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Ah, we love ambitiously starting things and then abandoning them for six months, right? 

So, yes, I started this article back in April, on the brink of my ~20th birthday.~ 

It’s October and I’m officially 20 ~and a half.~ So, we see how that turned out.

Being a mixture of psychotically busy and generally flaky, I got to lesson number eight and never opened the document again. However, I decided to re-read the reason that I started this article in the first place: Taylor Swift’s “30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30” article for Elle Magazine, and I feel inspired all over again. Taylor, who turns 30 in December, takes the time to discuss all the lessons she’s learned, big and small, throughout the years.

Now, I’m gonna be honest, I’ve been a huge T-swift fan from the start, when she came out with her debut album in 2006. It’s been 13 years (!!!) since we were downloading sappy classic like “Teardrops on my Guitar” and “Tim McGraw” on our Ipod Nanos. It’s been seven years since “All Too Well” was making us all ugly cry over relationships we never even had. It’s even been over two years since the infamous Taylor-Kanye-Kim feud, which later resulted in the creation of “Reputation.” And now, we’re all listening to TSwift on the reg again, as she recently dropped her album “Lover,” which we can all agree is some of her finest work. Through everything, I’ve always had a special affinity for Taylor Swift — literally, I’m listening to her “1989” album as I write this. After reading her article for Elle Magazine, I’ve realized that my respect for her goes beyond just her music, but for who she is as well. 

Well, I don’t know who let me think that I’m T-Swift now, but recently I’ve been pondering everything that I’ve learned throughout my two decades. I’ve been the big 2-0 for over six months now — even though I have the looks and the emotional stability of a high school sophomore. Now, I know I’m not particularly successful, rich or inspirational — and, TBH, I cannot think of a single reason as to why people should take my advice. But, as I venture out of my teen years, I feel as though I’ve learned a few important lessons that have helped me become the person that I am today. 

Literally no one asked for this. But I’m doing it anyway, so, enjoy.

 

You can’t control other people, but you can control how you react.

As someone who’s always had a tendency to exert my control onto other people, I’ve always astonished myself by how little boundaries I enforce on myself. After years of blaming my controlling habits on my “oldest sibling syndrome,” I’ve finally come to the conclusion that maybe — just maybe — this is an actual problem that I should work on. As I’ve begun this ~self discovery~ journey, it’s become more and more apparent that I should focus my energy in controlling how I react, rather than trying to manage how other people treat me.

Yoga is actually life changing

Now, not to sound like every girl who’s gone to a six total yoga classes, but I’m pretty sure I’m a qualified yogi. In all seriousness, yoga has become a recent stress-reducing outlet that I’ve made an effort to partake in more often — whether that be at a yoga studio that is taking all of my money or the comfort of my own apartment. It’s hard to describe, but even something as simple as focusing on your breathing can pull your mind away from all the stress and anxiety that the day (or week) has brought. BRB — going to spend all my money on memberships and patterned yoga mats from Marshall’s. 

Life is so much better when it’s not winter.

I thought winter was bad growing up, but I had no idea just how bad it could be here in Philly. The brown, slushy snow on the sidewalks, Broad Street’s bitter winds strong enough to knock over a 6th grader, your frostbitten hand clenching your Richie’s iced coffee — it’s enough to terrify anyone. Every single winter, without fail, I find myself falling back into a gloomy, depressing funk that makes me question why I haven’t reinvented myself in Florida yet. However, think about that first 60-degree day of the spring, you know, the one where everyone day drinks — er, I mean “hangs out” — on Beury Beach. It’s that kind of day that I am finally reminded of how happy I am at Temple. 

 

To have empathy is a gift that not everyone has.

Listen, I’m not trying to be that cheesy Pinterest quote that you saved in high school, but this is a very important lesson — one that I still struggle with accepting. It’s hard enough to come to terms with the fact that not everyone has the same heart as you, but it’s even harder understanding those who truly just lack empathy and care. In my personal experience, I’ve always been so perplexed by people who have no regard for the repercussions of their actions and how it can affect others around them. But, that’s none of my business — *Kermit the frog sipping tea meme.*

Sex doesn’t equal love

When we’re young, it’s cute to think that the physical act of sex is going to end in some epic, whirlwind romance full of picnics and movie nights. In reality, it usually just ends in a 7 a.m. walk-of-shame and your weekly food money going to Plan B. It’s fine, really, you weren’t hungry anyway. In all seriousness, this is something I learned very quickly in college. In high school, I thought of myself as a very serious, committed and monogamous individual. So when I came to college ~single~ (and so, so not ready to mingle), I immediately thought that sleeping with someone solidified our relationship and brought it that hangs-with-you-sober level. Wrong. And it was wrong of me to assume this, as well. You cannot go into sex with the fantasy of falling head-over-heels. You’re not in a fairytale, you’re 18 and doing missionary in his twin-sized bed while listening to Kanye West, pretending to feel something on a deeper level because Kanye said you “set the night on fire.”

One day you’ll be able to laugh about your first relationship. Probably hysterically.

Speaking of high school… LOL. I’m always very hesitant when it comes to speaking about my long-term high school boyfriend…  then I remember that he has me blocked on every social media platform besides LinkedIn ? and has peacefully ignored my existence for the past 2.5 years. I thought I understood the concept of love perfectly at 16 — it was hanging out at each other’s lockers and sharing an order of boneless wings at Red Robin. Needless to say, simpler times. When he broke up with me, I was devastated. Like, ugly-cry-in-Target-parking-lot and beg-him-to-go-on-Senior-Week-with-you type of devastated. So many years later, I feel for the 16-year-old girl who got her heart broken, but I laugh at the thought of thinking love could be found in the cinderblock walls of my high school. To my high school boyfriend, if you’re reading this (he’s not), I forgive you — but I’m totally writing a tell-all article about our relationship because this is way too fun.

Writing is the most liberating feeling I will probably ever feel.

I’ve kept journals all throughout my childhood, but I still remember the first time I turned to writing as a healing tool to help me through a hard time. Since then, I’ve turned to writing to share my hardest times, my happiest times and my most random thoughts, and I feel so lucky to be this passionate about something. When I can’t form what I’m feeling into coherent words, I know that I can pick up a pen and paper and articulate just how I’m feeling. Also, it’s pretty hilarious to look back at what I was writing about my sophomore year of high school — 16 year old me had a big storm coming and she had no idea.

College really is when you find yourself.

We all think we’re hot shit when we’re in seniors in high school, standing front row at the football games and skipping classes. OK, I wasn’t actually cool enough to do either of those, but you get the point. When I was in high school, I thought I knew exactly who I was, but as it turns out, I am a completely different person than I was at 18 (shocker). Being on my own at college forced me to grow up, like it does to anyone, and I grew into someone who no longer feels inferior or insecure. In high school, I turned to writing to say what I felt I could never speak out loud — but now, I never bite my tongue when it comes to expressing how I feel. (Even if sometimes I should). I know that in the future, I will look back at these four years as some of the most transformational of my life. Also, LOL at this picture of me from high school — I told y’all I was not cool enough to skip school:

Skin care won’t actually fix all your problems, but it’ll make you feel like you did

Because, sometimes, you’ve just gotta slap on a face mask and pretend your life isn’t falling apart. OK?

Not everything is your fault. But some things might be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love blaming everything on other people — it’s funny and I get to go about my day living inside a blissful bubble that I can do no wrong. OK, I’m kidding. (Kind of). But if I’ve learned anything the hard way throughout my 20 years, it’s that sometimes you can’t put a decision that you made on someone else. On the same note, you can’t torture yourself over a mistake — we all make them.

Even the busiest, hardest days are ~only 24 hours~

I swear I’m not as local as I’m sounding right now. It’s just important to remember that even days full of classes, work, extracurriculars or even just drama that you don’t want to deal with are only 24 hours, even if they feel like an eternity.

Being college-aged is so weird — you are an adult but still make terrible decisions with no regard for the future

I think about this a lot — mostly when I’m slung over my toilet, crying and listening to “Lucid Dreams” after a night out. OK, this time I’m actually kidding. In all seriousness, being twenty is freaking. weird. Some days, I throw on a pair of dress pants, drink a latte and attend five different meetings. Fast forward to Friday night, I’m about to double Snapchat the boy from my freshman year Gen-Ed while simultaneously ordering Philly Style delivery. The irony is evident, but you kinda just gotta go with it — it’s #college.

Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever

I’ve had some pretty incredible friendships throughout my life, but I’d be lying if I said that all of them had lasted. It’s hard to mourn the loss of a friend, arguably even harder than the loss of a romantic partner. But I’ve learned that it’s best to understand that your friendship faded for a reason; there’s no point in trying to force something that is no longer there. When a friendship ends naturally and amicably, the best part is that you know that they’re always in your corner, supporting you from afar.

But when they are a lifelong friendship, you know.

Some friendships, on the other hand, last a lifetime. Take my best friend Julia, for example. Julia and I became best friends in our ninth grade english class, and I don’t think either of us knew how deep and far our friendship would go. We went through everything together. She waited up for me when I came home from my ~first date~ at the local movie theater. I confronted the boy she was talking to when he walked into the restaurant we were at with another girl on her birthday. We spent hours in her basement illegally pirating the “50 Shades of Grey” movies and listening to Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” together. Not to mention, we even wore the same exact sweater when we knew we were going to have our first kisses. Talk about best friend goals. We’ve both gone in different directions as we’ve gotten older, as any young adults do, but one thing has never changed: our friendship. When we get together after months of not seeing each other, it is genuinely like nothing has ever changed. BTW, we did indeed go through a Vinyard Vines phase:

It’s ok that I fetishized Blair and Chuck’s relationship, but, like, not healthy.

