Life is an enduring journey, full of new experiences, opportunities, and mysteries left for each person to discover. Sometimes we fall, sometimes we make mistakes, but the most important thing is that we have learned from them. Over the past nineteen years, these are the main nineteen lessons I have learned over the course of my life.
1. Change is natural, and that's OK.
The first major change I found myself going through was from elementary school to middle school. I'd been fortunate enough to have all of my best friends in each of my classes since the second grade, so I was worried what would happen when we each pursued different schedules in middle school. It was a scary change, but a necessary one that prepared me for the road ahead. Life is full of change and it's entirely OK. If you go with the flow in the face of adversity, the change won't be as scary as it seems.
2. I can do anything I put my mind to and more.
Prima ballerina. Pop singer. Marine biologist. Author. These are all things that I've wanted to be when I grew up, and if there's one thing they have in common, it's that they all require hard work. Whether it was performing on a stage or publishing my own ideas, I can accomplish anything I desire if I put my mind to it and allocate the hard work necessary for those dreams to reach fruition.
3. Some people will stay in my life...
As schools and classes change, so do the people. That was a major discovery for me growing up, because I relied a lot on my friends. They made me happy and comfortable, wherever I was. Fortunately, over the course of my nineteen years, there are a plethora of friends who have remained in my life, from the moment we met in elementary school to the present...
4. ...And others won't.
...But some people just aren't meant to stay in your life and that's okay. Maybe it's a friend, a partner, a family member. Whoever it might be, their absence may hurt at first, and you might want to do whatever possible to get them back. But what's most important to realize is that the ebb and flow of people throughout our lives are natural, and those that are meant to be in our lives will stay.
5. A bad day is nothing more than a bad few moments.
This is a big one, especially as I moved into high school and college. Heavier workloads seemed to have a positive correlation with my stress levels and mental breakdowns every so often. For a long time, it was easy for me to take every minor thing that went wrong in a day, compile them into a giant list, and lament them all. But this had a toxic effect on my well-being, and thankfully, I've gotten better at recognizing that a minor inconvenience is exactly that, rather than the onset of World War III.
6. Confidence isn't easy, but it makes things easier.
Ah, confidence. The most coveted personality trait of all. Some fake it, some don't, but are we entirely sure? Regardless, as I grew up, I found that confidence was key to overcoming my fears, my shyness, and my worries. If there was something I wanted to do, I should do it! If there was something I wanted to say, I should say it! The only thing stopping me was me. Once I realized that, it became easier to go about my life. It's not an overnight change by any means, but the realization that you are worth everything this world has to offer and more can open doors you didn't even knew could be opened.
7. It's OK to be scared.
Growing up, I was afraid of a lot of things. The dark. Spiders. Clowns. The Phantom of the Megaplex. I was easily frightened by everything, but I found that the biggest kind of fear I possessed was that of the future. Uncertainty. It can drive even the most resolute of us all mad with wonder. However, it is entirely okay to be scared sometimes, whatever it might be. So long as you can take a step back and realize that there may not be a whole lot to be afraid of, gradually immersing yourself in whatever is worrying you, you'll find that things may get a whole lot easier.
8. It's OK to cry.
Let's face it: we all have cried. Some of us cry a lot, others only cry when something really urges them to. Whichever is the case, it's important to learn that sometimes, when it feels like the odds are against you and things are going wrong, it's okay to let it all out. Crying may not solve our problems, but it's crucial to let yourself feel an emotion when it strikes. Bottling up feelings can only lead to more stress, and as life gets tougher over the years, it's best to keep your emotions stable so life itself will follow.
9. Kindness goes a long way...
If you asked any one of my peers or classmates growing up if they could describe me in one word, nine times out of ten their word of choice will be 'kind'. Growing up, I always saw this as a sort of cop-out (tell me what you really think, random kid I've never met before) but as I got older, I realized its power. We live in a world where selfishness and individualistic behaviors are revered and are thought to promote success. While things like ambition and determination do tend to yield these results, that is not to say that things like kindness and compassion are unnecessary. If anything, they're the most important qualities a person can have. Kindness can change someone's day, and just maybe, it might change the world.
10. ...And so does intelligence.
We live in a world where being the loudest tends to mean you're right, where the more ignorant you are towards the consequences of your words and actions, the more confident and powerful you are. This could not be farther from the truth. The true force that drives progress and bolsters success is intelligence. Academic, emotional, general, technical. There are multiple forms of intelligence, and they each are symbiotic. The more you know, the greater you can be and the greater the things you do will be. That is what I was always taught growing up, and I have revered it as a maxim throughout my life.
