22 Life-Lessons In 22 Years

22 Life-Lessons In 22 Years

You are not defined by your failures or your rejections.

It’s that time of year again where I reflect on myself and all that I have been taught during my 22 years of existence. These lessons, tips, and bits of advice have been brought to me by self-learning, loved ones, and the ability to learn from other’s mistakes. By no means am I done learning and I still have a lifetime ahead of me, but here are just a couple lessons I can pass on and reflect on.

1. Be YOU

At 22, you should be a little more comfortable with yourself and the person you have become. There’s no need to disguise yourself anymore or try to be someone you’re not. It’s time to be proud of yourself and put your best self out there. Once you do, you’ll know that people love you for who you really are.

2. Connect with old friends

By now there are a number of people you’ve lost touch with whom you were once close to. Even if this is someone who at one point was your best friend, it’s time to reconnect with them and see how they’re doing. You might surprise yourself at how happy they’ll be or how happy you’ll be at having done so.

3. Be picky

Don’t be afraid to have a type of love interest that you’re fond of. You’re at the age where you need to stop dating any “cute” guy that comes your way. It’s time to be picky and choosey. It’s okay to say no to certain boys, and you don’t need to continue “testing the waters.”

4. Know how to practice safe sex

You’re old enough and smart enough to know the precautions, and you’re not even close to being capable of raising a child. So don’t be dumb. Be smart, practice smart, and it’ll be a fun time! Oh and if a guy tells you it feels better without a condom, they’re a coward.

5. Find a hobby.

Occupy your time with something that makes you happy that you enjoy. Whether it’s yoga, painting, fishing, etc., it’s healthy to have a hobby that occupies your time in a positive way and allows you to better yourself.

6. Call your grandparents AT LEAST once a week.

While you’re growing up, they’re growing old. And the sad reality is that they’re not going to be around for much longer. So make the most of the time you have with them, remind them how much you love them, and take the time to visit and talk with them. They will appreciate it and you’ll appreciate it in the long run. They miss you and want to talk to you more than you realize, but they don’t want to be a burden.

7. Create your goals, and then start chasing them

You’re not getting any younger, but it’s not too late to set new goals. The problem is that our generation is lazy and expects things to come to them easily. That’s not the reality. Goals take work, time, and effort. So don’t be lazy and start working on them.

8. Work on your weaknesses and imperfections, but don’t obsess over them

It’s a known fact. No one is 100% happy with themselves. We all have our insecurities and things that we are unhappy with. So rather than obsessing and sulking in sadness over them, start working at what you can change. If there’s something you are unhappy with, then the only person that can fix that is you. But be realistic. Some things you will just have to let go of and know that that is what makes you who you are. We all inherit a unique beauty in ourselves and it’s up to you to find that.

9. Get lost so you can find yourself

Staying in the same place isn’t going to help you grow as a person. In fact, it’s going to be a bigger disservice. So get out even if it’s for a weekend, a week, month, however long you need. You’ll really find out what kind of person you are and add those experiences to your list of accomplishments.

10. Have an idol

There’s always someone we aspire to be. We should have someone we look up to for positive reasons such as their success, their contributions to the general population, etc. For me, I have always been a huge fan of Nastia Liukin. As someone who is goal-oriented, successful, hard-working, etc., she is someone who has aspired me to be successful and work hard for my achievements.

11. Know how to rock red lipstick and a messy bun

You don’t always have to look put together. But you don’t always have to look like a hobo. Know how to dress up and dress down at appropriate times. Practice your fierce look with a good shade of red lipstick, and know how to throw up a messy bun within .005 seconds.

12. Nothing is more attractive than an educated individual

Intelligence is attractive. Not the sort of intelligence where you come off as a know it all that no one wants to be around and they avoid, but being able to hold an intelligent conversation with someone is very attractive. It’ll intimidate men in a good way and make them keep up with you.

13. Have a Plan B, C, and sometimes D

By now you know that not everything you planned out is going to work out. It’s going to take some getting used to the fact that you will be devastated at some points in your life at the turn events that will sometimes happen. So by now, you know that it’s smart and important to have backup plans. Because when one door closes another one will literally open and you must be prepared to move onto the next.

14. Be the girl you were told you couldn’t be

By now you’ve been told at one point or another that you can’t do something or you wouldn’t make it somewhere. Hopefully, you’ve already proven that person wrong. If not, you best be working on proving them wrong. Because one day you’ll be able to say “I told you so.”

15. Find something that brings out your inner five-year-old

Remember that giddy feeling you got when you were a kid with something that made you so happy? Find something that gives you that on a regular basis. And note that I said “something” not “someone.” For me, Disney gives me that feeling. The feeling of seeing dreams come true, make-believe being a norm, and catchy songs that makes me smile like a goofy kid. Find something that gives you the same joy and that same feeling.

16. Know that you are not your failures or rejections

You are not defined by the job you didn’t get, the school that wait-listed you, or the boy that told you he couldn’t love you. You are more than that. You have learned from all of those losses and you have become a better person because of it. The rejection that has been brought upon you has only made you better and stronger. And given you bigger and better opportunities.

