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I’m getting old.

At least, that’s how it feels to me because I’m turning 22 this week. If you ask my mom–who’s turning 50 this year–I’m just being dramatic. And, I suppose, if you compare 22 to 50, I am being a little dramatic. But that’s my modus operandi…so we’re just gonna go with it. 

The issue with turning 22 is that it’s an extremely anti-climactic birthday after the excitement of turning 21. I’ve had at least three of my older friends tell me that it’s all downhill after the big 21st birthday. Despite the bleakness of my aging (seriously, I can feel my bones creaking more and more every day), with age comes wisdom!

So, here are a few things I’ve learned during my (almost) 22 years on this earth. 

1. You come first.

I’ve noticed throughout my life that we put a lot of moral stock into selflessness. I’m not saying this is wrong, or that we should only focus on ourselves, because that would be an extremely unfulfilling life. However, I also believe that we can be selfless to a fault, to the point where we are no longer taking care of ourselves. It’s important to remember that you are the only person who can truly make yourself happy. So, this lesson is simple. This life is yours, and only yours. Live it for yourself.

2. Take advantage of the little things.

This saying sounds so cheesy, but it’s irrevocably true. It’s so easy to worry about the big things in life. Whether or not we’ll get that job, how our relationships are doing, if we should take that vacation. Those things are important, but I’ve found that a lot of joy in life can be found in seemingly insignificant things. 

For me, this equates to a really good iced coffee in the morning, or the feeling I have after getting my nails done, or crying at the end of an amazing book. The more we put effort into noticing small things, the more often we’ll feel that joy that humans constantly crave.

3. Everything in life is temporary.

This lesson can be scary, but also exciting. The truth is that life is long, and things come and go. The test you’re worried about will pass. The person you love might move. Your favorite restaurant might shut down. This lesson is easy to accept when we relate it to little, everyday annoyances, but much more frightening when it’s related to losing the things or people that make us happy. This is something I have struggled to accept for many, many years, because it makes life feel all the more daunting. However, my therapist once told me that this is also why humans keep living every single day. We keep living because we never know what’s next, or what will come our way. How exciting is that?

4. Find your pilgrimage.

We are often raised with the ideology that we will “make it” someday. This can mean different things to different people, such as someday becoming rich or someday becoming happy. But, as we learned in our previous lesson, everything in life is fleeting.

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about themselves, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. A pilgrimage is often looked at as a religious experience, but it doesn’t have to be religious. I believe that life should be looked at as a pilgrimage for every single one of us.

Personally, my life is a pilgrimage towards peace. My goal every day is to feel at peace with myself and my life. Feelings are temporary. One day we’ll be on cloud nine, and the next we’ll feel really crappy. It’s no good to look at happiness as a lasting state. Rather, we should look at life as a long journey, a pilgrimage, towards peace.

5. Life is far more simple than we want to believe.

Buckle up–I’m about to get even more philosophical. Life can be complicated, yes, but it’s often much simpler than we allow it to be. I frequently feel confused as to why I’m here, why we’re all here…but the fact of the matter is that we all exist, for whatever reason, and we should make the most of our existence.

You don’t have to be filled with immense purpose. You don’t have to accomplish anything crazy. You can if you want to, but you can also just live. Be kind to the people around you. Make decisions for yourself. Focus on things that bring you peace and joy. Just keep swimming!

I'm Grace, and I'm a senior at Loyola University Chicago! I'm studying English and Multimedia Journalism with the hopes of writing for a magazine one day. My passions include knitting, reading romance and fantasy novels, writing truly terrible poetry, and my cat Leia (she’s a Gemini).
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