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risa xu 25 birthday gold balloons
Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

I don't usually like posting so often – it unsettles my OCD when the dates between two blog posts aren't exactly within 7-10 days of each other. But in the spirit of celebrating a quarter of a century (and piggy-backing off of my "Dear Little Me," post) I wanted to sum up 25 of my 'lessons learned' in the last 25 years. 

Without further ado... 

1. Take scary chances.

Whenever people ask me what was one of the best decisions I made, I always say, it was leaving home when I decided to. Whether you take that in the context of me traveling to Tokyo for 3 months on my own shortly after turning 18 or moving away across the country to Boston for college shortly after returning from Japan.

While making the decision to be shoved completely out of my comfort zone away from my friends and family was extremely difficult, even if I could go back and change things, I wouldn't. Without my adventures in Tokyo and Boston, I wouldn't be the person I am or be where I am today.

"Baby" Risa – May 28, 2010 - Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

"Baby" Risa – May 28, 2010 - Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

2. Don't be afraid to speak up or speak out.

Growing up, I was often told “枪打出头鸟” (which translates to: "The gun aims for the leading bird") and, well, while I tried to listen and be this way, this wasn't in my nature. The older I became, the more vocal I became.

The story I always share about speaking up is when I was interviewing for my first job, Apple. At a whopping 15 and 3/4 years old, I was one of the youngest to ever be hired by Apple Retail. I wasn't actually allowed to start working until after I turned 16. I also had a work permit that dictated how many hours I could work and that I had to be clocked out by 9PM. But that's besides the point. My story about speaking up was during the interview process. It was a group interview and the manager asked the table one of those "I know you don't know policy, but how would you handle this situation?"

No one spoke up. Not. One. Person. I was at a table with people in their 20's and 30's with more experience than me and no one spoke up. So, I did. I prefaced the answer with "I don't know policy but..." and when I was finished, the manager asked what everyone thought of my answer. Almost in unison, everyone agreed and we moved on to the next question since no one else had an answer. I was brought back for more interviews and eventually landed the job. Lesson learned.

3. Stay weird.

I touched on this recently in my previous blog post so I won't take up your time or space on this one. But check out "Dear Little Me," for my  letter to my younger self on staying weird. 

Dress: Tobi | Shoes: Jimmy Choo (Similar Style) | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

Dress: Tobi | Shoes: Jimmy Choo (Similar Style) | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

4. Learn to love your mistakes.

I genuinely believe that your mistakes don't define you, how you get through them and learn from them does. Mistakes are sometimes a blessing in disguise; without them, you would never know what you didn't know before it! As long as you've taken what you can from a mistake and learned from it, it's time to move on. Don't continue to dwell. (I know this is rich, coming from a chronic ruminator but I promise, I'm working on it.)

5. Keep your culture...

... but also be open to new ideas, new thoughts, and new ways of life. Another topic you'll see me frequently talking about on social media and here as of late is my culture and growing closer to my roots. If you want to read more about my thoughts on this, take a peek here and here.

Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

6. You are LITERALLY your own worst enemy.

And you should stop being so hard on yourself RIGHT NOW. I still have a hard time accepting compliments so, shit, like I'm one to talk right? But I've been working on it. And I've been encouraging one of my best friends to work on it too. If we weren't so damn hard on ourselves and would get out of our own way, do you know the things we could accomplish? 

7. You are capable of ANYTHING you set your mind to.

Need proof? In 2014, I ran six miles for the first time. In 2015, I ran the New York City Marathon. And no, I don't mean a half marathon or a 5K – I ran the full 26-point-f*cking-2 miles. After finishing after dark, after spending 6 hours 32 minutes and 11 seconds running through all five boroughs of New York, after hobbling home from the finish line and hobbling to work two days after, I still felt like a beast because no matter what happens in life now, I know that setting my mind on that finish line? I can accomplish it. And no one can take accomplishments like this away from me. 

8. Kids of divorced parents: It's not your fault. 

It's not your fault. It isn't your fault. It never was your fault. It will never be your fault. End of story.

9. If you can't love, then at least, accept your imperfections.

Instagram filters aren't real. You can't blur out a blemish in real life. And you can't live your life like a social media feed.