11. Education will open more doors than you can think.
As a child, I never fully understood the importance of an education. Of course, what kid likes going to school when they could stay home, watch cartoons, and play with their friends? However, as I grew up, I learned to value education and the opportunities it gave me. Education is truly a privilege, one that should be a right across all nations, and I have seen just how important an education is to having a better life. I saw what it took for my family to give me these opportunities to go to good schools, and for that reason, I don't want my family's sacrifices to be in vain. An education is crucial to one's personal development, as well as the world's.
12. Some goodbyes are only temporary.
One of the hardest experiences for me to deal with growing up was when my sister went away to college when I was twelve. While she was six years older than me, we were very close, and she was and continues to be my best friend. Having her leave the house, seemingly for good, took a toll on me during the first year or two she was at school. However, I was grateful to learn that while the separation was hard at first, it would become easier as I realized it was only temporary. After all, there's nothing that can separate sisters; their bond is too great for any influence to shatter, least of all distance. Now that I myself am in college, and I've had to bid goodbye to my parents, I've come full circle in realizing that some goodbyes are only temporary, and that's okay.
13. Family is at the root of all things.
I don't claim to know every person's family situation, nor do I claim to have had a perfect experience without tension or conflict in my own. Frankly, no family is perfect, no matter what the convoluted ideas of the American Dream try to say. Ultimately, I love my family, and without them, I would not be the person I am today. They have made countless sacrifices to ensure a better future, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
14. Speak up, speak out, and speak loud.
Entering high school taught me that the world can be a muzzle towards people with dissenting opinions. For a girl who was often too shy to talk to her crush, that was bad news. I had a lot of things to say, and I was only starting to gain the confidence necessary to make them known. However, as I went through high school, I found movements and things that sparked my interest and necessitated my passion. Whether it was the importance of the arts or gun control, I had opinions and I had the facts to speak about them in an unbiased, tolerant way. No matter how loud the white noise was in trying to quell these unmistakable truths, I learned that in the face of adversity, your voice can be the most powerful thing. All it takes is one loud voice to trigger an avalanche, after all. So why can't one voice cause change?
15. Never let anyone try to tell you who you are.
As adolescents and young adults, we love to comment on other people and the things they innately do to wrong us. We judge people before we even know them, and this is a toxin in a society that claims to be accepting and progressive. After all, the only person who knows who you are at your core, who knows what is in your heart and in your head, is you. No one can tell you what you can or cannot do.
16. Find your morals and values, and defend them with all your might.
This goes back to a few of the points I've already made about finding yourself. Especially as a college student in an environment full of people of different interests and walks of life, the most important thing to remember is your own heart. You can decide for yourself what your morals and values are, and while others may possess conflicting views towards your own, it is vital to consider people's own autonomy. A conversation should be exactly that, free of mudslinging and degradation founded solely on the idea that you disagree with someone's ideals.
17. The odds may seem like they're against you...
With finals week just around the corner, I think I'm safe in assuming that the vast majority of college students are currently losing their collective minds. After all, a myriad number of exams, assignments, projects, and papers would be enough to send anyone running for the hills. The stress may seem unconquerable at times, and that's normal. Sometimes, the past way to tackle a new problem is taking a step for a while, giving yourself time to breathe and think and relax, and then trying again.
18. ...But the only one keeping you from realizing your dreams is you.
Perseverance. Optimism. Ambition. Determination. Each of these traits is fuel for success, and when working together, they create a surefire attitude that cannot be taken away. It doesn't matter what you want to do with your life, if you want to become president or simply lead a normal life. You are the keeper and creator of your own dreams, and despite what people may think or feel compelled to say, only you can turn those dreams into realities.
19. With enough fire and enough passion, you can change the world.
This is quite possible the most recent and most important lesson I've learned in my nineteen years. Right now, I stand at a crossroads of opportunities, interests, and dreams. There are a million things I want to do in my life, and a million more that I want to see. Our world is suffering from so much, from climate change to intolerance to battles for rights to gun control. It's enough to desensitize the populace after seeing so much strife and misery on a day-to-day bases. However, I dissent. Those who see a problem and claim that there is nothing that can be done are not the people for the job. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Rick Riordan, there is always a way out for those clever enough to find it.
For that reason, I have learned the importance of guarding my values and fighting for what I believe and know to be right. I will do everything in my power to learn about the things I want to help change so I know how to change them. I will not lose sight of the positive things in life, no matter how much the negatives may scream for attention. I will remember who I am and where I come from as I look to the future and the challenges ahead. Because while there is no easy fix for what plagues our world or our lives, there is always hope. That is the given throughout these nineteen truths. Hope is the catalyst for change.