Today is my 23rd birthday, and my God, I think that’s the number that actually starts to sound old to me, LOL. Turning 21, that was cool. It was the initial, Wow I can buy alcohol!! And go to bars!! And hang out at events!! factor that made it so exciting. When I turned 22, I was just like, “Well.. I’m not 21 anymore..” And turning 23 is kind of like, “I feel like I need to get my life together soon since I’m almost a quarter of a century.” I know it’s not that serious, and I’m still really young, but every year as another birthday rolls around, it makes me a little nostalgic to think back through the years that have flown by, and it makes me very hopeful and excited for what is still left in store for me.
From being obsessed with boybands when I was 12 (don’t be fooled: I still go hard for them Jonas Brothers), to juggling 3 extracurriculars I was passionate about at the peak of my high school career, to working at 2 of the biggest radio stations in the Bay Area, to going to community college and obtaining an Associate’s Degree in Communications, to changing my career path even though it meant declining my acceptance to a 4-year university, to finding true love, and landing a great job that I enjoy, there are so many wonderful moments that have occurred these past 23 years that really allow me to say that my life thus far has been quite fulfilling.
And of course there were some not-so-easy moments: my parents divorcing, losing loved ones, getting my heart broken, internal struggles..
But I’m grateful for the last 23 years and what I’ve learned, and I think the best thing about being 23 is that I’m still learning. Every day, I have the opportunity to discover something new and interesting about myself and the world around me.
I can honestly say I’m at a point in my life where I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. As an angsty teen, I would ask myself, “Does it ever get better from here?” And it did. And it continues to every day, and I want to say it’s because of the implementation and execution of all the things I’ve learned up until this point (and also ’cause I’m madly in love with the best person ever, but that’s another blog post for another time). With that being said, I’m taking this almost as a Things I Wish I Could Tell My 13-Year-Old Self post, and sharing 23 of the life lessons I’ve learned within the last 23 years.
1. It’s okay to not be okay
Some days are harder to bear than others. You’ll cry, have a mental breakdown, feel discouraged/defeated, or even just be sad for no reason. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be this cookie-cutter, perfect ball of sunshine all the time. It’s normal to have those off days.
2. You can’t please everyone
Even if life seems perfect and everything is going just the way you want it, there will be people who have something negative to say about the things you are doing. Let them. It was never about them anyways.
3. Finish at your own pace
This is sometimes still a hard pill for me to swallow. A lot of people I graduated with in high school are already finished with college and are working full-time jobs, while I’m still in school trying to complete my degree after switching majors. It’s discouraging sometimes, but I’ve learned that everyone goes at their own pace, and life is not some sort of race where we all have to complete certain milestones by a certain age.
4. Being on top of your money is important
Pay your bills on time. Put more money into your savings account. Try not to transfer that money back into your checking account. Sometimes this means not buying that cute new outfit even though you have the money for it, but setting it aside to invest in something better. Take control of your financial situation as best as you can so that you don’t have to deal with debt or not having enough money if an emergency comes around.
5. Love does not hurt
I don’t know where the notion of “love hurts” started, but that’s definitely not true. Love does not hurt. Pain hurts. Rejection hurts. Getting cheated on hurts. Having your trust betrayed hurts. When someone loves you and you love them, it is the most fulfilling feeling in the world. And even if there are times where your relationship is not the best it could be, it should never make you feel miserable, or terrible, or hurt your heart. Ever.
6. Talk to children about life
Children are some of the most incredibly honest, insightful, and raw human beings on this planet. Their view of the world and everything around them is so untainted, and they have so much to teach all of us. (P.S. They are sometimes terrible joke-tellers, but I promise their attempts will make you laugh!)
7. Exploring and spending time in nature is good for the soul
The earth is so big and beautiful, and there is so much of it to see. Nature has so much to give to us, so spend some free time taking in all it has to offer. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day hiking in the forest or sitting by the ocean?
8. Communication is key
I have learned this time and time again. Whether it comes to your family members, your significant other, coworkers, or friends, being able to communicate clearly and effectively is SO important. Tell them how you feel and why you feel that way. If you don’t understand something, say so. Speak up when something they do bothers you. But also don’t forget to say thank you and tell people what they mean to you; communication also means being able to tell others when you are grateful, or happy, or simply appreciative.
9. Chick-fil-A sauce is good on everything
Everything. Just trust me on this.