Life isn't perfect. I've learned to accept that some days, I have a flat tummy and other days I look like I ate 50 croissants (which is totally a likely scenario if they're from Maison Kayser.)

10. Commit. Commit. Commit.

That Equinox slogan, "Commit to something." has stuck with me ever since I saw it the first time. Whether this is in my professional career or my personal life, committing to something and seeing it through is incredibly important. I feel that in my professional life, this is how I've become known to be trustworthy and reliable. I see everything through to the end – whether or not I want to and whether or not the outcome is going to be the one I want. 

Dress: Tobi | Shoes: Jimmy Choo (Similar Style) | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

Dress: Tobi | Shoes: Jimmy Choo (Similar Style) | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

11. You can't hurry love.

Like The Supremes said:

But mama said
You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take

You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
You got to trust, give it time
No matter how long it takes

Yes, I know how cheesy this sounds but after countless long-term relationships, I've decided that this little piece of this song rings so true. Trying to force things to fit into your timeline is soooo stressful and will cause you such unhappiness. So chill and let things happen on their natural course.

12. Relationships are hard.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Fiancé and I seem super happy and never in any turmoil but that's just outward appearances. The truth is, every couple fights. But how you handle those fights is where the strength of your relationship is tested. Whenever we fight, it never gets to the point of where we're screaming and yelling at each other (lookin' at you, Neighbors Upstairs) and we never say nasty things, no matter how angry we get. Which brings me to... 

13. Don't air your dirty laundry.

I LOVE social media. I mean, I work in it. I love it. But come on! You don't need to share your arguments, break-ups, indiscretions, tiffs, etc. on social media! If you want to share it with close family and friends, you can make groups of "Close Friends" on Facebook and have posts only show to them. But your entire friends list with Bob from middle school and Sasha who works in accounting doesn't need to know your business. Keep those things to yourselves for healthy relationships. 

14. It's okay to change.

"When people tell you you've changed, it's only because you stopped acting the way they want you to act."

I believe in that quote wholeheartedly. To be honest, losing friends hurts. It does. And don't let anyone tell you any different. But at some point, I want you to remember, that change is okay. Not being the same person you were a year ago is okay. As long as you're not purposely hurting someone else and you're living life the way that you want to, it is okay. And, again, don't let anyone tell you any different. 

15. Don't be afraid to fall in love.

Love can really hurt sometimes but don't be afraid of it. I've learned that even the worst relationships can still carry happy memories. As Babe Ruth once said, "Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

Dress: Tobi | Jewelry & Watch: Hermes | Balloons: Balloon Kings

16. Hustle!

My mentor is a hustler. And I mean it in the sense this woman has worked AND works jobs that are beneath her. And she's not ashamed of it. Because she f*cking works for everything in her life.

When I first moved to NYC and was unemployed for a whopping five months and was starting to panic about the quicksand feeling of the end of my Sallie Mae grace period, every time I spoke to her, she would remind that she worked at Starbucks when she finished grad school. I made the decision that if I didn't secure a job within a month, I'd start looking into retail jobs again. 

Because you hustle when you need to.

17. "You can sleep when you're dead" is stupid.

So on that note, hustling is different than not sleeping and not taking care of your body.

I sleep A LOT. Like, really, a lot. If you let me sleep all day, I would. I hate that we, as a society, have taught our little ones that we have to sacrifice our health to get ahead. You only get one life and one body – don't push so hard that there's no coming back. 

18. There's nothing wrong with the Disney Princess Effect.

When I read the headline "Working Young, Bubbly & Female: The Disney Princess Effect," you know I had to click it.

What surprised me about the article was that I realized that this was who I was and yes, I have been made fun of and treated differently because I'm (as the author also self-describes) "feminine-presenting, cis-gender female with a sunny, optimistic disposition" and I am also always younger than most of my colleagues and tend to use phrases and terms that require additional explanation. 

Felicia Fitzpatrick does an excellent job giving some tips on how to be taken more seriously if you also identify as a "Disney Princess." I mean, we're all Disney Princesses in some way right?

PS: If you haven't taken a peek at the Disney Princess Instagram, you're missing out on some major inspiration.

