I used to be apprehensive about getting older. I had this pervasive sense that my youth was running out; that very soon I would need to transform into some vague idea of what I thought a “real adult” should be. But I’ve discovered that each day I have on this earth is a lesson and a blessing, and I love myself more each year. In the past year I’ve become stronger, more accomplished, more centered, and more confident than ever before. I’ve been creating lists of things I’ve learned each year for the past few years. This is the first time I’ve ever posted one. Here’s 26 things I’ve learned by year 26.

1. Sometimes being selfish is the most selfless thing. A tree will produce apples abundantly and effortlessly if it gets enough sun and water. It will wither and die if not.

2. Your therapy clients will teach you just as much as you can teach them. You are becoming a holding vessel for stories – of grief and redemption, heartache and resilience. Be large enough to carry it all.

3. Be prepared for the universe to break your carefully prepared plans, and embrace whatever alternatives present themselves.

4. Vacuum every once in a while.

5. People all around you are walking around with tremendous weight. Treat them gently.

6. Cut ties with whatever doesn’t serve you – quickly and respectfully.

7. Don’t be afraid to require compensation for your time and talents.

8. If you feel like you’ve lost yourself, it’s probably because you’re moving too fast. Slow down and listen. She is there inside your heart.

9. If something has been in your closet for years unworn, you are never going to wear it.

10. Stop trying to determine if he is your soul mate or never to be seen again with every move he makes. That kind of pressure will crush even a romance that is “right.” Enjoy his company, and see what unfolds.

11. Everything has a hidden lesson in it. Even heartbreak. Especially that.

12. Just because something doesn’t work out does not make it a loss. Be open enough to find the meaning in even the crummiest situations.

13. Spontaneity trumps preparation. Responding to what exists in the moment will get you so much farther than carefully prepared notes.

14. You can never actually fully prepare for anything.

15. Wear the red dress.

16. You had a hidden potential for strength buried in your bones the whole time. It was just waiting for you to believe in it to show itself.

17. The way a romantic interest (or anyone else for that matter) responds to your words and actions says much more about them than about you.

18. The adults you spent your adolescent and early adult life getting good grades and doing community service in order to impress? They’re just as clueless and human as you. Give them grace for any shortcomings. Value your own insight and intelligence.

19. Take risks. Be vulnerable. The quality of your life depends on it, and no one is watching you that closely anyway.

20. You will forever be choosing between beer and sleep, friends and solitude, travel and investments, ice cream and salad. There often isn’t enough time in the day for both. Don’t judge yourself whichever one you choose. Just make sure to enjoy the one you do.

21. Some people leave you feeling energized and hopeful and alive. Maximize your time with them.

22. Go hiking alone. Drink stouts in the summertime. Take yourself out to a restaurant. Go to a brewery and drink beer alone while you study, even if everyone else thinks it’s weird. It takes so much bravery sometimes to just be “you,” but it’s worth it every time.

23. You have power over your body composition and always have. Just do the work and be patient.

24. Don’t underestimate the power of sugar over your mood.

25. If you want to be a writer, then you have to start writing.

26. Some of these lessons you’ve learned before and will learn again. Life is a dance of forever stepping forward and back. I hope I get to point B someday, wherever that is, but the biggest lesson of all is to just enjoy this crazy dance.