20 Things I Learned While 20

Last year, I wrote about 19 things that I learned while I was 19. It was one of my favorite articles that I’ve written, so I decided to write another one.

1. How to cook chicken, kind of

For those who read my last article, you know that I’m not a great cook. This year, I attempted to learn how to make chicken.

I’ve found that most people have very strong opinions on chicken because the first package of chicken breasts I bought had been in the freezer that I accidentally left open, I asked my friends and coworkers if it was still okay to eat. I found out that there are two types of people: the people who say that if you do anything wrong with chicken you’ll die, and the people who say that it’s the easiest to cook so you can’t really go wrong. I had never made chicken before, so I waited for my roommate to come home to ask for help on how to cook them. I didn’t have a recipe, all I had was some McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning. And it turned out perfectly fine, so now I can add one more meal to my small menu.

2. Car batteries need to be changed every two to three years.

Last year, I learned how to change my wiper blades. This year, I learned that if your car starts slowly, it’s probably not due to the cold. Your battery is probably dying.

When I pulled into the dealership to have my oil changed, they asked me if I had any problems with my battery lately. I told them no because I didn't think I had. Then they informed me that my battery died right after I pulled into their parking lot.

3. How to change a flat tire

I flew to Colorado this summer, and when I got out of my friend’s car I pointed out that her tire was flat. Thankfully, she knew how to put her spare on, so she showed me how to change it and how to put on a spare. Within no time, we were back on the road.

4. Finding an exercise you love makes all the difference in the world.

This year I’ve really tried to make time for working out as part of realizing that I’m too stressed out all the time, and I need to counteract that. It started off with running during the winter. However, Florida doesn’t cool down even when the sun disappears, so that didn’t last long. Lately I’ve been just going to the gym and just trying to eat healthier and just taking better care of myself in general. I discovered swimming as well, and now I swim about 6,000 yards a week; I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's changed my life.

5. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Recently I purchased a Fitbit Flex 2 because I want to try and take better care of myself, and it records how many hours of sleep I get. I knew I didn’t sleep that much but seeing the little bar only reach up to 5 or 6 hours a night was a rude awakening. Over the summer when I was just working, I would try to go to bed way earlier than I was used to, and one day I actually woke up at 6 a.m. and wasn’t tired or cranky. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

6. Step out of your comfort zone.

I’ve been trying to step more outside of my comfort zone, and for the most part, nothing too bad has happened yet. I’ve been traveling more, trying new things, and saying yes to things I wouldn't normally say yes to. It’s kind of scary at first, but it’s also good for me.

7. Don’t snorkel with the full face snorkel mask.

I went snorkeling for the first time this summer when my family took a vacation to Islamorada, Florida. We rented a boat, and took it out to the lighthouse at Alligator Reef, a popular snorkeling spot. Because I was new to snorkeling, I had purchased a full face snorkel mask because the idea of only being able to breathe out of your mouth scared me. Well, almost drowning while wearing the snorkel mask was even more terrifying.

While I was swimming, it felt like the inside of the mask was getting hotter. It felt like there was no air available. I started feeling claustrophobic. I started feeling dizzy. Blackness crept in form my peripheral. But the inside of the mask started getting hotter.

Later when I got home from the trip, I researched the full face masks. Apparently the one I bought was most likely a knockoff of the actual version of it. The knockoffs were known for CO2 build up inside the mask, causing its victims to pass out and drown.

So I probably won’t be going snorkeling again any time soon.

8. How to stand up and read your poetry in front of a bunch of strangers

I recently started going to open mic poetry nights. The first time I went, my friends talked into putting my name in the hat. The only way that I forced myself up there in front of all of those people was because I couldn’t find my voice to say I changed my mind.

I went up there, my shaking hands holding my leather journal, and read my poems aloud in front of a room full of strangers. When I was done, the room erupted in applause (it did for every poet), but I had done it. I’m not a great public speaker, but there was something cathartic about sharing my writing with an audience and have them give me feedback by their reactions.

9. Don’t give up on what you’re passionate about.

I’ve been submitting my writing to potential publishers since I was 11 years old. It wasn’t until this year that I finally got my first acceptance letter for my poetry to Merrimack Review. Since then, I’ve still gotten a lot of rejection letters, but I’ve also gotten a lot more acceptance letters. This is one instance where my stubbornness comes in handy.

