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23 Things I Learned at 23

My birthday was last week, meaning that I am now 24 years old. Holy cow! For some reason 24 seems so much older than 23 to me. At 23, you’re probably just out of college and doing life on your own for the first time. At 24, you’ve been at it for a while and pretty much have a grasp on the whole “adulting” thing (hopefully.)

I got a little bit of a head start on it because I graduated at 21, but I definitely still feel like I learned a lot of lessons as a 23-year-old. These are the 23 things that I learned at 23:

1. Sticking to your commitments is important.

I totally used to be a flaky person. I would schedule a date with a friend or a creative meetup and then spend the time leading up to it praying that it would get cancelled. Part of it was definitely my anxiety getting the better of me, but it made me feel yucky inside, so this year I challenged myself to show up to 95% of the things I said yes to. That may seem like a pretty easy task, but those of you who know the relief that only cancelled plans can bring will know what I’m talking about. I only backed out of one commitment that I can remember and guess what? My friendships were strengthened, my business grew, and I felt a heck of a lot better! Go figure!

2. Know your worth, then add tax.

Charging your worth as a small business owner can be scary. It’s terrifying to give potential clients your rates when you worry that someone else out there might be able to do it cheaper than you. But the client isn’t looking for someone else! They want to work with you! And between self-employment taxes (yikes,) health insurance, and funding your own retirement plan, self-employed people have a lot more expenses than traditional employees. It’s so important to unapologetically charge what you’re worth so that you can continue to do your best work without being worried about all the other stuff.

Galentine's Day Photoshoot | Image by Shelly Borga, Edited by Megan Acuna

3. Cultivating female friendships is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a woman.

Real talk: making female friends is HARD. Especially once you’re out of school and if you don’t work in a traditional environment. After moving to Seattle I found myself pretty dang lonely, since all of my girlfriends were 1000+ miles way. I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to make some incredible friends through my YouTube channel and Instagram this year and I’m so excited to see how those friendships grow in the next year.

4. Life will never go according to your plan. Ever.

If you had asked me where I thought I would be now a year ago, I would’ve told you that I expected to be moving into a house right about now. How little I knew! When we found out I was pregnant all of the plans that we had for the future started to morph and change. We decided to stay in our little apartment for another year and move next Spring instead. (I’m secretly hoping to move back to California where there’s actual SUNLIGHT.) This little babe has been the sweetest surprise and I’m so excited to meet him. God’s plan was so much better than mine.

5. Exercise really does help your mental health.

When Matt found out that the health insurance plan through his work offered an incentive for walking 10,000 steps every day, we both went from being relatively inactive to hitting our step goals every single day. From there, I started running a few times a week, and by the Summer I was running and doing strength training exercises almost every weekday. My mental health, which I’ve struggled with for a long time, really flourished with all the extra endorphins. These days it’s a little harder to hit the gym, but I still try to go at least 3 times a week and it feels so good when I do!

6. I still don’t like yogurt. And that’s okay.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta accept your limitations. While I’d love to be the kind of person who wakes up at 6am and does yoga before having a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit in it every day, that’s just not who I am. Trying to wake up earlier than my normal circadian rhythm wants me to always results in my productivity for the day tanking. And honestly, I think yogurt is super gross. And that’s okay! Other peoples’ versions of productive and healthy can look different from mine, and they’re all valid.

7. Cooking and baking for friends is incredibly rewarding.

One of my 2019 new year’s resolutions was to try at least one new recipe every month. I DEFINITELY exceeded that goal, and sometimes made multiple new dishes in a week! I found a love for cooking and baking that I didn’t know I had, and it got so much sweeter when I started sharing my creations with others. I’m sure Matt’s office is sick of the baked goods I send in with him almost every week, but it makes me really happy to try to add some sweetness to someone else’s day.

8. Being on my phone too much makes me sad.

I still haven’t fixed the issue, but I’ve definitely recognized the problem. Scrolling on my phone makes me so anxious and bummed. I am straight up addicted to my phone and social media, and I really want to put boundaries in place to help me kick that to the curb. I’m thinking of charging my phone in another room at night and putting it away from 6-9 pm. Wish me luck!

9. The success of your life is not defined by how much money you make.

When I left my corporate job to freelance full-time, I took a huge pay cut. As my business grows, the disparity between my old salary and my new take-home pay is slowly shrinking, but I definitely still can’t compare the two. But I don’t even care! I am a much MUCH happier and more fulfilled person, a better wife, and a better friend because of my decision to do work that lights my heart on fire. Plus it means I’ll get to stay home with Baby A, which is really the best reward of all.

