A quarter-century of wisdom (take it or leave it)


The internet is obsessed with being twenty-something—in list form.

Especially when it comes to turning 25.

A few choice headlines from Thought Catalog:

“The 25 Scariest Things About Turning 25.” “25 Things A 25-Year-Old Should Do.” “25 Things Every Woman Should Have By The Time She Turns 25.” “21 Immature Dating Habits You Should Grow Out Of By 25.”

(Couldn’t the author of that last one think up four more immature dating habits to make the headline a tad more consistent?)

I, too, am particularly moved by the significance of turning 25. Partially because that’s how old I turned today. And because it’s how old my mom was when she had me. (Whoa.)

But I don’t feel compelled to tell my peers what they should be doing, as so many lists suggest. What gives me the right? I’m only 25.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot worth sharing, though. My crazy gray hair that won’t quit clearly indicates there is some wisdom to be gleaned from my quarter-century on this earth.

For example, I’ve learned (thankfully early on) that it’s more important to be smart than pretty. And that it’s even more important to be kind than smart.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no when it truly is right for you, but that sometimes, you need to say yes when it would be easier to say no.

I’ve learned the value of finding and honing your voice, both written and verbal. After about 20 years of writing, I truly feel at ease in a voice that belongs only to me, and that’s a beautiful gift. It’s a lot more challenging to be vocal off the page, but talking about the things I’m passionate about has helped me find my voice in other important ways. Like everything else, this takes practice, and I’m getting better at it.

I’ve learned not to struggle against the uncertainty of life, because what’s the point? I’d rather see the beauty in it. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, and I’m oddly excited by that.

And I’ve learned that there’s nothing “scary” about turning 25 (or 30 or 50), and that unsolicited advice about what you “should” do or be or have or aspire to is bullshit. Society tries so hard to tell us otherwise, and a lot of companies make a lot of money by doing it. But when I look at real people – the people I’ve grown up with, the people I’ve met and had a connection with and never saw again, and the people I hope to meet someday – I know that there is no such thing as the right or wrong way, but just our many, varied, flawed and beautiful ways of living our lives.

And no way of life worth striving for can be easily summed up in 25 bullet-pointed commandments.

So cheers to 25 and beyond – here’s to not having our shit figured out and being quite all right with that.

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  1. This was lovey. I hope you have a wonderful birthday! 🙂

  2. Yah! I love your words of wisdom. Have the happiest of birthdays!

  3. Happy Birthday! 25 is pretty great. I’m just six months older than you but I can at least say, so far so good. 🙂

  4. Happy Birthday Cassie!! 🙂 I’m 27 and definitely not intimidated by turning 30 in 3 years; my bf on the other hand, is turning 30 this coming Tuesday and is a little freaked out about it. I agree with all your life’s lessons especially saying yes when you may really want to say no – it kind of goes with the lesson of it’s better to be kind than smart. All things intertwine. If you’re growing and learning something every year, then you’re living life correctly. Have a great one Cassie and hope you celebrate BIG! -Iva

  5. You remind me so much of myself it’s scary. This is the kind of stuff I usually blog about, because I’m in the same boat regarding loving ourselves for being varied and flawed. Numbers are numbers and they were made up anyway. I’m turning 30 next year, and while many of my friends are freaking out, I’m super excited because I feel very comfortable closing the book on this chapter and starting a new. Cheers and happy birthday! 🙂

  6. Happy Birthday! Oh my gosh yes to all of this – as a college student, they try to force “what you should aspire to” down our throats night and day. Seminars, lectures, blogs, everything all pointing to pinpointing your future right here and now. As much I would love to be able to do this (see my “Painting the Perfect Picture” post!) it’s much better – and healthier! – to just let things happen as they may. You’re right – don’t fight the uncertainty of life!
    ~ Samantha

  7. I’m 32 and I still don’t have most of my sh** figured out.

  8. Hope you had a great birthday!

  9. Happy belated! What a beautiful and well written post! I think you have more of your sh!t figured out than you give yourself credit for. I celebrated my 25 (nearly 2 years ago) with a list of 25things I wanted to do before hitting the big 25, but it was my list, rather than one of the numerous ones you see lighting up your facebook feed as each of your friends hits that age. Hope your celebration of your birthday was great!

  10. Happy belated birthday 🙂 And amen to everything you’ve just said! To be honest, I am so so soooo sick of listicles, so this was great. I love all the points you made, and can definitely relate to all of them. The one about trying not to struggle against the uncertainties of life is the one I have the most difficulty with, but hopefully I’ll get there. I hope you can hold onto all this wisdom and strength and just continue to grow in your own way, on your own time. It’s definitely so easy to fall into a consumerist, self-deprecating trap when you’re in a vulnerable spot, especially when the whole ploys is to sell us things to make us “good enough”, etc.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Yeah, I have a love-hate relationship with listicles. I see the value in them if they’re truly helpful, but the clickbaityness (that’s a word now) of most of them makes me fall into a pit of writerly despair, hah.

      Struggling against uncertainty is the one I have the most trouble with, too, which is why it’s so important to remind myself that this is how it’s supposed to be right now and that there’s no point in fighting it. I think that’s probably where my crazy gray hair came from in the first place. 😉

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Amanda!

  11. Good lessons, great message. Happy belated!

  12. Happy Belated Birthday, Cassie! I loved this post and I totally agree with many of the sentiments you express! Happy quarter-century! 🙂

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