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Evan Rachel Wood: 21 Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

In honor of the actress' 30th birthday.

Text: Evan Rachel Wood // Image via NYLON.com

I can finally look back at the past with a smile on my face because it is over and I survived. My brother compares turning 30 to that moment on "The Goonies" when Sean Astin escapes booby traps and bandits and finds the one-eyed Willie. He goes to its mythical remains and the pot of gold he was looking for and says, “You were expecting me, weren't you? I hit you I landed safely here. Until now."

I could very easily have been dead in my twenties. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I didn't think I'd get this far. So every second is a gift. I can allow my past to strengthen me. More than that it defines me and my thoughts about myself. I can stand with my head held high, but more humble and with less to prove.

My twenties were a very intense time of metamorphosis, loss, love, trauma and enlightenment. I traveled the world. Met more people than I can count. Sang with my heroes, fell in love with all my might, traveled across the country - twice. Was engaged to Marilyn Manson. (Remember? That was strange.) Had a good career. Made enough money to live comfortably. I was also robbed, exploited, lied to, raped twice on two different occasions, forgetting who I was for a while, tried to kill myself ... twice, got through various types of intensive therapy, kept secrets for years until I broke down, confessed myself, got married, had a baby at home, got divorced, wrote and recorded an album, lost two grandparents, made two siblings, played the most inspirational role I've ever had, and finally started writing.

All in all, there was never a dull moment. My twenties were a wonderful nightmare. My limits have been tested in many ways, and I've learned that I'm much stronger than I ever thought possible. The biggest lesson I've learned is that there is always more to learn. I can't put everything I learned in my twenties into this piece. But in an indeterminate order, here are some tips that have really helped me get this far and that reflect where I am at the moment. Now as this new decade of opportunity rolls in.

Love, impermanence and the gift of being alone
I have real friends. I can see red flags more easily and am no longer such a martyr when it comes to people and their problems. I've learned that if I don't take care of my mind, body, and soul, I am not good for anyone. And that doesn't make me selfish; it is important to a healthy, happy state of mind. Take some time for yourself. I cannot stress this enough. If you cannot be alone with yourself, you will never be completely satisfied with another person. You will feel nervous, insecure and like a dazzler. You will project an image of who you believe someone wants instead of simply acknowledging who you are. You will need someone to validate you, and if they cannot fill the void that you have hollowed out in yourself that only YOU can fill, you will resent them, lose them, and the pattern will repeat itself. Unless ... First of all, you learn to be alone with yourself. Fall in love with YOURSELF first. Be someone you respect. When you really love each other, you know that whether someone chooses to be with you or not, you will be okay. You have each other and you love each other. Know that if someone leaves you will be okay - although it can be painful. Don't be afraid to tear off the patch instead of just letting the wound underneath become infected.

Letting go is a tough lesson, make no mistake. Goodbyes are tough and nothing lasts forever, it's an inevitable part of life. Make your peace with it as best you can. Be grateful for every moment, good or bad. Don't take a moment for granted. Take mental snapshots, real snapshots, write diaries, have a quiet moment with yourself. Every second that you are alive, you are living a memory, so let it flow through you. Let the bittersweet of life fill your bodies. Be grateful that you can love enough to be heartbroken. Be happy in the face of sweet memories that can never be undone. See rebirth in loss as much as you can. Devastating setbacks can come at a time of transformation. We never get over some losses, but you can carry the memories with you wherever you go. They are part of you. You determine who you are.

Anger and hard questions to yourselfput
Anger is tricky. Anger is deceptive. If you really examine your anger, it's just pain with cayenne pepper on it. It hurts so much it burns. If you're angry at someone you don't even know, I ask you: ask yourself why. Really. Ask yourselves questions. One of the best help I have ever received was this piece of advice: When you are in a vortex overwhelmed by emotions, fear, jealousy, heartache, loneliness, ANGER, ask yourself two questions: “What am I feeling? And why do I feel that? ”Answer as accurately and honestly as you can. Even if you are not proud of the answer, you cannot change it until you admit the problem to yourself. This is a conversation we need to have with us. We love each other, do you remember? We don't judge ourselves. We forgive each other and then we take the next step towards who we want to be.

You cannot go ahead or learn your lesson unless you challenge yourself. Do not be afraid of it. Be proud of it. You are not perfect and sometimes you are wrong, but everyone does. You are in good company. Leave your pride and moral superiority outside. Try to be as understanding as possible, take a breath and ask yourself questions. Go inside and feel where your body is tense. Your body is more stressed than you think. Unless you wonder where it is, you cannot let go. Try to relax every part of your body as much as possible. If something just won't go, ask yourself why. That can be more intense than you sometimes would like. Which brings me to another piece of advice I love: don't be afraid of the answer. You may not like what you hear, or you may be incredibly relieved that it is not as bad as you thought. The stories we tell ourselves and the things we suspect about a situation or person are sometimes ten times worse than the truth. Be aware of yourself.

