22 Things I’ve Learned in 22 Years

Well it has been two weeks since I started feeling happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. I am officially 22 years old (and yes, I have been listening to TSwift’s song 22 on repeat!)  You may be surprised that I am only 22 and have already graduated college in May. However, more times than not I was the youngest person in my class/grade. And over the years, I have always been told that I am mature for my age. Sometimes I feel like a 35 year old woman trapped inside a 22 year old’s body. In honor of this latest milestone I thought I would reflect on the all the different lessons I have learned in the last twenty two years. This is by no means life advice for other “twenty somethings,” instead just little things that have made an impact on my own life.

1) Travel whenever you get the chance

When I was younger I took for granted all of the incredible family vacations my parents planned for us. I have been to Europe twice, gone on countless ski trips, and annually visit relatives all over the country. However, it was not until I traveled abroad to Sydney, that I think I truly soaked in all that traveling entails. It scares you, exhilarates you, and broadens your perspective in a way that nothing else can. You realize how small you are, and how much this world has to offer, both amazing and terrifying at the same time. New cultures, new people, and new adventures are at your fingertips, so go and explore!

2) Parents are not superheroes, and that is okay!

Growing up, your parents are your superheroes. They know how to take away the pain and are able to attack multiple tasks without even the slightest concern. However, as I have grown older, I have become increasingly conscious of the fact that my parents like all humans, are… well… human! They have their own hopes, dreams, struggles, and yes, fears. I feel as though I am relating more and more to my parents and that I am old enough to understand and truly appreciate all the things that they do. As a kid, I was pretty oblivious to family dynamics and any problems. As you grow older you are able to recognize these moments and lend an ear to your parents. It is somewhat strange being able to relate to both of my parents in an increasing way, something that in high school I never would have guessed could happen. However, through this I have realized all the sacrifices they have made for me and my brother, and I have learned not to take them for granted. My parents may not be my superheroes, but I think that whole pedestal thing is a little overrated. I’d rather have them as my friends.

3) Remove the toxicity from your life

You know those friends who come up to you and say something, you smile but then two seconds later you realize it was one of the harshest insults you have ever received? Yeah, I’ve had friends like that too. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize at first, but once you notice that these “friends” somehow always make you feel terrible it is best to keep your distance. When I was younger I experienced several toxic friendships, so now I feel I have an inner alarm that goes off when people start to say or treat me in a similar way. It is not always easy to remove toxic friends from your life, but ultimately it will make you happier. This lesson is not just for friendships, but for anyone in your life who claims to support you and want the best for you, but are still somehow always brings a negative energy. These people don’t deserve to be in your life. Keep the essentials,  those frenemies and toxic relationships are so not worth it.

4) Be the bigger person (in a week/month/year it won’t even matter)

This is something that I had to learn the hard way in high school and early into college. Sometimes, when you are in a fight with a friend and you truly believe that they owe you an apology, you have to suck it up and be the bigger person. Instead of wasting all of that energy holding a grudge you could instead be an adult and move forward. Being stubborn can be a positive attribute in a lot of ways, but sometimes you just have to deal with an issue head on. Be the bigger person and address the problem before it simmers for too long and creates an even larger issue.

5) Drink water…all the time

Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Even if you do not drink a lot of water right now, always having water with you will encourage this healthy habit. Keep yourself hydrated and remember to drink water!

6) Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world

We all have our own issues rolling around in our heads at any given moment. However, it is important to keep perspective and focus on the positive. Try to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Smile even if you don’t feel like it, chances are that forced smile will feel genuinely in a matter of minutes.

7) Alone vs. Lonely

I have touched on this subject before, but I think it is an important lesson to highlight. Being alone and being lonely are two totally separate feelings. I believe that everyone should spend time alone to figure out who they are and what they want. It is so easy to get caught up in the masses, but if you know yourself and understand what you truly want it will help you in all areas of life.

8) Family is everything

I am incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful family. My parents, brother, aunts and uncles, cousins (both immediate and extended!), make up my support system and are my biggest cheerleaders. They applaud my victories and console me in my moments of weakness. They know me inside and out and truly accept me for who I am. We make up an interesting group of people, but hey, no family is normal! We have our quirks, our inside jokes, our moments of frustration and even a few silly dance parties thrown in. No matter what, this constant unwavering support has an incredible way of always making me feel at home. At the end of the day, your family is the people who stick by you through everything so remember to appreciate them.

9) Change is the only constant

Things change, it is a part of life! Once you accept that moments are fleeting you recognize all the benefits rather than your fears.

10) Enjoy life for what it is, not constantly trying to mark things off a list

I mentioned this in my 101 in 1001 list, but I feel like having a checklist in life is a great way to disappoint yourself. Do not get me wrong, I think it is important to have goals you want to accomplish. However, when you live your life putting so much emphasis on accomplishing different supposedly memorable experiences, they often fall flat because of their forced nature. Some of my favorite memories are from days and nights that did not have a plan in mind, they just became adventures on their own. You should never feel like in order to be happy you have to check all the boxes off the list. Everyone has different goals and values, so do what makes you happy, not what you think others expect of your life.