We all know *that* limo scene. Yes, the raunchy, post-Burlesque club hookup between Chuck and Blair in the back of his limo that we all watched at way too young of an age. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I first saw that scene in ninth grade — before I had even had my first kiss. Growing up watching the volatile and passionate depictions of love through Chuck and Blair painted a picture of romance that probably wasn’t ideal in such fundamental years of my life. “Gossip Girl,” as much as I loved and still love the show, taught 14-year-old me that drama was a key factor in any relationship, and so I spent a lot of my high school years looking in the wrong places for love. Also, enjoy this picture of me in 9th grade at Chuck Bass’s hotel:

Overexerting yourself will only hurt you in the long run

Anyone who knows me will call me a hypocrite for this one — and they’re totally right. After involving myself in everything that I could this semester, I am definitely feeling the consequences of trying to be everything to everyone. As each week begins, I have a creeping feeling that this will be the week that I let my stress get the better of me and I *finally* lose it. Sunday scaries have always been a prevalent part of my life, but they’ve taken on a whole new daunting presence this semester.

Being told you’re “pretty” is a lousy and cheap compliment

When I was younger, I used to love playing Scooby Doo with my little sisters. But, only if I could be Daphne. Simply because I thought she was the prettiest. Looking back, that seems like a pretty harmless thing — I was just a kid. This obsession with being “pretty” followed me throughout my life, especially in high school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy being called pretty every once in a while. But I’ve learned in college that I enjoy being called a lot of other things more. Friendly. Driven. Funny. Being called nice, which I once saw as a word people would describe me as when they didn’t think I was pretty, is now my favorite thing to be called.

Not everyone will be capable of matching your energy

Ugh. What a frustrating lesson to learn. As someone who is generally pretty loud and, well, full of energy, I love surrounding myself with people you can match this (my crazy-ass roommates, for example). I know that I can always count on them, as well as many of my other friends, to laugh indefinitely about a joke that is definitely not funny, have randomly deep and intuitive conversations about nothing or impulsively make a terrible decision purely for the reason that it will make a funny story later. So, naturally, when I begin talking to someone (in both the romantic sense and not), I am absolutely jarred when one’s energy doesn’t resemble the intensity and rigor of my own. For example, someone didn’t use seven exclamation points when texting me? Well clearly they HATE ME. Luckily, for both my sanity and the sanity of those around me, I’ve chosen to let go of trying to control other people’s emotional capacity, and (shockingly) it’s made me a much happier, careless person.

It’s OK to be sad sometimes

Seriously, we all have our #sadgorl hours from time to time. Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do — i.e. wallow in self pity, ugly cry on your floor, shotgun a whiteclaw while listening to Taylor Swift. Is that last one just me? In all seriousness, our society often views sadness as a weakness, like somehow we’re powerless if we admit our feelings. After a lifetime of bottling my feelings up inside, allowing myself to feel how I’m truly feeling has been the nicest thing I’ve ever done for myself. So, this is the sign you’ve been looking for: go into your room, write a vengeful journal entry and cry it out.

I’m still SO young.

Twenty. Yikes — it’s still so weird to think that I’ve been alive for two whole decades. Seriously, I still look at myself and think I’m 14. As archaic and washed-up as I often feel, I have to remind myself that I’m still very, very young. I’m only a junior in college, and I have ample time to reach my goals, make bad decisions, fall in and out of love, discover things I love and things I hate — the list goes on. As I come to this realization, it makes life much easier knowing that I don’t have to know exactly who I am yet — I can just be a 20-year-old girl finding her way for now.

At this exact moment, I am listening to “Fifteen” by TSwift — and I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculously accurate this song was for me at 15 years old. Swift sings of going on first dates with guys (who have CARS!), thinking you’ve found the ~ one~ and then ultimately getting your heart broken. Brilliant. She shares a sentiment that most 15-year-old girls can relate to: just wanting to be wanted

But Taylor quickly follows up by saying that she wishes she could go back and tell herself what she knows now, as an adult. I know that I can relate to this — and I bet many of you can as well. We’ve all done stupid and thoughtless things in our youth that cause us to cringe everytime we think about it, but that’s just part of growing up and changing. As I’ve grown into an adult, I’m thankful for all of the cringe-inducing experiences that have shaped me into the confident (and ever-so-slightly emotionally traumatized) girl that I am now. 

This semester has pushed me to limits that I never thought I could go — I’ve accomplished milestones, gotten myself through very emotionally-taxing situations (with not so much grace, but it’s fine) and found myself along the way. I think back to six months ago, when I first started this article, and I feel like a completely different person from then. I think that is the perfect representation of what this article stands for: the idea that we are always evolving and learning new lessons.

On my 21st birthday, you better believe I’ll be writing this article again — however, with a margarita in hand, of course. #legalbitch
When Rachel isn't obsessively drinking iced coffee by the gallon or binge watching true crime videos on YouTube, you can probably find her writing about her failed love life. She is currently a  junior (*she's ancient*) journalism major at Temple University, and is a Her Campus Temple Campus Correspondent, a Temple Student Government Social Media Manager and a 2020 Owl Team Student Coordinator. 
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