Quarter-Life Realizations: 25 Lessons I've Learned In 25 Years

by Rebecca O'Byrne

As I celebrate my 25th birthday this month, I realize how lucky I am to be so young and in love with life.

With a whole lot of passion and hunger to not only reach, but create my own potential, I am excited by the fact that my life is only just beginning.

Due to my own personal journey and its ups and down (we all have them), I didn’t always feel so invigorated. For so long, I felt way off course, lost and far off the track of what I was "supposed" to be doing or allegedly meant to be achieving. It was a pressure that admittedly came mostly from within. Yet, here I am, having lived a quarter of a century.

Really, it’s been but a drop in the ocean of which I stand at its shore; all the possibilities are right at my feet.

With all that life has taught me so far, it’s been a mixture of tears and laughter. What I’ve learned most is the importance of seeing the glass half-full. So, in light of my quarter-life moment, I share with you a snippet of the 25 life lessons my 25 years have taught me:

It’s Way Better Out Here

The idea that life begins outside your comfort zone has been, without question, one of the greatest and most beautifully rewarding lessons life has taught me so far. For many years, I hid in the shadows of my many fears, allowing them to blind me to the fact that life is actually an exciting playground to get lost in.

It's an endless world of possibilities and opportunities that needs to be embraced with open arms.

This is at the top of the list for good reason. With this first lesson in practice, I can promise from personal experience, that living outside of the confines of your comfort zone is truly the making of a fun, rewarding and happy life.

Happiness Lies In The Small Things

However cliché and sentimental it may sound, it's very true. Life isn’t all about the big moments and the major milestones. Although of course they are an awesome part of it, I’ve found that the beauty of life lies more in the small, everyday happenings.

As a society, we seem to get caught up in constantly working to achieve the next big thing, to reach another landmark to give us a sense of identity and when we do, we don’t even stand still long enough to enjoy the rewards before moving onto our next target. Yes, of course, we must have dreams and goals, but the core of so much happiness usually occurs in the process of realizing the things we want.

True Confidence Never Needs To Be Explained

Seeing people who are comfortable in their own skin without fear or apology has made me realize I desire this most. Confidence is never loud, but rather a gentle and subtle assurance within you that you are perfectly acceptable and worthy as you are. It never needs to be explained or proven, only allowed to silently ripple out from within.

Taking Risks

Much like stepping outside your comfort zone, taking risks is something I’ve begun to do more of since getting a little older. Yes, of course, there’s a chance things won’t work out, but there’s always a possibility they will.

In taking risks and accepting the challenge of the unknown, nobody escapes the sometimes not-so-pretty side of life. We all feel fear, experience sadness and heartache and even sometimes can feel a little lost. But isn’t that part of being alive?

We have the innate ability to answer life's challenges with a fighting spirit, a spirit that sees the opportunity in every difficulty and the possibility of something greater in every challenge. Life has repeatedly taught me that when I choose to take risks, I can always learn from the aftermath.

One Of The Greatest Liberations Comes From Living For Yourself

As selfish as that it may sound, I know it to be more than true. I used to care far too much about everyone else and what he or she thought, and how I could, in some way, make him or her happy to the point that I didn’t take care for myself at all.

In letting go of those fears and living my life for me, I have become a much happier, freer and a more available person who can really, genuinely care for and love the most important people in my life.

You have to put your own gas mask on before you attend to children on a plane, right? Yes, well the airlines have a point.

Regrets Never Change A Thing

Too often in life, we look to the past and use it as a way to ruin our present. Feeling regretful of whatever our past may hold is of absolutely no benefit whatsoever. As elementary as it sounds, life can only be lived forward.

By leaving the past where it belongs and looking at today, you can change just about anything for the better. With that knowledge, it’s up to us to do with it the best we can so there’s far less space for any regret in life.

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously; Mistakes Are Essential

Being able to laugh at yourself and your mistakes is a core lesson in the pursuit of happiness. I think if I didn’t laugh, half the time I’d have to cry when it comes to all the mistakes and wrong turns I’ve made so far.

Cut yourself some slack and just remember that mistakes are such an essential part of a life actually lived. Without them, I’d never have learned what I’ve learned. Let’s face it: No matter how many times someone tells you something, it’s always far more fun to figure it out for yourself.

Buy It Now Or Cry Later

You think I’m kidding that this lesson makes the list? Nope. As a self-confessed shopaholic, if you love it and can afford it in that moment, just get it. I should know; I’ve cried those tears of regret.

