Sometimes, I look back on 19 and cringe about dancing like that on tables at parties. Other times, I look at pictures of me at 16 and wonder what made me think that shirt was a good look.
And, as much as I try to shake it, I'll never lose the image of myself at 23, breaking down in the inside of my first solo apartment in a city where I knew no one.
I can't go back and change mistakes I've made in the past, but I can certainly use all I've learned to pave the way to a better future. If nothing else, I've certainly learned a lot in my first 25 years.
So, as a birthday present to myself, I've decided to exchange a few vows -- not with a man, but with myself -- as a promise to hold myself in higher regard moving forward.
I hope these vows will not only resonate with me, but also with you. After all, we all deserve a healthy mindset toward our past and future. Also, who doesn't deserve a little self-love on a milestone birthday?
I vow to...
1. Stop chasing guys
Sadly, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time over the last decade staring at my phone, willing a guy to contact me. Most times, these guys were just fleeting crushes that had no impact on my life, whatsoever.
2. Stop body-shaming myself
My skin will never be perfect, and I’ll always secretly curse myself for not wearing my retainer when I should have. However, I realize now that I’ll never get back all the times I spent feeling self-conscious instead of having fun.
3. Never change my ideas, personality, priorities or standards for another person
Much of my college career was spent engaging in activities I thought would impress my significant other. This meant ditching good friends and changing my beliefs.
In the end, I wound up alone and confused about who I was as a person. It was never worth it.
4. Respect myself
This includes my health, my mind and my body.
5. Plant my feet solidly on the ground
In the past, I would cower in fear when someone did not like me. I realize now that people don’t have to agree with me or like me, and I’ll be perfectly fine. There's no need to run and hide.
6. Get into a relationship ONLY if I’m sure it’s worth it
After breaking up with my ex, I reread old journal entries I wrote when we first started dating. To my surprise, I was on the fence over whether I felt something for him.
There were warning signs that we weren’t meant to be, which I deliberately chose to ignore. Fast forward four years, and I had to do a lot of work to pick up the pieces after that relationship crashed and burned.
While I don’t regret it, I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I followed my gut and walked away from the beginning.
7. Stop pretending to like things to impress a guy
Including, but not limited to, football, hockey, hunting and illegal substances.
8. Not screw over friends for a guy
Guys come and go, but real friends never leave.
9. Cut back on my hot mess mistakes
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to turn into a couch potato by any means, but, yeah, maybe I’ll save the tequila for special occasions only.
10. Take my finances more seriously
Spending your money is fun, but having your parents save your ass when you get laid off is not so fun. Time to start thinking ahead.
11. Train for a half marathon and carry through
I vow to not skip out on Saturday runs in favor of spending a night out at the bar with friends. There’s plenty of time for that after I get my medal.
12. Put the cell phone down
While out to dinner with friends, while driving and while I should be experiencing life in the moment.
13. Follow through with goals and projects
I am a sucker for starting projects without finishing them.
14. Spend more time in nature
There’s nothing like spending time by a lake or waking up in the woods to remind you how small your problems are.
15. Find confidence in myself
You’ll never be able to fully love someone else if you don’t love yourself.
16. Worry less
Especially regarding things out of my control. What’s the use?
17. Allow myself to make mistakes
Otherwise, how am I going to learn?
18. Spend more time figuring out my own beliefs
In the end, all we have is ourselves.
19. Continue to read and write as much as possible
Stay curious. Always.
20. Worry less about where I “should” be
And, instead, focus on how good it is where I am.
21. Eat chicken wings if I want to
Everything in moderation; if I want to indulge in some f*cking chicken wings, I will do so. Life is too short.
22. Speak up for what I believe in
My voice is my most important tool.
23. Be more careful when it comes to "hooking up"
My former low self-esteem led me to some questionable decisions with questionable guys, but I’m ready to make healthier choices.
24. Keep looking for the beauty
Because, there’s beauty in even the ugliest things.
25. Live, laugh, love and learn
Simple as that.