So I just turned twenty one about a week ago.
Within my twenty-one years on this earth, I have experienced the unforgiving loss of my mother, passionate loves that haunt me, heart breaks that will sting for a longer than I'd like them to, and the loyal companionship of men and women who inspire me daily. Although my newly twenty-one-year-old-self has still much to experience in this life time, I feel like I have been through things that not many people even experience in their adult lives.
This is the first article where I'll be talking about my real life, so with that being said: here's 21 things I have learned by the age twenty-one.
1. Never take your parents for granted.
Take this from someone who wishes every day that she told her mom that she loved her more, do not take your parents for granted. My mom passed away when I was 9 years old. I had a not-so great relationship with my dad, and for a really long time I blamed everyone around me for the way my life turned out; especially my dad. For awhile I took everything my dad did for granted. The good and the bad, I didn't think twice about discrediting him for everything he did. I think as I got older, I started to realize that my dad was doing the best he could, and if I ever wanted to have any type of relationship with him, I had to just get over everything that I was mustering up inside of me. So Dad, thanks for doing the best you could. I think I turned out pretty great. Obviously mine is not the most relatable scenario, but I still think its important to realize that you can't, even for a second, take anything your parents do for you for granted. They love you. They might have a weird way of showing it, or they may tell you everyday, but they do love you. Make sure you let them know that you love them too.
2. Stop isolating yourself in fear of otherwise standing out.
Okay so I'm weird, or at least I've always felt weird. I have isolated myself from others since I was a child. I was the kind of kid that was hyper all the time, like in your face annoying. Long story short, I didn't have a lot of friends as a child. Partially, I blame the fact that I moved around a lot as a child, so it was hard to make friends. None the less, after my mom passed, it was even harder to make friends. Looking back, I isolated myself from everyone for a long time because I just felt like I didn't belong anywhere. Stupid enough I got myself into a two year relationship in college where I was practically forced to isolate myself. It really hasn't been until lately that I have started to meet people, and wow is it refreshing. You may be the most social person ever, but everyone comes to a point in their life where they feel like they need to distance themselves from others. Don't do it. People are important. You should want to be the type of person that turns heads when they walk into a room. I know it took me a really long time to realize this. It's important to stand out in a crowd, because you will otherwise be forgotten. No one wants to be forgotten.
3. Help yourself first, then worry about other people.
I cannot stress this enough, you cannot help anyone until you help yourself or you will just end up getting burned. I learned this the hard way when I decided to jump into a relationship right after getting my world turned upside down. I ended up "helping them out of a bad place", giving them the courage to get their life back where they wanted it to be, and then they left. That sucked. My whole life I had this mentality that I needed to help everyone, which I guess I still have. But it became an obligation to put everyone before myself. I think it's so important to care about others, but there comes a point where you have to make sure you're okay before you can help someone else.
4. Be kind to others.
This is pretty straight forward. We are all humans living in the same world. Now I'm not the most religious person, but the bible says "love thy neighbor" and I think thats the easiest way to put it. There is nothing that makes you any better than the person next to you. Now we all have our privileges, but that is not a bad thing. Use your privilege to benefit someone else. Have a positive outlook on life, and live by the motto "to each their own". If someone isn't doing anything to hurt you or someone else, there is no reason for you to make comments or act a certain way towards them. Just be nice. Ellen Degeneres is my literal idol and she ends every show with "be kind to one another." So please, be kind to one another.
5. Get involved in things you're passionate about.
Ask any graduating sorority girl what advice she has for the Freshman and she'll tell you to get involved. So here I am, a Junior sorority girl telling you to get involved. This goes way beyond college though. If you're reading this and you're in high school, even if you're 65, its not too late to get involved in something you care about. My biggest regret in high school was not getting involved in more things. I kind of slid by under the radar my teen years, and when I got to college I decided to join Greek Life. Not only was that the best decision I could have ever made, but I am currently the Chapter President of my sorority, and hopefully will be working with Greek Life for the rest of my life. Of course not everyone is as die hard for their passions as I am, but whatever you love doing just put your heart into it. Life is so boring if you don't find joy in doing things you love.
6. Surround yourself with people who care about your successes, not failures.
You know the people in your life who always make you question their intentions? Where you constantly ask yourself if they really care about you? There are the kind of people who will constantly support you for your successes, and there are ones who will try to point out and fix your failures. Now don't get me wrong, I love when my best friend can give me advice on how to fix something. But when you have people in your life who only focus on something you did wrong, they are not supportive people and probably are not genuine either. I've had many of people in my life who have made me feel like everything I do is wrong in their eyes. Don't waste your time trying to prove yourself to them. You don't need to prove yourself to anyone who truly cares about you.
