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21 Life Lessons for 21 Years

I turned 21 this past week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the last year of my life. Last year, I shared 20 Life Lessons for 20 Years, and today, I’m going to be sharing 21 more life lessons! Here are some serious (and some not so serious) things I’ve learned in the last year.

  1. Plans change so easily. I’ve never been particularly religious, but the quote “Man plans… and God laughs” (Michael Chabon) has rung true for me this year, especially with the pandemic. I can’t be too attached to my plans. This year didn’t look at all like what I had envisioned, but there are still some good things that come out of plans changing. 
  2. Practicing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to find joy. Just thinking about all the good things in my life reminds me of how much I have to be happy about!
  3. But, it’s important not to completely ignore the bad things, either. That’s not healthy.
  4. Having patience is hard, but it’s important, and it’s something I need to work on. 
  5. Capturing my life in the form of pictures is one of the simplest ways to hold onto memories. Even the everyday stuff deserves to be photographed, not just big events. My entire camera roll is filled with photos of my dog and screenshots of goofy Snapchats of my friends, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
  6. I am way more creative than I thought I was. In fact, I am not at all the person I thought I was when I was younger, and I’m totally okay with that. I didn’t expect my perception of myself and my personality to change so much as I’ve grown up, but I like this creative person I’m becoming.
  7. Speaking of my perception of myself, social media can really be awful for body image. It’s totally okay to take a break from social media, delete accounts, and do what you need to do. 
  8. Relationships with people change, and that’s okay. Friends you thought you’d have forever might not really be forever. But on the flip side, you might get closer to people you thought you’d lost touch with, and that’s one of the most amazing things. 
  9. Self-care, for me, doesn’t usually look like baths, face masks, and getting my nails done. I love all of those things, and I do them, but self-care for me tends to be less about pampering and more about productivity. It usually looks like sitting down and getting things done so I’m not stressed, or doing the laundry that’s overflowing in my basket.
  10. Listening to sad music makes me sad for no reason. I don’t listen to sad music anymore.
  11. I’ve learned a lot about what intolerances my body has with food this past year. For example, I’m lactose intolerant, and I have been for a while. I just didn’t really pay attention to it. Lactose-free milk and Lactaid pills are my new best friends. 
  12. Be friends with people who laugh so hard that you cry. Those are good people. 
  13. That being said, laughter really is the best medicine, whether it’s in the form of a friend making me giggle, or a meme I found online. 
  14. I’ve wrestled with the concept of what home means to me for some time now, but this year I realized that home isn’t something to be found in a place. Home is something to be found in people. 
  15. I’ve lived in 4 different states throughout my life now, and although this means that my favorite people are all spread out throughout the country, it means I have a little piece of home almost anywhere I want to go. I’ll always be missing someone, but I should see it as a good thing that I have so many wonderful people in my life that I care enough about to continue relationships with them even when we no longer live in the same place! 
  16. Everyone has a different life path and I shouldn't compare mine to my friends who have different paths. This past year, I’ve had friends buy houses, graduate from school early, move across the country to start exciting new jobs and get engaged. That’s certainly not what I’m doing right now, and that’s okay. I don’t even want some of those things for my life. I can be happy with my own life and my own choices while being happy for my friends and their choices too!
  17. Even my own life path isn’t what I thought it would be. Right now, I’m in Maryland taking online classes through DePauw University. I’m applying to jobs for after graduation that I wouldn’t have thought about applying to a year ago. This is not what I thought being 21 would look like, but that’s okay. As I get closer to graduation and the rest of my life is starting to come into focus, I feel nothing but excitement for what is to come. 
  18. Becoming more politically and socially aware is important. Over the last year, I feel as though it’s almost impossible to not become at least a little more politically and socially aware, but for most of my life prior to this year, I’ve actively avoided reading the news because of how disheartening and confusing I found it all. I no longer feel as though I can ignore it now, and while it’s still disheartening, I do feel like I understand everything going on in our country and in our world more. Being informed is a good thing. 
  19. I'm a person who exhibits qualities of introverts and extroverts, and this has always confused me. For example, I like being around my friends, and I’m often the person to organize large gatherings. I’m expressive and wear my emotions on my sleeve. But I definitely need time away from people to recharge. As a person who doesn’t like to assign herself labels, I guess it makes sense that I don’t feel I fit into either category perfectly. And that’s okay.
  20. Trying new things is hard, but usually worth it. Even if I don’t find something new that I like (such as a new hobby or food) it’s always a learning experience!
  21. As I get older and my life changes, so will my relationship with myself. In some ways, I am a product of my environment but I am also in charge of who I become. I can be whoever I want if I just work at it, and that’s incredibly reassuring! 
Jackie Ebel

DePauw '21

Jackie is a current senior communication major at DePauw University in Indiana. She's lived in Massachusetts, Texas, and Maryland. She loves swimming, ice chai lattes, and the band Walk the Moon. Jackie is the editor for the profile and features sections of DePauw's branch of HerCampus.
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