I will be a quarter-century old on June 17. That’s a big deal. I am nowhere near the person I thought I’d be when I imagined myself at 25 – I haven’t lived in an exposed-brick studio apartment above a Chinese market in Paris, or practiced yoga in an ashram in India. I don’t have my life figured out. I don’t even know how to do my own taxes.

But there are so many ways my life at 25 is better than I could have ever imagined. I’ve had a life full of rich experiences, strong and soulful people, tough lessons and beautiful moments. I’ve had my share of both joy and pain. My patience, self-esteem, and worldview have undergone rigorous testing. And I think I’ve learned a few things along the way.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a series on the 25 most important lessons I’ve learned in my 25 years. Some will be long-winded, some short and sweet, but I hope that somewhere along the line, you can relate to them, expand upon them, and use them to your best advantage. Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 8.20.14 PM 1. It’s okay to be a late bloomer.
Sometimes there comes a season, especially in the social minefield of our late teens and early 20’s, where we feel like we’re behind everyone else. Everyone seems to have it all under control. Maybe you’ve never had a boyfriend, maybe your education is taking a bit longer than expected, maybe you can’t find a job or you still live with your parents. It’s easy to feel left behind when all your friends are getting married, starting careers, having babies, and buying houses.
Hey. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Most people feel just as lost as you do. Life is not a well-organized list of linear accomplishments to check off – it’s messy, scattered, chaotic, and unpredictable. That’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it worth living. You don’t have to have your career figured out at 18. You don’t have to get married before 30 (or at all). It’s okay to take your time and figure things out. You will be a better version of yourself if you follow your own path without trying to fit into someone else’s timeline.

“So-called late bloomers get a bad rap. Sometimes the people with the greatest potential often take the longest to find their path because their sensitivity is a double edged sword – it lives at the heart of their brilliance, but it also makes them more susceptible to life’s pains. Good thing we aren’t being penalized for handing in our purpose late. The soul doesn’t know a thing about deadlines.” – Jeff Brown

2. Going barefaced is sexy and empowering. Last year, I did a little social experiment. For an entire month, I didn’t wear a stitch of makeup. And contrary to what I thought would happen, I felt powerful. Beautiful. Yes, I also felt vulnerable and uncomfortable at times, but putting away the makeup bag helped me realize that having a few pimples or bags under my eyes is not the end of the world. Going barefaced made me feel like I could take on Goliath, just as little ol’ me. I was enough.

It is so incredibly freeing to put all your physical flaws out in the open with no apologies. My skin cleared up, my boyfriend loved that my freckles were on display, and my confidence skyrocketed. Don’t get me wrong – I love rocking a power brow and a killer wing. I think makeup can be a really impressive artistic outlet, an effective way to feel good about yourself, and a powerful tool to make sure you put your best foot forward. But that’s what it should remain – not a crutch or a mask, but a tool and an outlet.

Try going barefaced for just a day. Don’t let the beauty industry convince you that the face you were born with isn’t good enough.

3. Buy yourself fresh flowers. Don’t wait for someone else to treat you well. You are responsible for bringing beauty into your life. Whether that means picking up a bouquet of chrysanthemums in the market when you do your weekly shopping, or splurging on that expensive quarterly you love, or cooking a sit-down candlelit meal for one, once you begin to romance yourself, life becomes that much more lovely. Treat yo self.

The Bicycle Cafe in Canmore, Alberta - Photo by the author

The Bicycle Cafe in Canmore, Alberta – Photo by the author

4. Turn habit into pleasure. We all have our routines, schedules, and habits. The key to creating a life where every day is a pleasure is to make these habits a feast for the senses. Stock your shower with beautiful soap (I love LUSH products). Hang eucalyptus or lavender in your bathroom for a burst of aromatherapy every time you turn the hot water on. Try switching out your morning drive-thru Starbucks for a cup of local roast from a different café, grab a seat, and people-watch. You might have to get up a little earlier, but it will be worth it. Rather than eating lunch at your desk, take a walk, get yourself out of the office, change the scenery. Ban your laptop and cellphone from your bedroom, and rather than spending your last waking moments playing 2048, light a candle and crack open a book. Turning habit into pleasure is all about making the mundane into something special, so run with it!

5. Don’t let anyone else dictate your worth. As women, we are taught our entire lives that our worth depends on a certain set of criteria. We’re expected to be non-threatening but beautiful, fit and thin but not powerful or strong, clever but not too smart. We ourselves demonize our entire gender by saying “I’m not like other girls”. We shame each other for our sexual decisions, our bodies, and our social behavior. The very first thing that people go for when they want to devalue a woman is her physical appearance.

We can’t change the messages we’re bombarded with every day about what it means to be valuable, but what we can change is how we define our own worth. You are not your weight or your sexual history. You are not your GPA, your income, your IQ. You are a complex human being who has something fantastic to offer to the world. Maybe you’re very thoughtful, or have a knack for making people feel at ease. Maybe you’re good at physics, or have a talent for poetry or painting. Whatever makes you you needs to be the root of your self-worth, because no-one can ever take that you-ness away. If you work towards making yourself worthy in your own eyes, the others will follow.