Today is my 33rd birthday.
A lot happened during year 32. I moved states, started a new job, took up CrossFit and then weightlifting, launched my 1:1 personal training and Strong By Sarah programs, traveled a bit, opened a barre studio…
I haven’t lived a lot, all things considered. God willing, I’m only a third of the way through my time on earth (I 100% intend to live to be 100). I know I’m going to learn infinitely more about life in my next 33 years, and even more in the 33 after that. That recognized, I was inspired by Taylor Swift’s 30 Things article for Elle to share 33 things I’ve learned in my first 33 years.
You can be strong and soft. In the past, I’ve struggled to reconcile my personality – outgoing and peppy, feminine and Southern – with my love of lifting heavy weights and working up a sweat. I’ve struggled, too, to explain that I love literature and baking, value my faith but believe in more new age philosophies too, love wine and whiskey in equal parts… Somewhere along the way, I’ve realized I can be both strong and soft, an avid reader and baker, a Christian and a believer in the laws of the universe, a wine and whiskey drinker. I define who I am and that’s powerful.
Sleep is really great. I used to operate on the “sleep is for the weak” principle. I’d stay up until 1AM watching Netflix or reading, then hop out of bed at 5AM to start my day of lifting, working, and teaching barre classes. Then I learned what actually happens to our bodies while we’re sleeping and how good it is for us. You’ll find me getting at least seven hours a night these days, working towards eight.
Travel is worth every penny. I’ve traveled a fair amount, but nowhere near enough. I plan to keep traveling. Traveling shows you how big our world is. It teaches you how others live. It exposes you to experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have. And above all else, it shows you that people are people, no matter where they are, what they look like, or what they believe in.
Friendships change – and that’s okay. Some friends are only meant for a season. Your best friend today might not be your best friend tomorrow. It’s okay to allow your friendships to shift and change. It’s okay to let go of friendships, too. You’ll always be able to identify your truest friends. They’re the ones worth your time.
You can say no. Wanting to do it all is admirable. It’s also exhausting. I used to say “yes” to everything. And I still say “yes” to a lot. But I also say “no” to things I don’t want to do, situations I don’t want to be a part of, and people I don’t want to spend time with. I’m a better, happier person for it.
Being kind is the best style. There’s absolutely no need to be a mean girl. You get a lot further in life by being kind. Be polite to the sales associate and the customer service rep. Ask your new co-worker to lunch. Hold doors. Help an elderly lady with her groceries. Pick up the toy a toddler threw from their mom’s cart. Smile at strangers. Kindness comes back to you tenfold – and even if it doesn’t, you’ll rest easy knowing you did your best.
Change happens – go with it. You can’t outrun change, so you may as well lean into it. Embrace it. Even seek it out. That saying “change happens outside of your comfort zone” is true. Change is always going to be scary and hard, but it’s a part of life. Don’t be afraid of it.
Boundaries are healthy, not selfish. I’ll bet there are people and/or situations in your life that suck the joy right out of it. Maybe it’s a toxic friend or family member. Maybe it’s a job that encroaches on your personal time. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish. It’s healthy. Don’t be afraid to use the above mentioned no and put those property markers in the ground.
Good skin care is worth the price tag. For my first three decades on this planet, I used drugstore skincare products with great success. Then, practically overnight, they stopped working. I invested in higher end products and my skin has never looked better. For the first time in years, I’m confident going out in public sans makeup.
Never get your eyebrows waxed at a nail salon. I let the nail tech at a salon convince me I needed my eyebrows waxed more than two years ago. He then more or less pulled them off in their entirety. I’m still growing them back and will only let the estheticians at Wax Poetic in Carrboro touch them now.
Your opinions don’t have to match everyone else’s. I used to be reserved about voicing my opinion, political or otherwise. I’ve learned over the years – or perhaps my confidence has grown – that you don’t have to agree with someone just to keep the peace. You’re entitled to your own opinions. But so are others, and that should be respected (even if they don’t respect yours).
You can block people on social media. How many people are you “friends” with on social media because you feel like unfollowing them would be rude? Unfriend them. Unfollow them. Block them if you need to. Clean up your feed and make it a happy place. I did just that earlier this year, and it improved my mental health more than I expected.
Health is a priority. You can eat well, exercise often, and drink all the water in the land, but sometimes, you just can’t outrun genetics – or life. My mom’s health issues in recent months have reminded me of this. Go to the doctor for check ups. Get second opinions. Be your own advocate. Your health is a priority – treat it as such.
Have a “signature” drink. My closest friends know I don’t care for beer, prefer a dry cabernet sauvignon, and will never turn down good whiskey. If I’m not in the mood for a glass of red, I’ll order an Old Fashion, every time.
Quality over quantity matters. Once upon a time, my closet was bursting at the seams with cheap clothes from big box stores and cheap online boutiques. I still have a few pieces from those stores, but I’m more likely to invest in a quality piece that will last a long time these days.. Like skincare, you can tell the difference.
Dogs are the best. I’m sure there’s at least one cat person reading this, but I have to inform you that dogs are just THE BEST. My dog, Knox, is obviously the very best one, but dogs are just next level. Companionship, loyalty, laughs…. And they tend to clean up the kitchen floor when you spill something. Get a dog. You’ll have zero regrets.
Being single is better than settling. A little known fact about me: I could be married right now. I’m obviously not. I’m going on first dates and having the occasional pouty moment where I wonder where, exactly, Mr. Right is hiding. I’m not married because I opted not to settle. While I want to be a wife and mother more than just about anything, I also won’t compromise who I am, what I’m looking for, and what I deserve.
