26 Things I've Learned in 26 Years

Which will inevitably make more apparent all that I don't know.

I turned 26 this month and it's been completely bewildering to me. It's amazing and it's confusing at the same time. How did we get here? I remember sitting on the school bus when I was 10 years old and day dreaming about what teenage and then young adult me would be like. I live on my own in the city in a proper adult apartment. I pay bills, bills, bills. I work in fashion. It's insane.

I usually keep my actual birthday pretty private. I don’t list it anywhere public like Facebook because I don’t need birthday wishes from fake friends taking up space on my wall. And the only plans I’ll make on my actual birthday will be with my boyfriend because I know I always get a little sentimental on my birthday and just very low energy.

So this past Saturday, I had my official birthday celebration with all my friends. I booked a private karaoke room at Orient Express, an insane train car turned Chinese restaurant/karaoke bar and the theme was 80s school dance (which was only chosen after I'd found the perfect birthday dress).


It was seriously the perfect birthday. I have a lot of separate friendships I've collected over the years and through different stages so it was really cool to see all those different friends in the same room and hitting it off.


All photos by the beautiful and brilliant Jasmine who has an incredible blog that you should definitely check out. I'm so grateful she had the good sense to take some photos because I'm always beating myself up after moments like these for never remember to whip my phone out.

Birthday outfit: Purple & gold polka dot dress, Silver metallic adidas superstars

This X Things I've Learned in X Years concept has been quite popular on YouTube the past couple years and something I've always wanted to do. It's kind of my version of things I would tell my younger self.


There's a scene in my all-time favorite film, the Disney Channel Original Movie, Wish Upon a Star that I think about all the time. Alexia Wheaton, played by Katherine Heigel is asked in her college admittance interview, "Do you have a role model, Alexia? She hesitates, smiles and replies, "My, uh, younger sister." The two interviewers look perplexed. Alexia adds "She believes in me." The interviews smile and you can tell she's nailing this interview now.

The reason I think about this a lot is because I feel the same way about my younger self. Everything I do, I do for Young Diana. She triumphed over a lot, with the belief that Adult Diana would live the life we'd dreamed about.

So here are 26 bite-sized things we've learned over the years. Many of which have been cobbled together from things I've learned listening to other people.

[1] If there's something about yourself you don't like, you can change it. Be the person you want to be to the extent that you can.

[2] Always be presentable. This doesn't mean putting on a full face to go to the grocery store, but if you are running out of the house for a quick errand, take a second to pull your hair into a pony if it's greasy and put on your outdoor leggings. You seriously don't know who you might run into. Your ex, the girl he's hooking up with, someone you want to work with in the future.

[3] Develop your core confidence. If the external things that bring you confidence (your appearance, your job, your belongings) are stripped away, you'll need core confidence to see you through. Similarly:

“Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
– C.S. Lewis

[4] Get a tailor. Everyone's body is so unique, once I realized I could get things tailored to fit my body perfectly, it completely changed the way I carried myself in my clothes.

[5] Grooming and wanting to look good for your partner is not anti-feminist or shallow. The maintenance of erotic desire is a sign of respect for your partner and the relationship.

[6] I no longer believe in absolutes. I don't like putting restrictions on myself (this is coming from someone who was vegan and pretty granola for three years). I'd say I still eat pretty plant-rich, and that works for me. And who's to say me owning like 10 makeup products where three of those may not be cruelty is any better or worse than someone who owns 50+ makeup products that are all cruelty free?

[7] Infidelity doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. I used to think that transgressions of betrayal were a dealbreaker. But, as I've gotten older, I've learned that it's a lot more complicated than that. It can be the inciting incident for growth and regeneration.

[8] First impressions aren’t made the moment you begin speaking to someone, they’re made as soon as you enter someone’s line of sight. So practice good posture! Carry yourself like you give a damn.

[9] Be a little kinder than you need to be. The way you make people feel matters. Who knows who's meant to come back into your life when. And try to exercise a little empathy for the mean woman on the bus. Maybe she got some really bad news that day. And maybe that's just all in your imagination, but it doesn't hurt to be kind.

[10] Annoyingly enough, everyone's been right about the benefits of exercise this whole time.

[11] Don't list your education at the top of your resume. Unless you've graduated in the last year, your education should go below your experience.

[12] No flake friends. Don't take it personally, but stop inviting them to things.

[13] Find your denim size. If a pair of jeans has at least 2% spandex or elastane, order one or two sizes down to avoid them getting saggy after every wear. If buying stiffer denim, buy your true waist size.

[14] Chronic UTIs? Take D-Mannose. About three years ago, I started getting horrible UTIs constantly. Like every two weeks. Sometimes less. Nothing worked and doctors didn't seem to give a shit. Finally, I found a message board forum that suggested taking D-Mannose, a natural sugar supplement and bacterial antiadherence. I'll be UTI-free for three years next month.

[15] Your major doesn't matter. Unless you’re going into something really specialized like nursing or engineering, it doesn’t really matter what you major in. So pick something you enjoy and that interests you. You’re there to learn how to be a person.

[16] Sports are actually really cool. I really do think it builds and reveals character. There's an amazing Urban Meyer quote I've been thinking about a lot:

"Football and sports teach you to do what? You're gonna get hit, get up. And the good thing in team sports, rarely do you have to get up by yourself. There's always a hand. Someone's gonna help ya."

[17] Popular kids aren’t the ones that are the best looking or the most outgoing, they’re the ones who like the most people. If only I'd realized this back in school.

[18] Make the first move. And I mean that for everything. Friendships, sexual encounters, romantic relationships. Have a crush on someone? Ask them out! Cool girl at work? Invite her to coffee or brunch.

[19] Remember when you wanted what you have now. Staying gracious is something I try, and sometimes struggle, to practice. In college, I lived in squalor compared to the places I've lived since, and at points was so broke I'd by one mega size bag of knockoff Lucky Charms cereal from Albertsons for like $3 and eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner for an entire week. When I think about that, everything I have and that I've built for myself seems incredulous.

[20] Don’t follow your passion, bring your passion with you. That's to say, don't stress yourself out about finding and blindly following your "one true passion." Find something you're good at and you enjoy and find passion in that.

[21] The same things that will get your ex back will also get you over your ex. I think a lot of times relationships devolve because (and I've been guilty of this) we get comfortable and stop doing the things that made us attractive to our partners in the first place. Take that dance class you've always wanted to take, hang out with your friends, explore new places. Just glow.

[22] Know your measurements. It makes online shopping so much easier.

[23] “The more you listen to your gut, the smarter it gets.”
– Phoebe Robinson

[24] You didn’t deserve your trauma, but it’s on you to figure out how to turn that tragedy into triumph.

[25] Comparison is the thief of joy. And creativity. If you treat everything work and creativity wise as a competition, it will breed an awful resentment and completely kill your creativity and hold you back from progress.

[26] In the face of a challenge, you can either break down or break open.
~ Joy Williams

Diana Le

Diana Le

Diana is the co-creator and Editor-in-Chief of Oatmeal Cardigan. She works as a copywriter by day and moonlights as a texting guru by night.