Asks questions and asks for help
Don't be afraid to ask questions - any question, anytime, anyone. Don't pretend to know things that you don't know. Just ask. When people make fun of you, it says more about them than it does about you. You don't have to prove anything. You are smart because you ask questions. We always learn when we open up to things we don't know. People want to help you. Really. How good do you feel when you impart wisdom to others and it actually helps them? Damn good right? As if you've done something of value? Remember if you are afraid to ask someone for help.

Express your Truth and trust your intuition
Learn to say no without feeling guilty. Sometimes our answers will hurt people, and that's hard, but living a lie is harder for everyone involved. Lying to protect people hurts them more in the long run. So tell the truth at all costs. Trust people that they have the ability to understand. Dr. Seuss said it best: “Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who oppose it don't matter, and those who do matter don't mind. ”Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't play games. Don't let people guess. Don't expect them to know what you need. We can't read minds ... not yet. Says. How. Your. Feels. And says: "I feel ...". Not, "You did ..." or anything else that projects your feelings onto another person. It is so much better accepted when it comes from your own experience than when you transfer your experience to someone else.

Now comes the balancing act. When you do this, trust your intuition as well. After asking yourself the important questions, realize when the problem is not yours. Get to know the red flags for harmful people. Sometimes you learn by stepping into the trap. When you feel drained of your strength, that's a red flag. If you don't know who you are anymore, that's a red flag. If you're constantly walking on eggs and making yourself smaller to please someone else, that's a red flag. If your self-esteem depends on another person's opinion, that's a red flag. Red flags can be more dangerous than we think. Sometimes emotional abuse is worse than physical. It is more difficult to locate and identify. It is harder to make sense of it and easier for your brain to lie to yourself and convince yourself that it is something it is not. Sometimes our minds are so afraid of what it is seeing that it wants to protect itself by changing history to make it less painful. Kind of a censored version. But that can lead to perpetual abuse if we don't learn to read the signs in others and in ourselves. Again, don't be afraid to let people go. Don't stick with an abusive personality because you think that's the best thing you can do or you're afraid of being alone.

Never text messaging important conversations. Pick up the phone or meet someone in person. That's all I have to say about it. It's pretty self-explanatory, but serious advice.

Safe sex
Ladies and gentlemen, always carry condoms with you. Don't assume the other person has it. And if you want someone to use one and the other doesn't, stand firm. If they can't respect basic boundaries, they're not worth it. You are not Luschen if you ask, it is common sense. Especially if you don't know each other very well. Have safe sex. Don't feel pressured by anyone. Set a precedent and stand by it. Enjoy your sex. Have as much as you want. But plan accordingly, be responsible and safe. One more thing, most who say they “can't do it with you” will miraculously be able to do so if you deny them. So don't let anything go. Especially you ladies.

To live in fear
Don't worry about things that are too good. Do not be afraid because you are waiting for something bad to happen. Because I have news for you: at some point bad things will happen. You always do. So life is. And sometimes we can be so afraid of bad things that we unconsciously move towards them. We wander around, we react without thinking, we make rash decisions, we say things we don't mean. We stand in our own way because we act out of fear. Everything is temporary, even the good times. Hence, it is better to be happy and enjoy the moment until the next unexpected bad thing happens that you will survive - you have survived every bad day so far. And if you do your best with good intentions, then you can move on with your heads held high. You will fail more often than you will succeed. And if you haven't learned your lesson the first time, don't worry: the universe will serve it to you again - for round two, three, four, or as many rounds as you need before the lesson really hits you.

A wise man is silent
People have to earn your story. Don't immediately confide in everyone. As the saying goes, “A wise man is silent.” It's part of a much larger picture, so don't be a slave to your war stories. Makes people deserve it. Talking about yourself all the time doesn't leave much room for listening. So really listen. Don't wait for your turn to speak. Listen to people. Have close friends whom you trust and whom you can express your feelings with, but make sure you give them back the same. The energy you bring up will find its way back to you. Trust it.

Say you're sorry and mean it. Say it without expecting anything. We can't change people or correct their mistakes, so never expect an apology in return. All you can do is take responsibility for your own actions. Don't expect them to forgive you, but be thankful when they do. Don't give a gift because you are expecting a certain outcome. You give it out of the goodness of your own heart so that someone feels valued, and that's it. How they get it is not up to you and is unimportant. The gift of giving is always enough.

To dance
Dance. Every day.

To sing
Sing in the shower. Sing in the car. Play your music loud every now and then. Oh yes: and dance.

This has been one of the toughest lessons for me. I've learned that I have to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn't mean you just accept someone again, and it doesn't absolve anyone of their sins. It's actually for you guys. It should free you from the anger that you carry within you and that eventually becomes poison. You don't punish people by being angry. You are really only punishing yourself.

To forgive is to understand. Try as hard as you can to find yourself in people. That's where forgiveness begins. If you choose to forgive someone and keep someone in your life, you cannot punish them for the same crime forever. To forgive someone and keep them around is that you move on. Let go It is not fair for all imperfect people in this world - to which we all belong - to hold someone wrong and use them as ammunition. You are on a power trip. Get out.

