20 Lessons on Life, the Universe, and Everything.
I originally posted this on my now defunct organizing blog. When a younger friend turned 30, she asked if I had any life advice for her as she entered her new decade. She’s as lovely as can be so I of course obliged.
I updated that list and shared it on the old blog when I turned the number that is “the answer to life, the universe, and everything.”
This week, as I enter another year into my 40s, I’m resharing because these things are definitely helpful for performers too!
Note: In making this list I am by no means saying I have my shit together 100% of the time. I certainly don’t. I’ve also had to learn some of these lessons more than once (or twice...or 10 times...ahem). Sometimes we need to experience things a few times (or more) before really learning the lesson to the point that it sticks. Also, this list is by no means exhaustive. I'd love to hear what you'd add to it down in the comments below.
Without further ado, here are 20 lessons on life, the universe, and everything.
The 2-day hangover isn't an urban myth.
As we get older, the hangovers get worse. Thankfully Mexican food helps. Green smoothies do too.
(As does obviously not having “just one more” at the cast party...but in case you don’t, at least you know what’s coming.)
Take supreme care of yourself.
Everything they say about "it gets harder as you get older" is true. Any bad habits you may happen to have? Nip them in the bud now.
Drink too much? Eat lots of junky foods? Never work out? It catches up with you.
I didn't believe people when they told me, and now I'm working extra hard to combat the crap I did to myself when I was younger.
No matter what your starting place, start taking supreme care of yourself today.
This helps keep you life and performance ready.
Let go of the mental bullshit associated with your body.
When I was younger, I was intensely hard on myself. I never felt thin enough, strong enough, bendy enough. My waist wasn’t small enough.
(Though uncommon for most women, I did love my thighs.)
Granted, I was in the dance world for many years, and that can be a major mind-fuck. However, I also saw this in my friends who weren’t dancers.
The worst part? As I look back now, I was everything I wanted and more. I just didn’t realize or believe it.
Now as parts of my body randomly go out without warning and there are days when it feels like my body is betraying me, I know better and wish I'd been more appreciative, loving, and confident in my body when I was younger.
Stop "shoulding” on yourself.
Know what you want and feel secure enough in yourself to go for it. If it goes against the grain of what society tells you that you "should" want or "should" have, do it anyway.
We hear a LOT of “shoulds” in the performance world. But the best part about performance is that it’s PERSONAL. It ceases to be personal if you do too much of what you “should” when it doesn’t work for you.
So while you can take “shoulds” into consideration, don't "should" on yourself if it’s not right for you.
Fiercely guard your time.
Time is one of the only things in life that you can never get back. It's preciousAF. Don't allow anything on your calendar and to take up your time that isn't a "Hell Yes."
If you don't make decisions for your own time, others will make it for you. Don't let them.
Invest in good tweezers.
Also, make sure you have at least one friend who is honest enough to tell you when you have a stray chin hair that needs to be plucked. Bonus points if said friend will pluck it for you.
When people show you who they are, believe them.
If there is someone in your life who turns everything into a fight and will completely cut a friend out for no reason, they will most likely do it to you too.
Someone talks bad about all their friends behind their friends' backs? They'll talk about you behind yours.
Regularly don't keep commitments or plans? At a certain point that's not poor capabilities with a calendar. That's who they are.
The performing arts is full of enough drama on and off the stage, there’s no need to invite even more because you want someone to be different than who they are.
Believe who people really are, and decide if that's who and what you want in your life.
Pay attention to who supports vs. abandons you when the chips are down.
It's easy to support people when everything is going well. The real friends will support you when the shit hits the fan.
There’s oh-so-much rejection in the performing arts. We see “no” all the time.
Who will stick by you when you get a lot o’ nos in a row? Notice, cherish, support, and celebrate the hell out of them. Send everyone else to the outer circles of friendship.
Drop people who make you feel worse after interactions with them.
Doesn't matter how long you've known them. Doesn't matter if in the past they didn't make you feel bad. We all change over time and not always together.
If, on a regular basis, someone makes you feel worse after talking to or hanging out with them then they're no longer someone that needs to be in your life on a regular (or ever if/when possible) basis.
Something that started happening after I entered my 40s is that if I didn't dump them, they dumped themselves.
(Note: this doesn’t mean you should wait until they go away but rather that the break may inevitably happen anyway. The real surprise is when you don't miss those who you thought were your closest.)
If you can’t completely break free from them because family, work, or other significant obligation, at least take measures to mitigate their effects on your energy.
If they have a different point of view than you, try to shift your own perspective to one of curiosity rather than seeing them as antagonistic - at least for the time that you’re together. Plan something fun or space to do nothing at all after interacting with them.