17. Make a bucket list

Along with goals, you should have an idea of some things that you want to do before you die. Places you want to see, and things you want to accomplish. It can be filled with a list of 10 things or a list of over 1,000. A bucket list is important to have so you can say you did all of these things that amounted to your entire life.

18. Collect moments, not things

While making a bucket list it’s important to remember to buy the experience and focus little on buying material items. Memories and experiences will last a lifetime. An expensive piece of clothing will not give you even half the much enjoyment as any trip, adventure, or expedition could have.

19. Make your 16-year-old self proud of the person you are today

Sure you’re not the same person. But at least you’re a better person than who you were. You’ve grown up, you’ve learned a lot, and you’ve become a better version of what your 16-year-old could have dreamed of becoming.

20. Know that people are placed in your life for a reason

Whether it was the boy you met at the bar that did you dirty, the teacher who challenged you until you cried out of frustration, or the mentor who helped you realize what career you wanted in life; they were all placed in your life for one reason or another. They made you a better person, they taught you a valuable lesson, and realized if they were worth keeping around or not.

21. Be irresponsible whenever you can

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Sometimes you need to say screw it to certain obligations and go out and have a little fun. Go out to the bars when you have a paper due the next morning. Call in sick when you’re too hungover, and buy another round of drinks just because you can. Sometimes it’s okay to not be on top of it. You don’t always have to have it together.

22. You’re not done growing up

You still have an entire lifetime ahead of you to make more mistakes, learn more valuable lessons, and realize what’s important in your life and what’s just a waste of time. You may think your old but darling you have no idea. Don’t forget to be a kid. Don’t forget to grow up and keep learning.

So after 22 years, this is some of the best advice I can pass down to anyone willing to listen and read. I can’t wait to see what year 23 has to teach me, and all the years I have to come. Here’s to one more year older, I’m not so sure how much wiser.

Cover Image Credit: Cheyenne Wong

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.

You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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I Am 9,170 Miles Away But I Still Choose To Stand In Solidarity With The People Of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.


April 21, 2019. Easter Sunday.

I was devastated to wake up on Sunday morning to a series of missed calls and texts from friends asking whether my friends and family were affected by the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. I was shocked to read all of the news about the bombings in various churches and hotels that I'd visited on my trips to Sri Lanka. I remember wandering around the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in middle school hoping to get a glimpse of internationally famous cricket players like Lasith Malinga and Kumar Sangakkara.

Now, this hotel where I associated happy memories of staying up until 5 a.m. to watch the World Cup and running around with my brother is one of the 6 locations in Sri Lanka that was bombed on Easter.

Sri Lanka is a country that most of my peers have never heard of. It brings a smile to my face when I'm able to talk about the amazing experiences I've had on this island nation. I'm able to talk about how I almost got run over by an elephant during a safari in Yala National Park, how I took surfing lessons at Arugam Bay, and how I climbed all the way up Mount Sigiriya when I was 4 years old. All of these experiences have shown me the beauty of the people, the nature, the animals, and the culture of Sri Lanka. While there is so much to appreciate, there is also so much to acknowledge about its recent history.

In 2009, the 30-year civil war finally came to an end. I remember going to my parents' room when I was nine, and watching live streams of people in the streets celebrating that the war had finally ended. This was a war that caused the majority of my family to flee the country to avoid the violence and destruction. Now, almost ten years after the war ended, there was a coordinated attack on churches and hotels that led to the murder of over 300 innocent citizens and wounded around 500 people.

Sri Lanka isn't perfect, but it's roots and culture have made me who I am today. Even though I wasn't alive during the majority of the war, it has left a lasting impact on my family. My mom had to go by herself to Russia, without any prior Russian language experience, to avoid being in the middle of the war. She now speaks English, Russian, Tamil, and Sinhalese. I had other family members who fled to places like New Zealand, Nigeria, Canada, and Australia.

Because of the war, I have family all over the world who can speak Mandarin, Arabic, Dutch, Malay, French, Russian, and so many more languages. Being Sri Lankan has given me an international perspective on the world around me and has given me the insight to look past cultural differences. Instead of going to shopping malls with my cousins like my friends in the US do, I meander through bazaars in Singapore and Malaysia or go dune-bashing in the United Arab Emirates.

When people look at me, they never think that my last name could be Paul. Shouldn't it be something that is hard to pronounce or something much longer? My last name dates back to 1814 when missionaries from Williams College traveled all the way to villages in the Northern parts of Sri Lanka to share God's love. My great great great grandfather studied in one of the many Christian schools and his faith has been passed down from generation to generation. No matter how dark things got during the war, faith is what kept my family going.

Though Sri Lanka has faced adversity over the years, it continues to grow stronger. Through violence, hurricanes, government corruption, and internal conflicts, Sri Lanka continues to push through. Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.

So today—9,170 miles away—I stand with the people of Sri Lanka.

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