21 Things I Learned Before Turning 21

About a week ago, I turned 21 years old. There was so much excitement surrounding my 21st which made me realize that it’s a pretty big deal. Suddenly it’s like you’re a full blown adult, fully capable of making your own decisions and living independently. It's mainly a reason to celebrate and have fun, but it’s also kind of intimidating. 

I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world I live in over the past two decades. Some of it’s scary, some of it’s beautiful. Whether you’ve already turned the big 2-1 or are still counting the days until you get there, here is a list of 21 things about life I’ve learned over the past 20 years. I sometimes struggle to follow them, so I’m writing them down not only as a reminder for myself, but for the chance that someone else might get something out of them!

1. Self-love is something that may come and go. Sometimes you have it, sometimes it’s harder to find. Never stop searching for it, even when you feel as though you’ve lost it for good. 

2. Childhood friends are a gift. Don’t forget to appreciate those who have grown with you. 

3. A ‘mental health day’ is a necessity from time to time. Never be ashamed of taking one.

4. Be open to adventure. Life is too short to spend it doing the same thing over and over again. Next time you have the opportunity to explore a new place, do it!

5. Stay in touch with your family. Whether it’s the one you were born into, or the one you chose for yourself, your family can help you through some of your darkest days.

 6. Stop turning your insecurities into jokes. Think twice before you make a joke about your body or your habits. Own who you are - you don’t have to make yourself a laughing matter to entertain or comfort those around you. 

7. School can be incredibly difficult. But the experience will help you grow tremendously as a person.

student studying for school Photo by Green Chameleon from Unsplash


8. Music is one of the greatest things on this planet. Don’t waste any time being ashamed of your music taste or listening to something you don’t want to listen to in order to fit-in.

9. Understand the value of true self-care. Don’t turn the concept into a fluffy trend consisting of the occasional bubble bath and glass of wine at the end of a hard day. Learn what it means to truly care for yourself.

10. Don’t forget to look up from your screen more often. I won’t spend much time on this, because I know it feels like we’ve sat through countless lectures about how we spend too much time on our phones. But we really must be reminded of this from time to time. 

11. Never underestimate fresh air. Try to take a moment every day to go for a walk around the block or step out your front door to take a deep breath. Get outside! 

12. Don’t forget this trio: eat your vegetables, stay hydrated, and wear sunscreen. I only remember to do all three maybe 40% of the time, but there’s always room for improvement.

13. Keep a journal, or just write things down in general. There are so many benefits to writing down your thoughts, original work or even just your grocery lists!

14. A productive day looks different to everyone. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and combing your hair is productive enough. Be gentle with yourself. You don’t have to have it together all the time.

15. Adopt a pet, or buy a plant. Seriously. If you can afford it, do it. Even if it’s just a fish or a cactus you keep by the window. Everyone should know what it’s like to take care of something.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels


16. Approach everyone with kindness and respect. If they don’t do the same for you, they are not worthy of your time or energy.

17. Read the news everyday. Even if it’s just the news highlights on Twitter. Stay active and stay aware of the world you’re living in. Bonus points if you subscribe to a paper or magazine - you’d be supporting journalism, and it makes you feel like a grown-up.

18. How much you’ve accomplished in life is not defined by the amount of relationships you’ve had, and it’s perfectly okay if you haven’t fallen in love yet. There is so much time, and as corny as it sounds, so many fish in the sea.

19. When you’re feeling grateful for someone, tell them. Text your friend and thank them for being there. Hug your mom and tell her you love her. Life is too short to appreciate people and not let them know.

20. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We all know life can be difficult. There are certain things you cannot get through alone.

21. Take time to appreciate how far you’ve come, and what you’ve done. It can be easier said than done, but stop comparing yourself and your accomplishments to others. You’re on your own journey, and you’re doing just fine.


Lindsay Thompson-Neon Sign Where You Need To Be Miami Bar Inspiration Lindsay Thompson / Her Campus