I'm twenty six. Well, almost twenty-six and a half. Twenty six isn't that novel, besides being the age where you are smack dab between your college years (which you can now recount with appropriate nostalgia) and REAL LIVE ADULTHOOD - which is when you decide to buy your own Netflix subscription and stop eating peanut butter as a meal.
Twenty-six is like the half-baked version of the grand "who you are going to be". It's amorphous and raw - and not the good kind of raw that's edgy and attractive and wants to try new things. It's more like salmonella, in that it invokes a lot of nausea, exhaustion, and self-doubt that only abates with time.
My current version of adulthood isn't guided by any specific dogma (or Buzzfeed list, for that matter). It's mostly guided by tenets that I've stumbled upon or borrowed or ripped from larger philosophies that I have to adapt to fit into my life and my relationships, square pegs that I've whittled to fit into round holes. They are the truths that work for right now, for my twenty-six-and-almost-one-half self.
Wear shoes you can run in.
I haven't always been as smart as I am now. When I was younger, along with being naive and completely negligent in my financial obligations, I was also incredibly impractical. So, it would not surprise anyone to learn that in my past life, I constantly wore beautiful shoes, beautiful but painfully high shoes that made me walk either like a duck or a constipated toddler, depending on the heel height.
I wore these heels through the metal detectors and pat-downs to work, at a job that required me to visit clients in correctional facilities. I did this until one of my clients commented to me, upon seeing said beautiful shoes, "I would never wear shoes here that I couldn't run in." And that was the end of that.
You don't need that.
I'm a minimalist. An obsessive minimalist to some. This is mostly borne from a childhood of frequent relocation (as a leisure sport) and a very impatient mother. When you are forced to pack, unpack and account for all of your belongings every year, it makes you second-guess all of those Beanie Babies and pairs of Old Navy corduroys (don't judge me, I know you had them, too.)
This mentality was further reinforced when I studied abroad in Denmark, where I lived with a large family in a small house that could have been featured in an Ikea catalogue. Every piece of furniture, every bowl and clock and pair of shoes was nested perfectly inside - the direct result of a conversation: Is this necessary? What purpose will it serve in our home?
Thinking about affordability in terms of space (instead of financial cost) forces a regular purge of objects that clutter your home and workspace - old books, ill-fitting clothes, appliances and gadgets that sit in disrepair. A good rule that I try to (force everyone to) live by: if you haven't used it in six months, you don't need it.
Take deep breaths.
My grandmother taught fifteen of her grandchildren how to swim. She patiently walked each of us around the shallow end of the pool, our arms around her shoulders, telling us to kick, kick, kick, while she blew bubbles into the water - our own human kickboard. She also taught us how to breathe deep when we graduated to swimming solo, so that we could do our strokes underwater or float on the surface.
We sat in a row on the edge of the pool, slathered in SPF 50 and reluctant to give up our flotation devices as she made each of us place a hand over our bellies and name the Seven Seas to ourselves as we inhaled and exhaled. "In for seven, out for seven," we repeated, until our bodies relaxed and we could all forward crawl down the pool lanes.
And now, when I'm caught in emotionally overwhelming situations or am trying to comfort a friend, I mimic the deep breaths we learned at pool. Which is also why, on any stressful occasion, you might overhear me murmuring "Adriatic" or "Caspian" to myself. Super normal, right?
Curiosity killed the cat, but I do just fine.
It would serve anyone well to be able to answer these questions, especially if you find yourself on Jeopardy or have to generate interesting conversation topics organically (read: first dates).
Understanding the motivations behind actions is ideas is generally more helpful in relating to other humans. It can also provoke a level of empathy that you might have been unwilling to give someone before you understood how they acted at an elementary level. Most times it's not feasible to ask someone point blank: "Why are you such an egomaniac?" "Why did you leave your last relationship?" "Why do you struggle with authority?" but you can tease out explanations behind those behaviors that will inform your future interactions. And worst case, if you ask too many of the wrong questions, you can make a quick getaway in those shoes.
(A version of this post originally appeared on Wistia's blog on 8.15.14)