This article is a little delayed given that I turned twenty a few weeks ago, but since then I have done some reflecting on my life and lessons I've learned along the way. I have compiled this list, which contains nineteen important lessons that I learned before my twentieth birthday. They are in no particular order and some of the lessons are self-explanatory, so I refrained from explaining those.
1. I can. I will. I must.
This is my motto for life. I adopted it during my sophomore year of high school and have kept it since. It is written on my mirror, scribbled on a post-it note in my backpack, and hanging in my room.
2. Focus on self awareness.
Take the time to truly understand who you are and who you want to become. Know your values, what you stand for, and what you won't stand for.
3. Be present.
I still find myself having to actively focus on remaining in the present moment and existing in the now. It is so easy to get caught up in the past or planning for the future, but being present gives you the opportunity to fully experience everything life has to offer.
4. Be open to learning as much as you can whenever you can.
5. Life constantly throws curve balls.
This lesson will never be easy and it is one I have repeatedly had to learn. Whether it be through the diagnosis of a chronic disease, the changing of a major, a new job offer, or the loss of a loved one, life hits hard and unexpectedly. No matter what happens, the one thing you can be certain of is that life will always bring you something unexpected, both good and bad.
6. Listen more.
7. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself because challenges can prompt growth.
8. Mentality is everything.
For me, this lesson manifested itself through therapy. Going to therapy and working on myself and my mental health allowed me to realize how much my mind controls every aspect of my life. This lesson was critical in learning to focus more on my own mentality, paying attention to how my thoughts occur, and how to adjust my mindset based on what I'm experiencing.
9. Be yourself, above all else.
10. Be more comfortable saying no.
Saying no can take confidence. I found myself constantly getting roped into doing too much and spreading myself too thin because I didn't have the heart to say no. I felt like by saying no to someone who asked me for something, like homework help, that I was letting them down. But practicing saying no in order to avoid overcommitment has been a vital component of taking care of myself and controlling my stress.
11. There is a lesson to be learned from every experience, even if you can’t see it at first glance.
12. Your best can change over time.
Depending on your situation, what "your best" looks like can evolve and change. One day your best might be accomplishing everything on your to do list and getting ahead for the week. But the next day, your best might be mustering up the strength to get out of bed and walk to class. The changing of what my best looks like on any given day has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but it is a lesson that has also allowed me to be more forgiving with myself when I don't meet my own expectations.
13. How you do anything is how you do everything.
14. Express gratitude.
This has become a part of my daily life through a gratitude journal. Letting people know you appreciate them goes a long way. Taking time to reflect on what you're grateful for in your life, whether it be big or small, puts things into perspective and brings positivity into each day.
15. Some things will never go back to how they were, which is okay.
16. Make time for family and friends. They’re a priority.
This lesson took me a long time to learn. I often prioritized things like school or sports instead of family and friends. For me, it took having to spend long periods of time away from my family and close friends to realize how valuable the time we spend together truly is.
17. What you put in is often what you get out.
18. Take care of yourself.
I often tended to neglect certain things in my personal life because I decided other things in my academic and work life were more important. But, taking care of yourself means having time to do what you love, whether it be working out, hiking, reading, or something else. It can also include taking care of your mental and physical health by going to therapy, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, or even just taking time to relax at the end of the day.