Instead of Personal Growth, Choose This

And eleven other learnings that have made my life feel significantly richer

Ria Tagulinao
10 min readMar 8


Ria at 29 | Here’s the Instagram list version

I believe that the best way to crystallize a nascent realization is to articulate it.

Four years ago, I began this birthday tradition where I share twelve things that describe Ria at *insert age here* (Here’s Ria at 28, 27, 25 (26 was the year the pandemic started, so I’d like to think I’m excused for missing out)). Not surprisingly, these lists often turn into a catalog of life lessons. This year, however, as I listed the bullet points of who Ria is at 29, they felt more like “learnings” rather than “lessons” — that is, as recent learnings, I’m still internalizing and finding ways to apply them in my life.

So, in an attempt to solidify this wisdom, I decided to flesh them out.

What follows are twelve things that have made my life feel significantly richer and deeper since I learned them. I hope I never forget them moving forward. And I hope you find something here, too.

1. Roots before branches

Two years ago, I wrote that our twenties should be just as much about grounding ourselves as reaching for goals, and that meant laying down a few big truths to live by. I still believe that. But what I realize now is that the most important, most meaningful form of roots is this: people.

Determine that small circle of people who genuinely love you, who truly know you, who have your best interest at heart, who remind you of your inner light. Hold them close. Keep those relationships strong and deep. They will help you grow not only taller, but sturdier, and hold you down through life’s most turbulent winds and torrential rains.

2. Choose personal enlargement

In a recent online meeting, a colleague talked to me in a tone that I did not like. I didn’t talk back because (1) there were other people on the call, (2) it was near the end of the meeting and I did not want to prolong it, and (3) because I was appalled and in shock that someone my junior talked me to like that. I left the meeting and felt my blood boil. Immediately, my mind began to craft a sharp-tongued, high-minded, but professionally-worded…



Ria Tagulinao

Fun-sized Filipina Writer | To stay up-to-date with my work, here's my Sunday newsletter: