I recently celebrated my 23rd birthday. I know what you are thinking, this girl knows so much at the ripe age of 23, how could she possibly fit it into one post?? Well, I will give it my best shot people. 23 is not exactly a milestone, but for some reason it feels important to me. So much has changed for me in the last year: where I live, I had my one year anniversary, I got a new job, I started my master’s program at a new school, and the list goes on and on. Luckily for me, I enjoy change. As much as I love a routine, change is a good thing. So, in honor of this momentous time in my life, I thought I would write about some of those changes. I feel like a complete different person than I was when I was 18. It may have only been 5 years ago, but those 5 years have been packed with victories, failures, laughs, tears, and lots of life lessons. This is the 10 things I wish I knew when I was 18:
1. You can’t please everyone
This might seem simple enough, but it’s something I had to learn the hard way. I used get upset over the thought of disappointing someone. I made my decisions thinking more about how it would impact other people than how it would impact me. Other people were happy, but I was constantly making choices that made life harder for me and I was being stifled under the pressure of being a people pleaser. There are so many situations in life where, no matter what, someone will be disappointed. You have to find a way to be happy knowing you did what was best for you.
2. Things aren’t always fair
I think I relearn this one all the time. I first really learned this lesson when all my middle school friends got allowances and I did chores just because everyone had to “pitch in.” I had no money to buy jolly ranchers at the school store which was pretty devastating to my 6th grade self. However, I made it through somehow. I learned sometimes people get things that you want, even without working for them, but that just means you should work harder. That lesson served me well as I went into college and the workforce, knowing that there is no substitute for hard work.
3. Advice from your elders is always worth listening to
My dad used to always tell me life isn’t fair and I thought he was cynical. Cue the “I told ya so.” There are so many times I wish I had listened when people with more life experience were giving my advice. Like when my mom told my brother and I to stop sword fighting with the fire poker. A concussion and a lot of blood later, she turned out to be right. Also, it’s okay to ask for help. Even though I like to think Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” is my theme song, I am realizing that asking for help often takes more maturity than pretending like you know what you are doing.
4. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep
People always talk about pulling all-nighters in college. Right before my freshman year I thought for sure that I would barely sleep and spend all my time hanging out with college kids and doing cool college things. Then I realized you actually have to take classes in college. Those “all-nighters” turned out to have more to do with a computer screen than a house party. I used to stay up until the wee hours of the night cramming psychology terms and facts about tectonic plates into my head. Finally, I decided to start getting 8 hours of sleep before every test, no exceptions. I would study for a few hours, sleep, then get up early and go over the material again. I became SO SMART. Really though, you would be impressed how much of a difference it makes. For school, for work, for life: Get sleep.
5. It’s okay to be young and adventurous
Being a type A person means I am rarely relaxed. I often spend more time worrying about the future than I spend being in the moment. I have always been the person more worried about the consequences of my actions than how much fun I could have. Sounds fun, right? I will always be that person in my core, but I am learning how to let loose every now and again. I’m only 23, so I have plenty of time to worry about the future. At least that’s what I am trying to tell myself.
6. Getting a B (or C) isn’t the end of the world
Ha! This also ties into the previous one. I need to learn how to prioritize and decide what is really important. In 20 years will I remember that time I studied for 10 hours, or the time I went to Vegas instead? The answer is always Vegas. You can retake a class but you can’t retake your life.
7. Apologize when you are wrong
If you ask my husband he will probably tell you I am still trying to learn this one. It’s true, I have not always been quick to say I’m sorry; especially when I feel like the other person was wrong too. I once had a friendship fall apart, due in part from my inability to suck up my pride and apologize (without expecting an apology in return). Another lesson close to this: forgive. A pastor at my church once said, “To forgive is to set a captive free, and to realize that captive was you.”
8. You are allowed to change your mind
I like some things now that I didn’t used to like. Isn’t that crazy? Also, I have had some opinions change over time. Sometimes that happens with maturity, life experiences, or even just getting more information. Some people call this hypocritical; I call it life. I am at the age where people like to talk about “finding yourself,” which is pretty silly because throughout life you will always be changing and evolving. This isn’t something that only happens in your 20s. It’s alright to not know who you are exactly, and you don’t have to feel pressured pinpoint who you are and stick to it forever. For example, I used to wear shirts with flames on them in middle school. I would have bet you all my lunch money that I would never regret it. I think I owe you $3.50 now.
9. Sometimes you have to shut up (even if you are right)
You can have an opinion and not tell everyone about it. I repeat, YOU CAN HAVE AN OPINION AND NOT TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. It’s hard to believe, but sometimes other people don’t want or need to hear what you think. This is something that I have learned going into the workforce. Sometimes your superiors will ask you to do things that don’t make sense to you, or don’t seem efficient, or just seem dumb in general. Your opinion about it doesn’t matter. One day you will get to call the shots, but for now, you gotta zip your lips.
10. You can’t tell your loved ones that you appreciate them too many times
Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Everyone. Even your stubborn dad who pretends like he doesn’t care. Tell those people you appreciate them anyway. Do it sincerely and often because life is short.