7. Trying to rush love will be the reason you never find it.
Love is special, and different every time you experience it. When I was a child, my Saturday mornings were spent studying Disney Princess movies. I say study because I didn't just watch these love stories to enjoy them, I watched to learn about love, or at least what I thought love was supposed to look like. I remember the first time I ever saw my favorite childhood film, The Little Mermaid, I was so intrigued by the fact that two people could fall in love so fast. That idea of a "fairytale love" had stayed with me through the rest of my child hood, and into my young adulthood. Now at 21, after experiencing love in a few different ways, I can assure you that people do not, and should not, fall in love overnight. I think that society has pushed these preconceived notions that love is supposed to be all butterflies and rainbows, and while yes it should, love is a thing that we cannot force to happen. Sometimes, love can happen in a very short time. Others, love takes time to grow into the beautiful thing that it is meant to be. Spending your time trying to fall in love will only end in your loneliness. Give people chances, let yourself experience things. Just because love has not shown up yet, does not mean that it never will. Remember that.
8. Close minded people are the worst.
You will come across people who will refuse to see the world from any perspective other than their own. Do not waste your time trying to argue with them; to make them see your point. Simply smile and walk away. Close minded people will bring you down in every aspect. Be the kind of person who sees the world for more than just what it is to you. Aspire to learn more about other cultures, immerse yourself with people that are different than you. I know i'm young and I haven't even had the opportunity to travel or anything like that, but I still think its important to teach yourself as much about people and the world as possible.
9. If people want to be in your life, they will be.
Friendships are a two way street, and if someone wants to be here they will. I remember all too well always trying to keep people in my life because I thought they needed to be there. Don't bend over backwards for people who wont give you the time of day. These people are not your friends. I am a low maintenance friend, and I like having other low maintenance friends in my life. I'm introverted and don't always like to be the one to make plans because more times than not I'd rather stay in bed. Its healthy to have friends in my life who understand this, and don't penalize me for it. Don't settle for friends who make you feel bad about not wanting to always hangout, or vice versa, don't get mad at your friends if they aren't always around. They're still your friend and you should be able to talk to them whenever.
10. Give people chances, but not too many.
I'm a firm believer that people change. I think that holding someones past against them is never fair. Now thats not to say that you should let someone back into your life after they have continuously hurt you over and over. I know this all to well. Sometimes it's hard to see the end, even when its standing right in front of you. I let someone control my life and my emotions for years because I was convinced that they would change, that someday they would come around. I think that after enough heart ache I realized that they will never be who I need them to be, and I stopped giving them chances. It hurts. We always want to hold on to the idea that one day things will be different. It's okay to give second chances, but you shouldn't let it surpass that.
11. High school, indeed, does suck.
Puberty, pimples, hormones, boys, prom, parties. Ugh. Some people will tell you that they loved high school and that it was the best time of their life. Don't listen to these people. These people are crazy. Life gets so much better after you cross the stage and grab that piece of paper. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. I met my best friend in high school. She is probably one of the only good things to come out of it all. Just hang in there, I promise that high school is nothing compared to the adventure that you will find in college and then after.
12. Your health is important.
No matter what age you are, take care of yourself. When I was 17, I had never thought about my health. I was an able-bodied, healthy teenager who was just accepted into college when I suffered a stroke. I lost almost all mobility of the right side of my body for 4 months, and it was the most physically and emotionally draining time I have ever experienced. I never in a million years thought that something like that could happen to me, but it did. No matter your age or current health status, you should always take care of your body. I had to make a lot of changes in my life in order to simply keep myself alive. As cliche as it sounds, your body is a temple; treat it like one. Eat right, exercise, spend time outside, disconnect from everything. You may never experience a life-threatening illness, or a disease that changes your life. Be thankful that you are healthy, and do all you can to maintain that.
13. There is always going to be someone who is better at something than you.
It took me a really long time to realize this. If you're like me, you feel like you have to be perfect at everything you do. Any time I wanted to learn how to do something, I would push myself to the point of frustration. I slowly learned that I was never going to be perfect at everything I set out to do, and comparing myself to other people was only going to discourage me. Moral of this story, you will be amazing at some things, and not others. Its okay if you're not perfect at everything, because no ones perfect.