11) Wash your face before bed

I don’t care how tired you are, your skin will thank me for this one! Wash your face every single night before you go to bed.

12) Have fun with your fashion & make up

This lesson comes from my time spent in Sydney and most recently working at a beauty company. Australians have such a unique and strong sense of fashion. While I was in Sydney, I was taken aback by the bold fashion risks, strong patterns, and the varieties of styles each of my friends wore. It was a wake up call for me to have some fun with my clothes! Somehow I forgot that I can choose to make myself feel incredible by picking out things I love, not simply what is the accepted norm. I loved shopping with my friends because I bought things I knew I wouldn’t have dared tried before. Fashion is an expression of who we are as individuals, so remember to take risks and to not be afraid of what you love. This also applies to beauty! Wear that bright red lipstick or try out that winged eyeliner look, experimenting with different techniques is the only way to discover new amazing looks. So don’t be afraid and have fun!

13) Time heals all wounds – Give it time

Difficult to endure, but very true. Try to keep in mind “this too shall pass” when things get overwhelmingly hard.

14) Luck only gets you so far, you have got to work for what you want!

Again, I mentioned this in one of my favorite Wordy Wednesday posts but it is truly a great lesson. Hard work and luck go hand in hand, so work hard for what you want and the universe may reward you with some wonderful bursts of luck.

15) We all have a past and moments we regret…that’s a part of life!

I promise you that whatever past you are cringing about, we have ALL been there. Everyone has moments they are not proud of, but more likely than not those moments provided necessary lessons. We all have a past, but don’t let it ruin your present.

16) You CAN spend the whole day in pajamas, watching Netflix and eating endless amounts of popcorn and pretzel M&Ms.

You don’t need permission to take a day off and spend it marathoning your favorite TV shows. Remember to give yourself a break sometimes and sit back and relax! The only person you need permission from to indulge is YOU.

17) Do what you love

This may seem pretty self-explanatory but it is something that I have noticed many fellow college students and post grads overlook. Major in the subject that most interests you, not the one that you think will give you the highest paying job after graduation. Pick a job that is the right fit for you, not just the first offer. Although I was offered a job before my current position, I knew that it was not something I was truly passionate about or could grow and learn from. Now I am in a job that I love with an incredible boss who is willing to let me learn and explore in this industry. Coming into work every day is a lot more enjoyable when you love what you do.

18) Never be “too cool” for things, where is the fun in that?

Being “too cool” often means having a bored expression on your face while something pretty awesome is happening. Always keep that inner child alive and do the things that look like fun. My friend Katie embraces this point to the fullest. She doesn’t care if something is “cool” or not, just whether or not it will be fun! Throughout our friendship we have had so many strange adventures that may not seem like the typical outings, but were tons of fun. She never ceases to show me that life can be fun in a multitude of ways!

19) Appearance matters.

Unfortunately we do live in a very superficial world, so try to always put your best foot forward. Dress appropriately for that interview and be sure to tone down the heavy makeup and accessories when meeting your boyfriend’s parents. It is important to represent your best self, because first impressions are key.

20) Cut yourself some slack

As someone who is very Type-A and constantly hard on myself this has been a very difficult lesson to learn, and one that I still struggle with regularly. It is great to have a dream or a passion that you are working towards, however sometimes things do not always go as planned. Remember to keep perspective and give yourself a break.

21) It is okay to say no

How many times have you said “yes” to something you didn’t really want to do? Chances are it happens more times than you even realize. I think it is great to be involved, but don’t let it takeover your life, because you will quickly reach a point where you are spread way too thin. Remember to think about what you want, this is your life you have the power to choose what you want to do. Sometimes it is hard in this social media and FOMO filled world, but life is too short to focus on pleasing others. So say no to that dinner invite if you all you really want to do is curl up in cozy clothes and go to bed early tonight. It is OKAY!

22) Happiness is a choice

This summer I was babysitting my neighbor’s kids who I absolutely adore. Both Olivia and Nicky had plans for their friends to come over for a playdate. At the last minute Nicky’s friend cancelled, while his sister’s friend was still able to come and play. Basically Nicky had a complete meltdown. He was crying and screeching that it wasn’t fair until his Dad (who was working from home and hired me to keep the kids occupied!) came outside and told his son “Nicky, you are choosing to be unhappy right now. It is a beautiful day, we have the sprinkler on and lots of fun activities to choose from. I know you are upset that your friend couldn’t come over, but there are still so many things you can do instead. Remember that you choose whether or not to be happy.” I was so impressed by the dad’s response and it is a lesson I have repeatedly learned throughout my own life. You cannot be happy unless you truly want to be happy. If you are miserable, only you have the power to change it. So choose happy!

I certainly do not have all the answers, but I have found each of these lessons to play a significant role in my life. What are some of the life lessons that have impacted you over the years?

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