35 Lessons at 35

Photo of me on the beach on the day of my 35th Birthday! Shout out to the random stranger who snapped this shot for me!

Photo of me on the beach on the day of my 35th Birthday! Shout out to the random stranger who snapped this shot for me!

I just had the MOST EPIC 35th Birthday Celebration! I’m usually super low-key about my birthday but this year I decided to REALLY celebrate and thanks to my loved ones, I had an entire week to celebrate! Here is what I did:

(1) Went to dinner and attended a MeShell Ndegeocello Concert

(2) Went to see Rebirth Brass Band in Chicago, my favorite New Orleans Brass Band

(3) My bestie Jamila took me to see Erykah Badu and we had dinner

(4) My hubby got me a trip to San Diego to watch the blood moon lunar eclipse, and on my actual birthday, I had a Spa Day at Spa Kingston in San Diego. Cali also has the BEST crystal specimens I’ve ever seen and the prices are incredible so you KNOW I went Crystal & Bead Shopping!

Caption: I didn’t even realize there would be so much crystal stuff at Spa Kingston. When I walked in I knew I was in the right place. I picked them because they were listed on Conde Nast’s Top 10 Spas in San Diego.

Caption: I didn’t even realize there would be so much crystal stuff at Spa Kingston. When I walked in I knew I was in the right place. I picked them because they were listed on Conde Nast’s Top 10 Spas in San Diego.

My friends and family got me some beautiful gifts. More than anything I am grateful to have a dope group of friends, a healthy marriage and supportive husband and now more than I ever I truly feel fulfilled and look forward to waking up every day! But the point of this post was to share my 35 things I’ve learned. I think it is important to check in with self and more importantly to share our wisdom and our experiences because you never know who needs to hear something and who will be inspired by your words! I had every intention of publishing this on or before my birthday but that didn’t happen so here we go, in no particular order:

1. Notice those who are silent when you win, and loud when you lose.

People will tell you exactly what you need to know about them. Pay attention to their behavior and more specifically the patterns.

2. There are some people in my life who I never hear from unless they hear something bad or hear something in the news.

I am not interested in being connected to people who only reach out when they hear something bad or some gossip. I don’t feel like those people are genuinely interested in being connected to me, so I keep my distance.

3. The more people you have in your circle, the less energy you will have. 

Building genuine, meaningful relationships with people takes a lot of energy! It’s not even necessarily a bad thing but I want to be able to truly show up for my friends, devote time and energy to them and really show up for them when they need me. Because of that I keep a pretty small circle. I want to have friendships with a lot of depth.

4. What you do is not who you are.

Now when people ask me who I am, I focus more on my values and on the things that are not connected to my work. Identity is something that is fluid and that evolves over time. I never want to “lock” myself into an identity or into a corner that I can’t walk out of.

5. Use “pings” to make decisions about your relationship to people.

I always assume that people have good intentions until proven otherwise. When someone does something questionable or hurtful, I “ping” them, meaning I take a closer look, I’m paying more attention and based on their behavior or actions, I make decisions about what to do next.

6. There is no single person, place or thing who will give you everything that you need.

I love my husband deeply, but I do not expect him to give me everything that I need. I love my friends deeply but I don’t expect them to individually give me everything that I need. I love New Orleans with all of my heart, but I don’t romanticize and think that if I move to New Orleans, all of my problems will disappear. The only person who can give you everything that you need IS YOU! For those who are spiritual beings, your faith also plays a big role in your ability to full fulfilled. This year I really pried myself away from the “If Only” mindset. If only I had a new car. If only I had $10,000. If only I had friends that… If only (fill in the blank). At 35 I have truly learned to accept and embrace the now, the what’s in front of me. While I work toward certain things, I do not place the impossible burden of everything on any single being, experience or person. I also reject anyone trying to place that impossible and unfair burden of me being someone else’s everything. Variety is the spice of life! I have my scrapbooking boos, my magical boos, my business boos, like I build relationships and community around my different interests and truly feel like I have everything that I need that way.

