Turning 26 on the 26th… what does that mean?

This last year alone, I’ve become more comfortable in my skin than I have in 26 years. I’ve learned that no matter how badly I want to plan exactly how my life will evolve (yes, it’s true, anticipating the unknown tends to heighten my anxiety at times), rolling with whatever comes my way is usually more fun and a lot more realistic. This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to strengthen friendships that are absolutely irreplaceable and find the courage to walk away from friends that were toxic and unhealthy. I’ve been blessed with a roommate that continues to empower me to stand up for what I believe. She’s taught me the importance of being straight forward about how I feel without shying away, no matter how I think someone will take it. She has taught me a lot about what it means to be strong.  I must say, I never knew my backbone existed quite like it does today.

In all that I’ve learned over the last year and moreso, the last 26 years… I wanted to share a few takeaways that helped mold me into the person I am today. Yet, everytime I began to write, it seemed my words sounded more cheesy and cliche than realistic to how I’ve been continually introduced to the world. That’s when I discovered a post from two years ago on the Thoughts & Reflection blog, 26 Reflections on Turning 26. As I read through I found myself chuckling and nodding in agreement at the truth behind each reflection listed. After reading all 26, I realized my words could not express these points better if I tried, so I wanted to share with you Jae Jin’s words of reflection. Don’t forget to tell me how they compare to your life reflection! Enjoy!
26 Reflections on Turning 26

1. No Free Lunch. Don’t believe anyone when they tell you, at age 21, that you’re an adult. That’s bullsh*t. Especially in this day and age. At age 26, you still aren’t an adult, but you’re darn sure expected to be one. No asking for or borrowing money from your parents. No excuse paying your bills in an untimely manner. No staying out late/drinking on a weekday night, with work the next morning. No unemployment(unless you are in a graduate school well on your way to being one of the Asian “3″: Doctor/Lawyer/Businessman). No moving back home. You’ve gotta be a grown-up.

2. No Looking Forward to Specific Ages as they relate to Laws. At age 18, if you were into lung abuse, you could buy cigarettes. You could also legally buy pornography, which also proved you were from the stone age and hadn’t heard of something called the Internet. At age 21, you could finally buy/drink alcohol. If you ended up going to college, chances were that aside from studies, you also were taught and socially encouraged to break this law often. Then just last year, I was elated to find that I could legally rent a car on my own… and then ZipCar got really big.

3. Employment Equals Social Status, not Money. Thankfully my $160,000 education from a prestigious University didn’t go toward flipping burgers at McDonalds, but by age 26, your job has to be more than a job.  Many of my peers were part of the unfortunate group that graduated with the economical instability, and many worthy candidates, were left jobless. That didn’t stop people from finding tutoring jobs, or going off to other countries to teach English making $50,000+ a year(i’m sorry, but I REALLY loathe this. But that can be a topic for a future post). Nevertheless, you get this sort of grace period to find a steady job, and by 26, you hope that you can confidently answer the very first, often asked question posed by individuals of your same age or older when first meeting them.

4. The Idea of Sports–both played and watched– Changes. You realize it the day after an intense basketball game on the courts. Your body is sore. I’m not talking about the good type of sore normally coming after a great workout. I’m talking about the Oh-crap-you’re-getting-older-and-your-body-is-now-starting-to-break-down-a-little-bit-each-year-for-the-rest-of-your-life kind of sore. I suppose all that was to be expected, but then even watching sports completely changes. Just last week, I was at a sports bar with friends, watching Lebron James play against the Orlando Magic. He rose up through the air and dunked on on some 6’6 opponent. This is a guy you look up to and idolize right? Wrong. Lebron James is younger than I am. This SEEMS wrong because he sure as hell doesn’t LOOK younger than me. Don’t even get me started on Greg Oden and how old HE looks… ((google search him, if you don’t know who he is.))

5. What The Heck Is My Dad Listening To? By 26, you are most likely listening to a few of those bands that your parents listened to. Growing up, I would tease my stepfather about Pink Floyd. I mean come on… sounds like a girly band. I would hear Michael Jackson on our stereo at home and i swore it was a girl singing. Fast forward 15 years, and I already consider Michael Jackson one of my biggest musical influences, and I’m starting to listen to more and more music that I used to make fun of my parents about. It’s even almost endearing to be able to share a musical taste with one of your parents. Something about sitting in a car and having a song come on the radio, that both of you actually like. Neither of you hits the change channel button. You quietly just bob your head, and have a nice family conversation(without the words.)

6. You Really Aren’t All That. With the rising of your age, coupled with the rise of Youtube, you realize that you really aren’t all that talented. I like to sing. Who cares? There’s some random 7 year old that just belted the same song you tend to audition with, and SHE blew your version out of the water. People think I can play the piano a little bit. Who cares? There’s that Chinese guy that plays with his feet only. Forget talents… even everyday things! Can you clap? Have you ever given a round of applause?  Yeah? But can you clap 14 times in one second?

