Today marks my 26th birthday. In the past 26 years, I've been fortunate. There is no doubt. The family I was born into, the friends I've made, the experiences I've had, the places I've traveled... I am lucky. I know that so well, and, though there are days when life overwhelms me to a scary point, this year, I vow to come back to this one thought: that this life is precious.

I thought I would challenge myself a bit to list 26 things that I've learned to be true about life. Many of which, it has taken every experience, good and bad, over the past 26 years to teach me. But I've learned it nonetheless.

  1. Life goes on.
  2. The dreams you dream will never come true without hard work and the courage to chase them.
  3. People are what matter most.
  4. So surround yourself with the people who accept you for you and love you for you.
  5. And dogs. The more dogs, the better.
  6. The smallest gesture can make someone's day.
  7. The unknown is exciting.
  8. Travel builds strength more than any other experience in the world.
  9. Life isn't fair. Move on.
  10. Wine. Wine cures all.
  11. Sometimes it's necessary to take a risk without having a plan in place.
  12. Savor the little things like slipping into clean sheets after a long day, the feel of a chilly sea breeze on your skin, the aroma of coffee in the morning, the way a dog lays his head in your lap. I'll stop myself before I can't.
  13. Trying new things keeps each day exciting.
  14. But there's something to be said for a good morning routine.
  15. Love isn't easy but it's so, so worth it. With just three months until our wedding, I've also been told the same about marriage.
  16. Don't take yourself so seriously.
  17. When it comes to going after what you want in life, don't let anything stop you.
  18. Get outside. Step away. Take a walk. Go for a swim. There's nothing like it.
  19. Be kind.
  20. Sleeping late is all sorts of wonderful, but there's something so special about those early morning hours when all the world is still. Wake up early whenever you can. Take your cup of coffee outside. Soak it all in.
  21. Health is always underestimated. Take care of your body.
  22. Finding your passion is important.
  23. There's no sadness that a cuddle and a kiss from a dog can't cure.
  24. Jealously is pointless. Don't wish for someone else's life. Don't compare. It's probably much more complicated than you think.
  25. Explore the world and stay curious.
  26. Love and be loved.