19 Things I Learned Before My 19th Birthday
It's been quite the ride.
Every year that we're on this earth, we learn something new about ourselves. The experiences we go through shape us for better or worse. I know I'm not the only one who feels as though they're not the same person that they were a year or even five years ago. I was inspired to write this article after reading Taylor Swift's article for Elle Magazine, "30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30." Despite not living the kind of life she leads as one of the world's biggest stars, I still think that I can offer some nuggets of wisdom that I've acquired over the years.
Everyone is at a different place in their lives.
If you ever felt behind in life, then this one is for you. I remember being in my senior year of high school and feeling somewhat ashamed that I couldn't drive or didn't even have a job. In hindsight, my busy schedule at that time prevented me from committing to such things. Examples such as these made me believe that I wasn't living up to expectations that I and others set up for myself. I didn't feel on par with everyone else who seemingly had it all. Over a year later, I came to the realization that I was only doing the best that I could with what I had. You have to go your own pace in life, not try to keep up with someone else's. Upon this discovery, I felt more grateful for the achievements I did accomplish.
Stop comparing yourself to others, like seriously stop.
As Olivia Rodrigo sings in her song, "jealousy, jealousy": "I know that beauty is not my lack/But it feels like that weight is on my back/And I can't let it go." Similar to the first lesson, constantly comparing yourself to others is a terrible habit that we all do. It creates so much self-doubt that it distorts your view of yourself. I've found that this prevents you from seeing your own self-worth, never really embracing your uniqueness. Spending time with myself, figuring out what my interests are, spending time with people who accept me for me, has helped tremendously with my self-confidence. However, despite knowing all of this, I still feel this way from time to time. In reality, this feeling never goes away, you just get better at dealing with it, if you choose to.
It’s never too late to try new things.
If there's anything that quarantine taught me, is that you can start something new at, quite literally, any time. I used to think that if I didn't start a new hobby, sport, club, or anything of the sort earlier, then it was too late. That's far from the truth. I actually just learned how to ride a bike (kind of), believe it or not! Call me a late-bloomer, but it was better late than never.
Get in touch with your roots.
As a person who is mixed (half-white, half-Latina) and grew up in a predominantly-white area, I wasn't as exposed to the Peruvian half of my identity as I was to my white side. Most of my Peruvian relatives either lived in Peru or in random parts of the United States, all of which were outside of where I lived on Long Island. It wasn't until middle school where I felt compelled to learn more about my heritage and find pride in it, especially in a society that tells you to forget about it. I feel like we should all learn more about where we come from. You gain a deeper understanding of who you are.
You’re a lot smarter than you think.
This was a concept I struggled so hard to accept. So often I would underestimate my intelligence because I didn't want to end up being wrong about something and then be perceived as stupid. I'd second-guess myself and find out that I was right all along. Also, if I ever received a bad grade, it made me feel as though I was dumb in comparison to those who scored higher than me. But, mistakes don't imply that you're dumb. Along with that, people are smart in their own ways. You just need to trust yourself.
You have to be your own kind of beautiful.
I know this sounds pretty cliché and it's something you might see on a coffee mug, but hear me out. Unfortunately, we live in a society where we're expected to look a certain way in order to be seen as beautiful. We're forced to conform to beauty standards that are impossible to meet. What I learned is that instead of trying to make yourself "conventionally attractive," do what makes you feel beautiful in your own skin. Also, beauty is not skin deep. Develop who you are as a person. Spend less time looking to others for validation, especially during this age of social media where we all can't help but compare ourselves to someone else's highlight reels. This is all easier said than done but in end it'll be worth it.
Work out to become stronger, not to conform to beauty standards.
Remember how I talked about not getting caught up in the web of beauty standards? This is another facet of it. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that there were times where the only reason I was exercising was because I wanted to be "skinny like the other girls." I really thought that if I changed the way I looked through losing weight, all of my insecurities would vanish into thin air and I'd be happy. However, that wasn't the case. When I didn't see drastic results right away, it left me feeling ashamed of myself, so I gave up on trying to improve my physical health. It wasn't until earlier this year when I decided to give working out another go that I changed my mindset. I wanted to do this to get stronger and healthier. Of course, this isn't to say that weight loss is bad. However, it won't cure any problems that you have deep down.
