What I Learned in Atlantic City

#17: Win a hand of poker or blackjack at a casino.
#17: Win a hand of poker or blackjack at a casino.

I spent the weekend in Atlantic City to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthdays, ended up crossing #17 off my list, and I’ve never felt luckier. Here’s what I learned:

1. You have to play to win.

I’ve never had the nerve to play a table game at a casino, so I added it to my list as a way to challenge myself to take a risk and try something new. I found an empty table with a friendly-looking dealer, changed $30 into chips, and convinced my friend to sit down at the table with me. Because she is an awesome friend, and knows how important this list is to me, she took very little convincing. Within 10 minutes, we went on a run and were up over $200 between the 2 of us with our friends cheering us on…and all of us causing a scene. It was such a thrill, and it reminded me to play more of my cards when I have the chance, whether I know what I’m doing or not. Playing is the only way to learn, and the only way to win.

2. Always double-down when you have the chance. (Or at least sometimes.)

Betting big won’t always pay off, but sometimes, it will. In this case, I had 3 separate chances to double-down on my bets. Since I was feeling particularly carefree and confident – I doubled my bet every chance I had – and won, every single time. Too often in life, I play it safe. I’ve spent years of my life thinking into the future instead of living in the moment. Over the past year-or-so, I’ve been reminded of the pure magic that can happen in those moments of total uncertainty, when there’s a lot on the line, and not all the cards have been dealt. More and more I’ve been challenging myself to take risks and see what happens. So far, the result has been a whole new life, future, and happiness I could never even have imagined if I hadn’t bet big, on myself.

3. Know how to walk away when you’re still up.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is how important it is to stay positive, even against the odds. That was also true in Atlantic City. Since we were on such a high with our win streak, we decided it was best to walk away the next time we both won the hand, and we did. We ended up cashing out way ahead of where we started, and made a winning memory that will last a lifetime. (Granted, we ended up spending most of our winnings on booze, but still, a win is a win.) It can be so easy to give in to negativity or feel like just throwing all your progress away sometimes. But I’ve learned – and am still learning – how to live life on the upside and just stay there. I’ve intentionally eliminated toxic people from my life and have started to walk away from situations that bring me down. Instead, I surround myself with positive people, seek out promising opportunities, and choose happiness. I’m learning this way of life is always a safe bet.

4. With the right friends, your luck never runs out.

My friends are everything to me, and I feel luckier every year I have them in my life. Some I’ve known for more than 20 years and others are more recent additions along the way, but all the people I count as friends are truly amazing, bright, good-spirited, loyal, and compassionate. If I call you a friend, that means you inspire me to be a better version of myself, just by the way you live your life. I feel especially lucky to have the friends I grew up with still playing a major role in my life. Even though we’ve grown into very different people, our love and respect for each other has grown proportionally and exponentially. I know they’d do anything for me, no questions asked, and I’d put it all on the line for them. We’ve seen each other through death and divorce of parents, our own failed relationships, and moving far from home. But we’ve also celebrated graduations – from elementary school all the way through graduate school, birthdays for as long as I can remember, buying our first home – or for some of us, finding the perfect rental, meeting the loves of our lives – even if it’s a dog, and moving up in our careers. Sometimes, we celebrate for no reason at all, and this is why we’re friends. To say I feel lucky doesn’t even cover it – I definitely hit the jackpot when it comes to friendship.

At this point, I have exactly 3 months left to finish my 30-before-30 list, so I’m going all in and looking forward to the adventures to come!

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