twenty-nine life lessons I learned by 29.

11.27.2020 Kentwood, MI

I was supposed to write this around my birthday, almost three months ago, but never got around to it. My entire blog has documented the growth I've had from twenty-four to now, twenty-nine years old. I tried my best to compile a list of the most important lessons from my 20's. I like to believe I gained a lot of wisdom up to this point. So here we go!

1. You already have what you need to fill your own cup.

This is the most important mindset to have. Truly believing that you are capable of providing yourself with whatever you feel you lack is imperative to your self-esteem. I always like to tell myself that "I lack nothing" because I honestly believe that. Even if I do, my mindset will eventually garner what's presumed to be missing for me. It also allows me to stay present and grateful for all that I have right now. Our flaws are our best attributes because they continuously challenge you to look within and grow.

You have everything you need, use it. 

2. Change is okay. Uncomfortable, but once adjusted—worthwhile. 

I can say that I have gotten a lot better at being reluctant to change. Honestly, I wouldn't even say I'm reluctant because I like and appreciate change, I'm just very careful when making changes. I can be a very analytical thinker at times, everything that I do or plan to do is always pre-calculated to make sure that I am making the best move. Although this isn't a characteristic of mine that I can just turn off, fully embracing unfavorable situations has contributed a lot to how I view transitions in my life. A much younger me didn't know how to handle the uncomfortable feelings change brought, but a much wiser me appreciates how flexible and fluid I am now when needing to adapt. It's loosened my need to control everything and move with the shifts. Change is what we need, welcome it, no matter how it looks. 

3. You never truly know who you are, you get snippets of evolution that soon fade away by continuous growth. 

I always find it a little entertaining when I see younger women in their early to mid-twenties being so sure how their life will be. You see a lot of "I'm going to be or do XYZ before I'm 30" or "I refuse to be Xyz at 30". 

and believe me, I get it. I had that mindset too in my early to mid-twenties. That mindset also caused me a lot of internal conflicts when my romanticized life and my reality didn't mirror each other. I look back at who I was at 23, 25, and even 27. I'm sure I won't be the first or the last person to tell you that, I had no clue what I was doing or even who I was at every single one of those ages. Yes, even two years ago. Everything I wanted was based on what society pressured me to want and a lot of egos. I competed a lot during those years, playing the comparison game, trying to keep up and portray my life how I thought it should be. A lot of need for validation in the way my life looked, rather than how it felt. I wanted the booming career, the recognition, the relationship, and everything else you think is supposed to make your life fulfilled. 

The truth of the matter is, you can't possibly possess it ALL, so young, when you're still figuring yourself out. I thought I wanted to be a sports journalist, on tv and married by 30. My reality now: I'm working in Special Education/Mental Health, going back to school, a year shy of 30, and clearly not married. I share that because we often make ourselves feel guilty for not sticking to our initial plans for our life when really, all we're doing is accepting the evolution and lessons that are introducing us to our best self. I'm happy that the career that I wanted didn't pan out the way I saw fit and the relationship that I believed was forever, ended. These are all lessons that contribute to your highest self.. and it's going to take a lot of them to get you there. So, my advice is to just live your life and stop putting restrictions, and time caps on what may be vital for you. Don't rush to have it all before 30. Enjoy where you are, we all are in different stages, but embrace where God has positioned you and trust that He will exalt you, and your life at the perfect time. Live and truly experience life, stop placing so much pressure on how it needs to be.

4. Don't let someone else's trauma become your baggage. 

This is a case of things I wish I would have learned earlier, especially as an empath. Having a huge heart can be a blessing and a curse sometimes. However, you can't carry a load that isn't yours. You will suffocate yourself always being there for others or accepting too much of someone else's mess out of the kindness of your heart and the sake of "being there".  

You need boundaries, boundaries are your friend. 