Such a simple message but it holds so much power. We seem to forget to take a pause in our crazy lives. It's okay to take time for yourself, it's how you recharge.
Everything will work out.
Life puts us in situations that seem terminal, with no light at the end of the tunnel. It may take time, but things will turn out for the better. It doesn't always appear that way in the moment, but one day you'll look back and think of how you made it to the other side, even if you have a few scars.
Don’t try to impress people who don’t care about you.
I've been in situations where no matter what I did, I couldn't get someone to like me. I'd change myself into someone that I wasn't. It might've garnered some approval from them, but they still didn't pay me any mind. It hurt because I'm someone who wants to be friends with everybody. However, not everybody wanted to be friends with me, let alone respect me. This really proved to me that you have to be yourself and find people who are actually supportive of you. Besides, those other people are just missing out
Spend less time on social media and more time irl.
Everyone's so connected now that it seems like we can never get away from the Internet. All kinds of information in one place, plus endless entertainment, why would we do anything else? I found that my habit of endless scrolling has kept me from experiencing life outside of my phone. Social media is not all bad, of course, but spending so much time on it has really affected my mental and emotional health (as I've described before). Considering that my classes were all online this year, I had some extra time to go outside more. As a result, I rediscovered my love of nature and I was able to feel present in the moment.
Other people’s opinions of you, don’t define you.
People will say what they want to say. But they most likely don't know you well enough to speak on you. It sucks to hear someone say negative things about you. However, you can't always take their words to heart. You and the people who love you know what's really true about the kind of person you are.
If you want something, make it happen.
We don't always have control over the situations we're put in. But, we do have the power to make what we want out of our lives. Although many have said this before, not everything is going to be handed to you. Oftentimes, you have to work for it. There have been countless times where I've had to find a way to succeed at something despite being in a tough situation. I made the best out of a bad deal because I had to. No one else was going to do it for me.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
You fail as much as you succeed. There are things you're not as good at as others may be. We embarrass ourselves. And you know what? That's totally normal. Lighten up. Laugh at yourself a bit. Life is too short to dwell on what you got wrong or right. "Nobody's perfect," as a scholar by the name of Hannah Montana once said.
You shouldn’t tie your self worth to your grades.
If I had a dollar for all of the times I've done poorly on a test and felt bad about myself for it, I'd probably be rich. That's kind of an exaggeration, but you get the gist of it. Grades aren't always an indicator of what your intelligence is. It's especially hard to deal with when no matter how hard you study, you still don't get the results you want. On top of that, others brag about their high marks to the point where they're basically shoving it in your face. Or, there are those types of people who lose their minds over getting a 97%, meanwhile you're over here grateful that you even passed. I've been there, I get it. But never reduce yourself because of that. You ARE smart.
Make the world around you a little bit better.
This has to be one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. Seeing everything that's gone on, from the pandemic to fighting for racial justice, I knew that I had to do the best that I could to help out. Everybody can do better in this way. People really need to take the time to become aware about the problems that affect us. We should be taking action towards creating a better future.
Never shrink yourself just to make others comfortable.
If you have to listen to and see everyone else express themselves the way they want, then they have to do the same for you. Who cares if they don't get it? You shouldn't have to minimize anything about yourself in order to appease others. It's truly freeing being your authentic yourself. Once you do that, the noise of other's opinions won't sound so loud.
Be open-minded and keep learning.
Broaden your horizons. Branch out. Don't be willingly ignorant. As someone who has always been naturally curious, I never understood why people never wanted to learn about the world around them and how it works. There's so much knowledge out there that it'd be a shame for you to ignore.
Failure is a part of life.
Like the legendary Aaliyah once said, "if at first you don't succeed, then dust yourself off and try again." You're human, you're going to trip up every now and then. Not everything will go your way and sometimes, things just don't work out right away. I always had an immense fear of failure and when I did fail at something, I couldn't help but dwell on it. On the bright side, I finally learned that even if they suck, there's always something to learn from your failures. Along with that, failing shouldn't stop you from trying, instead it should motivate you to keep going.