Pregnancy Photography | Image by Shella Borga, Edited by Megan Acuna

10. Pregnancy is really hard.

I always assumed I would have really easy pregnancies and love being pregnant just like my mom. While I know I definitely have it easier than a lot of women, especially in the morning sickness department during my first trimester, pregnancy has been no walk in the park. Between sleeping poorly, food aversions, round ligament pain, and CONSTANTLY peeing myself a little bit when I sneeze, it has honestly been kind of a rough ride so far. Right now I’m just trying to take it day by day and appreciate it as much as I can because I know this time is so special.

11. Keeping a planner is still 100% worth it even after college.

I am a total type-A personality and lists are my favorite thing, so when I bought the 52 Lists Planner I knew I was in for a treat. This planner is SO beautiful on the inside and helps keep my organized and focused on my real priorities. I especially love that it has space to designate your three most important tasks for the day and a place to write something you’re grateful for every day.

12. Spending money on healthy foods is always a good investment.

It can be so much cheaper to eat fast food and frozen processed crap, especially if you’re short on time. Making an effort to prioritize fresh fruits and veggies in our grocery budget has made me feel so much more healthy and energized. SO worth it.

Seattle Loft Photoshoot | Image by Shelly Borga, Edited by Megan Acuna

13. Keeping fresh flowers in the house is a must.

Especially when it’s grey and rainy outside (read: always in Seattle,) fresh flowers bring me so much joy every time I look at them. My current favorite is a bunch of chamomile, which runs $3.99 at Trader Joe’s and lasts for a full week or more!

14. Supporting small businesses is always worth the extra money.

Hype up your friends and their ideas. Shop small. Support local artists!!! It’s so cool!

Seattle Loft Photoshoot | Image by Kayley Driggers Photo, Edited by Megan Acuna

15. Stop waiting for the next thing in order to be happy.

“The next thing” will always turn into the next thing after that. Waiting until you hit a certain milestone or accomplishment is a recipe for feeling permanently unfulfilled. Be present and be happy where you are now!

16. Don’t read the comments. (Or at least don’t take them seriously.)

This one is self-explanatory. I have gotten some NASTY comments this year to the point where I’ve actually had Matt screening them for me at a few different points this year. At the end of the day I want to engage with my community as much as possible, so when someone has a problem I always assume that it’s more about what’s going on in their lives than what they’re seeing in mine.

17. Purchase quality over quantity.

We stopped buying “stop gap” furniture this year and focused on investing in pieces that we love and know that we’ll keep forever. Because we purchase so infrequently now, we actually save money even though we’re buying nicer items!

18. Setting boundaries protects your relationships.

Since we announced my pregnancy we’ve been hyper-conscious of what’s healthy for our family. I love our friends and family so much, so in order to protect our relationships and prevent any resentment from creeping in, I’ve had to set more boundaries with people. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable at first but it really does make the relationships better in the long run while also protecting our emotional health!

19. Cute workout clothes are a great motivator to actually work out.

When I feel good in my workout clothes I’m way more motivated to get ready and go on a run or hit the gym! Some of my favorite brands for cute, girly activewear are Mono B, Outdoor Voices, FP Movement, and Sweaty Betty.

20. An amazing secondhand find is WAY better than shopping fast fashion.

It’s SO satisfying to find the perfect piece that you’ve been searching for (especially when you know it’s more sustainable and it also saves you money!) Fast fashion is so tempting and I do cave occasionally, but most fast fashion pieces wear out so quickly. More importantly, a lot of big box retailers rely on unethical labor practices to meet the price points that fast fashion is famous for.

23 Things I Learned at 23

21. Farmer’s Markets are the most fun weekend activity ever.

There is nothing better than hitting up your local farmer’s market on a weekend morning. We usually buy some baked goods from one of the little stalls and sip on an iced coffee while we grab out weekly produce essentials. Again, shopping small rocks!!!

22. The sun should be enjoyed at every possible opportunity.

I really took the sunshine for granted when we lived in Southern California, but I definitely don’t now. We haven’t had a properly sunny day in months, but when we get little sun breaks throughout the day I always try to get myself outside no matter how cold it is. Gotta get that vitamin D3!

23. Being present is an art.

I am absolutely convinced that being present is the key to happiness. I’m really bad at it but am working to get better every day! It’s so hard to shut out worries about tomorrow’s to do list or what’s happening next week, but just enjoying the moment you’re in is its own kind of luxury.

Disclaimer: this post may include affiliate links, meaning that I make a small percentage of the purchase price (at no additional cost to you) if you order any of these items online! I promise to only recommend products I genuinely use and believe in. This post is not sponsored.


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