I’m turning 21 on April 24th, 2018 and I truly can’t believe it. As a kid, I always wondered what I would be doing around this age and now it’s a reality. It’s crazy to think how fast time flies.
In my just-over-two-decades on this earth — oh my goodness, I’ve been alive for two decades — I’ve learned quite a few things about life and about myself. So why not reflect on everything that’s happened up to this point? Here are 21 lessons I’ve learned in 21 years.
Table of Contents
1. Circumstances change
It’s easy for me to stress over little things. When plans don’t go my way, I dwell on them and it’s hard to see the positive of that particular situation. Dealing with change does not come naturally to me.
However, over the years I’ve learned that everything changes at some point. The situations that I’m dealing with today won’t be the same in a few years or even a few days. There’s comfort in recognizing that fact and rolling with whatever life throws my way.
2. Embrace your natural features
I’ve always struggled with loving the way I looked. I always felt like there were people who were blessed with good looking genes and those genes missed me. It’s been hard to step away from this mindset. Loving myself will always be an ongoing battle but I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m accepting the way I look.
I was given my own unique, beautiful features for a reason and they aren’t going anywhere. So I might as well learn to love them.
3. Everything happens for a reason
Recently, I’ve been wondering why no company is hiring me for a summer internship/job despite applying to over 25 at this point. My friends reminded me that there’s a reason why this is happening. They told me that the place I’m supposed to work at will be the place meant for me.
Despite not landing anything thus far, I will continue to hold onto the notion that everything happens for a reason. It’s been true in other aspects of my life, and I know if I have faith, things will work out as they’re supposed to.
4. Mental health is super important
I didn’t realize just how important mental health was until this year. The way I operate mentally affects every single part of my life. If I’m drained, stressed, or down, it will have a negative toll on other aspects of my life.
I’m happy that I took the steps to figure out more about my mental health. This year I talked to a therapist for the first time and I found it incredibly helpful. It was a great space to talk about deeper issues and gain insight into my own mind.
5. The single life is a great life
I find that there’s pressure to be in some form of a romantic relationship as a young adult in college. While being in a romantic relationship is cool, being single isn’t a bad thing.
Think about it. You can buy yourself gifts, you don’t have to deal with drama, and you don’t have to share your bed. To me, those are major plusses. Overall, I think single life is the best life for me right now and I’m embracing it, not fighting it.
6. Don’t let anyone put you down for being you
We live in a world where we get judged for every little thing we do. Whether that’s for what we post on social media, what we wear, how we talk, or even who we are as people, the world likes to put us down. People constantly judge me because I’m introverted, for instance.
Instead of changing myself to fit what others want me to be, I decided early on to combat those judgements by just embracing who I am. I am who I am and I don’t apologize for it. After all, the most important opinion that should matter to me is my own.
7. You won’t please everyone
Related to the bullet point above, there’s no point in striving to make everyone happy in life. It’s a game you’ll never win.
Our generation strives to please. It seems like we’re always trying to impress or satisfy someone. That person might be a teacher, a parent, an employer, or even a friend. After trying for so long to please everyone in my life, I realized that there will always be someone who is unsatisfied… and that’s okay. As long as I’m happy with myself, that should be enough. I don’t need to waste my energy chasing other people’s approval.
8. Be open to new perspectives
It’s easy for me to be stuck in my world views. I’ve grown up a certain way and often think my way is the right way.
One of the best things I’ve learned in college, though, is that there are many great perspectives out there that can teach me a great deal. College has definitely opened those doors for me to see the world in new, inspiring ways.
9. Taking care of your body is a necessity
Raise your hand if you don’t sleep enough (or you sleep too much), eat poorly, are stressed, and don’t exercise. (Isn’t that pretty much all of us in college?)
I’ll admit, I often take my young body for granted. However, I’ve learned that my 20s are a great time to really take care of my body because later in life it will get harder. A solid exercise routine and healthy eating plan can do wonders for your life, and we all need to make this a priority.
10. Moms lowkey know best
As much as I hate to admit it, my mom does know best. There are many times when she’s told me not do something or to do something and I’ve done the exact opposite. Without fail, I later find out the hard way that I should have listened to her in the first place.
I think this is something every girl starts to realize in her 20s — your parents were right about more things than you’d prefer to admit. Shoutout to all the awesome moms out there!
11. A bathrobe is the best clothing investment
Okay, this one is a little random, but trust me here.
You want to know something (says this in Cardi B’s voice), I actually typed this article while wearing my robe. My robe has served me well and was worth the money I spent. Not only does it do a great job of covering me up, it also feels like a soft blanket on my skin. Robes are a must-have for those who live in dorms and need to walk down the hall to and from your bathroom. They’re non negotiable. I didn’t know this when I came to college but I know it now.
