22 Lessons I’ve Learned Before Turning 22

When I saw Camila Cabello’s Instagram post about what she has learned in her 22 years on Earth in early March, I remembered with a shock that I was turning 22 six weeks later.  Now, I’m only a few days away from my birthday, and I can’t believe it: where has the time gone? It feels like only yesterday I was a first-year in college. I have learned a lot in my life, especially since coming to Barnard, so I thought I’d share 22 life lessons I’ve learned as I move into a new phase of my life.

  1. 1. Put yourself out there.

    You never know what might happen if you take a risk, no matter how small. The worst thing that could happen is getting hurt, but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.  I joined a sorority in college, something that no one thought I would do, and it has changed my life. The small things can change your life, too. If you’re on the fence about hanging out with an acquaintance, attending a club meeting, or going to a party, go.

  2. 2. Most, if not all, of the popular girls in middle and high school peaked then.

    Nobody cares about popularity in college. Yes, there are mean girls (and boys) in college, but nobody pays attention to them, which takes away their power.  

  3. 3. It’s okay to fail.

    I failed a class during my first semester of college. Failure, big or small, is inevitable in life, so it is crucial to know how to bounce back. For someone who got straight A’s in middle and high school, getting an F was extremely tough for me to swallow, but in the end, it made me a stronger person, and I have no regrets.

  4. 4. Do everything at your own pace.

    There is no set path in life, even if it might feel and look that way. I am taking an extra semester to finish college, and a few people have made snide comments, the most common one being that I must be struggling. First of all, no, I am not struggling; I’m actually doing well. Second, I made that choice because it was (and still is) what is best for me. It doesn’t matter when you graduate as long as you get to the finish line. That applies to all areas of life: do everything at your own pace.

  5. 5. Never let your fear decide your fate.

    I have terrible anxiety, and my mind plays head games with me all the time. I learned that I have to push through it and live my life, because before you know it, you’ll be getting ready to graduate from college.

  6. 6. It’s okay if you don’t like to party or drink a lot.

    It’s also okay if you do, but don’t let people make you feel bad for not drinking or wanting to stay home instead of go out. I am not keen on alcohol; while I’ll have a drink once in a while, I don’t like the taste. That is my business and my choice. I don’t judge anyone who does like alcohol, so please don’t judge me.

  7. 7. You only get one life, so live it to the fullest.

    People die young for no reason, and life is unfair. One of my high school classmates died last year in a car crash while she was abroad in India, and it made me realize that life is extremely fragile. Don’t waste your life in a hole of self-pity: actually live it. Live your life for the people who had theirs taken away from them.

  8. 8. Spend time with your family, especially your grandparents (if you have them).

    As I said before, no one lives forever, and that goes for your family as well. Make sure you spend time with your parents, siblings, and other loved ones (or call if they’re too far away). If you have grandparents, make extra efforts to spend time with them. I lost two grandparents within three months of each other during my sophomore year of college. A lot of my friends have lost their grandparents during college, too, so make the most of the time you have with them.

  9. 9. Shared blood does not equal family.

    I’ve found that some of my closest friends fit the typical definition of family more than some of my blood relatives. At the end of the day, you choose your family.

  10. 10. Choose your friends wisely.

    Stay away from petty or unsupportive people. Choose friends who are going to lift you up and make you happy, not bring you down.

  11. 11. Don’t feel guilty for removing yourself from toxic relationships.

    Whether it’s a friend, significant other, or family member, don’t feel guilty about distancing yourself from them if they are toxic. People will probably tell you that you’re being selfish, but they’re wrong: you are being brave.

  12. 12. Follow your passion, no matter what.

    You won’t be happy if you’re in a field of study that you aren’t passionate about. The key to a happy and successful life is passion.

  13. 13. Travel as much as you can.

    You’ll learn so much if you travel and interact with people from different countries. I took my first trip abroad after high school graduation when I was 18, and I immediately caught the traveling bug. Whenever I travel abroad, I make it a point to eat lunch or dinner in local restaurants so that I can get a feel for the country or city’s culture.

  14. 14. Don’t let the haters get you down.

    They don’t really know you.They are probably picking on you because they feel inadequate in another area of their lives; by tearing you down, they feel better about themselves.

  15. 15. Let yourself have fun once in a while.

    That can come in many forms, whether it’s going to a hockey game or a concert, or even just listening to music in your room and dancing like no one’s watching. Self-care is extremely important.

  16. 16. No situation is black and white.

    There are at least two sides to every story. Listen to every perspective and make an informed and rational judgment.

  17. 17. Be kind and have compassion for others.

    You never know what someone might be going through at any given time, so be kind and compassionate.  

  18. 18. Listen to your friends.

    The most important part of being a good friend is listening to the other person and letting them express their feelings. Sometimes, people just need someone they can talk to, so always be ready to listen and offer advice when applicable.

  19. 19. Take a break from social media.

    I took a break from Facebook a few years ago, and I found that my mood improved significantly.  Don’t compare yourself to what people post online: they’re only showing you what they want you to see.

  20. 20. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small.

    Sometimes, getting out of bed in the morning is a victory. Make sure you aren’t too hard on yourself; celebrate the good things in life instead.

  21. 21. Don’t hold on to your anger.

    It is exhausting to hold on to your anger. Whenever possible, forgive or, at the very least, move on with no hard feelings. Trust me, you will be happier living this way.

  22. 22. Be true to yourself.

    I saved the most important lesson for last. Never let anyone tell you what you should think, or who you should be. You are the only person who knows what is best for you. Stay true to the values that have molded you into the person you are today.