5.  My love is unconditional with conditional terms. 

I love hard and prefer longevity over temporary experiences. However, as I've grown.. I've realized that people want your love to be unconditional no matter how badly they treat you, and if you don't allow them to mistreat you and stick around, then you aren't a "ride or die". That is not my definition of unconditional love at all and never will be. See, the love I give is unconditional because I do not hold back. I give it my all and dive in, wholeheartedly. I am my most vulnerable when in love and if nurtured right, there is no limit to how hard I will go for you. There are conditional terms, though. My love is pure, calm, reassuring, passionate, and intense— that requires the same energy to be poured back in. The depths of my love will never be seen when disrespected and cannot assist in making the person on the receiving end the best version of themselves, if not appreciated. So I love, but I will never be a fool for love. 

6. Do not rush back to school to find yourself. 

Yes, I said what I said.

I graduated in 2015 with an undergrad degree in Organizational Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations. Life was exciting and looking up. Then as I started to job search, reality hit. The aching realization that life post-grad wasn't anything like they advertised to us. So, what's the first thing I think to do when nothing is working out? Go to graduate school, so I started to apply. I decided to go to journalism school, which was fine, but the preparation wasn't really there. I just knew I needed to fix not being able to find a job that fit and it was probably because I needed my Master's. Luckily for me, I got denied from graduate school, and I say luckily because it would have been the biggest mistake. 

Once I got denied, I thought my whole world was over lol. It felt like that was the direction God was pushing me toward and I didn't understand why he'd play me like that... but he knows our heart and intention. Being a student-athlete for basically, my whole life, made me struggle with my identity outside of sports. So, the reasoning behind me wanting to seek out journalism school was because I do love writing and storytelling, but also because I never took the time out to relate to anything else other than sports, that's obviously what I thought I should be doing.

Not getting into grad school in 2017 allowed me to move through so many unclear seasons of my life. It navigated me through many different jobs and fields that didn't make me feel any ounce of purpose. I took my time to let God place me where I felt the most fulfilled, instead of forcing my life to make sense and rushing to get a degree to back it. I wanted to make sure whatever I pursued was my calling, no matter how long it took to find it, and I refused to get myself in debt trying to figure it out. That was the smartest thing I did. 

7. Live by yourself for as long as possible before welcoming your relationship under one roof. 

Whew, this one here. I have only done this once, but I probably won't ever do it again. When you're in love, it seems like the move. Being with your significant other 24/7 sounds great. You feel like your relationship is really taking serious steps. I can't tell you what to do, but at 29, I'm holding on to my solo space as long as it possibly makes sense. Younger women, please do not force and rush this experience. A good majority of the men you are dealing with do not have the mental maturity to be taking care of them as a girlfriend. Enjoy your separate spaces, there is nothing wrong with that. You'll thank yourself for it.

8. Never ignore the repetitions of behavior. 

This one is pretty self-explanatory, when someone shows you who they are the first time, please believe them. Red flags are red for a reason. 

9. You don't need to build with a man. Fall back and let him build himself. 

Ah, yes. If I could tell younger Ashley this with a megaphone, I would. No clue who suggested women be the architect for men who barely even know themselves, but, it's the ghetto. It is not your job to pour all that you have into someone that cannot do it on their own. That should be the first indicator that the pendulum is not equally leveled. You can't build a man, he has to build himself. You can't provide the entire structure to the foundation. I think as women, we get so caught up in loving the man in our life and wanting to prove that we are there through thick and thin, without realizing we are either doing ourselves a disservice in what we are receiving, leaving very little to pour back into ourselves, or not creating an identity of our own. Sometimes, it's all three simultaneously. To keep it a buck with you, a lot of men have the time on their hands to sit and waste time because most haven’t come to terms with who they are in full capacity. They're just going through the motions with no real plan. If I can tell you one thing about these men, it's that they ain't going nowhere. As for me, I have things to accomplish and I'm not sitting around waiting for anyone to see or realize how much value I bring to the table. I am the table, period. The house and the car in the garage too. So it's either you meet me where I'm at or get left with no hesitation.  

