5 Things I've Learned in 22 Years

Whether you admit it or not, you are not the same person you are five years ago. 

Change is a funny thing. You don’t notice it in the moment, but when you look back, you notice them but sometimes struggle to recall. It’s like when you’re on autopilot and walked to places without remembering the actual walk when you get to your destination.

Many of us change, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, when we are in a new environment or entering a new chapter of your life. Whether it’s changes in perspective, attitude or habits, a lot of this happens during one of the most eventful times of your life — your college years.

I recently turned 22 and will be graduating college in a month. Looking back at freshman year and my high school days, A LOT has changed. 

My priorities are different. My approach in life is different. The way I think is different.

Here are five things I learned in 22 years. 

1. Everything will be okay in the end

I worry. I worry a lot. Whether it’s something big like a presentation or an apartment move or something small like an email typo or an event I don’t want to attend, I worry all the time. While I still worry, I’ve learned to not stress too much about if something goes wrong. More often than not, everything will turn out alright. Even if something doesn’t happen according to plan, when it actually happens, it’s often not as bad as you imagined beforehand. After worrying for so many years, I’ve learned that everything will be fine.

2. Take one day at a time

As you get older, life can get overwhelming. Never-ending school work, crammed schedule, taxes, apartment hunting, job searching, you name it. Something that I’ve learned that can be applied later in life is to take one day at a time. When things get overwhelming and seem impossible, forget everything. Focus on today. When you’re done with today, focus on tomorrow, then the next day. It seems like such a generic advice but you’d be surprised how impactful this small shift in mindset is. I’ve adopted this “take one day at a time” mantra throughout college and it has helped me go through so many things.

3. Your major doesn’t define your whole future

Choosing a major seems like the biggest decision you’ll ever make in your life. News flash, it’s not. 

In high school and college, we are conditioned to think that your major will define your career, and while not explicitly mentioned, it’s sort of implied that choosing your major means you’re choosing how you want your life to go for the rest of your life. It is a daunting decision to make as an 18-year-old. I’m incredibly indecisive and have different passions I want to pursue. I thought about studying nutrition or neuroscience, then considered psychology, and later found myself wanting to do marketing or tourism. At the end, I decided on pursuing communication and public relations. And I am happy to know that my major doesn’t define me.

Your major doesn’t matter as much as you think. After you graduate, your major isn’t a big deal. Nobody really cares what you majored in. Of course, it matters if you are going to technical fields such as law, medicine and engineering. But still, your major does NOT define your career and your life. 

I once met someone at a career fair. He was a retail manager at CVS and we started talking. I was curious about what he studied in school and I expected something in business or health, well I was wrong. He said he majored in computer science. That was the moment I knew my major doesn’t dictate my career. 

There’s always a chance to change career trajectory. It is never too late. If you are working in graphic design a few years after graduation, and suddenly you want to explore the option of becoming a nurse, take some classes and get an accelerated degree and become a nurse. If you studied government and politics in college and realized you don’t want to do that anymore while you’re in your 30s or 40s? Never too late to explore other options. Talk to people in different fields, take classes, test the waters. 

After you graduate, you’d be surprised how little your degree matters. Yes, your degree will be the thing that gets your foot in the door. But from that point forward, it’s your experience that matters. There are so many transferable soft skills that are far more important than if you majored in a certain area in college. 

Your major does not define you or dictate your future. 

4. Don’t take everything too seriously

I’m a huge perfectionist and this has not always been easy. Everything, whether big or small, I wanted…. needed to be done perfectly. While being a perfectionist has its perks, it can be a huge burden sometimes. Exhibit A: spending one hour or more on a discussion board assignment that’s only worth a tiny percent of my grade. I didn’t need to do that.

This goes for life as well. Not everything has to be done perfectly all of the time. Life happens when you’re too busy making sure everything is perfect and making the right decision. Go with the flow sometimes. 

5. Take that chance

If something excites you but you’re hesitant to go through with it because you’re scared, take that chance. Nine out of ten times, you would be happy you did it. 

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be scary, but life gets boring if you’re not willing to try something new. So many of my best memories began when I said yes despite my doubts and worries — attending a summer program at Boston University during my junior year of high school, packed up my suitcases and went to college across the Pacific Ocean, studied abroad in Milan and so many more to count. All of these were tough decisions to make and I was so afraid. But I allowed my excitement to take over and said “Yes” and I have not regretted ever since.

If you never say yes or step out of your comfort zone, you’ll spend your whole life wondering the “what-ifs.”