19. Make yourself a priority.

Too often, I put others before myself. My friends always say that if you need me for something, I will do everything in my power to help. While this is a beautiful trait to have, there have been times where I've put myself into positions that I didn't want to be and oftentimes, I feel emotional burnout.

Make sure to always make time for yourself and make your own feelings and emotions a priority. You can't care for others just like you can't pour from an empty cup. 

20. Little things matter.

A hand written card for a birthday or a holiday can mean so much more than just a Facebook wall post. We've gotten so lazy now thanks to smart phones and social media that we forget to simply reach out to people. The older I get, the farther my best friends have become. There's one in Boston, one in Vegas, one in California – it's crazy! But every year on birthdays and special holidays, we never fail to exchange gifts – even if they are a day or two late.

I also always make it a point to write a 'thank you' card for gifts we receive. I even printed a bunch of cards with my finish line image from the New York City Marathon to thank everyone who supported my fundraising. 

It's so important to remember that taking time out of your day can make someone else's day.

risa xu minnie tsum tsum 2017 birthday

21. Let your inner child stay and play.

I know this is a bit funny considering I'm an adult who enjoys vacationing at Walt Disney World but I think that at some point, we all stop believing in fairy tales and happy endings – and I think that's the worst thing you can do to yourself, especially if you work in a creative industry. Rather than stifling my inner child because of the fear of not being taken seriously or being told to "grow up," I've let my inner child flourish and inspire me to keep creating. Our inner child is never really gone; it just takes a bit of convincing to bring them back out front and center, even if it's for a little while. 

22. Be present.

The most sacred thing in this day and age is attention. Our attention span is about 8 seconds now and holy shit, isn't that ridiculous?! This year, I made a resolution and a conscious decision to be more present. This is extremely hard for me considering what I do for a living, but I am making an effort. Life is short and people aren't around forever so make the best of the time you do have.

23. Always be learning.

Even after I've graduated college, I've never stopped learning – in the professional sense and in the personal sense.

Recently, I went to Strand for the first time (I know – TRAVESTY!) and I never wanted to leave. And when The Fiancé finally calls 'Time' and we have to leave, I leave with an armful of books on topics ranging from finance and politics (Dark Money) to history (Night). I'm always quick to sign up for webinars about social media and I LOVED attending Social Media Week.

As far as my personal interests go, social media ties in to my passion for my blog, I'm always on top of the latest trends and news for fashion (even if I don't plan on wearing them,) and I'm always looking for a new podcast.

Point being: Always be learning. 

24. Be grateful. Be thankful. Stay positive.

As I said in my 2017 post: 

"As difficult as this may be sometimes, especially in today's world, I really believe in the power of positive thinking and love. It's important to give love and show it as often as possible, not just to your inner circle but to everyone. You get back what you put out."

25. Love yourself.

I was always unhappy with something growing up. I often tell people I used to have (still do sort of) confidence issues. I was never the "cool" girl or the "hot" girl. While I watched my friends blossom and bloom into beautiful young women, I wondered when it would be my turn. My boobs were never the size I wanted, my nose was too big, I had acne scars in prominent places because I had hands that couldn't resist picking them, and how come I couldn't do my eye makeup like the rest of the girls?

Up until maybe a year ago, I never really loved myself. I knew my academic and professional accomplishments and I was damn proud of them. But I wanted something I could see, that people could see – and you can't exactly hang your college diploma around your neck. So I started accepting compliments – I'm still awkward as hell when trying to accept them but I try. I've also tried to accent my features that I love, instead of trying to hide the ones I hate. I embrace my smaller chest size (because I can wear tops without a bra and not feel uncomfortable!) and my muscular "gymnast/dancer" legs (because I'm often told people work to achieve this.) So I challenge you to love yourself – hard. 

 

Phew.

That was a lot. If you've made it this far, thank you. I'm so appreciative of all the love and support I've received in the past couple years on this blog. Through all the refreshes, redesigns, rebranding, and revamps, thank you for coming back.

I hope that I can continue to inspire – whether it's through my words or my pictures. I appreciate every single reader and I can't wait to celebrate another milestone in my life with you. 

risa xu tobi new girl rose gold dress
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