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  • Maddie LaBerge

Guiding Lights: Celebrating the Wise Voices That Shape My Path at 25

As I approach my 25th trip around the sun, it is not lost on me how fiercely lucky I am to have some of the wisest people I know in my circle. Their stories have intertwined with mine for both long and short times, creating a symphony of experiences and lessons learned. Their words, stories and advice have become the magnetization of my internal compass, guiding my steps forward and illuminating uncharted roads before me.

To me, knowledge is the essence of power. If you know what to anticipate, you can make your decisions well in advance and be both thoughtful and purposeful, which is what lead to this post. I gathered some of the people I look up to the most, and asked them to share some words of wisdom or advice that they wish they had learned before they turned 25.


There were two requirements: be at least 25 years old and have an opinion I actually care about. I received some remarkable guidance and wanted it to live here, so that I can revisit it throughout the next 365 days and beyond. It's incredible advice and I didn't want to gatekeep it, so it will also live here in case anyone finds it helpful to refer to. I know I did.


Kristin LaBerge, 63

OK. Here goes - advice I wish people had given me (and that I had taken) before I turned 25:

  • Don’t slather yourself with oil and fry in the sun. Put sunscreen on your face every day of your life before you go outside.

  • All conflict is not bad. Often it takes some conflict to reach resolution. Sticking up for yourself and speaking your truth are perfectly acceptable.

  • Getting the proper amount of sleep is not a waste of time.

  • Safeguard, APPRECIATE, and maintain your health and beauty. If you let it go, it’s hard to get back and only gets more difficult the older one gets.

  • ALWAYS be there for your girlfriends. “It’s not that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it’s your friends who are your diamonds”.

Those pearls aren’t necessarily in order of importance and there’s probably more.


Courtney Mally, 26

Advice I wish I’d had before turning 25:

  • Go to therapy, even if you don’t feel ready. Your friends are meant to listen to your problems, they are not meant to nor equipped to fix them.

  • Save enough money to feel secure & be responsible for your future self, spend enough money on experiences for memories that are priceless.

  • Date the boy that seems “too nice”. I promise. Any person who makes your adrenaline start pumping isn’t exciting, they’re most likely bad for you. “Boring” is actually stable, and stable is good.

  • You know yourself better than you think you do. And, you know what you want for yourself and your life. Trust yourself.

  • Learn about boundaries, not only within yourself, but with your friends, family and especially your job.

  • No job should make you cry in the bathroom. Period.

  • The best way to protect your own peace is to keep your business to yourself, and stay out of others’.

  • “No.” is a full sentence.

  • Work to honor the wants and needs of your inner child. She’s always in need of some extra love. You’ll never be sorry.

  • Life is meant to be easy and enjoyable. Let go of the narrative of unnecessary suffering to “prove” your worth. You are worthy just by being.

  • Take more deep breaths in a day than you think you need. Your body will thank you every time.


Ariel Mosely, 64

Don’t be afraid of or quick to dismiss getting therapy.


B. Arneson, 33

On your 25th birthday, I hope you remember how far you have come. You don’t really need this advice because you have found your own way in this world. I get why you asked for it anyway. So, without further ado, here is my advice:

  1. Building and maintaining a community is of the utmost importance.

  2. Travel as much as you possibly can. You will NEVER remember how much money you spent, but you will remember the wild shit you did.

  3. Pleasure is never shameful. Buy yourself nice perfume, delicious food, and a really fucking powerful vibrator.

  4. Never settle for crusty partners, especially men. When you are with the right person, you won’t feel like you are drowning.

  5. Take hot pictures of yourself in lingerie.

  6. Take calculated risks.

  7. Don’t let your career become your entire personality.

  8. When you are feeling like an imposter, remember that some systems aren’t built for the brilliance that you are capable of.

  9. Let yourself lose your shit every once in a while. Clarity comes when we allow ourselves to be imperfect.

  10. People who intentionally change multi-generational family patterns tend to feel isolated and lonely. That is on the generations before you – and has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

  11. Never stop being childlike. When you feel that childlike joy, hold onto it for as long as possible.

  12. Be truthful, but mindful of how you say that truth.

  13. Lead from the back of the pack.

  14. Write in a journal. Make sure to acknowledge what you are grateful for.

  15. Do activities that make you feel powerful. If you feel miserable while doing a particular type of activity, stop fucking doing it.