Girls Are From Venus; Boys Are From Mars

Oh how true this is. We are different. We were born to be so, and trying to be the same, whether in careers, body, mind or soul, is simply impossible. Yes, equal rights and total respect of both sides is critical, but let’s face it: We’re from completely different planets and we need to just accept that.

Formal Education Isn’t Everything

Although a vital aspect of life and growing up to become who we aspire to be, I’ve found from experience that more often than not, it is only the living of life that has taught me the most important lessons.

As sure as my love of Birkin bags, I never learned anything of much value to the reality of my life while sitting in a classroom.

Just Be Yourself

As Oscar Wilde once wisely said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” It’s really that simple.

It’s Okay To Not Know Everything

Always remain curious and ask questions. Nobody cares if you don’t get the joke or need to ask what on earth he or she is talking about. I’ve learned so much by being honest and admitting my ignorances whenever they arise.


A very important part of life is the motivation to become the person you know you can be. Like a personal trainer cracking the whip, a question that never fails to kick me in the butt is, “How do I want to be remembered when I’m gone?” A little morbid perhaps, but motivating nonetheless.

It’s Okay To Have A Secret Crush On One Direction At 25

It just is.

It Could Be Worse... (And Lipstick And Cosmos Make Everything Better)

Whatever happens and no matter how seemingly nightmarish things may seem at the time, let’s be real for a second: It could always be worse. So long as you get up, dress up and show up, life’s going to be okay. In the words of Elizabeth Taylor, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.” It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

Diets Are A Fraud And Size Doesn’t Actually Matter

In a world obsessed (beyond all recognition) with diets, fitness, plastic surgery and the general search for all forms of perfection, we seem to have sold ourselves to nothing but a rather large business plan, a plan of which those who orchestrate it are #LOLing all the way to the bank at our expense.

Without beating around the bush, the diet and fitness industry is worth BILLIONS of dollars a year and continues to get fatter and fatter (excuse the pun) simply because it keeps people stuck with the false idea that the perfect body will give you the perfect life.

Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. But perfection doesn’t exist and diets don’t work (that’s why people have to keep trying different ones or stay on them FOREVER in order to maintain an existence of nothingness). So think twice about it, or at least open your mind to the possibility that maybe you’re more than okay exactly as you are, and the size of your life is actually more important than the size of your butt.

Everyone’s Walking His Or Her Own Path

As much as we all think we know people from following them on Twitter or seeing the pretty parts of their lives on Instagram, we, in fact, know very little.

The dirty laundry and the less enchanting aspects of a person’s life can’t always be understood, nor can they be seen. It’s of utmost importance to never judge a book by its cover and know that however perfect things may seem, you haven’t walked a mile in someone else's shoes.

Never Touch Anything With Half Your Heart

Whether it’s loving a person, an idea or thing, giving your all to what you love is a risk, but it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I couldn’t agree more: A broken heart that knows love will eventually heal and whatever you give your heart to, it’s best to give it your all.

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

Sorry I have no joke for you to overdose on, but the Clown Beyoncé video on YouTube gets me every time!

There’s No Such Thing As Perfection

Trust me, I haven't found it, though I sure did search for it. It was only when I stopped searching that I found what I’d always been looking for. True happiness lies in the love of the imperfections found in life, love and friendship.

Jamie Dornan As Christian Grey Is Quite Literally The Dream

Dreams and reality may sometimes never ever meet face-to-face, but this list wouldn’t be the same without a little lesson in dreaming BIG! A Smile Can Change Everything

Especially when dealing with road rage victims. Ever notice? They HATE it!

Today Creates Tomorrow

I love this one. How exciting it is to think that what I do and how I choose to live my life today is all creating the direction of my life tomorrow? Evidently, we can only live in the present, but in making it the best we possibly can, tomorrow is sure to be a step closer to whatever your dreams may be.

I'm Not Weird; I'm Limited Edition

Growing up, we often think that we don’t fit in or that others are better, prettier, skinnier, more intelligent, funnier... the list goes on. But if you learn to embrace, appreciate and truly enjoy all that makes you who you are, you eventually find that we’re all just as weird as each other.

We waste so much time comparing ourselves to our neighbors, but if only we’d learn to value the little things that make us unique, we’d see that actually there is no competition. The world is screaming out for more originals, darling!

Turning 25 Actually Isn’t So Bad After All

Honestly? I was a little freaked out about turning 25. “Got to get my life together” has been a recurring thought of late, to say the least. I felt the pressure to be all I thought I should be in the eyes of society, when in reality, I was doing just fine.

I'm pleased to be at an age where these 25 life lessons are only the beginning of what's to come.

Photo via Wildfox