20 Things I've Learned in 20 Years

October 7th is my favorite day of the year, because that means it's my birthday - a day all about me - and being the attention seeker that I am, I love it. However, this year I was kind of afraid for this day to come, because that means I would no longer be a teenager. I would be in my 20s; one step closer to being a “real” adult. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that turning 20 is nothing to be afraid of. It’s actually a pivotal time to reflect on the past two decades of my life. Here are a few of my life lessons that I hope will help you, no matter what age you are.

Your worth isn’t measured by the number on your scale.

As someone who has been struggling with her weight and body image for years now, this is something that I try to remind myself when I get down. The numbers on the scale do not matter. What matters is the size of your heart (figuratively, of course), and how you treat other people. What matters is what you’ve accomplished in life, your special skills and talents, your intelligence, the things that make you who you are. Actress Jameela Jamil started an incredible campaign called ‘I Weigh’ where women are encouraged to share the things that make them who they are and that has nothing to do with their weight and the number on the scale. If someone is judging you because of your weight, then they are not deserving of your time and attention. 

Be kind

This one is definitely easier said than done, but I’ve learned that you never know what someone is truly going through behind closed doors. Smile at strangers, have a conversation and ask how they truly feel, buy a stranger a coffee, or simply hold the door open for someone. Sometimes the smallest gesture can make someone’s entire day.

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Don’t be ashamed of the things you like

If you like “basic” things, if you like “nerdy” things, “VSCO girl” things, or whatever it may be, there is NOTHING wrong with that. It’s really easy to be shamed for the things you like in today’s society, but like what you like and be proud of it! Whether that’s Star Wars, pumpkin spice lattes, or scrunchies: you do you.

High school shouldn’t be the best years of your life.

High school is such a small portion of our overall lives. While it’s nice to look back at that time fondly and have good memories, you shouldn’t look back and think “that’s as good as life is going to get”. Like yeah, you don’t have to pay for basically anything and get home cooked meals all the time, but life gets so SO much better out of high school.

Eat the dang cake.

In other words, TREAT YO SELF. Life is too short to not eat that piece of cake or buy those pair of shoes, or go on that trip to Europe, or whatever it may be. Obviously, don’t go overboard (which can be easy to do), but treating yourself on occasion, I believe, is essential to happiness.

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Time truly does heal all wounds

Whether the wound is a breakup of a romantic relationship, a friendship, a loss, or anything, and no matter how badly it feels at the time it happens, it WILL get better. It may feel like the pain will never, ever go away, but with time, it will go away and you will feel better.

Not everyone is going to like you (and that’s okay)

This was a tough lesson for me to learn, as I have a deep pathological need to be liked by everyone. But no matter what you do, no matter how much you try, how great of a human being you are, there is always going to be somebody who doesn’t like you. Sometimes for really no reason. And that’s okay! Just don’t worry about them not liking you, because you most likely cannot change their mind.

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It’s okay to be a little selfish

Obviously, don’t be a selfish person all the time, but having a few moments where you say no (see the next item) or do something for YOU and not someone else is okay and essential to your mental health.

Learn when to say no

As a chronic people pleaser, this is something that I am trying to get better at. You don’t have to say yes to every invite or to help every time someone asks. If you have a busy schedule that day, or you simply just don’t want to, it’s okay to say no. 

It’s okay to cry

Crying is one of the most cathartic things you could do. It’s okay to cry for literally no reason. I was once told by two of my professors in my very first class here at DePaul, that crying is a sign of strength. Crying is really amazing, and the BEST cries are the ones you have in the shower, your car, or as you fall asleep.

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Stop spending money on stupid things 

I’m really calling myself out with this one, because anyone who knows me knows that I have a severe shopping problem, and I usually buy things that I don’t need and I could live without. Be smart about purchases you make, and be careful of sales. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you HAVE to get it. Just really think about what you’re buying before making the purchase, and assess if you really need it.

Take risks

Ask that cute person out, apply for that internship, dye your hair, try a new entree at a restaurant. Whatever “risk” means to you, do it! Life is too short to play it safe all of the time. Being a little risky every now and then is great, and it’s much better to take a risk and a chance and have it not work out, than to not do it and always wonder “what if”.

Listen

Listen to people, and listen intentionally! Actually open your ears and listen to what people have to say. Listen to people’s stories and give them their human dignity by not brushing people off or pretending to listen but completely ignoring everything they just said.

Stop caring about what other people think

Wear an outfit without being worried people will judge you, or spend the rest of the day embarrassed because you messed up giving a speech. Most of the time, people are too preoccupied with their own lives to truly care about what you’re wearing or to care about what you’re doing. And, if they do, it doesn’t matter! Their opinion means nothing.

Don’t stalk your ex on social media

It does you no good and makes you sad. Looking at their posts, or tagged posts, stories, or snap location does nothing but make you upset, and it isn’t going to change the fact that you are not together anymore. This is a hard lesson I had to learn in recent months, and even though it is incredibly tempting, it is a bad and unhealthy habit.

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Take care of yourself

Whether that is emotionally or physically, it is important to take care of yourself. Eat foods that make you feel good, work out, take mental health days, pamper yourself. Whatever you have to do to feel good, do it.

Stop worrying about the past

No matter how much you think about something, or the different ways you wish it would have gone, nothing will be able to change what has already happened. This is definitely easier said than done, I know, but it will make you happier if you try not to let the past consume your present and future.

Say “I love you” more

Say I love you to your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your friends, your significant other, or whoever else may be in your life that you care for. Life's too short and nothing is guaranteed, so I personally believe it’s important to let those people in your life know how you feel while you still can.

It’s okay to not have everything figured out

I often panic about the future and what it may bring, and how I don’t really have anything figured out, but then I realized: that’s normal. I’ve lived only a fraction of my life, so it’s crazy to think that I should have every second of the rest of my life planned and figured out. And, even if I did, there’s absolutely no guarantee that any of that will actually work out. You will never have everything figured out, no matter what age or stage of life you are in.

Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to

I truly do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that everything that is meant to be will happen. As much as you control and take hold of your life, there are things that are going to happen no matter what you do, and it’s important to remember that it happened for a reason. This reason might not make sense at the time, but one day you’ll look back and realize why things happened the way that they did, and that you are where you’re meant to be. Life is crazy and sometimes really sucks, but everything will be okay in the end.