Twenty years is nowhere near a long time on this great, green earth (and apparently since I’m a millennial, that 20 years counts for less… but that post is coming up in a few weeks). but that does not mean I have not learned some tough but valuable lessons during my lifetime. To commemorate my birthday coming up in a few days, I decided to share 20 of the lessons I have learned in my 20 years of life.
- You should be your top priority.
Investing in the people around me and taking it to heart when shit hit the fan was a tough way to live. It was partially how I allowed myself to be in an abusive relationship for over a year, and several other toxic relationships. I was trying to put so many toxic relationships before my own happiness, and it left me feeling alone, unwanted, and exploited. I learned that my well being should be the first thing on my mind, and my loved ones’ after that. It is the only way to ensure that I have my shit together and am on the right track. Toxic people will lead you down a toxic road.
2. Education is one of the greatest gifts you could receive.
Having the option and ability to learn is beautiful – and I do not mean just in terms of higher education. There is an opportunity to learn something new from every person you meet and every experience you have, no matter how trivial it may seem. Open your eyes and learn as much about the world as you possibly can while you are still here.
3. Take EVERY opportunity that comes your way.
When I began my first year of college, I had literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I considered media production, broadcasting, music, education, and countless other disciplines. After a semester and a half, I decided to give communications a try, without the slightest idea of what I wanted to do. I took a Survey of Mass Communication class. Then the general manager of the television station I am now apart of came into our class one day to give a presentation about said television station. With absolutely no experience in media production, or even how to turn on a camera, I decided to join ZTV and major in media production. Today, I could not be more excited about my major, and a year later, I feel comfortable enough in my skills to display them. I get so excited thinking about the day that I will be making anthropological content, wherever I go. Because I went out and took this opportunity.
4. It is okay to not have a plan.
Again, I went into college without a plan. It was terrifying at first, but I learned that when I finally relaxed, everything worked out. Trust that life will take you where you are supposed to be. I decided on my major on a whim, and fell in love with it. In fact, every major decision in my life has been made that way, and I would not change my life for anything, even the bad times.
5. Spontaneity can be the best way sometimes.
And sometimes, its okay to take not having a plan to the extreme. Crowd surf. Kiss a girl you have never met in front of Anti-LGBT protesters. Go on a road trip. Skip class. Living for the moment adds flavor to life, breaks away from that routine, and always helps remind you of your youth and the endless possibility of life. You also learn so much about other humans.
6. Finding balance in your life is key to being happy.
I consider myself to be what is referred to sometimes as an “introverted extrovert”. I am an extroverted person most of the time. I love to socialize and be around people. But every now and then, I need to spend an entire week to myself, hardly talking to anyone, shut out the outside world, and work. Not out of sadness, loneliness, or depression, but because I need that balance. Sometimes I need to stay up for nights on end working. And then sometimes I need to relax. I need the city and the country. Balance makes for contentment and serenity.
7. Fake it until you make it.
Most of the time, people compliment me on my obvious sense of confidence. Little do they know, I was not always this way. In fact, I don’t feel confident every single moment of every single day? So what do I do? Throw on a pair of high heels and red lipstick, and fake it. While I may not feel confident, acting like I feel confident does the trick sometimes- to the people around me and to myself.
8. The prettiest quality you can have is your confidence.
Piggybacking off the last lesson, the prettiest quality you can possess is your confidence. Long eyelashes and soft hair are nice and all, but what does it matter if you don’t believe in yourself? Confidence is also the most important quality. Without it, you can’t get anywhere.
9. Sometimes you have to walk away.
For over ten years, my best friend (we’ll call her K) was always by my side, or so I thought. More often than not, she degraded me, under the guise of being totally honest. She got me into trouble and helped me pick up some nasty habits, like smoking and subjecting myself to promiscuous and dangerous behavior. It took me a long time to realize that K was a bad influence, and that she really had no interest in my well-being. She simply only cared about what I could do to make her look good. Eleven years is a long time, but sometimes you have to burn bridges, no matter how hard it is. I still think of her and our friendship from time to time, but I firmly believe that my future is better without her.
10. Leave your comfort zone.
One of the first things my boyfriend’s mother ever said to me was, “So I hear you’re an adrenaline junkie,” which is beyond true. I enjoy the tallest roller coasters and wildest rides. Although, there was a point in time where I would not even say hi to another person unless they approached me first. Until one day I had enough of my boring, unexciting life. I decided to out on a whim and actually have fun.
