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21 Things I Learned by the Time I Turned 21

I turn 21 in a few days, and thought I would share some of my life lessons and words of wisdom in my little over a two decades of life. 

1. Never let the world make you hard and cold; by this age you will have seen a lot of things that can make you believe that the world is bad, but hold out for those few beautiful moments that touch your heart.

2. Love, real love, is not everything you watched in the movies or read in Nicholas Sparks books; whether you’ve experienced it or not, it hurts and it’s painfully beautiful and sometimes it breaks more than just your heart.

3. Friendships don’t define you anymore. When you’re a teenager, friends seem to consume our being and by the time you’re 21, your friendships become less of a priority than before. They are now the icing on top of the cake that is life.

4. Human beings are made to wander; whether it is aimlessly or towards their destiny. So travel. A lot. Anywhere and everywhere you have a chance to. It will change you and make you and your problems so much smaller.

5. By this age you will probably have a new relationship with your parents. You grew out of the “drop me off behind the movie theaters” stage and are probably embarking on the “will you please stay home and watch movies on a Friday night with me” stage. This is a good place to be.

6. High school was easy compared to university.

7. How beautiful the simplicity of hearing your family roaming around the house is when you live on your own or go off to college.

8. Always, and I mean always, have cash on you–whether it’s for that late night burrito or for a cab/bus/train ride home after an unexpected turn of events in the beauty that is life.

9. Always have earphones with you. Sometimes life sucks and tuning out the world can really make a difference.

10. Whenever you’ve had a long day/night or are just overwhelmed, watch a movie: any movie that even for an hour and a half makes you forget your problems until you’re ready to handle them.

11. Even though you technically can’t use the “I’m a teenager” excuse to your benefit anymore, you can blame the city/society/country/world/generation we are in.

12. Try to say yes more often. Even if it’s to a coffee date; you never know if that could be the cafe mocha that changed your life.

13. Read. Just like movies and music, books are another beautiful thing that was created to help us make sense of the white noise of life and even to just forget, just for a few minutes or a few days.

14. The best nights of your life are not in your past; they have yet to come.

15. 21 may feel old when you compare it to 13 or 16 but this is the beginning of your life; everything before was a warm-up.

16. Sing. In your car, on the train, in class, while walking to the grocery store, in the corner at a party; no matter where you are, sing, it will soothe your soul.

17. Take pictures of everything. Every moment, no matter how big or small, you’ll want to remember it, I promise. Don’t feel shy; ask strangers to take pictures of you and even join in them.

18. Everyone should move away from home, even if it’s for a few months, a semester or 4 years. It will help you fall in love again with the boring and ordinary town you grew up in.

19. Make lists, lots of them, and try to get as many things done as possible. But don’t make lists of people, let people surprise you by showing you all the things you never knew you wanted.

20. Getting into clubs, bars, buying alcohol is not the top of your priority anymore. Embrace this; it’s a good thing.

20. And lastly, breathe. 21 is a beautiful age of transition from the teens into young adulthood; you are now becoming the person you were meant to be. So embrace it. It’s beautiful. And stay close to everything that makes you feel alive. 

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Farnoush Amiri

San Francisco

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