  16. We all commit harm. It is our responsibility to learn why we are harming ourselves and/or others – and to remedy it when we can.

  17. Rest

  18. Always ask for more money when you are being offered a job.

  19. Take time to reduce the amount of shit you have.

  20. We are never really in control. Learning how to navigate that fact is hard, but necessary.

  21. Let yourself grieve when you need to.

  22. When you feel yourself crumbling under the weight of the world, reach out to your community. If your community is not enough, get professional help.

  23. Give people handwritten cards.

  24. Take space when your nervous system becomes excessively activated.

  25. It is your responsibility to do whatever you can to make this world more just.

circa 2012

Amanda Luberto, 28

You are so young at 25. You have so much life to live, so many people to meet, and so many goals to achieve. Pick up new hobbies, visit new places, see your friends, and take all your PTO. Even if just on a Wednesday because the weather is nice. Journal more than you think to because looking back on how you were feeling at this time in your life is really grounding and validating. Also you’re making money to spend it so get your nails done a fun color or buy the nicer glass of wine every so often. Be indulgent because you can.


Oh!! And go to therapy to heal whatever’s holding you back because there’s no reason to carry it into your next phase of life. Make peace with it and move on, brighter and better.


Cici McAllister, 25

I think everyone should realize by the time they turn 25, that that know absolutely nothing.


Your early 20s are a lot of learning what you like and at 25 you start to realize what you don’t like. It’s been the best, yet most challenging year for me. I found who I really was and got comfortable with who I will be the rest of my life. You lose a lot of people on the way which is bittersweet. People are going to test you. Don’t let anyone comprise your happiness, well-being, or values. We're all out here doing our best.


Take any opportunity you can and find happiness in yourself.

Mark LaBerge, 72

My mother was my most inspirational person growing up. She always told me things would be OK. She said not to pay attention to my father, as he was a vexed spirit. Be kind. Enjoy and appreciate you. Desiderata has been my guiding light since I was a teenager and I still read it often.

My grandpa, affectionately known as Pop, shared "Desiderata" with me when I was going through a very difficult spell in my life, a few years ago. There was so much change and uncertainty and I felt totally overwhelmed. Little did I know, a close friend had gifted me a magnet with an excerpt a few years previous.


Desiderata, which means “things that are desired,” was written by Max Ehrmann, “because it counsels those virtues I felt most in need of.” Since the early 1920s these words have been valued by countless people and rose in popularity in the late ’60s and early ’70s. It is making a strong comeback today, as parents and grandparents are passing along this wisdom to their loved ones.


Like Pop, I reference back to it often and probably will for the rest of my life. I've pasted it below as I know it will come in handy in the next year.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. / Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. / Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. / Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. / Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. / Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. / Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. / Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. / Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. / And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Johanna Dennehy, 62

In relationships, when the writing is on the wall, read it. Don’t hang on to hurtful relationships thinking they will change. Cut your losses and get out.


Anna Weeks, 26

It’s simple advice, but I think I really could have used it earlier in life. There is no use in stressing the ‘uncontrollables’ in life. Instead, focus on how you respond.

Kathy LaBerge, 73

I think it’s easier said than done, but follow your path….

  • Find what you love 💕 to do and work hard towards your goals. Live within your means. Be honest with yourself and adjust as needed

  • Heal your wounds. Life is traumatic and by examining your feelings, you may uncover experiences you find difficult to acknowledge. Get the help you need. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Self love 💕 makes unconditional, universal love possible. Appreciate and nurture your friends…they could be family, too.

  • Find a balance with your life.

  • Have fun! Enjoy the beautiful miracles in this world 🌎 be grateful and count your blessings.

  • Have fun with your research 🧐

GP (family shorthand for our beloved Grandma Pat. She was my great grandma but GP to everyone I knew.) was famous for saying, “It doesn’t matter what you tell anyone, they’ll just do what they want, anyway. Tell them to do what they want.” 😘


If you want one ☝️ line, I’d say love 💕 everyone & everything.