7. Rest>>>Good Time Feel free to replace the “greater than” symbol with an “equal” symbol if you want. They’re really interchangeable by the time you’re 26. Halloween recently went by. One week prior, I had about 3-4 invites to parties or “Halloween events.” We had 3 (I REPEAT, THREE!!) nights/opportunities to celebrate Halloween during that weekend. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Let’s see. Friday night, cleaned my place and slept early. Saturday night, went for a nice run and slept early. Sunday night, cooked and got ready for the work week. If we had a 2nd Halloween this coming weekend, i’d probably do the very same thing. Sigh…

8. How Old Are You? If you were to ask a bunch of strangers how old they think you were, you would get a graphed plot so scattered that you could connect the dots and draw the Cool-Aid man. Seriously, I’ve gotten anywhere from College Freshman to Ahjuhshi (Korean word: 아저씨 which is something you call a guy who seems A LOT older than you). It’s also a nagging reminder that you’re just some random faceless person born sometime in the 80s. You don’t really fit in. Kinda like this:

9. You Will Stop At No End to Stay Youthful. You remember that time you hung out with your friends at the sports card store and were talking to each other about how great of a QB Troy Aikman was? And then that weird creepy 26 year old dude came in, and asked you guys, “How about that Roger Staubach? Great QB, am I right?” And then you and your friends looked at each other and walked over to the basketball card table? Well you are now that guy. Only 4 years ago, you were 4 years removed from high school, getting ready to finish college, and still knew the pop culture, fashion trends, and cool shows on TV. Now, you’re 8 years removed from HS and clueless. Maybe being clueless isn’t SO bad. As a male, you refuse to start watching Glee, no matter what all the media/girls/gay guy friends say about it. Note: Apologies to all you straight fellas who watch it. I don’t judge… but yes, others do ;)

10. After 26 Years, You Still Pretty Much Look The Same. For a large majority of individuals, you can look at their baby pictures and people pretty much look the same, minus the horrible clothes your mother used to dress you up in. Even then, in the end, things don’t change much… including maturity level.

11. Not Everyone Is Going To Like You. I think that one of the key lessons people learn as they grow up, is to master the hard task of figuring out how to not worry about what others think. In the end, It’s extremely hard. Almost impossible. But when you can let go of holding expectations of others, and just meet everyone else where they’re at. You can only hope to be yourself, and those that matter, will meet you where you’re at too.

12. The Truth About Females. They always say that females mature faster than males. At age 26, I am not going to act like I’ve figured out females. Most can’t even figure each other out. But what I have come to respect about the opposite sex, is that for all the things about women that men complain about , they generally all tend to be good at knowing what they want.

13. Independence Feels Good. At age 26, you’ve had 4 years(that’s the same number of years most people spend in college) to grow out of your collegiate ways and learn(struggle) to take care of yourself. But when I look back at this past year, I realize I’ve been paying my rent on my own for years. I’ve been doing my own taxes, paying all my bills, paying medical bills, scheduling/making appointments… i mean, I’m completely self-reliant. It’s not easy, but it’s a good feeling. I remember once reading that if a man finds no satisfaction in himself, he seeks for it in vain elsewhere. So basically, if you want to set up an equation for adulthood, it’s pretty simple:  self-discipline + self-reliance = adulthood. And then once you figure out how to balance the two and develop each, that would be maturity.

14. It Only Gets Harder to Make New Friends. This is a pretty key reflection up to this point in my life. As you get older, it’s going to be tough to make new close friends. I’m not just talking about meeting new people. If you can bring yourself to make an effort to go out, you’ll meet new people. I ride a charter bus to get to work every day, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting new people quite often. That being said, the friends I’ve kept through the years, are few yet as I get older, I’m more intentional about “keeping” them. I realize that as life gets busier, it’s easy to lose touch. It’s easy to let days, weeks, months go by. It’s a reality: Work and family obligations keep individuals very busy these days. But go out of your way to make it a point to set up times to talk. Don’t just email or text message. Make it a point to just go out of your way to drop in on someone’s life randomly and let them know that something reminded you of them. Doing this can seriously make a person’s day and it’s quite lasting. Relationships take effort. It’s common sense. Oh, one more thing. People come and go in your life, and some come back. Accept them with open arms. On your end, be willing to swallow your pride and let bygones be bygones. Life’s too short to hold onto grudges.

15. Never Settle. At 26, I’ve learned an important lesson that actually extends in numerous ways. Never settle. Not in relationships. Not in a job. Not in your current state, whatever that may be. Basically, never.