11. Take time to enjoy nature.
During the academic year, I live in urban Akron. Having grown up in the middle of nowhere as long as I can remember, college in the big city (Ohio’s fifth largest!) was a huge change of pace, and a refreshing one at that. But I have to admit, whenever I go home for breaks, I try to spend as much time outside as I can. I miss the apple trees and wild flowers that grow at home. Nature is beautiful, and whenever I am among it, I feel a certain sense of security and serenity that I just cannot achieve in the concrete jungle.
12. Manage your time if you do not want to pull your hair out.
Last semester was the worst semester of my life. Seventeen credit hours, a new student organization, a new job, and loads of relationship drama made my life absolute hell, especially since I didn’t know how juggle them all. I would spend hours in ZTV and not spend anytime on my homework until the weekend. Then came trying to film all weekend while stressing about a mountain of homework, and then fighting with my boyfriend because that was what we did then. Horrible. I took a vow after last semester ended to never object myself to that kind of time management method. This semester, I became a member of three more student organizations, am taking 16 credit hours, and working three times as many hours. I made a promise to myself that school would come first, then prioritize the other aspects of my life. While I have just as much on my plate this semester, I can handle it now because I learned how to manage my time: the key to not crying every other day in college.
13. Love unconditionally
Despite the fact that Jeremy and I hit a major rough patch, I still forgave him. My view of him is not darkened by our bad times. Why? Because I learned that in order to have a truly rewarding relationship that lasts and works, I must love unconditionally. Yes, Jeremy has flaws, and some days he gets on my nerves, but I would never trade him for anyone or anything else, because even those make him my favorite person in the whole wide world, and those are still reasons I love him. True love is unconditional.
14. You do not need a boy to be happy.
This was one of many lessons I learned the hard way. Yes, Jeremy makes me incredibly happy- happier than I ever thought I could be. But do I need him in order to make my own happiness? Hell no. The only one that can make me happy is me, not anyone or anything else. And sure as hell, not some dumb boy*. Thinking you need a boy to make you happy is inevitably going to lead to unrealistic expectations and even less happiness when you realize that a boy is probably never going to make you genuinely happy. The advice I stress most when it comes to relationships is this: You must be able to be happy by yourself before you can be happy with another person. Only then will the happiness last.
*Jeremy, when you read this, I can assure you that I am not referring to you as “some dumb boy”.
15. You can learn a worthwhile lesson from every person you meet.
Some people are just absolute and complete shit. Plain and simple. And it may seem like they do not have a single redeemable quality in the tiniest strand of DNA. And that could very well be the case. However, that does not mean your experience and time spent with them is completely wasted. Because of this person and their shitty ways, you probably learned an important lesson about something; whether its what you deserve in a relationship, how you should be treated, or even warning signs to look for in other people, you learned something worthwhile, and that cannot be taken away from you.
16. Life gets better.
At sixteen, I wanted to give up. I wanted to die. I shut myself off from everyone and everything. I laid in bed in the dark listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for hours. I’m not even exaggerating. But I forced myself to stick around… and things got better. I never thought I would get passed that point, but now I’m a young women in Akron, earning a degree, independent, and doing a lot work that is going to pay off soon. Things get better. I’m so glad I persevered.
17. Always be friendly, always be polite.
One thing I learned during this dark period of my life is that other people may be feeling the same way. As a result, I strived to be kind to every person I came into contact with because you never know who might be planning to end it that day, looking for just one small glimmer of hope. A warm smile and a kind “how are you” could be all that person needs to hold on just a little longer.
18. Being who you want to be is the best feeling.
I have lost track of how many times people have called me weird. I have been hearing it my entire life. For a short period of time, in high school, I tried to fit in and act like everyone else. Trying to conform was the most miserable experience of my life. So I quit. I learned that I am most comfortable being my strange, weird, eccentric self.
19. IF you’re going to be a rebel, rebel against something worthwhile.
Or as one my favorite bands said, “if you’re going to be a rebel, be sure to know your wrong from your right.” Basically, if you’re going to go against your societal norms, have a reason for it. A good reason. Rebel against something in a way that will make the world a better place. Being a rebel just to be a rebel is just conforming to another co-culture. Rebel in a way that will help other people- against the atrocities of governments, against domestic abuse, just something that has more substance than “my feelings are more hardcore than yours.”
20. Growing up is the fun part.
Don’t get me wrong, growing up and having to take care of yourself can be terrifying as hell, and seem like a downward spiral. But here’s a little secret: the downward spiral only occurs if you try to deny growing up. What could be more fun than having your own place, your own independence, and striving to make your own place in the world? Twenty years taught me that. Yes, I’m still young, but I’m not too young. And I’m not too old either. I have my youth, but with that youth I have gained a lot of wisdom that cannot just be taken for granted or ignored.