21 Life Lessons I Learned After I Turned 21

21 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 21, But I Know I Won't Forget

Another milestone made in your life, embrace it, but don't forget these lessons.

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I turned twenty-one a little over a month ago, and there are definitely some things I wish I knew before this momentous birthday. I think a part of me already knew these things deep down but writing them out and seeing them on a piece of paper makes them harder to ignore. And there are times where I completely forget I'm 21 until someone encourages me to have a drink at dinner. In my mind, I still feel like an 18-year-old in her senior year of high school as she figures out her college career. But this list brings me back to the person I aspire to be.

1. It's okay to not have everything figured out

I didn't realize I wanted to change my major until I was 20. Let alone the kind of job I want or where I want to work or live. There is still so much for me to figure out that it stresses me out, but right now, there are other things I need to focus on and that's perfectly fine.

2. Going to bars and clubs is overrated

As a freshman, this idea of going out with your friends was so magical and amazing, that you wanted to do it all the time. But as you go through college, it is very easy to lose all interest in doing that. Now, I would so much rather stay in and play the Wii or watch Netflix. It just doesn't fit my style anymore.

3. Don't worry so much about what other people think of you

This one has been a little harder for me. I'm a paranoid person and it's been difficult to tell myself that no one is talking about me or looking at me for more than a few seconds. It also hurts your confidence. Thinking other people are looking at you or judging you will determine how you present yourself to the world. There's nothing wrong with wearing leggings and sweatshirts or dresses and flats every day. Other people shouldn't determine what you wear or how you act. Just be yourself and learn to love your quirks and style.

4. Friends grow apart

I was prepared for this from high school. But I didn't know I'd drift apart from so many people in college. I was worried we'd lose touch when we moved into different dorms and off campus, but it became much more than that. No contact at all. But that's a part of growing up.

5. Don't be afraid to try something new

This is something you can never hear enough. Whether it's trying something new at a restaurant or joining a club or traveling somewhere new. There are so many opportunities to expand your horizons and get out of your comfort zone, so when they come, take them!

6. Drinking isn't all that great

Going out to bars and clubs is one thing, but just drinking, in general, is okay at best. It doesn't matter if you're drinking to get plastered or just casually sipping your drink for hours, it really isn't all that great. You really don't need alcohol to have fun. I'll have a drink every now and then or a glass of wine, but I will not be making this a habit.

7. It's okay to open up about your emotions

We are at the age where we are mostly aware of what we're feeling at any time. And we also have a solid group of friends who we share these emotions with. So, it is a time where we should feel comfortable around certain people to express these emotions. And if you're not, as long as they don't push you to share your every feeling, you'll eventually warm up to them and tell them all about your feelings in no time.

8. Cut toxic people out of your life, they're not worth it

I've dealt with this a couple of times since I've been in college. It can be very hard to just break off all ties and not think about them. It was hard for me. But unfollowing or blocking them on social media is a start. If you're not seeing their posts, you won't be reminded of the good times you had. Because in this case, the good times do not outweigh the bad times.

9. You're never alone no matter what

No matter what you're going through, there is at least one person who understands that pain and stress. It may feel like you're alone and that no one would understand what you're going through. But it'll help you get through whatever issues you have going on.

10. Rely on your friends more

At this point in our lives, we've had the same friends for years, decades even. And your college friends have been there for you eight months out of the year, so they know a lot of what happens to you through college. They've been there for you since you met, you can trust them. And your friends back home have been there for you through thick and thin, they will always support you.

11. Traveling at a young age is much harder than it looks

I've seen more than a handful of people I've graduated high school with traveling to exotic locations in Europe. I'm jealous and confused. I would love to go to Europe, or anywhere for that matter, but I also don't know how they can afford these trips. I know I'm not in a place financially to splurge on a trip across the world, no matter how much I want to.

12. Other people don't have their lives figured out either

It may seem like everyone has their entire life planned out and are just on a straight shot to their dreams, but that's not always true. Sure, there are definitely people out there that know exactly what they want and where they want to end up, but there are more than enough people that have no idea what they're doing. And that's fine, it takes time to figure things out.

13. Sometimes you need a good cry

Crying is often seen as a sign of weakness, but that's not true. People cry for all kinds of reasons and for all kinds of emotions. When I'm mad, sad, happy, laughing, thinking about the future, I cry. And sometimes all you really need is to cry. And when you're done and everything has passed, you'll feel so much better.

14. No one is laughing at you, despite what you're anxiety tells you

I am still working on this one, but I still believe it is very relevant. It's hard to tell yourself they're not laughing at you, but it is much more believable that they're laughing at something on their phone or something their friend said. We have no reason to think they're laughing at us. I know this is easier said than done, but once you think it, you'll start to believe it.

15. Retail therapy isn't an actual form of therapy

No matter how many times I go shopping or spend money in general, I tell myself I'm just treating myself or that I deserve what I purchased, but this is a toxic way of thinking. Spending money to distract myself from the real issues that are bothering me is not a healthy way of thinking or dealing with problems. If anything, it just creates more stress depending on the amount of money spent.

16. Nothing's wrong with you if you've never been kissed or dated

This is a big one for me. I've been trying to wrap my head around what I'm doing wrong and what I can improve with myself to make these things happen, but there's nothing wrong with me. I believe that things happen for a reason, and there's a reason why I haven't had these chances. And I know that it'll happen someday, I just need to get to that point in my life and stop worrying so much.

