Becoming 20: 20 Lessons Learned in 20 Years

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September 13th, 2018, is the day I leave behind my teenage years.

It’s a profound transition for anyone; beginning a shift from one phase of life to another. For me, it holds a significant weight in many different ways. My teenage years held some of the darkest and some of the lightest times of my life. They held everything from my hospitalization to my discovery of yoga. They saw me as a hurt little girl and as a yoga teacher traveling the world and embracing life. They saw me struggle and they saw me triumph. They saw me transition, ebb, and flow.

While my teenage years carried a frenetic drive, a change that felt constant in every moment, I feel now a sense of purpose and calm. Age may just be a number, but a new decade feels somehow magical. It feels like the opening of a new chapter, and carries with it all the anticipation of what’s to come next.

From ten to twenty, my life changed in every way imaginable. I found a purpose in my existence, found ways I could affect and touch the world. I stepped into a leadership role I never thought I would be confident enough to command, or effective enough. I learned how to use my voice to touch the hearts of people I will never meet in person. I learned how to step outside of myself and act in service for others, and I learned how to go within and practice self-preservation without guilt.

There are times where I feel almost panicked with eagerness. Where I feel like time is running out to do all the things I want to do. Where I get down on myself for not achieving every goal on my list. Ten to twenty felt like a lifetime. It’s hard to remember that there’s still so much left.

The next time I’ll stand at the precipice of a new decade, I’ll be thirty. Thirty feels unimaginable. Imagining Maris at thirty feels like trying to picture a stranger you’ve never met. What will she look like? What will she be doing? What will she believe? Who will she be surrounded by? Where will she be? There’s so many unknowns, but I feel a knowing that she will be exactly where she is meant to be. I know not the exact path to her, but I know the steps in front of me that feel purposeful and intentional (exact coordinates unknown).

I’m most happy to stand at this edge and have no regrets. To regret something is to wish you could change the past, and I value the present far too much to risk changing anything that has already happened. I look around myself and see the faces of people who make me me, who inspire and uplift me every single day. I would never regret anything that led to me crossing paths with them.

When I was 15-turning-16, I began teacher training under the theme of “Fearless Authenticity.” I knew it was a virtue to be authentic, to be yourself, but I didn’t know who I was, let alone how to authentically be her. But what I’ve learned since then is that who we are is constantly changing. They say you can’t step in the same river twice, and I know now that you don’t wake up the same person twice, either. To try and define yourself in order to show up authentically is a fruitless effort. True authenticity comes from arriving presently, being liberated from the burden of labels, and embracing the fact that the you of yesterday has already died.

While a shift in my understanding of authenticity was one of the most profound learnings I’ve experienced, there’s countless more snippets I’ve encountered along the way. I think it’s best to share twenty of my findings over the first twenty years of this life:

1. Things will never, ever go perfectly as planned. This doesn’t mean don’t plan, it only means don’t become too attached to a certain route or destination. You’ll be a lot happier if you don’t force disappointment on yourself.

2. Being independent doesn’t mean not inviting others into your life, and it doesn’t mean isolation is inherently better. Closeness, emotional intimacy, and vulnerability are crucial to growing as a person and as a citizen of the universe.

3. Privilege is not something you should be guilty about carrying, it’s something you should use to inspire gratitude and empower others.

4. The things you most want to keep hidden are the things that will help the most people.

5. Judgement of others reflects on who you are with far more accuracy than it does the other person.

6. Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

7. Hoy es el día: today is the day. Every day.

8. It is incredibly important to spend time around people you disagree with. You will either learn to see things in a new light, learn how to communicate your ideas better, or better understand why what you believe is important.

9. The most valuable gift you can give someone is a listening ear. Advice is helpful only if they ask for it. Allowing someone to be heard without your input is always valuable.

10. Travel is something not everyone can afford. Attachment to routine isn’t worth wasting your ability to see the world if you can.

11. Sometimes you’ll be a really shitty person. Learn how to forgive yourself, how to learn from your missteps, and see it as a necessary step in the process of living life.

12. Don’t try to be interesting, be interested. People will remember, first and foremost, how much you cared.

13. The more open you are about how little you know, the more you’ll know.

14. Life’s too short to not be honest about who you love.

15. The best way to get where you want to go is to help others get where they want to go.

16. Food is about a lot more than you’ve been trained to think.

17. Every single person on this planet has a background and motivations as complex and full of depth as your own. There is no one who is purely bad or purely good. Punishing or judging reactively and without empathy only exacerbates a problem.

18. Don’t order coffee to-go.

19. Time in nature is good for your health, spirit, and soul. Time inside can hinder creativity and vibrancy.

20. Give a fuck, but only about things that are worth it.

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Here’s what I’m putting out into the universe for my twentieth year.

I’m calling in the strength to trust the process and trust my ability to change the world. I’m calling in gratitude for the teachers who have guided me and the blessing to carry on their teachings. I’m calling in grace to handle the rocky waters that I’ve sure will have to be navigated at some point in the year ahead. I’m calling in a good sense of humor to help me laugh throughout the process. I’m calling in acceptance of all that is. I’m calling in clarity around purpose. I’m calling in love for everyone I encounter, no matter how much we differ in constitution or opinion.

I have so much gratitude for everyone who has made it possible to reach this age. There was a very real possibility it wouldn’t happen, and that’s not something that escapes my knowing. I’m here for a reason, and I know that now.

With love,

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