Advice to My 29-year-old Self

In The Atlantic‘s daily newsletter on June 28, 2023, writer Elaine Godfrey, nearing her 30th birthday asked for advice from newsletter readers. It was perfect timing for a response from me.

I’ve spent most of my life doing what I think I “should” do or what other people expect me to do. But when, thanks to COVID, I had to cancel a long-awaited European vacation and then lost my very toxic job, I decided to spend my travel fund on a journey inward instead. I’ve spent my time since primarily focused on healing and growth and getting to know myself. It has been the trip of a lifetime, and I only wish I’d done it earlier in life, before the situation became so fraught. 

Here are the questions she posed and my replies based on my personal journey:

“What advice would you like to go back and tell your 29-year-old self?”

Michele Rousseau Happy

  • Know your heart and follow it. Your life will never feel complete if you don’t. If something feels right to you, go for it no matter what anyone else thinks or what you hear your critics saying in your head. 
  • Know that there are lessons to be learned and gifts to receive from every challenge you face. Step back and look at the situation with compassion and alternative perspectives to find them. (It may still take a minute for those that are most challenging…)
  • Be AT LEAST AS kind and compassionate with yourself as you are with others, no matter what ‘wrong’ turns you may feel you’ve taken. If you say awful things to yourself, take them back and apologize just like you would with anyone else.
  • Be curious and compassionate as you move through life. You never know when and where you’ll encounter a gem that would have been easy to overlook.
  • Learn to forgive sooner than later. You don’t have to give anyone a pass for doing something hurtful, mean, destructive, etc., and you don’t even have to keep them in your life. But the sooner you let go of the hurt, anger, and/or resentment inside of you, the better you will feel and the better life will flow.

“What are the best books, articles, poems, or podcasts you might recommend to someone on the precipice of their 30s?” 

  1. Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff (I consider this practical, research-based book ‘required reading’ for people of any age. It made such a positive impact on my life that I became certified as a Happy for No Reason trainer late last year in hopes of helping others.) 
  2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (The movie starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem works too!)
  3. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I left her with the following wish, (which I also wish for you):

Have a wonderful celebration, filled with singing, dancing, good company, and much laughter (even if you’re by yourself — that hasn’t stopped me these last 3 years…)!

Certified Happy for No Reason Trainer

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