Meal prep is the real MVP. Every Sunday night, I spend a couple to a few hours meal prepping. It keeps me on track nutritionally, but it also saves me so much time during the week. Being able to grab a pre-made meal for lunch on my way out the door in the mornings and then having dinner ready to heat up when I get home after a long day takes a lot of stress off the table.
Snail mail is still appreciated. My friends and I are surprisingly good at sending handwritten letters and cards. There isn’t much that lifts spirits quite like going to the mailbox and finding a note from a friend. Taking a few minutes and spending a few cents to let someone know I’m thinking about them the old fashion way is always a good idea.
Have a dish you can cook well. I’m a pretty solid cook, but whenever I’m having people over – or taking them dinner – I have a “go-to” meal: lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. I modify it to meet the crowd – gluten-free, vegetarian, etc., – but at the heart of it, it’s the same recipe and I know I can nail it every single time.
Put forth your best effort even when you don’t want to. There’s a lot I love about my “real” job in marketing, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn it’s not where my passion lies. Still, I show up and I give it my all because I believe you’re meant to work with your whole heart, no matter where your season of life has you, and I have enough pride in my work and respect for my coworkers to be all in. (Colossians 3:23)
Pay for a good cut and color. I’ve had some questionable haircuts and colors over the years, some my doing, some the outcome of a less skilled stylist. I learned the hard way (Dolly Parton blonde highlights and a Farrah Fawcett-like haircut my senior year of high school) that you get what you pay for. I happily shell out coins for a good cut and color by a quality stylist now. (I’m sensing a pattern of paying for quality….)
Do things you don’t want to do. A bit contradictory to my “say no” advice, but on occasion, do things you don’t want to do, because they’re probably things you should do. When I look at my day’s weightlifting programming or the CrossFit workout and don’t like what I see, I make myself go to the gym. I don’t like to run. I’m terrible at rope climbing. I try to avoid strict pressing like it’s my job. But I need to do those things to be a better athlete, and so I do. It proves to me that I can do hard things each and every time.
You can ask for help. I can be a little too “I can do it myself,” but owning a business has taught me a valuable lesson: you can ask for help, and people are likely more than willing to give it. Whether that’s asking my instructors to help with something at the studio or even hiring an accountant to do my taxes, help is available – all I have to do is ask for it.
Vacation time should be used. We live in a culture that glamorizes the hustle – work 24/7, crushing it at your “real” job while building an empire on the side. We also don’t earn nearly the vacation time as our counterparts across the pond. But the time we do have should be used and used in full, whether you go on a European adventure or take a long weekend to sit by your apartment complex pool. You need the mental break to re-charge and come back to do your best work.
Home changes. I spent this past weekend in my hometown. I had a great time visiting family and friends and returning to old haunts. But I also realized that Charlottesville isn’t “home” anymore. My hometown, yes, always, but it’s no longer where I belong. You can always go home, I suppose, but my definition of home has changed over the years – and I’d bet it will change again and again in the years to come.
Like attracts like. I believe in the Law of Attraction: like attracts like. Thoughts become things. I have too much evidence from my own life to believe otherwise. I try to line up my thoughts, intentions, and actions with what I want out of life and infuse them with gratitude for what I do have. It’s not always perfect, and it’s certainly not always as I thought it would be, but ultimately, things tend to work themselves out. I’m also a believer in synchronicities and the fact that there is no such thing as coincidences.
Coffee should be quality. Coffee is an essential part of my day. Once I had good coffee (in Nicaragua) I couldn’t go back. I buy the good stuff, grind my own beans, and have a nice coffee maker. My quiet mornings with a good (quality) cup of coffee are one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s a small moment of luxury in the midst of general life chaos.
Americans have it pretty damn good. This aligns with my stance on travel. We see a lot of negative on the news, and while America certainly has its glaring flaws, we have it damned good compared to most of the world. It’s hard to see that until you’ve been to a third world country or witnessed poverty up close, but life in the States? It’s not so bad.
So do women. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of work to do as it relates to women receiving the same opportunities and pay as men, let alone being believed when we say something happened to us. I am saying we still have it pretty good, both compared to 10 years ago and to other parts of the world. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we don’t have that we forget about what we DO have. Is there work for us to do? Yes. Have we come a long way? Absolutely. That’s worth acknowledging, if for no other reason than something to encourage us to keep pushing forward.
Intuition is real. Another odd fact about me? I have a sometimes alarming ability to “know” things. Not “predict the future” things, but just – know things. I trust my gut implicitly. I make most of my decisions based on what I feel is right. And you know what? I can’t recall a single time I’ve been wrong when trusting what my gut is telling me, even if it makes no sense at the time.
CrossFit won’t kill you. Back in the day, I was team “you’ll get hurt doing CrossFit.” Then, I educated myself, got certified as a personal trainer, started lifting weights, and realized CrossFit is safe, effective, and excellent training for day-to-day life. Anything we do has some level of danger to it. CrossFit is no different. But if done safely and with good coaching, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Which again, is generally a solid life lesson.
Naps mean more. Is there anything better than a nap in the middle of the day? I think not. I had early morning classes in college and got used to napping in the afternoons. It was glorious. Now that I’m an “adult,” I don’t get to take a lot of naps. When I do, those naps are glorious. Those midday naps just mean more.
There you have it.
33 things I’ve learned in 33 years.
Perhaps nothing exceptionally earth shattering for some of you, but some lessons are superficial (like high end skincare) and others are deeper, more personal, and not necessarily shared.
Here’s to 33, a year of love, happiness, abundance, and purpose.
And here’s to the next 33 years of lessons.