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19 Life Lessons Learned in 19 Years

With my 20th birthday less than a month away (screaming), I’ve been thinking a lot about how far I’ve come over the years. Being more of an adult is right in line with the big 2-0, and even though my favorite food is still Kraft macaroni & cheese, I’m going to need to step up my game. But thankfully, I’ve learned a great deal over the past nineteen years. It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but hey, everyone ditches their car at least once (or five times). I’m thankful for everything I’ve been through so far, and I think you can learn from every experience. If I could go back to 2007 and talk to my Aeropostale-wearin’, Nickelback-listenin’, Jesse McCartney-lovin’ self, this is the advice I would give:

Mistakes are a part of life

You’re going to screw up, and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, learn from it. Every time you mess up or you do something wrong, there’s always something you can take away from it. I’m talking to you, black eyeliner. If I hadn’t discovered you in junior high, I would never have learned that less is definitely more.

Fitting in isn’t the most important thing

Fitting in is subjective. Make your own crowd, and don’t conform to the consensus. Being “popular” (i.e. what society says is popular), will never matter if you’re unhappy with who you are. Don’t change yourself to fit someone else’s standards. You are you, and there’s nothing you can, or should want, to change about that.

Not everyone will like you…

…and that’s okay. You weren’t put on this earth to please everyone, and you never will. It doesn’t matter if everyone likes you; what matters is that you find people that matter to you.

Tell your parents you love them

Seriously, do it. And do it often. Your parents do so much for you, I don’t care how much they annoy or embarrass you. Throwing in a “love ya” at the end of a text or phone call won’t kill you. One day you won’t be able to say it; don’t wait until then to wish you had.

Tell everyone, “Thank you”

I don’t care how repetitive you sound, keep thanking people. Everyone appreciates it. Someone might forget the one time you say “Thank you,” but they will never forget the time you didn’t.

Don’t be afraid to travel

Yeah, the world is pretty big, but there’s so much out there. It doesn’t matter how far, just expand your horizons. Open your mind. See the world. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and go somewhere new. You never know what type of doors it’ll open.

If you hate something, don’t do it

Okay, I know, we all hate homework, but we kind of have to do that. What I mean is that if you truly hate doing something – maybe a job or a sport or even a club ­– don’t be afraid to change your mind, and change it again. Change is good, and you’re always allowed to switch it up.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is good

This might be a terrifying concept, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes you just have to take that jump. Every great opportunity I’ve ever had, I can trace back to one decision when I just went for it. You will never know until you try. Don’t be afraid to try.

Missing home is okay

I know, you’re sick of home. You want to move on and change your life. But no matter how much you say you’ll never go back, it’s okay to feel the heart strings pull a bit when you picture your hometown. Don’t be in such a rush to leave, and appreciate what that area has given you.

It’s okay to be scared

You’re never going to be 100% all the time. Don’t be so hard on yourself and use your nervousness and anxiousness as power. Everyone gets scared to do something, but it’s how you overcome the obstacle that makes you stand out.

Your “imperfections” make you unique

Oh, and by the way, THEY AREN’T IMPERFECTIONS. They’re called, ahem, YOU. Stop hating them and wishing you could change them to be like everyone else. If you didn’t have them, you wouldn’t be yourself, and then who would you be? Stop trying to be another face in the crowd.

Your appearance does not define you

Your weight, jean size, bra size, literally nothing defines you as a person. Don’t waste years trying to have the “perfect bod,” because at the end of the day, you are yourself, regardless of what your body looks like. There’s so much more to life than how you think your body should look. Oh, and if you’re ever faced with the decision, EAT THE CAKE.

Comparison kills

No two people are exactly the same, and they never will be. You’re wasting your time and energy constantly comparing yourself to others. It’s doing nothing but bringing down your self-confidence. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a lot of years of insecurity by not comparing yourself to others.

Confidence is key

If you have confidence, you can do anything. Land a job, get an “A”, win a game, literally anything. Be proud of the person you are and all you can do, and show it in your strut. Put on your favorite jeans, curl your hair, and slap on some red lipstick. Own it, babe. Top of Form

Never underestimate the value of hard work

Everyone appreciates a job well done. Give your all in everything you do. You’ll never regret finishing strong.

Stay humble

Everyone comes from somewhere different and brings something new to the table. Holding yourself above others doesn’t produce success – persistence and hard work does. Remember where you are and who you are. Don’t assume people should respect you, earn their respect.

Never settle

You deserve so much more than mediocre, so never stop pushing for what you want. Life will get tough, but you can always be tougher. Keep striving for greatness.

Don’t give up on your dreams

You may not even know them yet, but every second you spend believing in your dreams is a second closer you are to achieving them. Giving up never speeds up the process.

You can do this

No matter where you find yourself, always remember that you can do this. You can always achieve anything you set your mind to, not matter how big or small. If I can take one thing away that I’ve learned over the past 19 years, it’s that no one knows me better than myself, and I will always know that I can do this.


Images courtesy of: eftvideotutorials.com and magic4walls.com

Cyndi is currently a sophomore at the University of Michigan where she is studying Communications and Spanish. She loves traveling, laughing, and most importantly, eating ice cream. Holidays are her favorite time of year (literally every holiday) and she's an animal lover. If she had it her way, she'd be out traveling the world, but for now she works and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, where she answers phone calls and tries to brighten people's days.
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