Today, I turn twenty four years old. If I’m being honest, life definitely hasn’t gone quite the way that I thought it would. Not that life ever really does for most people but my reality currently is so different from where I thought I would be even three years ago when I turned 21. At 21, I was in my final year of university and thought that I was going to be married by 23 and living in Boston. Instead, I’m single and living at home with my family– not that there is anything wrong with that. Over the last twenty four years of my life, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about myself, about life, about people. I’ve grown a lot, especially since I turned 21. So, in honor of turning 24, here are 24 lessons I’ve learned over the years.
1. Take Care of Yourself
This is very much a more recent lesson. At least to me, your twenties are when you start to figure out that it is okay to talk about your mental health problems. That you don’t need to struggle alone. You need to take care of yourself because, at the end of the day, it is on you. Realizing that this is the first step to, hopefully, being a happier and healthier person.
2. Cut Out the Toxic
We’ve all heard of having friends of convenience. Those people who you become friends with because there is no one else around. They can be good friends but they can also be just surface level friendships. Nothing deep or all that meaningful. In my experience, these are the ones that can become toxic. Although any relationship can become toxic. Once you realize that being friends with someone or being around a certain person is having a negative affect on you, cut them out. You don’t need to hold on to people who make you feel terrible all because you are feeling alone.
3. It is Okay to be Alone
This is honestly the most important lesson that I’ve learned over the years. After being bullied in elementary, middle, and high school, I thought that being alone was the worst thing I could do for myself. I needed to fit in and be around people and increase my “popularity”. This is bullshit. Yes, you need friends and close relationships. You also need time to be on your own. There is absolutely nothing wrong with alone time. You aren’t a freak or a loner or anything like that. You are comfortable with yourself.
4. Lost at Sea
Going along with some of the last few lessons, you are going to have days where you feel lost. Incredibly lost. Don’t let this beat you down. Being lost means that you can be found. Listen to your heart and you’ll find your way.
5. Be Your Own Savior
I grew up thinking that I could be the princess who gets saved by the handsome prince and then we would live happily ever after. This is insane to me now because that isn’t how my parents raised me. That is literally thinking direct from the media. That’s what I thought though. It led to me thinking that I needed to be in relationships and be “saved” by the boy in my life. Nope. Not a chance. If you want to be happy with yourself and your relationship, you need to be your own hero. You can ask for help but you need to be able to rely on yourself and not just the handsome prince.
6. Stop Caring What Other People Think
This was the most freeing thing I ever learned to do. I spent years of my life not doing something because I worried what other people, strangers, would think of me. Once you stop that, the world is yours. Do what makes you happy, no matter what.
7. Life Goes By So Quick
Okay, has anyone else in their twenties (or older) realized how quickly a year goes by? It feels like you wake up and it is January 2018 and the next moment it is February 2019 (or something like that?). Time seems to just go by so much faster now. This realization has really pushed me to try and start living life to its fullest. While I can’t do everything that I want to do at the moment, I’m trying. I’m trying to look at my screen less, to do more of what scares me, to travel more. All of it. Grab on to life or it’ll be gone before you know it.
8. You Don’t Have to Be Happy All of the Time
I don’t think that this one really needs any further explanation. You are allowed to be sad or angry or tired. Don’t force happy.
9. It is About the Journey, Not the Destination
So many of us, myself included, worry about the end game. We worry about getting to the final destination. That isn’t what matters though. The journey is what matters. Enjoy the how.
10. Love Yourself
Many of us grow up with at least a bit of self loathing. We aren’t pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not smart enough. Not enough. It can really damage your psyche. While you can always improve yourself, you have to learn to love yourself. What’s the point of life otherwise. You can’t better yourself in the ways you need if you don’t think you’re worthy of that time and effort in yourself.
11. Explore as Much as You Can
Now, I can be the type of person who feels bad about taking time off from work. I’ve been trying to not let that hold me back though and taking time to explore. When I can afford to take a trip (financially and time wise), I try and do as much as I can. Even if it is exploring a place I’ve been to a dozen times, there is always something new to explore and discover for myself. Especially if I can do that exploring with the people I care the most about.
12. Heartbreak Can Be Essential
I have to be honest. When my first long term relationship ended, I wasn’t heartbroken. I thought I was but I was more angry. I felt like I had wasted my time. That lack of heartbreak stuck with me though and I wondered by I wasn’t broken by the person who I thought I was going to marry. It was strange. Eventually I found someone else and when we broke up, it was there. The heartbreak, the feeling like my other half was missing. Heartbreak showed me how much I truly loved that person. Not only that, it showed me how much I had grown since the last time something ended. Not to mention that this last break up wasn’t a definitive end but the turning of a page in the book of our relationship.
13. Communication is Key
This may seem like something silly but I can be terrible at communication. Especially recently. I’ve always been the type who wants to handle things on my own. I did that and found myself feeling terrible. I was hiding things from the people who could help me the most. When I told my friends about all of my heartache and problems, they were there for me. As they always are. We should all feel safe enough in our relationships to communicate about whatever we need support with.
14. Try New Things
At 24, this seems like something I should have been doing my whole life. And I have. But now, more than ever, it seems like an important life lesson to embrace.
15. Build Strong Relationships
I’ve always tried to do this and I feel like I’ve done a fairly good job. I have my friends who I talk to every day and my friends who I might go weeks without talking to. Both sets are strong. I know that I can turn to those people whenever and they will be there for me. Even with my ex, we still have a strong relationship and are supporting each other.
16. Find Time to Relax
I’m sure I’m not alone in being the kind of person who always needs to be doing something. Find time to relax. To pause. To take a break. Your mind and body will thank you.
17. Success Looks Different to Everyone
I have spent so much of my twenties comparing myself to other people. To me, at times, I feel like I’m a failure. I’m not married, I don’t have the job I want, I still live at home. This was not where I thought I would be at 24. What I forget is that I have had successes and done things that other haven’t. We all follow a different road map and get to places at different times. Never compare your successes with other people’s.
18. Have Less Regrets
In my twenties, I’ve started finding that the only regrets that I have in life are over the experiences that I don’t do. The shots I don’t take, if you will. Try to do as much as you can.
19. Learn How You Love
We all love in different ways. One of the things that you need to do while you are in a relationship or before you enter one is learn your love language. Be honest with yourself about it and with your partner. What you need to feel loved may be difficult for them to give you, even if they do love you.
20. Trust Yourself
You know that feeling in your heart or your gut that you want to try and push away? Trust it sometimes, they’ll take you to interesting places.
21. Organize Your Social Calendar
Strike a balance between time for yourself and time with friends and family. Know if you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert (a little of both). Don’t feel like you need to keep your schedule jam packed all the time to make other people happy. At the same time, make time for the people who are important to you.
22. Let Yourself Fail
If you’ve ever suffered from being a perfectionist, letting yourself fail might be the most difficult thing that you’ll ever do. We learn from our failures though and they are important.
23. Network, network, network
Go to that one work function or alumni event, even if you don’t want to. The ability to learn to network can open up so many opportunities. Expand your horizons.
24. Be Yourself
Time for a cliche: Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.