Do whatever you need to do to not feel worse after you’ve interacted with them. (See above: Supreme self care.)
Be nice to retail and food service workers.
It should be a law that everyone must work retail and/or food service, and they must do it during the Christmas holiday season. You will learn how truly horrible people can be. It will also give you a new appreciation for how much work it takes to do those jobs.
Really, be nice to anyone in a customer service position unless they’re incredibly rude to you first. The mass general public can be REALLY hard to work with. Unless they’re just atrocious, cut them some slack.
And if they are atrocious, go over their head. Unless they’re management, they’re probably not getting paid enough to be yelled at - especially if they’ve only been given limited decision-making authority.
Personally, I’ve found that stern words - but not outright yelling - directed to someone in management or above go a LOT further than yelling at staff. A beautifully worded angry email to business owners and C-level Execs has produced great results before as well.
Trust in your intuition.
If you have a strong intuition, don't lose it. If you don't, develop it. Gut instincts are the best navigators for what to do and where to go in our life.
If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. If it does, go for it. Even when conventional wisdom says otherwise.
All things change and evolve. Stay curious. Keep learning. Ever evolve.
"The only thing that stays the same is change."
Over my years on this planet, especially as a teacher, I’ve noticed that when people get most angry or frustrated is when they don’t understand something and are closed off to learning about it.
Be open to new things. Accept change with excitement and curiosity rather than fear. Learn more about what you don’t understand. Google and an entire wealth of information is out there for you. Literally at your fingertips!
Life and the world are ever-growing and changing. Continue to grow, change, and evolve with it.
Learn how to handle the bad things gracefully.
Bad things will happen in life. It will suck. It may even unbelievably, horribly, full-body-brain-and-emotion-numbing suck. Learn how to handle it with grace. This will help you get past the bad things without being a full bundle of emotionally raw nerves.
Note: this is not to say that you must accept all bad things or go into full denial that the bad is happening, as that doesn't help either. Instead, learn how to take a step back, take a breath, and look at a situation with logic and reason vs. only raw negative emotion.
Although you should absolutely take that raw emotion and channel it into the proper places of performance. It can help you there, but not necessarily in the day-to-day.
If you break up more than once, let it stick.
If it's someone that will run when things get rough rather than work it out, that's not someone to be with.
If you're the one that runs when things go awry, see above to handling bad things with grace and believing people when they show you who they are.
Nobody knows what they're doing.
We're all just flying by the seat of our pants, hoping for the best. Some are better than others at looking like they know what they're doing, but that's set dressing.
If you're going forward and advancing in your life, then you often won't know what you're doing. Nobody else does either.
It's cool. Get comfy in the unknown.
A therapist friend once said, "Fuck feelings; do the work."
When I first heard this, it was SO FUCKING LIBERATING!!!!
Here’s the thing: Feelings feel real, but they're not reality.
I'm going to repeat that.
Feelings are real, but they aren't reality.
They’re gauges, but they're also fleeting. They can change like Texas Weather.
When we pay too much attention to our feelings, especially when they're negative, we end up in a downward spiral that leaves us feeling worse.
Spoiler alert: things probably aren't as bad as your feelings are telling you.
If you're having a problem and can’t see the way out, do something different. Get out of the space you’re in. Go find somewhere quiet.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s different. That’s the key.
There will be nothing new in your head to fix the problem while you're thinking about and doing the same things. Do something different. Make a positive change.
Use feelings as gauges to tell if you’re going in the right direction, but don't be ruled 100% by your feelings. And when you’re stuck, do something different, and watch how things can change.
Too many of us are afraid of failure. Don't be afraid of it. Failure is fabulous because it tells you want does and doesn't work.
Learn the lesson, and apply it moving forward.
Don’t read as many self-help books and articles.
Ironic that this one is in what is essentially a self-help list? Sure, and I'll own that.
Self-help articles and books can be truly helpful and life-changing. However, there’s a certain point where they can also make you feel shitty and/or not take any action.
Knowledge is fabulous. Knowledge is power.
But nothing will ever change without action, no matter how small.
Do the thing.
Dreaming and planning and thinking are great. However NOTHING will move you forward without action.
So often I hear from people, "How do I do X?" My response most of the time is "Do it." Seriously. Be like Nike and "just do it."
Most of the time we just need to take a little action, and you have to take action to build momentum.
What's the thing you want to do? Do it. Actually do it.
Do it right now.
Or at least take the first little step.
Always be your fabulous, beautiful self, and don’t let anyone or anything steal your sparkle.
Don’t dim your skills, talents, personality, or anything else to make others feel better.
Your people will love you for who you are - full strength.
If they don’t, they’re not your people.