A year is a long time. 365 days to laugh, love, make mistakes and learn from them.
When I turned 21 last year, I thought the most exciting and momentous thing that would happen to me would be the fact that I could legally drink alcohol. Spoiler alert: alcohol is overrated.
I’m generally a pretty introspective person, and I like to take the time to reflect on myself and how I’ve evolved as a person. I’m turning 22 on Tuesday, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few weeks reminiscing about the things that have happened since I turned 21.
Over the past (almost) year, I tried Whole30 (multiple times). I had an incredible summer filled with travel to Greece and the Dominican Republic. I went back to Camp Saint Paul for the sixth time. I met amazing people and learned a lot. Oh, and of course I did plenty of face masks!
I also hit some speed bumps. I grew apart some friends, had some difficult classes. I also got really sick and ultimately ended up having to withdraw from school to focus on my health.
All in all, it’s been a year full of lessons, and I’d like to share them with you. I’d like to point out that I think that these lessons are timeless, meaning that they apply to anyone of any age, so don’t think that they’re just limited to 21-year-olds. They just happen to be related to things that happened in my life in the last year. So, here are 21 lessons I learned at 21!
- It’s okay to cut toxic people out of your life…: If someone is constantly playing with your emotions, putting you in bad situations or just making you miserable, whether they know they’re doing it or not, you don’t have to keep yourself in the situation. No matter what you’ve been through together or how much you may care about the person or how much you think they may need you, it’s okay to remove the person from your life.
- And to still care about them and wish them well: That being said, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about them anymore. Just do it from afar. Positive thoughts don’t cost you any energy.
- Health is a priority: As people keep reminding me, without your health, you don’t have anything. It’s true. You can’t accomplish anything to the best of your abilities if you’re not feeling your best. If you feel like something’s wrong, seek medical help.
- Things don’t always go according to plan and that’s okay: There’s an old saying that goes, “Man plans and God laughs.” Having a plan is great, but unpredictable things come up and you have no choice but to go with the flow. Be flexible, things happen for a reason.
- It’s up to you to make the best of any situation: If you don’t put effort into something, you’re not going to get anything out of it. When I went to Greece over the summer, I was miserable for the first few days because things weren’t going according to the plan I had in my head. Eventually, I took a step back and realized I was keeping myself from having a great time. I decided to make more of an effort to interact with people and be included and I ended up having a much better time. Take it from me, you’re going to have a much better time if you try to have a better time.
- You don’t have to blindly trust doctors: As much as I trust and respect the doctors I saw at the beginning of my sickness, none of what they were telling me in the first few weeks and months helped me. In fact, I was feeling worse. Instead of just listening to what they said, I followed my gut and sought out other opinions because I still wasn’t getting better. Sometimes your doctors don’t have the training or experience to spot every single ailment, so go with your gut and keep seeking out treatments if you’re not feeling better.
- Sometimes a break from the phone/social media is exactly what you need: Whether we know it or not, social media is affecting the way we interact with each other and ourselves. I’m super guilty of comparing my life to the lives of people I see on social media, and the truth is that this just isn’t healthy. When I feel myself falling into this trap, I know I need to take a break from social media. Also, two summers ago, I stayed mostly off my phone and completely off social media when I was at camp, and it was such an amazing break. I was more focused on the friendships I was building and the work I was doing. Summer 2017 was by far my best at Camp Saint Paul. This past summer, however, I spent far more time on my phone and on social media than I should have, and found myself feeling more stressed and disconnected from what camp is really about. Coincidence? I think not.
- Be nice to everyone…: I’m sure you’ve been hearing this your whole lives, just like I’ve had. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost anything for me to be kind towards others, so why shouldn’t I be?
- But don’t put extra effort into relationships that have no future: I’ve also realized, though, that I’m a firm believer in long-term friendships, and am not interested in forming friendships that are just there for the convenience. Yes, I can try to be nice to everyone, but that doesn’t mean I have to put extra effort into friendships that I don’t see growing or where the other person isn’t also putting in effort.
- It’s okay to ask for help: This was a big one for me this year. I’ve always had a very hard time asking for help because, in my mind, it was an admission of weakness, but I’ve learned that sometimes you need a little extra support. That doesn’t mean you need to ask for help for everything, but sometimes you just can’t do it alone.
- Self-care is so important…: I think this is self-explanatory, but here’s a reminder: take time to care for yourself and make yourself feel confident and worth it.
- And it means different things to different people: I’m learning that not everyone sees or experiences things the same way I do. For me, self-care is watching Disney movies and doing face masks, usually by myself. For other people, though, it might include treating themselves to a glass of wine, hanging out with friends or taking a nap. Don’t let articles or other people make you feel like you’re doing self-care wrong. Remember, the emphasis is on the word self.
- You can always go back to things you used to love, no matter how much time has passed: When I was a kid, you could barely ever find me without a book or notebook nearby. Reading and writing were my favorite things! But when I got to college, school, friends, and life just got in the way. Within the last few months, I’ve started doing both again, and it feels like coming home. Don’t be afraid to go back to the things that used to make you happy just because time has made you doubt your passions or abilities.
- Sometimes you need to take a step back from your own life to see how you’re treating others: I am extremely guilty of getting sucked into my own life and not even realizing how I’m ignoring my friends and family, and this has gotten me into trouble with my relationships multiple times. I’ve realized that sometimes, I have to look at my behaviors from someone else’s perspective to understand what I’m doing wrong and to help me be a better friend or family member.
- Everyone has their own perspective of how things happened, and you can’t change that: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and perspective, and you can’t expect to be able to get them to see things your way, no matter how hard you try.
- People aren’t mind readers: I can’t expect people to just know what I’m thinking or feeling without physically saying it. It’s unfair for me to expect anyone to do that.
- Editing your body in photos is a waste of time: For starters, we should all be happy with what we look like, or at least work towards accepting our bodies. Secondly, the fact is that people see you in real life and can tell when you’re doing it. The moral of the story: own your body.
- Having someone to keep you accountable makes all the difference: I’m terrible, terrible at cleaning. Well, more like I’m terrible at being motivated to clean. I’ve noticed that I do best when I have a friend around to make sure I’m actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing something. I’ve also noticed that it’s helpful for prayer, exercise and healthy eating.
- Macs are better than PCs: Don’t fight me on this. Being able to text on my phone and computer is a beautiful development and I don’t know why it took me so long to switch over.
- Surround yourself with people who are your hype people and make you want to improve yourself: Over the last few years, I have made close friends who are generous, kind and compassionate, and spending time with them has made me want to be more like that, too. Also, they’re super supportive, which has made me feel better about myself and feel more motivated.
- Life is not a race: It doesn’t matter when other people are doing things, you have to do things in your own time.
There you have it, 21 things I learned in the last year! I hope some of them resonated with you. Let me know what you learned at 21, or in the last year, or at any point in your life!
Also, while we’re on the topic of my birthday, I am currently doing a fundraiser on Facebook to celebrate! The money is going to the PCOS Awareness Association, which helps spread the word of PCOS, what causes it and how to diagnose and treat it. If you’d like to donate or help share the cause, here’s the link! I’ll also share it on my Facebook page. Thanks to all of you for your love and support!
Facebook: Tantalizingly Tasteful