Success and money
Success is a perfect storm. It's a mix of luck and skill. It's not always fair, but when you get there, be careful not to get tangled up in the "things". The "things" are the objects with which you fill your life. Useless things that make you feel good for a second and then move on to the next "thing". The "image" of success is not always real. Material possessions, excess, luxury ... it won't make you really happy. They may be fun for a minute, but you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. You can have all the money in the world, but it won't make you love each other. There is still one level up and you will never reach the top. Success is sometimes like climbing the top of a mountain only to realize that another mountain is waiting for you. It will never feel enough. Success is not expected to love yourself through it. It's a bonus, if that.

Be grateful every moment for where you are right now. Sometimes the trip is the best part, and you don't notice it until it's over. Does Money Make Things Easier? Absolutely, and I wish everyone had access to it to meet their basic needs. I honestly can't imagine where I would be without this privilege and without the opportunity to get the help I needed. And it pisses me off that not everyone has a fair chance. So the balancing act continues. Do not be afraid to enjoy your success. Do not feel bad for being well with the bitterness and judgment of people. They don't know your story and you deserve to be happy. "Smile, not all of the world's problems are yours."

Open your doors
Open your doors to people who are not doing well. Make them something to eat, give them some tea, give them a place to rest, listen to them without judgment. Be a safe haven.Sometimes that's all we need - a place where we can let our heads rest for a little while. Don't worry about what you have to offer. People don't really need much to be comforted. Don't worry your head. Just open your heart and your ears. Don't try to solve everything. Sometimes we just want to hear: "That sounds really tough."

Read If you can't read or don't have time to read, get Audible, get an audio book. Just listen to other people's knowledge whenever you can. Washes the dishes, listens to a book. Drive the car, listen to a book. Watch documentaries and get to know other people's stories, gain a new perspective. Even if you don't perceive every word, your subconscious does. Learn psychology! It is the study of you and your brain, and it is invaluable information. It will give you good insight into yourself and others, but (balancing act!) Don't over-analyze. Two people are never the same. Here are a few books that have changed my life. All of them game changers. Much of what I am writing here, I have learned through trial and error. But mixed with extremely helpful tips that I got from these books.

1. The four promises, Don Miguel Ruiz
2. Conversations with God (I, II, III), Neale Donald Walsch
3. Now! The power of the present, Eckhart Tolle
4. the Prophet, Khalil Gibran
5. How nice! You will see that much, Dr. Seuss

Always carry these with you when you can.

If you can, travel. If you don't put it on the back burner, just pull it off. If someone invites you to go on a weekend getaway, say yes. Road trip? Says yes. Last minute vacation out of the country? Says yes! You have to get your bum up and really go.

Our thoughts become reality
Say good things to yourself about yourself. This is actually pretty hard. Why do we feel stupid when we compliment ourselves but easily accept bad thoughts? Your thoughts shape your world, so make sure they are good. Practice this every day. At some point you will retrain your way of thinking. What you feel for yourselves becomes your truth. So direct your thoughts in a positive direction, everything else will follow.

Patience and faith
When the going gets tough, when you're so low on the ground that you can't get up, remember: Everything is temporary, including the bad times. Believe that you will get up again. You will get up again.

Be parents
Becoming a mother meant that I saw my parents very differently. They are imperfect people in their own right with their own story. Parents screw it up all the time. But being a parent is the hardest, most wonderful thing a person can go through. It's not for the faint of heart. It triggers something in you, brings out old patterns and suppressed memories. All we can do is work on ourselves as much as possible before our children come into our lives. Hold on to something because it's going to be a really wild ride. Becoming a mother was the best thing I've ever done in my life, but that doesn't apply to everyone. It's harder than you think and you'll never be ready for it. But it will open your heart in ways you never thought possible.

Actually, I wanted to write a long, dirty piece about it, but that belongs to a different time. Divorce felt like dying. As if my dreams were ripped out of my heart and trampled. It was an out of body experience and the worst heartbreak I have ever been through. The hardest thing I had to learn and accept was that sometimes, despite everything we are told, love is not enough. But when I look at my life now and imagine how different it would be if I were still married, I can't say that I had the heart to change anything. I stay calm because I know that I've had love, real love, for a short time. Just listen to the LCD sound system song "I Can Change". He sums up marriage and divorce pretty well.

Every day. Take every chance you get. Dream big. Dream without limits and get rid of this fear of embarrassment. Let go! Jump in. Whatever project you're thinking about, it starts. Just start somewhere. Get better step by step until you fly. Get lost in your thoughts. Learn how to make something happen. Dream as much as you can. Everything starts as a dream before it becomes a reality. Do not wait for the possibilities to come to you. Do your own things. Believe in yourselves. Sometimes you have to be the ones to take the first step. To quote "Almost Famous": "Be brave - then powerful forces will come to your aid."

All of these tips are a lot easier said than done. But everything is easier said than done. It's about whether you are ready or not to get the job done. It's all a balancing act. So just use your best judgment and learn from mistakes. That's all I have now I'll see you in ten years.

Shine on,