7. All thoughts are not meant to be said. 

The filter is your friend! Everything that comes to your mind or to your heart is not meant to be said.

8. It’s ok to give yourself time to process before responding.

I used to allow people to pressure me into giving a response or making decisions. Now I just ask for more time and if someone can’t grant me that time, I pass.

9. New dreams are fragile. Be careful who you allow to handle them.

We get so excited about new dreams and new goals! New dreams and new goals are like babies in the NICU. You can’t expose them to every virus and every person out there! Be careful with them until they reach the point where they are strong enough to withstand being “out in public.”

10. You can find the answer to any question that you have. 

Google it. Visit the public library. Ask someone! If you are not comfortable with it yet, learn how to do effective research!

11. Ask the experts. 

I rarely do anything without consulting at least one expert. You do not have to move about blindly or in ignorance. You’d also be surprised to find out just how much information you have with people in your network.

12. Periodically look at the baggage you are carrying and make adjustments. Sometimes you can’t take flight because you’re carrying too much.

We all have baggage. Be sure that you are mindful of your own baggage so that your plane can take off.

13. Say less.

The older I get, the less explaining I feel compelled to do. My husband and I have adopted this saying. We just do and let our actions speak for themselves.

14. Sometimes the yo-yo won’t return to you… and that’s ok.

I remember learning how to yo-yo and the feeling of shock when sometimes the yo-yo wouldn’t bounce back up. There are some decisions and experiences that we have that are like that. What’s meant for you will return to you. What’s for you is for you.

15. Influencing people is much easier than trying to change them or their opinions.

I try to lead by example. We can try to talk people into things and out of things. We can give them advice. The best thing that you can do for others is to show them by your example.

16. Talk is not cheap, it is expensive.

Every time we speak we are casting a spell. Our motto at Spell Well is “What we speak comes looking for us.” Be mindful of your words. As Maya Angelou would say “taste your words.” They are POWERFUL magnets!

17. No matter what you do, people will have something to say so just do what you want to do.

This is also something that grows as I age. People are always going to talk, so you might as well just do what you want to do!

18. When you feel frustrated, angry or sad, allow yourself to feel the feels but also introduce yourself to the cause of those feels.

Anger, frustration and sadness are usually the by-product of another emotion. It’s kind of like the pimple that shows up after your poors are clogged, you’ve been eating poorly or you have some some of hormonal imbalance. Try to figure out what CAUSED the anger, frustration and sadness so that you can learn to let those emotions work for you and you can work with them.

19. Every action has a reaction. You don’t always have to be responsible for delivering the reaction.

When people do me wrong I don’t feel personally responsible for delivering their karmic lesson. I trust in the laws of the universe and know that what we put out comes back to us.

20. Cleanse your spirit as often as possible. 

Juvenile reminded us to “keep our body clean.” Don’t forget to clean your SPIRIT! You are collecting a lot of spiritual dust and dirt everyday. Every interaction that you have with another human being impacts your spirit. Everything you watch on TV. Everything you scroll past on your phone. It is important to regularly cleanse your spirit and to not wait until your spirit is so heavy, or so impacted that you hit a crisis. Spiritual cleansing should be a part of your daily routine whether life is good or life is challenging.

21. Create what you wish existed.

Stop waiting for someone else to do it and just do it.

22. Be the energy you wish to attract.

I am the type of wife that I want my husband to be. I am the type of friend that I want to have. I am the type of neighbor that I want to have. What does this look like in practice? When I’m at the grocery store I purchase things that I know that my husband likes, even if I don’t like them (ewww to those frozen chocolate bananas he loves lol). I send cards and pick up little trinkets for my friends all the time, not because I expect anything back but because I love the feeling of people giving me little things that they picked up for me. I love getting cards in the mail. When I pick up trash in front of my house, I often pick up half of the trash on my block even in front of the houses that don’t belong to me. In my experience I get what I put out.

23. Intuition is truly the sixth sense, don’t ignore it.

I never ignore my intuition. It is a data point for us! If my intuition is telling me something I tune in. It has helped me avoid so much trauma and heartache!

