On August 2nd I turned 22 and celebrated another year of life with my closest friends. I absolutely loved my birthday and I’m so satisfied with how everything turned out. Other than the amazing pictures taken and the way everything came together as planned, the one thing I was most happy with was thinking about my growth over the past year and the person I had become.
Although my 21st year was full of struggles, hardship, anxiety, and bad luck, I know that who I am today is a much better version of myself. I’ve grown so much over the past year and each day I become prouder and happier with who I am. I’m very out loud with the love I have for myself because I fought very hard to get to where I am and I know I’ll continue to fight hard in order to get to where I want to be.
21 felt like a stepping stone, full of personal growth and many lessons. Here are some of my most important ones:
Taking time off/taking a break doesn’t mean you’re weak.
I used to think “hard work” was a 24/7 deal and that not constantly trying to work hard meant that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I would think about what I needed to do and where I needed to be so constantly that I was anxious and angry at myself all the time. When my mental health, my physical health, and my overall outlook on life started to take a turn for the worse I realized that hard work doesn’t always equal positive work that will get you to where you want to go. Whether it be a job, school, or any projects you put on yourself, if you’re working yourself to the point that your overall well being is jeopardized, taking time off or taking things slowly does not mean that you aren’t working hard or that you’re weak.
Take time to reflect on yourself.
If you notice that you’ve been acting differently, treating the people in your life badly, having mood swings, loss of appetite, or you’re just treating your body like a trash bag, take a step back and try to figure out the motivations behind these actions. What’s going on? What can you change to make it better? Reflect on these actions, think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and try to move past what’s affecting you. The one thing you’ll regret most is harming yourself, sabotaging yourself, or someone in your life, and realizing too late that you cannot redeem yourself or take back what you did. It’s not worth it!
Your health is important.
In December of 2016 I became a pescatarian and really started to focus on being as healthy as I could be. I started to drink more water, take multivitamins, be as active as I could be, and worked on fixing my sleep schedule (the biggest pain by far). It’s so important to focus on your health because you only have one life, you might as well be the best version of yourself that you can be. Your skin, your environment, your body, your mental health, they’re all very important and go hand in hand. Once you start to really take care of yourself, you’ll feel so much better and happier.
When you’re going through hard times, focus on the positive.
When my mom got sick I have to be honest, I didn’t process my emotions pretty much at all. I threw myself into taking care of her, working, and distanced myself from the people in my life. It was the only way I knew how to get through it without completely falling apart. The thing that really helped me to move past it, once my mom started to get better, was focusing on the good that came of it. For example, it brought my family closer together, I became more responsible and did more around the house, I started to appreciate my family and friends more, and it made me realize that I was a lot stronger than I had given myself credit for. Focusing on these things made it easier to process my emotions and get through that hard time. So when you feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, pay attention to every small positive thing in your life, they’re always there.
It’s ok to be vulnerable.
I know it’s easy to be defensive and act tough when you’re faced with things you don’t know, aren’t good at, or have trouble processing (emotionally), but being vulnerable opens you up to the ability to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, vulnerability doesn’t equal weakness! I know more than anyone that it’s much easier to get angry and snap at people when you’re feeling vulnerable, putting up that front allows you to protect yourself, but it also cuts you off from learning something or growing as a person and that only harms yourself. So when you feel unsure and vulnerable, grit your teeth and remind yourself that it’s ok to feel that way.
Appreciate the small growth.
Not all the growth you see is going to come as big stepping stones. If the big accomplishments don’t come so close together, don’t let that discourage you. Appreciate the small things, the small growth. They’re what will lead you to the big growth! If you dwell on only the big accomplishments you’ll only feel impatient and angry at yourself because they won’t come fast enough. Noticing the small accomplishments you’ve made and focusing on the small steps you take will help boost your confidence and will show you that you’re moving in the right direction. A small step is still a step! It’s all about the long game!
Don’t feel guilty because you’re having fun.
I think anytime anyone is seen having fun and not doing some kind of work they’re put down for it and that’s ridiculous to me. Life shouldn’t just be about work and putting fun off for later. You aren’t guaranteed anything in life so you might as well have fun too. Obviously only in moderation, you don’t want to get too carried away. But you’re only as young as you are right now, right now, and if you don’t give yourself time to enjoy it it’ll only pass you by. So have fun, take pictures, make memories, make the most of what you have right now.
Speak up, you have a voice.
This one is a two part lesson. Speak up for yourself, whether it be when the waiter at the restaurant brings you the wrong food, or at the nail salon when the nail tech does something you wanted done differently, or with friends when you feel like you’re being mistreated. Speaking up for yourself doesn’t always have to be a big confrontation, it’s about using the voice that you have. Don’t let others treat you badly, don’t let others walk all over you. You’re a person with emotions and you deserve to be heard.
But also, use your voice for good. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, more and more so every day. It’s not enough anymore to pretend like it isn’t right in your backyard, that you can remain opinion-less and silent and that someone else will fight the battle. Your voice is as valuable as the next person’s. Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Sometimes we take our voices for granted, we act like its a given, but it’s not a given for everyone. Not everyone can speak up with the knowledge that their opinions and feelings will be heard and accepted, so speak up for them.
Don’t always rely on other people, other things, other platforms to educate you. Seek out the information, go looking for the things that will help you. Sometimes I know being lazy is so much easier and convenient but information will not just come to you. Don’t just sit in your ignorance or allow ignorance to take over your thoughts, work to move past it and try to keep an open mind. Learn about everything and anything. It will make you a more well rounded person and it will help you in the long run. Read things! Watch the news! Go searching for the right information.
Treat people well!
You don’t know what other people are going through and it won’t always be transparent when looking at them so don’t assume anything about them. Treat people how you want to be treated, being nice and being a good person toward others doesn’t take anything away from you. Strive to do good things for other people simply because you want to. Give people the benefit of the doubt and treat them kindly.
Don’t look for happiness in other things.
Remember that quote that said that people are always waiting for weekends, for summer, for happiness blah blah blah, well it’s true. Don’t just sit around thinking “I’ll be happy when ________”. Don’t look for happiness that way, don’t rely on other things to make you happy, they won’t always work. I thought for a long time that if I just got a job and did what other people my age were doing that I would finally be happy. But then when I finally got a job that I was actually excited to get, and really wanted, it didn’t change my life or suddenly take my unhappiness away. I was focused so much on thinking that it will change me and finally make me happy, as if it were the missing link, that when I finally got it and realized that it wasn’t going to change my life, I was crushed. I was so focused on other things to make me happy that I forgot that happiness comes from myself.
Some of these things might seem like common knowledge. You might be thinking, who doesn’t know these things? But you would be surprised, and a gentle reminder doesn’t hurt. Sometimes these things are so common knowledge they’re forgotten and taken for granted. Nothing made me feel more assured that I was making the right choices when I heard them back to me in these ways. So if you’re already on this path, learning these things and really pushing yourself, here’s a reminder that you’re headed in the right direction.
I can’t wait to see what 22 has in store for me.