10 Things I Learned Before I Turn 21

My 21st birthday is next week and to say I'm excited is an understatement. After such a rough year, I'm looking forward to having a reason to celeberate myself and take advantage of all the goodies that come with birthdays. But honestly, life has been a bit dull lately. Between the pandemic, college, and political uncertanity, I'm exhausted. It feels like I'm living the same day over and over. So I took some time recently to reflect on my growth. I wasn't sure what to expect as I sat down to write this list, but I left feeling so rejuvenated and proud of myself. I've grown so much in this past year- and I'm about to grow even more in my last year of undergrad! We're meant to be celebrating ourselves, not tearing ourself down the second we get the chance.

So, in honor of my growth and upcoming birthday, I cumulated ten of my most valuable lessons yet.  

  1. 1. Your regret from the past and fears about the future won’t change the outcome 

    When I make a mistake, I torture myself by constantly thinking about it. I get so mad at myself- how could I have done that? I've always been too hard on my myself and so when I watched the Lion King, Rafiki changed it all for me (literally) with this quote: "Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it." We all make mistakes, but it's in the past- you can’t do anything about it anymore. Reflect, grow, and let it go. And sure, the future is scary, but why torture yourself over something that hasn't even occured yet? Find peace with your mistakes, prepare yourself for the future, and focus on the present. 

  2. 2. You need more than love in a relationship

    Love is so special. But it isn’t going to solve all of your relationship problems. There needs to be more than love to keep a relationship alive and healthy. You need trust, vulnerability, respect, and effort. Lots and lots of effort. If the two of you have love but don’t have a foundation, then it just won’t last. Your passion can fade and your honeymoon phase will end, so what's beyond that? Sometimes its good to take a step back and reflect on your relationship. Do monthly check-ins with your partner to see how the relationship is doing and how you can be a better SO. Relationships take dedication. 

  3. 3. It's okay to be lonely in college. Actually, it's normal

    “College is the best four years of your life!” Let's stop saying that, because it gives incoming freshmen an unrealistic expectation. A lot of people don't have a great college experience. 

    When I moved into my dorm for the first time I thought my social life was going to be like the movies. Always going out, having a group of best friends, all of that. Then when the semester started, it was actually the opposite. I had a boyfriend and a few friends, but that was it. For the most part I either stayed in my dorm or went out only with my then boyfriend. I struggled a lot with loneliness because I saw everyone around me constantly going out and making new friends- I thought something was wrong with me. I'm not saying that I didn't have amazing people in my life; I did, and I'm so grateful for them. It just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. 

    In my sophmore year I found out a lot of students actually struggle with loneliness. I was so surprised to hear this because everyone around me seemed so happy and confident, but it's the truth. It can be hard to make friends in college because you might not know where to start, who to go to, or feel too busy to have relationships. I wish I could go back to my freshmen self and tell her that she isn't alone. It would have really helped her.

  4. 4. You don't ever fully know someone

    This was a hard pill to swallow. I recently got somewhat back together with an ex and he ghosted me. After over a year together. I was crushed. I thought I knew his heart, but I didn't. Sometimes I wonder if I ever truly knew him and then go through this vicious cycle in my mind of trying to find the truth. Along with this, I've had to learn to not set unrealistic expectations on people. While it isn't your fault what they do to you, don't set up impossible standards in your mind. 

    For now, I'm learning to trust people again. It’ll take time, but I’m getting there.

  5. 5. I can be a Christian and a Democrat

    Before I became a Christian, I assumed Christianity equaled to conservatism. All I saw Christians do was be hateful towards others and I wanted no part of that. Then I was reintroduced to God and my faith journey started from there. I at first had a hard time with my relationship with God because I thought I had to switch some of my ideologies to be a Christian and that was the last thing I wanted to do. Depsite what I'm sure people think of when they hear someone is a Christian, I'm actually the opposite; for example, I'm LGBTQ+ affirming, pro-choice, and a Democrat. Through time and research, I’ve found that there is a space for Christians who are left-leaning. Standing firm on my views isn't out of stubbornness, its out of knowing that God isn't what so many people think He is; not of hate, but love.

  6. 6. Grow a backbone

    Man, this one is hard for me. A lot of people have taken advantage of my kindness and I knew it, but I was too scared to stand up for myself. So I just kept letting people walk over me. It slowly chipped away my self-esteem until one day where I just couldn't take it anymore. I’ve been challenging myself lately to stand up for myself and let me tell you- watching their facial expression change to shock is the best thing. That being said, I still struggle with this and it's a process, but it's all about knowing your worth. Stand your ground!

  7. 7. Instagram is fake

    “Comparison is the thief of joy” has always resonated with me. Instagram has always, and will always, be full of lies. I compared every bit of my life to what I saw but it's all just a production. The angles, the filters, the photoshop. We only post about the happy moments, not the moments where we’re having a breakdown and doubting our purpose. I promise you that. I recently deleted my Instagram for a few weeks (I wrote an article about this!) and once I reactivated my account, I realized that I didn't care. I don't care about all the annoying standards that come with it, and I'm sure that most of my followers don't even care about me. Realizing how fake Instagram (and people) actually are took me so long to realize, but once it finally clicked in my head I've began to feel so much more accepting about my life and body.

  8. 8. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever

    I believe that my ex is my soulmate, but not as a soulmate for eternity; instead, a seasonal soulmate. This is when a person is meant to be in your life for only a season. He came into my life at the right time and taught me so many lessons (good and bad). I have so many memories from that relationship that I keep close to my heart. And as much as I wish he was my soulmate for eternity, he just isn’t. It was hard to admit that, but I needed to be honest with myself. Everyone isn’t always going to be here forever; some people just have a different path set by God, and that's okay. Keep them close to your heart, but let go. You deserve that. 

  9. 9. It's okay to be sensitive

    I’ve always hated that I’m more sensitive than other people. I cry easily and get more emotional over things that others don't care about as much. People would call me out on being a crybaby and so when I started to get emotional, I felt ashamed and kept my feelings to myself. But there isn’t anything wrong with being sensitive! It shows that I’m sympathetic and love the people around me. If you’re sensitive like me, then hold onto that; it's been so beneficial because I’m able to connect with my friends on an emotionally deeper level. Embrace your emotions! 

  10. 10. The success of the people around you doesn't undermine your success

    I’ve always doubted my purpose and where I’m at. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just running in a circle, not making any progress. I feel like everyone is achieving so much expect me. I know I'm young, but sometimes I look at myself and feel so frustrated that I’m not doing anything special. But I am special. I’m about to be a senior in college, have amazing grades, and in a year I’ll have a degree! I also completed an internship with Disney, about to start student teaching, and taking on two leadership roles in clubs next semester. I'm full of accomplishments and so are you. It doesn't matter how big or small. I'm where I'm meant to be. 

    One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 3:1, which says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, this is so true- all of us are meant to be where we are because there's a time for everything. 

To all my May babies, happy birthday!