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What 21 Years of Life Have Taught Me

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Never would I ever thought I would be celebrating my 21st birthday in the middle of a pandemic. If it were up to me, I would’ve gone wine-tasting in a Napa Valley vineyard or gone to Seattle to be surrounded by all my family members. However, despite the circumstances surrounding this day, it doesn’t undermine the significance of this occasion. Yes, my birthday didn’t go the way I intended it to, but it has given me more time to reflect upon everything that has brought me to this point.  

Here is what 21 years of life have taught me.

It’s ok to be selfish. 

It’s important to put yourself first because if you’re mentally exhausted, stressed, or sick, it can negatively affect other parts of your life. In order to fully give yourself to others, you have to be at your best.

Every friendship is different.

Just because you do different things together and communicate differently in every friendship you have, doesn’t make you any less of a good friend. You can’t compare the dynamics of every friendship because each relationship is meant to be unique.

The best things in life come from going outside of your comfort zone. 

Looking back on all of the scary things I’ve done, most of them ended up being some of the best memories I’ve ever made. It’s allowed me to meet a ton of amazing people and given me opportunities I never would have had if I didn’t push myself outside of my comfort zone. 

The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you.

Comparing yourself to others is a constant losing battle because no matter what, there will always be someone who is more attractive, smarter, and stronger. The only person you can be better than is your past self.

The best things come when you least expect it.

Let things happen the way they are supposed to in your life instead of actively stressing & forcing them to happen. I can think of so many instances where the things I wanted the most came to me when I stopped looking for them.

Money doesn’t equal happiness.

You can be making a ton of money, but if you aren’t enjoying the work you’re doing then it will not fulfill you (no matter how big that paycheck may be). There’s a reason why wealthy people aren’t really that much happier (in my opinion).

Sometimes you don’t know the reason why everything happens.

I’m a big believer of everything happens for a reason, and there will be some situations in life where you’re not going to understand why it happened. You’re not meant to know the reason behind everything, and that’s just a part of life.

Quality > Quantity. 

This can apply to any aspect of your life, but it rings especially true for relationships. You can have countless relationships in your life, but if the connections aren’t meaningful, you will not feel satisfied.   

Fear is all in your head.

Fear comes from the negative thoughts and doubts we tell ourselves, and once you learn how to become mindful of those thoughts and ignore them, your fear no longer has control over you. 

The more you face your fear, the less scary it will be.

Constantly putting yourself in situations where you have to face your fears will not only help you get used to your fear, but it also helps you see that your fear isn’t as scary as you initially thought it would be. 

High expectations will lead to disappointment. 

Most of the time things will not go the way we expect them to, so keep your expectations in mind but also be open to other possibilities.

Boredom leads to creativity.

Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it gives you time to explore things you never would’ve have considered if you were busy. Some of the best ideas I’ve had came from boredom. 

You don’t need closure to move on.

As much as we want it to happen with every situation, sometimes it’s not possible to get closure. The best thing to do is to learn to be ok without that closure and to move forward by finding closure within yourself and in your own way.  

Moving forward is an emotional rollercoaster.

I used to beat myself up all the time for still feeling sad once I declared I was moving on. Moving forward doesn’t automatically means things will fully ok again. Some days you’ll feel fine, and other days you’ll be a complete mess and that’s all part of the process.


There is no perfect timeline for healing.

Let yourself grieve for as long as you need to. Whether it’s a couple of weeks or months, there is not a certain point of time where you have to be ok.

Love yourself first before getting into a relationship.

This saying is so cliche, but there’s a reason why. Happiness can only come from within, and if you aren’t happy on your own, you won’t be any happier when you get into a relationship.

It’s ok to not have everything figured out.

I always felt so much pressure to have my life together by this point, but it’s something I’m still in the process of figuring out. Not knowing what you want to do is more common than you think no matter how old you may be. 

Trust in God’s Plan

Trusting God is such a liberating feeling. Life doesn’t instantly become better when you trust God with your life, but it does make it easier to deal with everything that comes your way.

A number does not determine your self-worth.

Whether it is a number on the scale, a grade, or the number of followers or likes you have on Instagram, these numbers are meaningless. Only you can determine your self-worth and no one else.

Hard times suck but the greatest lessons come out of them.

I’ve grown the most by experiencing the difficult times I had, and they’ve taught me things that I never would’ve learned if I did not go through them.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

Our emotions can be a powerful thing, and it can seriously blind us and prevent us from seeing red flags or the big picture if we aren’t careful. Always keep your emotions in check and make sure to look at things from a logical perspective.

I’ve experienced it all: the best parts of life and also the worst parts of life. But it was through both of these kinds of experiences where I learned so many things about myself and about the world. I can’t wait to see what else I will learn in the years to come.

Jessica Nguyen

CU Boulder '21

Jessica is currently a senior at the Leeds School of Business and is majoring in Marketing with a certificate in Creative Technology and Design. She is a big lover of all things art and music, and when she’s not in class or hitting the books, you’ll most likely find her petting other people’s dogs, making a baking disaster in the kitchen, or daydreaming about Paris.
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