In honor of my upcoming 20th birthday, I took some time to reflect on the life lessons I've learned over the years. Though I'm still young, I have definitely learned a thing or two about this thing called life. Here are 20 lessons that I've learned in the last 20 years:
1. It's OK to not have a plan
As someone who hates uncertainty, this was a tough lesson to learn. I might not know exactly what I want to do once I graduate from college, but I don't find that very stressful. Instead, a view it as being open to many possibilities and not being rigid on which direction life takes me. Sometimes, uncertainty is a good thing.
2. Material things shouldn't matter
Especially in middle school, I was way too overly concerned with brand names and just material items in general. Now, though, I realize that just because you have something with a fancy label doesn't necessarily mean a boost in happiness or life satisfaction. There are more important things in life.
3. Your mom is your best friend, not your worst enemy
Between roughly third and eleventh grade, my mom and I did not get along well. This was mostly because I was an overdramatic and highly sensitive child who was under the delusion that my mom wanted to ruin my life. I'm so glad that those days are behind me. As I've gotten older, I've come to understand my mom more and where she's coming from. Now I consider my mom my best friend.
4. When making big decisions, your opinion matters the most
Though I do respect and prize the opinions of family and friends, I have come to the realization that when it comes down to it, your opinion is what matters the most. This may seem obvious, but it's actually quite difficult to distinguish where your opinion on a matter ends and another person's opinion begins. You have to make sure that your decision, especially on big matters, is truly yours.
5. Some people are just mean for no reason
This is hard to accept sometimes, but it's true. Some people are just jerks. It has nothing to do with you or anything that you did. Some people just enjoy being mean and for some reason have no problem behaving that way towards you. We have all dealt with this types of people throughout the years, and all I have to say on it is that you just have to do your best not to take it too personally.
6. Do what makes you happy
Why do we force ourselves to do things that make us miserable? Going into college, I was planning on pursuing a STEM major and going towards a stable and in-demand career path. However, I hated the course work. Long story short, changing my major was the best decision I made. Even though my future is more uncertain, I'm passionate about what I'm learning about now.
7. Eat what you want
Starting my junior year of high school, I decided to start eating healthier and exercising more. What could be wrong with that, right? However, I took it too far and found myself bummed out that I couldn't eat any of my favorite foods anymore. I stopped being so restrictive with my diet awhile ago, and I'm so glad I did. Life is all about balance. You should never not eat dessert if you really want to.
8. What's 'cool' isn't always right - or even cool
I look back on my middle school and high school years and realize that a lot of what the 'cool' kids were doing - whether it was wearing those colorful rubber band bracelets, skipping class, or vaping in the halls - was actually straight up stupid. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, but it's important to keep your own morals intact and not be dragged down a path that you have no interest in.
9. Dark times don't last forever
We all go through times where everything seems to suck. Sometimes, it feels as if nothing will ever get better. And honestly? These dark times can last weeks, months, or even years. But they do not last forever. Things might not magically get better overnight, but gradually things will start to improve. Before you know it, you will be out of the darkness.
10. Happiness can be found in the smallest of things
I use to think - and, well, I still sometimes think - that happiness can only be found in grand vacations, hoards of friends, or an epic shopping spree. But that is just not true at all. I have found over the years that a simple walk outside or listening to a good song is enough to bring me happiness. It's the little things.
11. You aren't defined by your high school years
I know that this is something that is drilled into all of our heads while we are in high school, but you never really believe it until you have moved past high school. Once you're in college or out in the real world, no one really cares if you played varsity all four years or if you sat alone at lunch for a whole year. Even though these are things that can define us, they don't have to. It's up to us.
12. Everything will work out in the end
This is something that I have to constantly be reminded of, especially during finals. Even though things might seem overwhelming, stressful, or just plain horrible, things do have a way of working themselves out in the end - just maybe not always in the ways we expect.
13. You should care about the world around you
Stop thinking about yourself for once and start thinking about others. It took me awhile, but I now know to be conscious of what's going on in the world and that it's good to be passionate about certain causes. Also, I appreciate more of just what the world has to offer.
14. If you want to achieve your goals you have to work hard
The biggest goals that I have achieved so far in my life were all earned by working really, really hard, and that is definitely no consequence. Success does not come to those who sit around and wait for it to happen to them. You have to make it happen for yourself.
15. Practicing self-care on a daily basis should be a priority
Though it's important to work hard, it's also important to make sure you are able to rest as well. You have to take care of yourself or else you will break. This is something that I often forget but am getting better at practicing. Even when I feel like I'm swamped, I still make sure to give myself a break to watch an episode of Netflix or take a walk outside.
16. Do what you want instead of worrying about what others might think
It's painfully constricting to go through life being super self-conscious of everything that you do. You have to let go of any fear or apprehension you have and just live your life. Who cares if you look like an idiot? You live your life for you, not others.
17. Be selfish and don't feel bad about it
This might sound awful, but I think a lot of people need to learn to be more selfish. Not self-absorbed, but more willing to put their needs above others from time to time. There are so many people - myself included - that are constantly stretching themselves thin for other people and are offered nothing in return. Though I would happily do this for most people, you also have to know when enough is enough.
18. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it
Being independent and just a little bit proud, I hate having to ask for help most of the time. For some reason, I feel like it shows weakness. This is definitely not true. Only recently have I begun to feel more comfortable asking others for help, and it makes life so much easier. You should never be afraid to use the resources around you. And most of the time people are more than happy to lend a helping hand.
19. Appreciate everyone who shows you kindness
I can't emphasize this enough. You shouldn't take for granted the people that chose to show you kindness no matter what happens. These are the most important people in your life, and you have to treat them as such. Whether it's your parents, siblings, best friend, significant other or pet, make sure you let them know that they are special to you.
20. Time flies by
This is probably the most powerful lesson I have learned. As I grow older, the years seem to go by faster and faster. Months end before I am able to absorb that they even began. I know that true adulthood - life after college graduation - is going to be here before I know it, and that's both exciting and terrifying.
Though I have learned more lessons that I can count in the last almost 20 years of my life, these are the ones that stick out to me as some of the most important. I have learned a lot, and I can't wait to see what else life has in store for me.