Today, I celebrate my 26th birthday. Until last year, I was setting myself up to live Ben Franklin’s famous quote, “Most men die at 25 but aren’t buried until they’re 75.” When I was younger, I always said 25 would be my “prime”. But as I approached my 25th birthday, I began to realize that believing everything would be downhill after 25 was a self-fulfilling prophecy I had no intention of living out.

Turns out, 25 was indeed one of the best years of my life. It was filled with adventure, love, growth, challenges, and a relentless pursuit of purpose. This past year, I spent a lot of time reading, reflecting, and rewriting the scripts in my head—like shifting away from the belief that 25 was my peak. So now, as I turn 26, I want to share five lessons I learned from being 25:

Lesson 1: Let Go of the Past to Embrace the Present

You’ll never be happy if you’re stuck reliving the past. I found it tough to live a present different from the one I envisioned. Even when the present was making me happier, I struggled to accept it because it didn’t align with my perfect plan. Letting go of those past visions allowed me to see the amazing gifts of the present. Embracing the new opportunities that came from a different reality was transformative.

Lesson 2: Know What You Want and Why You Want It

In the latter half of 25, I started zooming out, seeing my life as a whole instead of just the next phase. This brought me peace and, more importantly, purpose. I dove into “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and spent two months writing and refining my personal mission statement. This process gave me a sense of direction, making me feel like I was taking action on my life, rather than letting life happen to me.

Lesson 3 : Struggle Can be Good 

It’s like going to the gym to grow in life. There were times I struggled over the past year, and it bothered me. Sometimes it was because I couldn’t figure something out or piece together a complex life problem. It always left me uneasy until I realized that struggling can be beneficial. It’s like working out different muscles in your mind, heart, and spirit, resulting in a stronger you. I just had to accept the challenge and embody perseverance and grit to grow instead of succumbing to the struggle.

Lesson 4: Travel is Money You Spend That Makes You Richer

Around 12 or 13, when I turned my focus to competitive golf, all my travel was for tournaments. This past year, my husband and I traveled just for the sake of exploring. We visited places we never thought we’d see, met incredible people, and witnessed different ways of living. These experiences broadened my perspective and filled me with gratitude.

Lesson 5: Be Okay with Being You

I’ve always been an old soul, something I struggled to accept. As the youngest of four, I often felt embarrassed that I related more to people older than me. But this past year, I realized that embracing your authentic self is essential for making a unique contribution to the world. Maybe it’s me getting older, but I’ve realized authenticity is key.

Being 25 taught me that the path to true fulfillment is rarely the one we meticulously plan but rather the one we embrace with open arms and an open mind. Twenty-five was not my prime because the best is always yet to come.

The Good Stuff

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald