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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

With my 21st birthday that passing by rather quickly, (September 29th to be exact #libragang), I have been reflecting about myself and my existence of an early 20s female college student. Not only have these past two years been extremely unpredictable and overwhelming, but my mother passed away this summer, which added to the emotional roller coaster I had been feeling. As someone who tries to make lessons out of mistakes and not have regrets, I try to be as self aware as possible and think of what these past 21 years, and more specifically this past year, have taught me.

1. Loving Yourself is a life long journey

Growing up, I had more insecurities than I’d like to admit, and physical beauty was something that I felt I would never come close to achieving, but this past year, my confidence has taken me to places I would have never imagined. I got my first kiss, wore tube tops and short skirts for the first time, and wore other revealing clothes this past year, which all were steps in my confidence increase. I was confident in myself to make the decision to have my first kiss, and my attitude toward clothes has begun to change. Now, I look at clothes as things that should fit ME not the other way around. Even with this year being revolutionary for my confidence, I also learned that loving yourself inside and out is a life long journey. There’s no one-way route to confidence or self love and it’s not something you learn within a certain period of time, because you’re constantly changing as a person, physically and mentally. It’s a journey that has it’s ups and downs, but like a roller coaster, it can be fun.

2. your 20s are years for constant change

My first year in my 20s was so hectic that it almost prepared me for the rest of them. I had to get comfortable with being comfortable and not knowing what the next day will hold. There’s this huge pressure on people in their 20s to have every facet of their life together by the time they are 30, and it results in many young adults believing they are a failure before their life even begins. I think I’ve realized your 20s are about making mistakes and learning as much as you can. Like I said before, we can turn mistakes into lessons, turning our bad days into good stories (slight reference to AJR). Shave your head, ask them out, go on that overseas trip, try that new restaurant that opened up; life doesn’t have to be a success contest if you don’t make it one. Changing your morals, your opinions, and the way you see and identify with yourself is natural during these years and we should be celebrating these constant realizations instead of backing from them.

3. my education is extremely important to me

As a first generation college student, it was always assumed I would go to school. Yes, much of that assumption came from my parents’ pressure to give me an education they didn’t get, but I also was thoroughly interested in the idea of college and wanted to go. Now planning on also receiving my Master’s, I have realized that my love of learning wasn’t something that stopped in kindergarten. Many of the learning environments I was in, during my middle and high school years, prevented me from being as comfortable and passionate with learning as I wanted to be, yet college was a different story. I was able to feed my passion of learning and exploring, and eventually I made the decision to continue my education. I’m a huge believer in the belief that no one can take away your knowledge and education and that it is apart of you.

4. you did nothing wrong by asking to be treated right

Knowing your worth comes with seeing who doesn’t recognize it. When we gain confidence, we also gain confidence on our opinions of others, and I learned the more I love myself, the easier it was to identify those in my life that didn’t treat me the way I wanted to be treated. Not only do people want respect but they want communication and stability in order to feel stable in your relationships (romantic or platonic). When you don’t treat yourself right, it’s easy to believe those treating you wrong are, in fact, treating you right, as you’re self esteem is a foundation of how you view how others should treat you.

5. being nice to your body is a luxury many should invest in

While loving your body shouldn’t be a luxury, we live in a world that feeds off of our insecurities and gains monetary benefits by exploiting one’s insecurities, so loving your natural self is a rebellious move. You only have one body, and it carries you throughout your entire life. Every chapter of life that you experience, you change mentally and physically, and every stage of it should be celebrated. I think setting up my bed in front of my mirror forced me to love myself, as I was forced to look at myself at all stages of the day: in the morning when I’m at my groggiest, before I leave for the day with my outfit and makeup on, and at the end of the day when I go through my night time routine, which is seeing myself most calm and drained self. Seeing myself throughout the day reminds me of every inch of my body and how it looks different at each angle. After some time, I began to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly of my body. I began to see the beauty in every curve, every stretch mark, and every cellulite dimple. Seeing myself in revealing clothing made me not only physically vulnerable, but emotionally vulnerable, and wearing reveling clothing almost revealed a part of my body I hadn’t seen before.

6. you can choose who your family is

There’s an unfortunate stigma, especially in the Black community, that you should support and be with family no matter what. This idea prioritizes familial bonds and genetics over well-being and boundaries of individuals. I’m not someone who has a degree is interpersonal communications, but I can tell you that when you CHOOSE who your family is, you may see people who are blood related, but you may also see your close friends. Once I was able to choose who my family was, I saw a mix of family and friends, but not all of my family, and not all of my friends. You have that power, and reinforcing your boundaries is the way to that realization.

7. your emotions are valid

After 20 years, I am finally able to admit that I am sensitive. It was a long and hard road to accept it, as I came from a family that frowned upon feeling many emotions, so since I was a child, I pushed many of my feelings down, which lead to many more mental and emotional issues that I’ve worked out through therapy. Through accepting this, I’ve been able to listen to my body and my emotions more clearly. This has initiated much healing from my childhood, as well as my current hardships, and I’m beginning to love that part of myself. I’m beginning to see that my emotions are valid, and should be treated as such, not just by me, but by my loved ones. I know how it feels to have depression suck the life out of you, and I see my emotions as a part of me feeling again.

8. being vulnerable isn’t always a bad thing

This past year I’ve had to open up to many people in my life about things I don’t necessarily like to discuss. I don’t like people seeing me in states of extreme stress and hurt, but as time went on, I began to see the opportunities that opened up for me once I was able to be vulnerable. I was also able to strengthen my relationships with friends and family because of the added level of trust we shared when I had to be vulnerable. I recently read a quote that said “if you aren’t vulnerable, there is a lot less pain, but a lot less love”, and I remember what I was dealing with in that moment, which was uncomfortably dealing with vulnerability. Reading the quote, I was able to realize that not being vulnerable was what I had spent most of my life doing, and it had resulted in relationships that felt less real and genuine, which was important to me. Once I was able to become vulnerable, I was able to see who accepted it and who didn’t.

9. give yourself grace

For years, I had heard from many “you’re too hard on yourself”, and for so long, I couldn’t understand how people realized that to be true, and also, if it was true, how could I work on giving myself more credit. In college, I was able to learn that I uphold myself to a high degree, and therefore, expect a lot from myself. While having high standards isn’t a bad thing, those standards must include times where we slip up. When we don’t accept that mistakes will be made, we see the mistakes as failures, discouraging us from continuing toward our goals. Giving grace to oneself looks different to many, whether that’s taking a mid-day nap because your body needs rest or extra cheese on the pizza you ordered after a long week. When we give ourselves grace, we give ourselves the chance to be human and the chance to have flaws. Embracing those flaws and giving yourself grace is a step in the direction of self acceptance.

10. age does not equal maturity

We’ve all heard that with age comes wisdom, and while I can appreciate that “saying”, to a certain extent, I do not consider this to be an absolute truth. While you gain more experiences as you become older and live your life, maturity is something that can be learned at any age. Unfortunately, the older you get, the more immaturity you see in the ones we called “mature adults”. Maturity comes with life experiences that can be lived at young ages. As young people, we are consistently told that we know nothing and have so much to learn, and while both can be true, it’s ignorant to believe that once you reach a certain age, you have nothing else to learn. That mentality keeps us from exploring what life has to offer even when we’ve passed the “age of learning”. Learning is a life long action and it should be appreciated that we can always grow, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

11. you’re still young, remember that

I’m thankful for all the good and all the bad that I endured this year, and I’m appreciative of myself for how open I have been to all the changes happening. I have been able to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, and now, even when life gets stressful, I know I’m still able to roll with the punches, and make the best of the worst of situations. Finding the positives in negative situations has been how I’ve survived these past two years, and it’s helped me, even on my darkest of days. I’m embracing my youth and my ever changing perspectives on life, which is what I feel is a great way to start your 20s.

Maria Duffy

Bowling Green '22

Maria Duffy is a fifth year Communication student at Bowling Green State University with a minor in Women's Studies. She hopes to get her Masters soon. Duffy has a passion for learning, writing, and empowering intersecting identities in terms of race and gender. They hope to inspire and work towards a more inclusive world.