10. Don’t spend all your time on social media.

For one week over the summer, I deleted my Facebook app off of my phone and logged out of the website on my computer. I realized that I spent way too much time scrolling on the social media site for no reason. I got sucked into the endless stream of memes, articles, and videos. I realized I could put all of the time that I spend doing this towards something productive, like homework, reading, or sleeping.

It only lasted a week. I ended up back on the app after I needed to find some information for school. I then realized that I can’t just completely cut it out of my life, I just need to limit the time that I spend on social media.

11. Just because everyone else takes pictures doesn’t mean you can’t be a photographer.

I’ve always loved photography, and I’m always pointing my phone at something else to memorialize. I didn’t want to be just girl who thought they were a photographer because they had an easily accessible camera though. I recently upgraded to an iPhone 8 Plus because I really wanted access to Portrait Mode. While that mode is amazing, the regular camera is also ten times better. This has encouraged me to take even more pictures, and I’ve found that I’m not too bad at it, so I’ve started integrating it into my school projects, like my thesis.

12. Take pictures but don’t necessarily be concerned with uploading everything to social media.

With Snapchat making their app so much more difficult to use, the frequency of my posts for stories declined. It just kind of hit me that I didn’t need to document every aspect of my life for followers that didn’t even really care. Don’t get me wrong, I still post every now and then just not as much. It offers me more privacy, and I have more time to focus on other things.

13. It’s okay to do things alone.

I’m learning that as an adult, your friends’ schedules are always going to clash with yours. So go out and do stuff on your own. Go see that movie that no one wants to see with you. Go to a museum and actually say yes to the audio tour and take your time admiring each painting. Take that photo you really want to take because no one is going to be annoyed by you stopping to do so.

14. Don’t try and get back together with your ex.

Maybe you’re like me and convinced that you can make it work. Maybe they’ve changed. Maybe your story is the one that will have a happy ending. There are always exceptions, that wasn’t the case for me. However, it’s nice to have that door finally closed.

15. Apologize for things that are actually your fault.

When you date someone who is toxic, your friends watch out for you and will never let you apologize for anything because it’s always the other person’s fault. That mentality gets so engrained into your mind that you start to apply that thinking to everyone and everything in your life. But I’m still human, I still make mistakes. I’m learning to stand up and own them when they're actually my mistakes.

16. You can’t keep stressing yourself out and only stopping when something physical happens to you.

The fall 2017 semester was one of the hardest semesters I’ve had; I just had way too much going on at once, and I had some of the hardest classes. I started stress eating, and I found some solace in the spicy taste of Takis. I ate so many bags in one week which resulted in getting an ulcer on Thanksgiving Day. The ulcer was kind of a wake up call that I really did need to take better care of myself.

17. Night classes after working for 8.5 hours is rough.

When I joined the Honors Program, I was hit with the realization that the classes I had to choose between were only offered at night. On paper, working for 8.5 hours and then going to a 3 hour class looked doable. But when you have to drive through Tampa rush hour traffic to get home to only have thirty minutes to make some kind of dinner and then get back in the car and drive through St. Petersburg rush hour traffic to sit in a lecture and scribble notes for three hours, you realize that it’s going to be a long 16 weeks.

18. Get better at communicating.

I already knew this in the back of my mind, but this year made that even more apparent. I got myself into so many undesirable situations and conversations that could’ve been avoided if I spoke up instead of bottling everything up.

19. Sometimes you have to let go of people even if you really don’t want to.

It sounds stupid, but I never want to unfollow people on social media or block them after we part ways. What if they change? What if I need to contact them for something? For me, blocking and unfollowing them is like cutting the last bit of thread that you have left that connects you. This year though, I had to do it to multiple people. I cannot tell you how easier it’s been since I did that. I highly recommend it. If they’re supposed to be in your life again at some point, it’ll happen regardless of if you follow them on social media or not.

20. It’s okay to admit you need help again.

It’s okay to message your friends and tell them that you’re not doing well. You’re not going to be happy all of the time, and that’s okay. Sometimes life gets hard, and it’s okay to take a step back and get the help that you need.



Alyssa Harmon