10. Private, lowkey, and out of the mix is the best way to be. 

Everything that I love and value I keep sacred. Ironically, I truly love out loud when it comes to my romantic relationship. Now that I am older though, experiencing what I've gone through relationship-wise, it's important to understand the difference between secrecy and privacy. However, at 29, and having the opportunity to experience what I once believed to be love, I want to hold the real thing so much closer than I did before, even as a loud loverbut nothing is hidden, it's just an experience cultivated entirely for me and my significant other, without the need for all the extras. 

11. Revoking people's access to you for your own peace of mind does not make you petty, incapable of communicating, or immature. 

Short and sweet: if it costs you your peace, it is too expensive. 

12. Sometimes you need to relocate to elevate. 

I believe everyone should move away from their home town at least once. There is so much out in the world for you to get ahold of but you'll never know staying where you're most comfortable. Taking the leap is sometimes the push you need. Personally, I have done it twice. I moved to Los Angeles from my small hometown in Fresno and lived there for about six years, then I moved to Michigan and I'll probably move one more time before I settle down. The amount of growth you experience is unbelievable. I 10/10 recommend. 

13. You won't always live up to your own expectations and that is perfectly okay. 

Life will not go the way we envision it, but it's the way we adapt to how it's unfolding that truly makes a difference. 

14. It's a lot easier to find someone to fill up space and harder to find someone worth sharing a spot in your life. 

This lesson I owe to my mother for instilling in me as a teenager. I remember vividly, the first time I ever got my heart broke in high school, and my mom telling me to sit with how I felt. She encouraged me to get my mind off of the hurt and focus on everything else I had going on in my life like sports, my friends, and family. At sixteen, she taught me the value of learning how to be alone without feeling the need to have someone fill up space for temporary fulfillment. That ended up carrying over into adulthood. I've only had three relationships throughout my twenty-nine years of life because I know how to enjoy being alone. I've never jumped from relationship to relationship, and if my relationship endsI turn all of the emotions that I feel toward myself. We all want love and companionship, yes, but I'm not desperate to have anyone in my life just for the sake of not being alone for a period of time. I honor being patient and only entertain someone when I feel ready. I don't force anything before it's time and that's rare. I will forever thank my mom for embedding this in me. 

15. When you tolerate the bare minimum, that is what you will receive, when you don't tolerate it better will come. Never hesitate to deny what isn't for you. 

Yeah, you're going to come across a lot of situations that teach you what you should and should not tolerate. A lot of times, you'll know better but your heart will overrule your mind. Just move through it. We all have to learn. Eventually, you cut out the dead weight and place yourself in the right position to receive what you deserve. 

16. Leave men exactly where you found them. 

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory lol. Do what you have to do and don't look back, guarantee he'll still be where you left him. Don't let anyone overstay their time in your life and block your blessings. 

17. Taking time for yourself and eliminating dating makes a world of difference. 

Also, self-explanatory. Not putting a focus on dating for a while and going after everything you want is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself. You learn a lot about yourself and what you want out of life. Highly recommend. 

18. Experience people in the manner that God sends them to you, instead of the way you want them in your life. 

Often times, we overextend ourselves to try and keep people in our lives longer than we actually should. A good majority of the experiences that God sends are lessons, learn, and grow from it. 

19. You deserve someone who is certain of the significance you hold in their life and acts on it. 

Please, don't waste your 20's trying to convince people to see what you are worth. Do not shrug off what doesn't sit right with you. If you can reciprocate everything you require, don't settle until you see and feel that. 

20. Always remain exclusive. 

You owe it to yourself to uphold the privilege one gets to know you. Everyone is not worthy, be selective always. 

21. Everyone that crosses your path won't be the "one". 

Secretly questioning if the new person you've been seeing could be "the one" does more harm than help. It turns into a cycle, constantly trying to gatekeep. Honestly, a good majority of the time the experience is simply just that— an experience. We place too much pressure on dating, searching for the "one" we're supposed to end up with, rather than enjoying the time and people for what it is in that moment. Dating to marry is fine, but dating to gatekeep to find who you may or may not marry is a whole other story. 