10. It’s incredibly important to speak up
Remember that your opinion is valuable. Your words have the power of affecting other people, and if you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard. Be that friend that’s known for putting others in their place when it’s needed. Be that person who knows how to speak their mind instead of letting emotions bottle inside.
11. Quality over quantity when it comes to your friends
You guys, I can count the number of true friends I have on my hands!!! Even if you know tons of people, that doesn’t mean they’ll be the greatest of friends to you. Your circle may end up being small, but I promise that those people are the ones who will hold it down for you like no other. (s/o 2 my homies one time, y’all know who you are)
12. Your parents are always right
I cannot even begin to tell you guys how many times my parents have told me, “I told you so.” They really know EVERYTHING. Listen to them. Soak in their wisdom and knowledge, and understand that they don’t lecture you or tell you things just because. They have your back, and that’s why they say the things they do.
13. Some people are just not for you
There will be some people who come into your life that aren’t meant to stay. You will give everything you can to them, be the best friend you can be, put them before yourself.. just to have them betray you or lie to you or hurt you or leave you in the dust. Those people are not meant for you. People who are meant to be in your life will never hesitate to show you.
14. Cherish family time
As we get older, we also get busier, so sometimes family time isn’t as abundant as it used to be when we were little. When you do get the time to be with your family–whether it’s at a family party, or even just getting to be in the living room watching TV all together, cherish it. There is a special kind of warmth that only comes from being with your family.
15. You don’t have to say yes to everything
Don’t want to go out for drinks with your friends? Don’t. Don’t feel like going to that huge house party? Don’t. It’s okay to turn down plans and stay home sometimes if going out is just not what you want to do for the night. You don’t have to say yes to everything just because you’ll feel bad for turning down some plans.
16. Give generously and be kind, always
Something I’ve learned about myself is that I love doing things for other people, especially my loved ones. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind to one another or pay it forward! You never know how much your kind words or gestures can improve someone’s day. And even if people are nasty and mean, be kind anyways. Don’t fight fire with fire.
17. Stop apologizing for everything
It took me a long time to get a grasp on this one because there was a time I was made to feel bad for certain things. There’s nothing wrong with apologizing, but when saying sorry becomes an automatic response to anything that makes you feel a little uncomfortable, that can become a problem. Whenever I would vent to someone, I’d say, “Sorry for putting all of this on you.” Or if I’m taking too long to do something, I’d say, “Sorry I’m making you wait.” Instead, I’ve learned to say, “Thank you for listening” and “thank you for being patient with me” to show gratitude instead of making the other person feel bad.
18. The red flags you see in the beginning never go away
If you have a bad feeling about something or someone, and there are plenty of red flags that you just ignore for the time being, I promise the red flags will keep coming if you don’t address them when you first see them.
19. Be early
Punctuality is important. I always try to keep in mind this saying that one of my instructors once told me: If you are early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, then you’re hella late. This can be applied to finishing your assignments, coming into work, or even just showing up for a hang out that you scheduled with someone.
20. Concerts are always a good idea.
This just needed to be said. Why wouldn’t you want to spend time going to a live show for an artist that you really like?
21. Being in love–real, true love–is the greatest feeling
One day you’ll meet someone who changes your perspective on everything and shows you why it never worked out with anyone else. This person is your soulmate, your other half, your best friend, and the love of your life all in one. I cannot even begin to explain how amazing it is to be in love, and I hope everyone finds that in their lifetime.
22. Gratitude and appreciation go a long way
Want what you have, and you’ll always have what you want. I always try to remember this quote: “I remember when I prayed for the things I have now.” Your life becomes so much more fulfilling when you learn to appreciate everything you have. Two years ago, I started to take time every morning to just count my blessings and really soak in how blessed I am to have the people and things in my life that I do. When you l earn to appreciate and be grateful for those things, more blessings continue to come your way. With that, it is so important to always tell the people in your life how appreciative and grateful you are for them. Not only will they feel important, but it will show them that you do notice all of the things they do for you, whether big or small.
23. Live in the moment, but also capture it
There are plenty of moments in life to just take in. You’ll have this feeling of, “damn, this is a beautiful moment.” And while you want to just enjoy it and soak it all in, don’t forget to take pictures and videos to look back on when you want to remember some of the best times of your life.
Well there you have it!! I’m grateful for all of the things I’ve learned so far, and am looking forward to what another year of life will bring for me. What’s your favorite thing that life has taught you?