn your wounds into wisdom. Every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.






Fitness doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a journey, a learning process, and something that happens in little spurts over a long period of time. I’ve been getting fit for almost 2 years now, and still have a lot more to learn and improve on, but the progress I’ve made along this wellness journey has been amazing. Being healthy and fit is a change that needs to be nurtured and grown like a garden; you can’t simply plant seeds and expect beautiful plants to grow immediately. It takes proper soil, a good fertilizer, sunlight, and water. It takes time before you can start to see results, but when you do, it’s the best feeling. Pick an activity or workout that you enjoy doing, and incorporate it to your lifestyle. Not as a way to make yourself “enough”, but as a way to feel good and give your body a loving gift.



A lot of confusion revolves around the word meditation. Meditation doesn’t mean the absence of thoughts, it simply means observing your thoughts without resisting them. I am fairly new to the meditation world, and by no means an expert, but I do know that 15 minutes of mindful meditation a day has significantly reduced my migraines. Scientific research from Harvard proves that there are dozens of benefits from meditation, such as lowered anxiety and improved cognitive function. My mind is a busy one and I get easily distracted by my own thoughts, so I prefer guided meditation and use the Headspace app. It’s really great.



At this point in my life, it’s all about my genuine friends. I’m talking about the friendships that help you thrive as a person and not hinder your personal growth. Having a small handful of close friends that will love you no matter what is far more rewarding than having a giant social circle. Knowing who our real friends are can be challenging; a true friend is a precious gem that is really hard to find, it’s someone who would stick with you through life’s ups and downs, through thick and thin. Maybe we can learn from what Oprah said about real friendship when she said: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.



You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. Have you ever heard the saying “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs?” Well, the same can be said about life and happiness. You can’t expect to change your life by continuing on the same path that you are on now. Your life can only change with the extent of the changes that you make in yourself.



Don’t become a hostage to your past by always reliving and replaying your mistakes. Did you make the right call? Will this make you happy? You can ask yourself 1000 questions, but you’ll never really know the answer until you just stop and let it go. You can’t change your past, but you can determine that your past will not define your present or dictate your future. Trust that the ability to create a new life lies in the ability to first and foremost forgive yourself, and to make peace with your past. Greatness lies within you!



Stop thinking that you should already know this, have done that, or be there. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Good things take time to build and they are much more likely to flourish sustainably when they are built little by little.



You are a one of a kind, valuable and precious human being. There is no one in the entire universe like you. Your value comes from your uniqueness and your authenticity. It doesn’t come from you being like everyone else. If you try to edit yourself to fit a certain mould, you will eventually whittle away, dimming your own light and becoming less and less of the person you were born to be.



Don’t count calories, it’s a waste of time and energy… not to mention that it really sucks! Just be mindful of your portions, eat healthy fats, enjoy a treat every now and then. Life isn’t about having the perfect body but rather a beautiful, balanced life. One that is full of various colorful and nutritious foods, not restrictions!


So there you have it, my 39 lessons! What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the years? Do you have any others to add to the list?




*Additional photography courtesy of Unsplash.



  • Denise October 17, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Loved this

    • susie October 17, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post Denise! That means a lot <3


Leave a Comment