22. Don't let anyone get comfortable enough to think they can treat you like you're regular. 

If you don't treat yourself that way no one else should. Set the tone for how people interact with you. Make the treatment you expect very clear. As a high-value woman, you are in control of your life and you must stand by that standard to naturally attract what you already exude. 

23. Romanticized versions of people make you ignore hella red flags. 

Most of the time, the reasons we no longer deal with people were all shown to us in the beginning, but we didn't want to pay attention to it.  

24. Wine solves just about everything. 

Truth be told, don't underestimate it. 

25. Rejection is always redirection.

God will never take without plans of replacing it with something better. Always remember that. There have been so many times in my life where I felt like God was rejecting me, only to find the redirection was better than what I originally wanted. 

26. Speak life into what you want.

Words hold so much power. I like to eliminate the word "if" because it leaves too much space of uncertainty for me. I say "when" to affirm that it will happen and "I am" to confirm what I want to see myself as. Everything that I have manifested in the last year was used with this practice.

for example 

When I get into grad school
When I pass my board exam
When I reach six-figures 

I am living a life of luxury
I am accomplishing and obtaining everything I want
I am successful
I am comfortable 
I am happy

27. It doesn’t matter what someone told you if they showed you differently. 

Never hold on to someones' words too closely when their actions don't support it. 

28. Withdrawal is the only response you need. 

People know when they offend you, and they knew when the offense took place. You soon learn to stop giving them room to explain themselves with excuses and no accountability. If you can't get the decency of consideration, there's nothing to really even get to the bottom of. Remove yourself and let them figure it out on their own. 

29. Falling out of love is perhaps more powerfully significant than falling in love. 

You'll know exactly what I mean once you experience it. 

this one goes out to healing.

3.18.2020 Grand Rapids, MI

I haven't touched my blog in exactly a year and two months. I never planned on stepping away from it this long, but life threw a curveball that was a little harder for me to bounce back from, it cut deeper than the usual hiccups I'm used to encountering. To be honest with you, I've contemplated even writing this post for over five months now, each time feeling like it's not the right time to share about something so special and sacred to me. However, I'm learning (yes, still learning), that I don't have to disclose the most painful parts in detail to get the message across. I've used this platform for a good portion of my twenties, and a lot of you have been around to see multiple pieces to my story grow and die when it no longer served its purpose in my life. So, in an instance, this chapter is no different.

Five months ago, I was the happiest woman I could possibly be. I was in a new state and just started my new job, ready to step into this brand new element of my life that was filled with so much hope and excitement. Part of that reason? My relationship was no longer long distance. All of the plans we made would finally be able to come to fruition because we were finally together. Career and love life were at an all-time high for me. However, things didn't quite go as planned, which seems to be a reoccurring theme within my journey (lol).. and the relationship ended. Four years, gone. My emotions were all over the place, especially because it was so sudden. All I could really think about was the fact I had just uprooted my life primarily for someone I cared deeply about, and now in a space where I'm literally alone in an unknown place. No family. No friends. Nothing. Everyone and everything I know and love is back home in California. Of course, with any breakup, you get really deep into your feelings, and I was deeper than deep. Mostly confused, a handful of anger, and partially giving up. The feeling that stuck with me most was regret.

Why regret?