If there’s one thing you take from this article, it’s that you should invest in a good bathrobe. It’s the ultimate in self care fashion. You’re welcome.
12. Don’t buy things unless you know you’ll actually use them
Speaking of buying things, I need to stop wasting my money on products I won’t end up using. When shopping online, it’s easy to get caught up in the “idea” of something, without considering whether it will actually be useful in your life.
Recently I bought this Aztec clay mask from Amazon because of all the hype around it but now it’s just sitting in the box. I realized I’m not really a face mask person, after I had already spent the money. So buy things you think you’ll actually incorporate into your lifestyle. I blame Amazon for their suggestions!
13. The past affects the present
Is the past really in the past? The truth is the past isn’t just something that happened and it’s over. Events and situations that happened in the past have a direct effect on how you operate today. If you don’t deal with issues as they occur, they can permeate your life in sneaky ways and derail you at a later date.
For me, this lesson is true for personal issues that I thought I dealt with years ago, but continue to creep up. I’m dealing with them now in therapy, but it would have been easier to deal with them as they arose. So if you can, take the time to fully deal with life problems as they come. Don’t stuff them down to handle later — they can magnify in time.
14. When in doubt, listen to Cardi B
Okurr! I love Cardi B. She is funny, goofy, authentic, and has stayed true to her roots. I love how she says whatever is on her mind and doesn’t care what people think. I would love to have her confidence.
Life lesson: When you’re having a down day, just throw on Cardi B’s album for an instant confidence boost. You’ve got this.
15. Start career prep early
If there is one thing that I wish I would have started earlier in college, it’s career prep. For me, future career planning is always in the back of my mind, but thinking about it is different than acting on it.
I’ve learned to remember that though college is academically focused, the end goal is to use the skills I’ve acquired to eventually land a job. Now I’m taking steps toward my career, but I urge you not to wait as long as I did to get serious!
16. It’s okay to not have it all figured out
When you’re a young adult, there is SO MUCH pressure on you to figure out what your life plans are. Especially in college, I’m constantly being asked about my plans after college. And the truth is, I have a vague idea but I don’t know. And this is more common than you’d think.
I’ve learned to pride myself in not being completely put together because it shows people around me that it’s fine to be a mess. It’s called being a human being. As a bonus, there’s something about keeping it real that makes you endearing and relatable to other people. Don’t pretend to have it all figured out — be honest with yourself and others.
17. Saving money hurts but it must be done
Like most college students, I know how it feels to be short on money. In the past, whenever I felt I had money, I’d usually spend it quickly to “treat myself.” This did not work out for me.
Yes, it’s good to treat yourself here and there, but saving money is a better plan for the long run. I feel infinitely better about myself when I skip the ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine and budget my money correctly.
18. Asking for help is a good thing
“I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t do you know what that mean?” I’m one of the most independent people I know and I’ve been like this since I was a kid. Asking for help is hard for me because I think I can do it myself or I’m scared to ask. But the benefits of asking for help are numerous, and I’m teaching myself to do it.
This year, I finally asked one of my friends to teach me photography… after two years of being too scared to bring up the subject. It benefitted me greatly and now I’m getting better and better at it. Lesson learned: If I’m going to succeed, I’ll have to reach out to people.
19. Don’t sell yourself short
I am very guilty of this, especially when it comes to applying to jobs and putting myself out there. I always believe I’m under-qualified for certain positions which deters me from applying. I’ve been told this is ridiculous, and I’m working on it.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to hype yourself up. There is nothing wrong with telling yourself that you are awesome, qualified, and will do great things. In fact, if you say it enough, you might just start to believe it.
20. You don’t need to drink to have fun
The hype around turning 21 is based on two things: becoming a full-on adult, and the ability to legally buy a drink. However, I’ve never had the desire to drink. (People are always shocked by this!)
I made the decision as a kid that even when I turned 21, I wouldn’t drink. And I’m going to stick to it. I honestly don’t understand what the hype around it is. I know how to have fun without drinking, and I think that’s a skill that more students should learn. Give me some good music and some food and I’ll be all set.
21. It’s okay to say no
Saying no is hard. I don’t want to let people down or I want to prove to myself that I can do something. In fact, however, saying no is actually a great thing to do.
There have been may times where I was juggling 3 million things at once and if I just said no I would have been less stressed. Now, I put myself first and say no when I need to. It’s all about taking care of myself. Also, most people are understanding when you say you can’t do something — it’s really not a big deal at all. #gamechanger
Do you have any cool lessons you’ve learned?
Those are my 21 lessons that I’ve learned throughout 21 years of life. I have some deep ones and some silly ones but that’s how life goes. What are some lessons you’ve learned thus far in life? Feel free to share and as always thank you for reading!