42: The Reverse of the Age I Started Getting My Shit Together. Here's What I've Learned Since Then.

--by Tori Rodriguez

   Left: Tori at 21-ish; Right: A lifetime later!

Left: Tori at 21-ish; Right: A lifetime later!

I wanted 21 to hurry so bad it literally hurt. I remember standing on a hill overlooking my favorite bar where my fake ID was no longer cutting it, thinking, “Just a few more months and I’ll be back!” I couldn’t have realized that my second 21st birthday would be far better, and for reasons bigger than bar access (though that is still a nice perk). What a difference a lifetime makes!

Here are some things I’ve learned since that first one, especially after I started getting my shit together in earnest around the age of 24 and eventually entered full-hustle mode. This is an unpolished list in no particular order, with some points more detailed than others. The list will evolve over the coming weeks and months as I flesh out some of the items and add more until I reach at least 42, so feel free to revisit later.

💩  No one has the key to getting one’s shit together… though it’s safe to say quitting binge drinking, binge eating, binge smoking–and most all types of bingeing–is a good start.

💩  When you get your shit together, you realize that other people generally don’t have theirs together like you thought they did.

💩  One can go surprisingly long without cleaning the house and still survive relatively unscathed. I mean… wow.

💩  Same goes for showering. Again… wow. Double wow.

💩  The ability to cheerfully and gratefully receive–and use!–constructive criticism is a skill worth developing. Yes, even if it’s not what you naturally feel at the moment. Most people would rather just move on to the next in line instead of taking the time and enduring the discomfort of telling you did wrong or what you might do differently–unless they know you’ll take it well and use it to make their job easier. It’s way better than wondering endlessly why your pitches aren’t being accepted or why you're not getting repeat assignments. Take the feedback, give a sincere thanks, and keep it in mind for next time.

💩  I can still pull an all-nighter. I can also feel my telomeres shortening when I do.

💩  Just being able to follow up and follow through will give you a major advantage–most people don’t do either.

💩  Nobody really knows what they’re doing when it comes right down to it. We are all guessing and experimenting. Even you. Even her. Even him. Even me.

💩  Fear can light a much-needed fire under your ass. It gets a bad rap, but it can be your friend. Just go with it.

💩  People are always searching for fancy fixes for their lives but often give little attention to the basics: eating and sleeping well, staying active, communicating clearly and loving lots.

💩  It’s bullshit that you shouldn’t care what other people think. Of course you should care–just don’t let it be your guide. I actually need at least one agent, publisher, editor, etc. to think my idea is worth pursuing. But see that’s the point: Get clear on who you need to think what. Don’t just go around with this vague sense that people need to like you or think you’re a good person. Who are “they” anyway? Pinpoint that and then one by one start figuring out why and if or how you can afford to not care what they think and whether that even needs to be a goal.

💩  Keep playing with ways to create space in your mind and life. That is the point of meditation, after all, and it doesn’t have to take place only when you’re seated and silent with your eyes closed.

💩  When you take the all-or-nothing approach, you often end up with the nothing part of the equation. Embrace the middle ground, shades of gray, moderation and so on.

💩  You really do need to stay for Savasana.