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Being mandated into isolation these past six months, I’ve often found myself cornered into a room with just me and my thoughts. My mind can get loud sometimes, and with nothing else to do recently, it’s begun screaming at me to listen. I turned twenty at the beginning of August which launched me on a small journey of introspection, reflecting on how I’ve grown––not just since quarantine began, but all throughout my teen years and early adulthood. With everyone changing their looks, working on themselves, and trying to become the person they want to be during all this free time that quarantine has granted us, it made me think: who exactly do I want to be? How do I want to grow? In which ways have I already? I have changed tremendously within the past five years of my life, and for this I am grateful. Although, I won’t lie––there are some things I wish I had known when I was fifteen so I didn’t have to learn them the hard way.

image of three friends watching the sunset
Photo by Simon Maage from Unsplash

Everything is temporary, and it’s okay. Those friends you made in elementary school? You might grow apart from them in high school. Your high school friends? You might not talk to them as much once you all start university. What you will have, though, is the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. These people will become the most important people in your life, and you’ll cherish old memories with old friends. Growing in different directions as people you’ve known your entire life and instead finding others that align with your new path is one of the greatest gifts you can receive. We are not supposed to be stagnant, and growing through adolescence is never linear. Embrace new relationships with open arms.

You don’t have to be happy all the time, and no, there is nothing wrong with you because of this. Becoming comfortable accepting all of your different emotions is tough work, and definitely not something I’ve yet mastered––but allowing yourself to feel without judgement is life-changing. How lucky are we to be able to feel every feeling to its fullest extent? When you’re sad, be completely and utterly sad. Cry to your heart’s content. When you’re happy, be extremely and excruciatingly happy. Radiate warmth everywhere you go. Allow yourself to feel the highs and lows and all of the inbetweens, appreciating the complexity of this existence.

Stop caring what people think (most of the time they don’t, anyway). Who are you wearing those skinny jeans for? Who is benefitting from you toning down your personality or pretending to like different music, all for the sake of fitting in? I often think about how much time I spent during my early years of high school trying to be someone I wasn’t, and hating myself for things I couldn’t change. I wished I had spent that time being myself, wholeheartedly and unapologetically. The world becomes brighter when you accept yourself. Who wants to fit in, anyway? How boring.

man and woman on bikes at sunset
Everton Vila

And finally, your first boyfriend is not who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. I know, crazy to think about, right? When you were fifteen and you fell in love you thought it would last forever, and you were utterly heartbroken when it didn’t. But listen: you will fall in and out of love so many times in your life, and you will be grateful for it. You will share your life and the most vulnerable parts of yourself with many different people, and you will learn different lessons from each one. If you’d stopped at your first love, you never would have met your second. Or any of the flings and friendships you made in between. Loving is of vital importance in the process of growing and changing. Hurting and healing tells you a lot about yourself; don’t let it hold you back.

I guess the most important thing I’ve learned in my life so far is to live freely. To live weightless. Caring is important, and I often find myself caring too much; but it is something you can learn to let go of to a certain extent, and something you should. Change is inevitable and should be welcomed with opened arms. When people tell me I’ve changed, I always think, God, I hope so. And, as Milan Kundera puts it, “there is no perfection, only life.” Live yours.


Aynsley Rae

Queen's U '22

Aynsley is a third year English major at Queen's University.
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