As I write this article, I'm reflecting on the past twenty years of my existence, and I look forward to the next decade of my life. I have a few goals for my twenties: become conversational in the Romance languages and become a certified yoga teacher. Fall in love. Hopefully, get married and start a cute little Catholic family. Raise my own dog. Start a career. There's so much to look forward to.
There's also a lot to reflect upon. I've learned so much since childhood, from simple lessons like using the toilet (although, perhaps my parents may not think it was so simple) to the complex ones like linear algebra. I've also learned a lot of life lessons - here are twenty of them, in no particular order. While I brainstormed many more, I tried to condense the list to the most pertinent and least cliche. I hope you enjoy. :)
1. People aren't perfect. Even the ones you admire.
From your parents to Martin Luther King Jr. to Mother Teresa - no one is perfect.
2. You will make mistakes and hurt others. Own up to it.
Often, I beat myself up for mistakes I made years ago. You can only admit your mistake, accept forgiveness when it's offered, and strive to better next time.
3. Being kind is a sign of great strength, not weakness.
Don't let anyone tell you that kindness is a display of weakness, because it is often much more difficult to be kind and loving to others than to dominate over them.
4. Staying in touch with friends takes effort...
"We should get lunch sometime" shouldn't just be a saying - it should be a call to action. Make the plans, dammit!
5. ...but some friendships don't last, despite the effort.
This is one of the hardest lessons of the past five years. It is okay to mourn the loss of a friendship, but you have to realize that friendship is a two-way street. You can't be the only one fighting for it.
6. You can never outrun God's love for you.
Might as well embrace it. Life's a lot easier that way.
7. Catholicism is where it's at, man.
8. No issue is purely black or white - it's all shades of grey.
But not fifty shades of grey. That's just gross.
9. True love is to "will the good of the other"
Love is not an emotion. It is a choice to do good for the other person, and it involves great courage, sacrifice, and a willingness to grow.
10. Your first love may not be your only love.
Heartbreak may be an inevitable part of life, but it is not the defining part. You will recover from heartbreak and become a stronger person because of it. Also, never let a man treat you badly or lie to you. Be willing to forgive and give second chances, but don't let someone walk all over you.
11. Learning another language opens many doors.
And is a good financial investment! There's no better feeling that having a conversation with someone in a language you've been struggling to learn for years. Buena suerte!
12. An apple a day keeps the doctor away...
Exercise, a healthy diet, enough sleep, and a clean environment are key to a healthy mind and body.
13. ...but a rosary day keeps the devil away.
Prayer is the backbone to the Christian life. Constant prayer prepares you for to take on whatever the world throws at you.
14. People aren't analyzing your actions like you are.
People are too busy analyzing themselves to pay that much attention to you. Get over yourself.
15. Take time to be alone each day...
Pray, journal, drink tea, do yoga - find a ritual that allows you to recharge away from the world.
16. ...But don't be alone too long when you're sad.
Your friends are there to support you and give awesome man bear hugs. Don't seclude yourself from the world when there are so many people who love you.
17. You can't stay silent about injustice.
Whether it's bullying on the playground or a culture that romanticizes violence, you can't just be a passive observer of evil - you need to stand up for the good and beautiful truths of this world.
18. Take your faith seriously, but not yourself.
If you goof, laugh at yourself! Don't be a fuddy-duddy - life is wayyyy too short not to have fun.
19. Praise in public, criticize in private.
One that I'm working on - be sure to shout the praises of your friends and acquaintances on the rooftops but keep constructive criticism for private moments. Allow, don't criticize if it's not coming from a place of love.
20. Life is a wonderful adventure.
There are moments of intense pain and moments of utter joy. Laughter, tears, shouts, sneezes - life is a confusing, delightful little ride. There are roller coaster rides and surprise snow days and divorce and breakups and death and birth. There are theology teachers who change the course of your life for the better, and dance coaches who force you to grow a thick skin.
This past year, I struggled with intense periods of anxiety. I constantly worried about my future and whether I would be prepared for it. The truth is, the future will never exist. We can only reflect on what we have learned in the past, and control ourselves in the present moment. While we can lay out goals and plans for the future, there will always be unexpected bumps in the road.
I never expected to come to Trinity University. I never expected to be Catholic. I never expected to fall in love with and have my heart broken by that one awkward dude from middle school. I never expected to witness my parents' divorce.
Had you asked the ten-year-old version of me what she thought my teen years would be that, there's no way she could have foreseen the path that my life has taken.
As I embark on the next decade of my life, I am coming to peace with the fact that I do not what these next ten years will bring. That's okay.
I plan to embrace the uncertainty with the faith that God has amazing plans for each of his beloved children, and I look forward to the next decade of adventure.