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As A Newly 22-Year-Old in Quarantine, Here’s What I’ve Learned at 21

Just a few days, I spent my 22nd birthday at home surrounded by my family and received thoughtful messages from close friends and acquaintances. As much as I would have liked to go out for a night of celebration as I did last year, it is just not possible to do so safely at this time.

Having not been home for my birthday in almost three years since moving away to college,— which feels ancient given our sense of time has changed during quarantine— this month has allowed me to sit and reflect on how vastly I have grown as a person, and not solely because of the current circumstances we’re living under. At 21, I have pushed myself in ways I hadn’t before and took on more I thought I was going to be able to manage, especially when it came to balancing multiple jobs, my schoolwork, and, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, adjusting to life in quarantine. Don’t get me wrong- I was on the verge of hitting my absolute breaking point, as all 20-somethings do while figuring out all that life throws at us. I also don’t have all the answers, but I certainly have been through some pretty amazing and challenging events in my life to share what lessons will carry me into 2021.  

Respect Yourself First If You Want Respect in Return

Honestly, I wish I had gained a better sense of self earlier in my life so that I wouldn’t have continuously had my boundaries crossed and left feeling “temporary” to those I thought had my best interests at heart. It seemed easy to just remain silent when my time and energy was taken advantage of, but I was only hurting myself over and over again. 21 was when I slowly began to set and vocalize my boundaries and what I wasn’t going to tolerate, as well as putting space between myself and those who I knew weren’t treating me well. Over time, I felt more confident in myself and what I needed out of my relationships and was able to give more back to those I truly cared for. Even more so, I believe that because I was making these affirmative stances, the universe was sending out the same message; that year I landed a job that truly valued me beyond my tasks as an employee and I made friendships that were truly loving and supportive on all sides.

Self-respect is so vital at this age, especially when you’re already confused about your life path and who you’re going to encounter along the way. It was difficult to do, but it was even more difficult allowing toxic behaviors to have so much control over me.

Setting a Budget – Save Your Coin!

Although I consider myself to be money-conscious thanks to my grandfather’s many lectures, I was making choices that were quickly diminishing my funds, such as coffee purchases, getting lunches and dinners out after work, and going out to bars frequently with friends for drinks. It’s easy to fall into more convenient habits, especially when there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day!

So, in an effort to get as close to my goal as possible, I had to make a considerable amount of changes, such as taking time to make my own coffees and meal prepping for the week, as well as having to say “no” to certain activities that would require me to spend more than I could really afford to. Even if you put 20% of your paycheck into your savings and split up the remaining funds in your checking, you will be a lot better off and more financially responsible about where your money is going.

Don’t be Discouraged by Rejection

Rejection from anything or anyone can feel absolutely terrible, especially if you had high hopes for a different outcome, such as landing a job, nailing an audition, or having your feelings about someone you really like be reciprocated. Unfortunately, no one is immune to the experience, but it doesn’t always have to be a devastating one.

Last summer, I spent weeks applying to different journalism and writing internships, only to get turned down with a generically-written email about how these companies found “better-suited candidates to fill the position”. I was crushed, but a friend encouraged me that just because I was rejected doesn’t mean that I wasn’t qualified or that I was “bad”, but that I just wasn’t the right fit for their company. Sooner or later, Her Campus at WCU reached out about internship applications and after landing the writing position, I felt right at home! So, don’t get discouraged about being rejected, and don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from whatever it is you want to do! Sooner or later, other doors will open that you were the least expecting of.

Nikki Haslett

West Chester '21

Nikki Haslett is a West Chester University of PA alum and former Vice President for Her Campus at West Chester. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in English writing and a minor in journalism, she is currently seeking out writing and editorial opportunities for digital/print news publications and magazines. Naturally, she's drawn towards creative outlets, whether it be beauty & fashion, writing, drawing, or working with multimedia tools for journalistic projects, such as podcasting and styling magazine layouts using Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. As an aspiring journalist and editor, she is determined to use her natural interpersonal skills to make meaningful connections with individuals and bring unique stories to the forefront. Fun Fact: One of my bucket list goals is to write a complete, feature-length movie script and attend a Hollywood awards show.
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