16. Reading. As I’ve said many times before in this blog, reading is vitally important. As I look back at the last 26 years of life, I wish I could go back to my youth when I could literally get lost in books. While many would say that technology like Kindles make reading easier, it just makes reading turn into an ADD activity. Too often, I hear from Kindle/iPhone Books users who say they bought  a book, got through a little, and then stopped. Much of that is due to this fast paced lifestyle of reading bits and pieces at a time on public transportation or waiting for an appointment. What I’ve learned, in coming across many successful individuals, is that anyone who has been successful in anything was a big reader.

17. Money Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think. The biggest thing I’ve learned by age 26 regarding money, is that you REALLY don’t need all that much to live comfortably and happily. I’d guesstimate that you may not need all that much more than 35k or 40k to do so. I firmly believe the strong correlation that the more you make, the more you spend. It’s often true. Our culture subliminally sends this message. In the end, money isn’t everything. Even cars. Even if you drive a crazy nice car, honestly the novelty of it rubs off pretty quickly, and you’re left wanting something better or different. Money is just like that. The more you have, the more you want. And in the end, you don’t even need all that much to be happy and content.

18. By Helping Others Get/Do What They WantYou Somehow Will Get What You Want(…Even If You Don’t Necessarily Know That You Want It At That Time). This is pretty self explanatory, but in my short 26 years of life, this is a truth that I’ve found.

19. Change Your Mindset To Reflect This: Value, Not Cost. Economics aside, in the end, it’s really about the value of things, rather than cost. I have an odd system where I’ll be frugal about certain things, and less frugal about others. It’s all about value, and lucky for you, just like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder.

20. At 26, Changing The World. You grow up hearing things like “YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!” or Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Thus far, what I’ve found is that the world is in your head. It’s what you make of it, or how you see it. And in that sense, you can indeed change the world. I know this sounds cliche, but in believing in yourself, that first key step leads to changes, that ironically do start to change those around you… and in turn, changes the environment you live in(i.e. the world.)

21. Give Thanks. One of the most useful lessons  in life, I learned when I was young. When my stepfather was growing up as the eldest of 4 boys, his father taught him an important lesson, which in turn was passed down to me. Every Christmas morning, they would open their gifts, but before they were allowed to play with their toys, they were ordered to sit at the dining room table, and write out thank you cards to every individual that gave them a gift. My stepfather passed this down to me, and went even further, by stating that if any kind act was done, whether it was someone buying me food or giving me a ride, I was to make sure to sit down at a table in my house that same day, and write/send a thank you card. Not an email. Not a text message. But a good old-fashioned thank you card.

22. The Art of Letting Go. In turning 26, I’ve had the (mis)fortune of experiencing many things. Loving, being loved, getting hurt, hurting others, etc. From all of these things, I’m slowly learning the art of letting go. Sometimes, life’s just easier that way. You let go of things. Sometimes they’ll come back. Sometimes they won’t because better things are on their way. Sometimes people are placed in your life for a specific amount of time. But you aren’t God so you really can’t see the big picture. All you do is learn to let go, and move forward looking forward.

23. “Find Something You’re Good At, And Get Someone To Pay You To Do It.” I’m pretty sure all of you have maybe heard this quote, but if you haven’t, it’s probably one of the most commonsensical yet genius things I’ve ever heard. I’ve allowed this to guide me in some way or fashion to the creative endeavors I pursue in music, writing, and other things in life. I’m still young, but it’s starting to pay off.

24. It’s Okay To Be Extreme. I’ve learned that I’m a pretty “extreme” sort of guy. In the sense that I’m always on the extremes. If I like something, I really like it. If I don’t, I really don’t. Same goes for things i’m passionate about. I’m not sure it’s a good thing. But it’s who I am. You are who you are. You can be who you are. And that’s always okay.

25. Birthday Excitement Has An Inverse Relationship with Age. Birthdays were so much better when you were a little kid. You could get together with your buddies and have a sleep over, sneaking out at night to walk 5 miles to the 7-11 to eat those Neon Yellow-colored nachos and slurpees. You could blow out candles on a birthday cake. Although you know there was always that one birthday kid, whose birthday party you went to, and he/she ALWAYS spit all over the damn cake while blowing out candles.

26. “All The World Is Birthday Cake, So Take A Piece, But Not Too Much.” In my short 26 years of life, I’ve also learned the importance of everything in moderation. It’s all about balance. In the end, we all want it, and move toward it. Sometimes we fall, but then we get back up and recorrect ourselves. That’s the beauty of the human spirit. I’m not sure what the next year holds for me, but I know that it’ll be good in the big picture of things. They always say that in leadership, you can never go wrong leaving the listeners(or readers) with an Abraham Lincoln quote so here goes:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

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