Lessons That Took Me (Almost) 20 Years to Learn

My teenage years are (finally) almost over, and I feel a bit weird about it. Growing up, I always felt like I was the youngest in the room, and I was, but I developed the idea that this made me inferior, and made me long to grow up quicker. It felt like an endless cycle of people getting to do life before me and made my experiences feel less exciting in comparison.  Rushing through my teens, I thought that once I entered my twenties I would understand life as it truly is. I now understand that I learned so much in my teenage years, and there was no reason to rush through them. This obsession we have with becoming older doesn’t make sense to me anymore; there’s no use wishing away pivotal years of your life. I think it’s important to embrace and appreciate where you’re at in life. To commemorate the end of my teens, I’ve made a list of some of the hardest lessons I’ve learned:

1. Moments and relationships don’t need to last forever

I used to hold onto memories and people that sometimes no longer made sense. I hoped those memories and friendships would last forever. At the time, they felt so important that they defined me, but they didn’t. I understand now that this was all fear of change; losing someone that was important to you can be really scary. What if you’re making a mistake? Now I understand that nothing is yours, so you’re not really letting anything go. Memories can be just memories, and sometimes it’s better those memories are left in the past. The universe will guide you naturally where you need to be, and there’s really no use trying to fight that.

2. Your perception of me is not my problem

This became a large problem in the past few years of my teenage years. I felt this deep desire for everyone’s approval in my life. Part of me thought that was innate in humans, and maybe it is, but that natural desire doesn’t have to control my life. It’s not an inherently bad quality to want to fit into social norms, but everyone’s opinions on your decisions don’t really matter. It just made me realize that I was creating a space without any boundaries and it didn’t really make me feel like myself. I can’t change your perception of me, and it’s really not my business to change it. I’m not a product, I don’t need to sell myself to you.

3. It’s okay to set boundaries and that doesn’t make you a bad person

I always thought that the idea of boundaries seemed strange to me, it sometimes feels awkward and uncomfortable to establish clear boundaries. For most of my life, I decided life without boundaries was better than one with the slight discomfort that comes with establishing boundaries. I eventually realized that this brought in a lot of relationships in my life that were intentionally or unintentionally draining me and wasting a lot of my personal energy. I now see boundaries as not only healthy but necessary. You are allowed to have boundaries and no one can make you feel guilty for that.

Love yourself written on wall Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst/Shopify

4. You are not your thoughts

I spent a lot of time in quarantine learning about spirituality, and I can finally begin to understand life from a point of higher consciousness. I didn’t expect it to free me as much as it did, but I now understand that thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts are natural and they don’t define us.  It became easier to disassociate myself from mentalities that no longer served me. Once you understand that you have the power to change or ignore your thoughts, growth becomes a lot easier.

5. I am the only love of my life

I understand it sounds egotistical, but we all should be the love of our own lives. I love myself so much, and that mindset frees me from insecurity. It’s okay, and even healthy, to not want someone to complete you. It’s hard not to be a little lost at my age but I think it would be a lot harder if I had someone equally as lost that I was codependent on. I once heard that you should treat yourself how you would treat a younger version of yourself in everything you do (e.g. taking care of yourself or how you talk to yourself) and I really resonate with that. Even if we’re not trying to, we can be so hard on ourselves, which is a shame because we spend the most time with ourselves. I now try to spend every day making myself happy and I take care of myself like I would want to take care of a younger version of myself. The hardest lesson I’ve learned is that whether or not you feel like it, you have to nurture yourself because you deserve it.

woman looking at her reflection in mirror Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels