21 Lessons I've Learned Since Turning 21

21 Of The Most Important Things I've Learned Since Turning 21

I'd like to think I'm wiser now. Is that how it works?

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I've had my heart broken, made new friends and have gotten to explore some pretty cool cities, along with numerous other things.

I've learned that you have to do what's best for you, that the word family doesn't mean anything and, most importantly, I've learned how to start loving myself again.

Along the way, I've learned numerous other things, but here are 21 of the most important things I've learned since turning 21.


1. You don't need alcohol to have fun

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I had no interest in drinking whatsoever, even when everyone in high school was doing it, but the fact that I have medical issues that prevent me from drinking may have something to do with it, too. When I turned 21, I was more excited about not having to pay a surcharge at concerts anymore.

2. Your friends won't always have free time

We're all getting older. We all have jobs, sometimes with opposite schedules. Basically, when you're free, your friends won't be. You won't get to see each other as often as you want.

3. The gym isn't all that bad

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Long story short, I have cerebral palsy, so basically, my hips, legs and ankles don't work as well as they should, and that has prevented me from exercising and losing weight like I want to. A few months ago, I got a gym membership with my best friend and started walking on the treadmill. My legs didn't fall off and I didn't die, so I kept going back and discovered that I kinda like it.

4. "Family" doesn't mean anything

Some members of my family haven't been treating me, my mom, dad or brother very well. Sometimes, we feel excluded, even at FAMILY events. I learned the hard way that just because you're related doesn't always mean you feel as if you're apart of the family.

5. Do what's best for you

YOU know what's best for YOU. Your family and friends may think they're trying to help you, and they may truly be trying to, but only you know what's best for you. If you need to drop a class, do it. If you need to go to therapy, do it. Listen to yourself.

6. It's not the end of the world when someone stops talking to you

Whether that be a friend, someone you see in passing at school or a coworker. There's likely a reason, big or small, that they stopped talking to you. But, life goes on with or without them.

7. Don't let anyone tell you how to spend your money

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Seriously, don't. It's your hard-earned money. If you want to buy a designer purse or a meet and greet for your favorite band, do it.

8. Don't be so focused on falling in love

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At some point, almost all of my friends had boyfriends or a boy they were talking to and I felt like I needed to do the same when I knew damn well that I was in no position to be doing so. I realized, thankfully, that I needed to focus on myself before I can give someone else attention.

9. You have to love yourself before you can love someone else

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Cliche, I know, but it's true. I went through some things last summer and fall that really brought me down. I felt like I was at my lowest point, I didn't love the skin I was in and I didn't really see a reason to stay alive anymore. Long story short, take time to love yourself. How can you love someone else when you can't even love yourself?

10. Buy the damn concert tickets

If you don't, they'll sell out and you'll regret it. Your money will come back, the memories won't.

11. Your mom really is your best friend

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My mom has helped me through so many things this year. I'm surprised she's not tired of me yet. Shout out out to you, mommy. Love you.

12. At the end of the day, your dog will always be happy to see you

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No matter how bad it was, seeing the tail flap back and forth and them jumping up and down makes it all so much better.

13. Don't make promises you can't keep

If you know you're not going to be able to or you do not want to do something, don't promise someone that you'll do it. It gets their hopes up and then makes them feel bad about themselves when you don't pull through. I'm guilty of this, as terrible as that sounds. But don't do it to other people.

14. You can't always trust people

People don't always keep your secrets, come through on a promise or come to your rescue when you need someone to vent to. If you're unsure about someone, it's best not to get your hopes up.

15. Travel more

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Usually, the only time I travel is when I'm going to a concert, but recently, I fell in love with Indianapolis and am already counting down the days until my next concert there, which is only a few weeks away. I made it a point to get out and explore more cities. I have so many on my list.

16. Don't keep your feelings bottled up

One day, someone or something may push you over the edge and you'll do or say something you don't mean. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust.

17. Tell your friends how you really feel

If you don't like what they said, tell them. If you're feeling excluded from the group, tell them. Don't let their potential reaction make you feel as if your feelings are invalid.

18. Don't max out your credit card

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You'll think it's fine when your creditor increases your limit from $300 to $500, but you'll be sad every month when all you can afford is the monthly payment.

19. Spend more time with your parents

You're getting older, they're getting older. Nobody's getting older and you really don't know how much time you have left on this Earth. Watch Family Feud with them, eat dinner with them...trust me, you won't regret it.

20. Get some sleep

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If you're only sleeping 4-5 hours a night, it WILL catch up to you. Aim for 8. Always.

21. Drink more water

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Your kidneys will thank you.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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