14. The best leader is a humble one.
I never saw myself as a leader. I didn't take charge in group projects, I didn't try to tell anyone how to do anything. Something changed in me after high school, and in college I was set out to be someone that people looked up to. Now I don't know If I have accomplished that, but I think that I have learned a lot about what it means to be a good leader. Good leaders are always willing to learn more about themselves, and the people they are leading. I think its so silly when someone in a leadership position thinks that they know everything about being a good leader, because no one knows everything. As a student leader, and a chapter president I have come to realize that a good leader is one who is humble and human. There is no better quality in a leader than someone can admit their wrongdoings and work towards fixing them in the future. Don't be stubborn. Admit when you're wrong, it'll be worth it in the end.
15. You really don't have to have it all figured out.
Sometimes our lives start to go in one direction and we think that we can see exactly where we are going to end up. I was with someone for so long that I could see my life with them playing out. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, and how my future was going to be. It was scary when we broke up because I had no idea what I was going to do anymore. My point: sometimes things happen and our idea of the future is challenged or taken away. Don't hold yourself to any expectations on where you are supposed to be or how you get there. I'm not saying don't set goals for yourself, because goals are important. But the most important thing is that you accomplish your goals, not that you followed a step by step guide to get there. Sometimes we have to take some detours along the way, but we still end up at our destination. Embrace the obstacles, take the back roads, enjoy the journey.
16. Not everyone is going to take the time to understand you, that's okay.
You are a unique and remarkable human being. Everyone has their stories, and sometimes your stories might be a lot more than someone else's. Not everyone sees the world like you do, that does not make them anymore or less than you. It's hard for people to open up about their stories, and even harder to listen to someone's story and relate to it. You will meet people who will take your story and jump to the chapters that excite them the most, but they will have no idea who you really are. You will also meet people who take the time to read every page, who use bookmarks to remember their favorite parts, who will appreciate where you come from and what you've been through. Hold onto those people, because they are the ones who will make a difference in your life.
17. Being alone is hard, but important.
I really didn't learn this until recently. I was the type of girl who craved attention from someone, anyone. All I wanted was to be in a stereotypical girl-meets-boy relationship like all my friends. Looking back I am grateful that I wasn't. When I got to college I finally got my taste of a "real" relationship, but a pretty unhealthy one none the less. I then went from one relationship to the next, and well that backfired. Now, newly-single-and-very-alone me has realized that 1. I didn't really know how to be alone, and 2. being alone is so necessary. I really don't know who I am without being with someone, but I'm learning. I'm not going to lie, I miss having someone around all the time. I know that its important for me to learn who I am, and make myself happy before I can make anyone else happy.
18. You can't fix everyone.
As much as I'd like to think that I can mother-Theresa everyone, I can't. You will come across people in your life who you will feel obligated to help. You can try all you want to help them, to "fix them", but you can only tell someone the same thing so many times until you need to give up. It sucks, but some people are just lost causes. Its blunt and harsh, but the sooner you realize it, the more time you'll be able to spend being happy for the people you have helped.
19. It's always better to have a few good friends than a lot of fake ones.
We all wanted to be popular, to have a huge group of friends that we could count on. While this is important, and you should be able to have as many friends in your life as you want, don't force it. It is so much better to have a few good people in your life who would drop anything for you, than have a lot of people who really only talk to you when its convenient for them. You really learn who is there for you when you experience something that you need friends for. People will show their true colors eventually, just don't convince yourself that they are good friends if deep down you know they aren't.
20. Sometimes you will lose people because they just aren't meant to be in your life.
A concept that is hard to understand, and one that I still struggle with. Everything happens for a reason, and you will meet so many people in your life. Not everyone you meet is meant to be in your life forever, even if they seem like it. The only advice I have for this is to just take it one day at a time. Losing someone who you thought would be in your life for a long time is hard, but just know that when one door closes another opens.
21. Do things that make you happy now.
I can't stress this enough, live your damn life. Make decisions that are going to make you happy right now. Don't hold back on happiness because you don't know whats going to happen tomorrow. Not knowing whats going to happen tomorrow is all the more reason to just live for the now.
Twenty-one is the age where you have so many opportunities to live your life however you want to, so do it. I never want to be the person who looks back on their life and regrets not taking a chance, or not having fun. Be wild, be fearless, and be free to be whoever you want to be. Life is so short.