I just realized I’m turning 26 in 94 days (gasp!) and I feel old. I also realized that I’m at a point where the things I imagined what my life would be at 25 is not turning out the way I imagined it to be back when I was 20. I guess you could say my could-have-been of my life was so much better in all aspects compared to its reality.

But just like what Dory said, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” With that, I’m sharing you fifteen things I learned at 25.

1. Keep the toxic people out of your life. No, you don’t need that friend who only texts you when he needs something from you, an old flame who only keeps hurting you, a boss who treats you like crap and people who do not appreciate your worth. Because YOU are worth it. Surround yourself with people who love you and screw those who only make your life harder than it is. Let life be the only “bitch” you have to deal with.

2. Learn and try to live healthy. I have been to the emergency room twice this year and it’s not pretty. I’ve been trying to live a healthier lifestyle and I’m cutting out unhealthy food in my diet. It’s hard, I cheat every now and then, and I’m not too happy about it, but I guess that’s life. Haha! I need to learn to include exercises in my daily routine and I seriously don’t know how to start.

3. Never let stress get the better of you. When I was starting out in my media job, I always let stress ruin everything for me. Because of that, my skin always breaks out and I end up looking tired, uninspired, and well, stressed. Recently, I’ve had this mantra “Hindi ako magpapa-stress sa inyo, kayo ma-stress sakin.” system and it works. I still don’t know how do I do it, but life is happier and my skin is definitely clearer when I started believing that sentence above. I think it’s just a matter of knowing how to handle my job and knowing which stressful thing should I deal with first.

4. Do not burn bridges. Remember that line Sarah Geronimo uttered in one of her movies? She said, “I have connections, connections you don’t have.” Maintain connections with people you’ve met, especially in the industry you’re in. Believe me, they will come in handy one of these days.

5. Let people in your life. If you cut out people in your life, you also need to let some people in. Try to stop building walls around you. Not everyone is going to hurt you. Not every guy will turn out like your ex and not every stranger will whisper “holdap ‘to” in your ear. You’ll be surprised at how these people will make a difference in your life.

6. Take a little break every now and then. Do not take life seriously, after all, nobody gets out of it alive. Have a bite of that chocolate, a spontaneous getaway, a coffee break, a quick scroll on your Facebook timeline, or shop! Whatever it is you do that will keep your mind refreshed, do it. My father told me not to push myself if ideas seem like rain in a parched land. He said I should sleep on it, and when I wake up, ideas will flow like a dam releasing flood waters. Works. Parents know best. That whole “papunta ka pa lang, pabalik na ko” is a cliche for a reason.

7. Keep a core group, aside from your family and several friends you know you can count on when everything comes crashing down on you, you don’t need 600 other people in it. Life is not about having xxxx followers or xxxx Facebook friends. Know the difference between friends who are truly concern with what you are going through from friends who only want to fish out information or gossip from you. Another good thing that will come out of it is that you don’t need to buy too many Christmas presents. Kidding!

8. Dress accordingly. Even if people say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, nobody sees the good in people right away, let us accept the fact that people are visual in nature. They will judge you based on what you wear and how you carry yourself so make sure that you wear something appropriate to places that you are in. You don’t need branded clothes or be fashion-forward, but look decent enough that you are pleasing to the eyes.

9. Social media can make or break you. Aside from your peers judging you on how you present yourself on social media, most companies do that as well, especially if you’re on the hunt for a new job. So make sure to keep posts private, better yet, think before you click. Remember that there are lots of cyber bullies and trolls as well, so post only what you can say publicly in an actual conversation, off the internet.

10. It’s okay to be single even if everyone is asking you “Why?” When I was 12, I wanted to get married at 25, but now that I’m 25, I realized that I’m still far too young to go down that road. I still haven’t met the guy, I hope I will sooner, and I’m not stable in all -ally aspects (financially, physically, etc) but I guess I’m still okay being single than being in a relationship just because everybody is getting married, or getting pregnant. Not all of them is happy anyway.

11. Treat people the way you wanted to be treated. Life would be so much better if we all do, don’t you think so?

13. Make a lot of mistakes. How are you going to learn if you don’t?

14. Find happiness in the little things. Life is too short not to spend it the happiest way you can. People who can’t seem to find happiness are simply not looking. Be it a new shoes, a dress, a compliment, your kid’s smile, not arriving late at a meeting, a post-it of a good work, being with your family or friends, that mouthwatering cupcake or your favorite song suddenly coming on the radio. There are lots of things to be happy about. Find yours.

15. Stand up for what you believe in. The root of this entire post. I am at crossroads and the decisions I am making from here on out are going to make a mark in my life. And be happy with whatever the outcome of that decision is. You’re not always going to win, but at least you’re not going to have any “what ifs” in your life. The worst that could happen is that you fail and you still get something out of it: an experience of a lifetime.