24. Shift your perspective from finding magic, to creating it.

I stopped looking for magic and now I create it.

25. Give the gift of your absence to people who abuse your presence.

When people abuse my kindness, my presence or the access they have to me, I don’t curse them out. I don’t put them on blast in public. I pick up my things and find the nearest exit out of their life! I know what I bring to the table and to the relationship. I also know that my presence is a gift. Your presence is a gift. Your attention is a gift. When you think about it that way, you won’t engage with people who don’t treat your presence and your attention as such.

26. Brows, nice jewelry and a great lip elevate any look.

These three things make me feel like I can conquer the WORLD!

27. Failure is the stepping stone to success.

One of these days I want to publish a book about all of the epic failures that lead to great things. Don’t be afraid to fail! When you fail, you just know what doesn’t work and can go back to the drawing board. Not saying the ego won’t be bruised but having the ability to try again with new information is a better position that just starting out fresh. Trust me!

28. Engaging with people on certain topics brings validity to their point of view. 

If you argue with a racist about why your humanity matters to a certain extent you are validating their point of view. Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t engage with people who have a different opinion, I am just saying to be wise about when and how you engage with those people. There are some people who all they do is argue and fight with people all day. Who has time for that? I know I don’t!

29. Argue in private. 

Arguing with anyone about anything in public is always going to have a different outcome than if you have the same argument in private. When I used to teach, if I had to address a behavioral issue, I would ask the student to step out into the hall with me. One on one was always different than if I addressed the issue in front of the entire class. When there is an audience the stakes are always super high and you get into this thing where people are performing for the audience (yourself included!).

30. Don’t generalize.

There is always an exception to the rule. Be careful using absolute terms like “All” and “Never.”

31. Identity as quickly as possible who makes the decisions.

The person who makes the decisions and who knows what’s truly going on is RARELY the person in charge or with the biggest title. A person’s assistant often knows more about what’s happening than the person. The person answering the phones and telling you to sign in, has more information that you can imagine. Don’t be so quick to build a connection with the boss or the “king.” There is always a king maker. There is always the person who promoted the boss or the person who the boss goes to, to get things done. Find those people!

32. You can never really know someone’s intentions.

Intentions are internal. They come from inside. For that reason you can never truly know what someone intends. There are also people who will misrepresent their intentions when confronted or asked about them. The best thing you can do is deal with how someone’s behavior made you feel or how you’d like for something to be solved. I also pray for discernment. I pray for strength. I pray that my words be coated with love.

33. Give people the same grace, compassion and empathy that you’d like to receive as they grow and evolve.

The 35 year old Donnie that you see before you is not the 25 year old Donnie that you may have met. What I consider “dumb” now is not what I considered “dumb” when I was 15. Allow people the same grace, compassion and empathy that you’d like to receive. You make mistakes. You didn’t always know what was appropriate. When people mess up, you have the opportunity to help them grow and evolve. I am not saying to accept abuse!!! I am saying that people weren’t raised like you were raised, don’t have the same value system that you have. There is a sort of dance that has to take place when we are dealing with people, especially people we claim to care about and to love.

34. You don’t HAVE to do anything.

Compulsion is the quickest way to get me to go ghost! Don’t ever allow people to make you feel like you have to do anything. I don’t care who they are!

35. Set intentions as often as you can.

Intentions are the radio stations that the universe listens to. Set those intentions so that the universe can deliver what you called for!

35.2 (for the 2 days that I’ve already been 35 lol) Manage expectations… yours and other peoples

When you make an agreement with another person, try to lay out your expectations and hear out their expectations. The more clear and specific you can get on both sides, the easier the relationship will be. You can’t get mad at people if you haven’t been clear about what you expect! Ask the hard questions up from so that you can save yourself the frustration, embarrassment and disappointment later.

The view from my hotel the Inn at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California.

The view from my hotel the Inn at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California.

Thank You For All Of the Love and Birthday Wishes! This last trip around the sun was amazing and I am so grateful that my bags are pack and I’ve taken off toward 36!

PersonalDonnie Smith