20 Things I've Learned by 20

Throughout my transition from high school to college, and even during my underclassman years, I have experienced tremendous growth and maturity. Although I still have much I want to accomplish, I am proud of how far I’ve come. In honor of my golden birthday (February 20th!) I have decided to share twenty insights I’ve gained and life lessons I’ve learned throughout my twenty years of life; some are profound, and some not so much. Not only is twenty a pretty, round number that makes for a catchy title, but one’s late teens and early twenties are a pivotal time for identity development and self-discovery.

  1. There is a difference between being friendly and sociable, and actually being kind. Being able to detect this in others will save you from getting your feelings hurt.
  2. You cannot measure your love for a person relative to their feelings for you, but relative to your feelings or potential feelings for other people. Different people have different capacities for affection and different ways of showing it.

  3. Getting hurt and heartbroken is inevitable. Don’t let the fear of that hinder you from beginning a relationship that could be truly wonderful, or at least, wonderful while it lasted. The pain of relationships ending is part of life, and all of that pain will eventually balance out with all of the strong and uplifting relationships that you do have.

  4. A friendship can be unhealthy even if no one is at fault or actively being malicious. Sometimes the type of friendship and support someone can offer is not the type of friendship that you are looking for. A person can be a bad friend and a good person.

  5. NO ONE is looking at you at the gym. Everyone is focusing on themselves and don’t notice or care that you set the machine you’re using to the lightest weight.

  6. Quality over quantity is key when it comes to extracurriculars. It’s much more fulfilling (and impressive to others) if you have a few large, impactful roles than if you’re a passive member in a bunch of random clubs. You’re resume only has one page, after all; use it to pursue a couple of things that you’re truly passionate about.

  7. You will regret not going up the gym far more than you will regret going, and

  8. You will regret not eating that dessert more than you will regret eating it.

  9. It’s okay to be a little naggy as long as you aren’t rude. People might thank you later, and at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did what you could.

  10. Splurge on those jeans. You will not regret it. A high-quality, high-fashion denim piece will transform your entire outfit.

  11. “I am not informed enough to have an educated opinion on this topic” is a perfectly valid and acceptable stance to take.

  12. Say “yes, but...” to every opportunity. Don’t dismiss something even if you are unsure how to go about it. You should not overcommit yourself, but there is value in at least trying and exposing yourself to a variety of experiences.

  13. People’s critiques of your work are not criticisms of your character. No one’s work is ever 100% perfect. Don’t let others’ subjective opinions have detrimental effects on your work ethic and self-esteem

  14. When in doubt, ask. No one will ever judge you for asking a question. There is honor in professionalism in admitting you don’t know how to do everything. It’s better to get clarification in order to complete a task correctly, than to be overconfident and do it wrong.

  15. You don’t have to read the textbook. In fact, sometimes it’s smart not to -- it keeps you from worrying about extraneous information and forces you to pay attention in class.

  16. Waking up early is actually glorious. I used to think that waking up early had to be all or nothing and that I needed to either have a super productive morning, or sleep until noon. But even having an extra 30 minutes before class to send a few emails is worth it, and you’ll start your day feeling accomplished and productive.

  17. Don’t feel pressured to go out and be social just because other people are. It does NOT mean that life is going on without you.

  18. It’s perfectly okay to have a very small circle of close friends, but a support system should consist of more than one person, for the sake of both your own and the other person’s mental health.

  19. It’s okay to be lost and undecided about your major or career aspirations, as long as you utilize the opportunity to actively explore and learn about your options. Educating yourself fully before setting yourself on a path can turn this disadvantage into an advantage.

  20. It’s perfectly normal to outgrow people or places that were once important to you. It doesn’t have to be a tragic or upsetting realization; you can acknowledge the purpose it served at one point in your life and look back upon those memories fondly, even if your present perspective has changed.

I have grown in so many ways, and this is only the beginning. I can't wait to continuously discover myself throughout my twenties and beyond.