Last week, I turned 20. Two whole decades. It’s weird because I still feel like a kid, but I know I'm supposed to be an adult. Does that ever go away? I hope so.
20 isn't that old, I know, but it feels a lot older than 19.
On one hand, I want to be a teenager forever, but on the other hand, I want to actually be taken seriously. While I still really have no idea what I'm doing in general, I've learned a lot of important lessons in my 20 years. Here are 20 of those lessons:
1. Your friends are what you make them.
Friendship goes both ways. It's important that your friends make an effort to actually be your friend, but it's also important that you do the same. Treasure your friends, celebrate their existence.
You're not being clingy when you ask your friends to hang out – that's normal, and if someone has a problem with that, they don't deserve you.
2. Grades don't measure intelligence.
Your entire self-worth is not equivalent to the D you just got on that essay. Or that math test. It's not that big of a deal. In the long run, no one cares.
This isn't to say you shouldn't try, but your intelligence comes from your experiences, so make the most of those.
3. Best friends are soulmates.
You can definitely have more than one soulmate in life, and one of them is going to be your best friend, your day one, your ride-or-die. Never let them go.
Tell them the capital-T Truth, support them, make playlists with them, laugh with them. Go do relatively boring stuff with them and realize how much fun you have regardless. Always tell them you love them.
4. College doesn’t have to be the amazing, life-altering acid-trip we see in movies.
Yes, you’ll find out a lot about yourself and have a lot of fun, but take it seriously. Living out loud doesn’t have to stop once you graduate and get a job.
You have a lifetime to celebrate figuring yourself out.
5. Good books can be life-saving.
Immerse yourself in stories that you could never imagine. You’ll feel so much better.
Here are some suggestions: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Big Sur” by Jack Kerouac, “A Mercy” by Toni Morrison and “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau.
6. Sleep isn’t just for the weak.
Please sleep, and do it well. If you need a melatonin, take a melatonin. Eight hours.
7. You are not what has happened to you.
You are your favorite books, your best friends, your favorite songs, your thoughts, your habits, your favorite foods, your biggest dreams, your style, your college major, your favorite style of art.
Don't use the bad things that have happened to you as an excuse for not living your life authentically. My dad passed away last year, so trust me, I’ve tried it, and it just makes things worse.
Don’t forget, but don’t dwell.
8. Save half, spend half.
Budgeting really is important, sorry. Mostly everyone hates it, but it’s way better than going broke. Save half of every paycheck.
9. Be good to people.
Seriously, stop being rude to people for no reason. Stop judging people for how they look or for how they acted during a five-second interaction with you.
You'd see that there’s a lot more under the surface if you actually cared enough to find out.
10. Stop trying to find comfort in every situation.
You don’t need to tailor new experiences to your comfort zone. Live a little. Everyone else is making the same mistakes and surviving, and you will, too.
Let yourself be nervous – it means you care.
11. Siblings are irreplaceable, priceless and magnificent.
Especially mine. They’ll always be your number ones. Much like best friends, they're soulmates. They’re not so bad once you actually talk to them.
12. Hate is learned, not inherent.
Do not let hate fester, especially not in young minds (see number 18). Love, accept, embrace, educate, understand.
Tolerance isn’t enough. “Thoughts and prayers” aren't enough. Blissful ignorance is detrimental. Do something to change the way things are going right now.
If anything, the saved portion of your paycheck should be used for traveling. See the world, meet new people and immerse yourself in different cultures while you still can. You’ll never regret it.
14. Put your phone down.
For the love of God, take a break. Talk to your mom. Pet your dog. Go get some Vitamin D. Unglue your eyes from the screen, and look at a bird or something.
If your phone is the first thing you think about in the morning, you’re addicted. Tone it down.
15. Think critically.
Invoke your inner David Foster Wallace and realize that you’re not the only person in the world with problems. Everyone else is frustrated, too, and they have reasons for it.
I’m not saying you should actively enjoy being stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store, but know that the world isn’t ending when something minuscule doesn’t go your way. Consider others.
16. Counting calories is stupid and unnecessary.
And so is counting carbs. If you have no medical reason to be doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it – you’ll be miserable. Just make sure you’re living a balanced lifestyle, and don’t keep yourself from indulging every once in a while.
17. Moms are really f***ing awesome.
Talk about strong women. Face it, you'd be nothing without your mom, and you can't thank her enough for giving you a loving kick in the ass every time you've messed up.
We'll never be able to repay them, but we can treat them like the queens they are in the meantime.
I love you, mom.
18. Kids are a lot smarter than adults.
If you can, sit down and have a real conversation with your baby siblings, your little cousins or the kids you babysit.
Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. They’ll tell you that they want to be eight different things at once, and then they’ll tell you exactly why and how they’ll be great at all of them.
Pay attention to how they view the world (see #12).
19. Voting is SO IMPORTANT.
I don’t care who you vote for, as long as they’re not genuinely evil. Just vote, and vote at every single level. Utilize that privilege.
20. Stop doubting yourself.
You’re going to do great. You’re going to be great. Remember that your great isn’t going to look like anyone else’s great. Work hard, and don’t cheat. You’ll be okay.