17. Making mistakes is just part of living

Mistakes help us grow as human beings and learn what not to do for next time. There's nothing wrong with making a few mistakes, we're only human. What matters is how you react to making mistakes. Do you take action to make sure they don't happen again? Or do you shrug it off and go around and do the exact same thing again?

18. Watching Netflix isn't going to fix all your problems

While Netflix is awesome and can distract you for a couple hours, it rarely fixes problems. If anything, it gives you less time to fix the problems. Netflix is a way to rewind after a long day or a way to spend a study break, not something serious like fixing a relationship or mental health problems. Those, unfortunately, can't be fixed by binge-watching.

19. Everyone needs some space sometimes and that's fine

Saying you need space isn't a bad thing. Space gives us room to think and evaluate our lives. It gives us time to breathe before we make decisions. There's nothing wrong with needing space, it'd be pretty incredible if you didn't need it from time to time.

20. Taking mental health days are extremely important

Taking a day off every once in a while is perfectly normal. It can really clear your mind before you take on a large task or if you just need a break. We are all entitled to taking time to ourselves and it should be prioritized.

21. Don't take life too seriously

All in all, life is an awesome experience we all never asked for but were gifted. We should be excited to take risks and plan adventures and just live our lives. It can be hard to let go and jump into something spontaneously, but it is so worth it if you trust yourself and take that chance. Your life may never be the same, and that is what life is all about!

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Not All Third World Countries Should Strive To Emulate The US

For years, the U.S. has tried to tell us that our roads are too small, and our streets too crowded. Our dogs are stray and they need to be on a leash, but we are not them. - Third World Countries

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I'm not sure where to begin, because this is a topic I hold very close to my heart. Not only was I born in Cartagena, but all my childhood memories reside in Colombia. Even as I am typing this, I can't help but tear up.

Last week, I had to watch "The Mission," a movie about the assimilation of the indigenous people of South America. To make matters hit home, it was filmed (partially) in Colombia. Not only did I have to watch this movie, but every scene triggered something in me. What had happened hundreds of years ago, is currently happening. Investors, are the conquistadors of the 21st century, invading land that doesn't belong to them, and destroying the local communities — this kind of mentality is a disease that must be addressed.

(Maria Marrugo)

When I was a little girl, I remember "El Centro," the downtown area, as this magical place. It was where you could go to find the town's sales and most fresh fruit. It was a lively place, weird smells and all. There would be vendors in the streets and all sorts of yelling and talking, to get people to buy their goods. When I was 9 years old, I moved to Naples, Florida with my mom, and the home I had known all my life was going to become my summer stay.

I would come back and visit Cartagena every summer. Around the time I was in high school, I saw a shift. El Centro was no longer dirty, and people no longer lived there. My worse nightmare came true; it was becoming gentrified. They upped the rent, and people that had lived their entire life could no longer afford it. The old houses are now either hotels or mansions, the culture that had shaped my entire being was disappearing right in front of my eyes, and I couldn't do anything. I felt so helpless.

Now, when I go home, I don't feel at home. Our plaza is filled with tourist, people taking selfies and detaching from the moment. Colombia was the place where I could go to unplug from the world, I felt at ease, and that is now taken away from me.

Sometime in March, Savannah Montano posted a picture in Colombia.

The original post was deleted from her Instagram, but the copies remain.

At first, I was happy, but then the reality hit me, no no no! The reason why I am so defensive about Colombia is that it is not like any other place. Colombians are not people that need luxuries, we live by the river and under the sky. We don't like to wear shoes and say good morning to our neighbors every day.

We may not have electricity in every place or running water for that fact. Our streets are not all paved, but happiness is real. We don't have the latest technology, but we care deeply and dearly with each other. Our culture may be hard to understand, and most people looking in could never understand how we could live a life in the jungle. For years, the US has tried to tell us that our roads are too small, and our streets too crowded. Our dogs are astray and they need to be on a leash. But this is not the case.

Where you see a poor child running barefoot, I see a happy kid running as fast as he can to hide and win hide-and-seek. Where you see a man wandering the streets, I see a man that has chosen to live a life not attached to material things. Colombia is true freedom. Freedom from material things and debt. Here, we may not be able to afford a flat screen TV, but our coffee grows on a soil that has witnessed the most glorious wars.

We might be a little too noisy, but we have good intentions. We might judge your look, but we stare because we're curious. Our parties are a little too crazy, and our grandmas a little too judgmental, but our food and fruits will make you understand why. We drink too much, and party too hard, but on Sundays, we go to church and have family dinner.

Girl in village picking flowers without shoes.

I guess the part that is hard for me to witness, is the technology aspect. And the fact that people are coming in and making our home an Insta story. Colombia is the place that makes me forget to look at my phone because no one there gives a shit about that. People look you in the eyes and try to engage at the moment. But the last two years, I've gone home, I've seen more phones and selfies than my own college. It sickens me. You must understand, I am seeing it change. People can't dance anymore without people pulling their phone out.

Playa Blanca is this beautiful white beach island. For 19 years, there was no way of getting there if it wasn't by boat or ferry, so, to say the least, it was a hassle. It took about 18 years to pave the roads and build a bridge, why? Because that island is our jewel. And now that the road is paved it has allowed all kind of tourist to come. It is overcrowded, and the littering has gotten out of hand. The water is not as clear as it once was. People, we are destroying our planet! By coming in and stomping all over our Earth without being mindful of it, we are killing it. My biggest fear is not being able to show my kids my hometown.

I want my kids and grandkids to enjoy what I was so lucky to enjoy. I want their memories to overlap with my childhood memories, and I'm scared it won't happen. For this reason, I know that not all countries are meant to be westernized.

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