“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Today is my 33rd birthday, and at this very moment I am likely sipping a fruity drink by a pool in Las Vegas.
My boyfriend and I go there often on his Monday and Tuesday off days because it’s not too far from LA; the weekday hotel rates are great; and we’re both huge fans of buffets, shows, and (occasional) poolside day drinking.
Since I’m writing this in advance, I can’t speak to how I actually feel right in this very moment, but I imagine (and hope) it will be a little something like this:
I’m wearing a bikini, not a one-piece, like I did for years when I was younger—and I’m rocking it with confidence because I’ve finally decided my imperfect 5’1″ figure is flawsome.
I’m fully lathered in sunscreen, despite my pasty, almost transparent complexion, because I’ve realized I need to take care of my body if I want it to be healthy.
I’m mesmerized by the sun and the water, and easing into the moment, despite having a ton of work to do and even more professional uncertainty.
And I’m grateful for a million and one things worth loving—smiling strangers, free WiFi, enjoyable work I do through it, and time to disconnect from it.
Looking back over the years, I realize my biggest challenge has always been learning to let go. I put so much energy into trying to control my body, my relationships, and my future that I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy the moment.
This is something I still work at, but I’ve made a lot of progress.
So in honor of this day, I decided to share with you 33 things I’ve learned to accept and embrace:
1. Beauty cannot be defined. Beauty is a reflection of what we deem valuable. For me, it’s an inner radiance and bliss that transcends judgment and fear, or at least makes an effort to.
2. Perfection cannot be obtained (and it’s boring anyways). Trying to be perfect makes us feel inferior and desperate to change; owning our uniqueness makes us feel worthy and excited to evolve.
3. Love will be messy at times. Sometimes love looks nothing like the ideal. Unless you’re in an unhealthy relationship, lean into the messiness. That’s where the intimacy is.
4. Other people will judge. Doing our best and accepting that people will form opinions is far more empowering than stressing about what everyone else thinks.
5. Sometimes there is no right or wrong. There isn’t always a right decision or answer. It’s just about what feels right to us right now, and whether we have the courage to honor it.
6. No one else knows what’s right for us. Someone else may seem certain they know what we should do. Should can be deceiving; it seduces us with the promise of an ideal destination when what we really need is to choose for ourselves and then pave our path as we go.
7. Tomorrow is uncertain. Despite all our planning, plotting, worrying, or dreading, what will be will be—and no matter how scared we feel right now, we can and will make the most of it.
8. There are things we don’t know. And there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. It might be humbling to revise our understandings of things, but this is how we grow.
9. No other person can make us feel whole. Sometimes we’ll feel a void and turn to other people to fill it. Mutually fulfilling relationships involve two whole people who complement, not complete each other.
10. We can’t change other people. We have to want to change in order to do it. No matter how much we wish someone would act differently, it has to be his or her choice.
11. There are some things we can’t change about ourselves. Change sells, and it’s seductive, but certain things cannot be changed—like parts of our body or nature.
12. Sometimes there are gifts in the things we want to change. For years I cursed my heightened emotions; now I channel them into something positive. Don’t run from yourself; grow into yourself.
13. We are worthy, just as we are. Growth is a lifelong proposition, with no static endpoint. We do it not because we lack value, just as we are, but because we value ourselves.
14. We are going to age. With every year that passes, we have 365 days to enjoy that age—and no one age is better than another. Each is different, with its own challenges and gifts.
15. We are more than any one role. We aren’t one-dimensional, and we don’t have to be. Recognizing this has been huge for me. I am a self-help writer who also likes Judd Apatow movies, karaoke bars, and eBay. I’m multifaceted and owning it!
16. We are going to redefine ourselves. It’s tempting to cling to roles and ideas of who we are, but who we are is always evolving. Life’s far more fulfilling if we see changes as adventures.
17. We will occasionally have to do things we don’t want to do. We won’t always love the things we need to do, for work or the people we care about, but we can find something enjoyable in it, if that’s our intention.
18. We will hurt at times. Pain is inevitable. It’s not a sign that something’s wrong with us or our lives; it’s a sign that we’re human, and we have the courage to care and live fully.
19. We will mess up at times. We will make mistakes—and sometimes the same ones over and over again. This is a big part of how we learn. The important thing is that we do.
20. People won’t always forgive us. We can’t make someone stay in our lives; we can only make amends and then be strong enough to accept the consequences of our actions.
21. Peace is forgiving ourselves. We don’t deserve to cower in shame—and it won’t do us any good. If we want to be happy, we need to cut ourselves some slack and believe we’re doing the best we can.
22. We won’t always like the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we’ll feel regret, wishing we could go back and do things differently. We can’t—but we can make different choices going forward.
23. We always have a choice in how we respond to what happens. No matter what our circumstances, we can choose what we do with them. We can decide it’s the end of the world, or start fresh from right where we stand.
24. We are never alone. It might feel like it, but there is always someone to offer love, kindness, and support. We just need to be willing to reach out and ask for what we need.
25. We will lose things and people we love—but we can gain something from every loss. Everything in life is impermanent—and no amount of time will feel like enough with the people we love. Loss hurts, be we can heal if we believe it’s possible.
26. Everything is cyclical. For every pain, there will be pleasure. Nothing stays the same, so relax through the tough times and fully enjoy the fun times. Everything transforms eventually.
27. There are some things we may never understand. Much of life is a mystery, and it’s human nature to try to solve it. Peace is learning to embrace the open-ended questions.
28. The worst that could possibly happen may happen. Sometimes the thing we fear the most may happen, making us wish we didn’t make a change, or an effort, or a fuss.
29. The worst that could possibly happen might not be that bad. If we’re willing to consider the possibility, we may find opportunity in that “horrible” thing. At the very least, we may recognize we’re okay—still here, still strong, still breathing.
30. We may not get everything we think we want. Despite all our best-laid plans, things won’t always turn out as we hoped they would.
31. As the Rolling Stones sang, we can still get what we need. We may not get the job, the house, the call, or whatever we wanted so badly, and yet find we have everything that matters. Hopefully we can see and celebrate it.
32. We might always want more. It’s human nature to wonder what else there is, at least at times. We can use this to fuel progress instead of cursing our nature and ourselves for not being perfectly spiritual.
33. What we do matters. It might not seem like it when our efforts and outcomes seem small, but we create tiny miracles everyday, both by doing what we do and being who we are. We all make a difference.
Wishing you a beautifully imperfect, blissfully empowered day, filled with peace and wonder.
Photo from Be Happy Now
*I’m running a buy-one-give-one sale for my Tiny Wisdom eBook series today, as a fun way to celebrate my birthday. Check it out here!