My Aunt Kathy took my 'Flat Stanley' characters all around California and sent me the coolest postcards when I was in the second grade.

Avery Martin, 26

Don't worry about the little things Also, companies don't care about you.


Scott Allen, 47

First off, let the little things go and always remember things happen for a reason and will always work their way out.


Cherish the advice from any elder no matter how silly you might think it is. The older you get, the more you appreciate things, so work hard now and enjoy life more as you get older.


If you haven’t already, start your bucket list and start marking them off. Follow your intuition because it’s always going to be the right decision. However, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Mistakes are how we learn in life and become a better you.

Sam Hoyle, 26

  • Don't let a credit card company raise your limit for you. If they do, call them and have them bring it back down. It's not free money.

  • Track your spending. Use an app, do it manually, just do it. Those first adult job paychecks seem huge, until you get hit with first adult life bills.

  • Don't take every piece of advice you get. Sometimes it's great, other times it's bullshit. Use your head and think critically.

  • Don't be afraid to state what you feel is the obvious.

  • Don't be afraid to be honest and open with yourself and others.

  • Try to make your own friends. There might be a day where you need to leave the group that you were brought into.

  • Write your grandma letters every month, she wants to know how you're doing.

Raleigh Somerman, 28

You don’t know everything at 25, and you don’t have to.

  • It’s okay if you’re not where you thought you be by now – whether that is your job, relationship, personal goals – there’s still a lot of time to learn and experience.

  • You’re definitely an adult but it’s okay to still have fun like you’re not.

  • Be the version of yourself YOU want to be. Don’t let anyone else try to define who you are…Or make you feel bad for being your best you.

  • You are capable of anything and everything. Keep doing you and in time you’ll get where you’re going.

I love you and I truly believe you already know this stuff but it’s always nice to have a little reminder 💞💞

Ashley Jones, 38

I wish I knew to love myself and not try to fit in the box that I though I was supposed to be in, being my true self is special. At 25 I was a wife and a mother and while I don't recommend it, it worked out for me because my husband is amazing and my kids teach me to be myself every day! I feel like they really shaped me to be who I am in my 30s.


Kristina Zagame, 28

My biggest piece of advice would be to stop taking life so seriously because absolutely no one has it figured out, no matter how much they appear to. Stop thinking about how your life “looks” to other people and focus more on how it feels to you. Do the things that make you happy and spend as little time as possible on the things that don’t. Don’t be afraid of getting older or sticking to a “timeline” for life events. Be weird and vulnerable with people as soon as possible because it will help you weed out the good and bad connections much faster.


Max Meunier, 26

The distance in between your long term goals are actually much closer than you think, when you are working towards them.

Some of the biggest lessons I have learned while gathering these golden nuggets, is that one, I have the most supportive community a girl could ever ask for, and I'm eternally grateful. Two, if you aren't in therapy you need to book an appointment ASAP, luckily for me I've been working with professionals since I was in college. Three, no one has it together! We are all collectively pretending we know what's going on, but like Anna said, most things are uncontrollable. We just have to place emphasis on how we react to those uncontrollable moments.


I've had a rough go at times throughout my short time on Earth, but I am enthusiastically looking towards the future with the community that has built me up and supported me through goofy good times and the bad.


To my family, chosen or blood, close friends, colleagues and strangers that will join my life at one point or another, your love and wisdom surround me like an armor, shielding me from doubts and fears. Your support fuels my passion, igniting the fire within, as I set forth on a new journey of discovery. So, with boundless gratitude, I step into the next realm of my life, carrying your profound wisdom as my prized possession.


Special thanks to everyone who offered their advice and kind words to me while writing this piece. If it is not obvious enough, I look up to each and every one of you and am incredibly humbled that each of you took time out of your busy lives to look within and offer me some words of wisdom you wish you had during some of your most vulnerable moments. I see you. I appreciate you. I love you all very much. I hope I can take this new year of life on head-first with the knowledge you all provided, to make each of you proud.

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