I was regretful of the fact I felt like I had wasted important parts, if not, vital years of my twenties being in this relationship. I was regretful of the fact I would never know the woman I had the potential to be, had I focused on myself from twenty-three to twenty-eight. I was regretful that I had a vision and entire life planned out with someone, that I invested years of time, energy, and work into only to feel like I came up empty-handed, while they quickly moved on without hesitation. Most of all, I was regretful of the fact I even felt embarrassed, to begin with. Why did I put so much value into this relationship to where I felt embarrassed things went left? I can tell you why, because I put him and the relationship on a pedestal and when someone you think and speak so highly of disappoints you, you end up feeling like you don't really know them like you believed you did... so you feel like a fool, simply put. I had a lot of separation work I needed to do in terms of letting go of what once was or should have been and accepting things for how they were in front of me. The biggest one, releasing the disappointment I felt for starting completely over at twenty-eight and ridding the image of having a marriage and family with my ex. It was most difficult, being around my childhood and college best friends, sharing their moments of engagement and wedding planning, knowing this was a chapter I truly looked forward to but still being overjoyed and happy for my girls nonetheless because they absolutely deserve the happiness they harbor. However, if I can be honest.. it still cut a little deep. I was stuck seeing people build their lives and families together and hit with the reality of having to eventually go through the dating pool and get to know someone all over again. That thought alone was exhausting.

For some time, I battled with the choice of me going back home or staying and finishing the school year through. Some days/nights were really tough. I questioned if it was really worth staying in Michigan when I came for a specific reason. I felt like I was in a bind that I would have never purposely put myself in.  So, I eventually reached a place where I had to get real with myself and let go of every negative emotion I was holding onto, for my own benefit. Shortly after, God started showing me the bigger picture. I don't think it's at all a coincidence getting the job I did. Over time, I began to see just how intentional God truly is. The friends I have made, the work environment that I'm in, and the people I work closely with every day were all specifically handpicked for what I was soon to face. Feeling like I had no one here, quickly shifted toward having a true support system, one that I wasn't expecting. It is because of their words, their encouragement, and belief in me, that I started to look at this situation in a new light. If I had not taken this job, I would have never realized how passionate I truly am about special education and autism. Working with my students not only sparked a hidden passion but has truly inspired me to make an impact in ways I never saw fit. I knew I had an idea of what my end goal (career-wise) was, but I didn't think that it existed because it was just a list of my interests compiled into one. Luckily, I work directly with a woman who is absolutely amazing at what she does. I emailed her asking for a meeting to share my interests and hopefully get directed in the right direction and she exceeded that. Now, I'm pursuing more than what I originally embarked on this journey for. Everything has been coming into alignment. My happiness, solely provided by the life I'm building individually, is back. Overall, I'm just really excited about the way things are shifting around. If there's one thing about me, it's that I'm a go-getter and I always adapt and create a solid foundation, I think that's the one aspect I admire most about myself, I'm literally good anywhere. It's funny because my family wasn't really worried about me getting on my feet and actually encouraged me to stay put, putting all of their emotions of wanting me home aside. After all, that's how deep their support runs, knowing I come from a family of pure ambition, they knew I would be okay. I can always go home, it's always going to be there. A lot may have broken my heart, but it sharpened my vision, and my main focus is to remain focused to secure everything I've set my eyes on for my career.

Looking back, I remember mentioning to my mom in conversation that I felt like there was still a layer of womanhood I had yet to break into. That I felt I needed to be in a space to figure things out for my own, without a crutch or safety net to really reach that next level of adulthood. Be careful what you ask for because I got exactly that lol, but with good measure.

I guess the moral of the story is, everything truly happens for a reason. One lesson I've definitely taken from this is to believe the person someone shows you they are, the very first time. All in all, being single again was an adjustment, but to be honest it's probably the best thing I have done for myself. There's still underlying healing to be mended.. but I'm genuinely happy. I needed the disappointment to step back into my power and gain certain aspects of myself that I lost. Moving forward, I'm wiser. A hell of a lot stronger emotionally/mentally and know what I want for my life as I prepare to maneuver out of my twenties and really start to set the tone. I know that there are so many great things coming my way, I can truly feel the blessings being prepared to drop. I've gotten to know myself better than I ever have in the most trying way and for that I'm thankful. No love lost just elevated standards and a stronger emphasis on my value.

Here's to new beginnings in life, career, and eventually love (again, but no time soon). I know some of my best years, are the ones still on the way.
© Ashley Avenu. john 15:5 .