I’ve learned so many lessons in the first two decades of my life. I obviously learned more than twenty things in my life (or even in my first several days of life), but I wanted to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Some of them I think others in their twenties may have not learned yet and others I think are important reminders.
1. Practice self-care.
There is no specific thing you have to do to practice self-care. There are no rules. Just do it! Take some time to love yourself. There are so many things you could do: paint your nails, do a face mask, take a walk, color or draw, read a good book (If you want even more activities, visit this page). One thing I personally try to do is to practice some self-care without technology
2. Compliment people.
I have learned this lesson from having a compliment brighten my own day and by watching someone else’s face light up from giving them a small and honest compliment. Compliments can go a long way in making your life and the lives of others’ happier.
3. Get enough sleep and stay hydrated!
I can’t even think of all the super important reasons why these two things are so necessary. I think you’ve probably heard all of them by now though, so just remember to actually do it.
4. If you haven’t failed, you’re doing something wrong.
Even the smallest of failures teaches you a lesson.
5. It is OKAY to be GAY. And to be PROUD.
I remember when I was in middle school and the first time I heard that “God hates gays” while I was reading a book. My first thought was “no that can’t be right, if God hated them then he wouldn’t have created them.” (I still feel that way today.) However, shortly after I was watching a TV show where a high school football player’s teammates found out he was gay and they started to treat him horribly. You know what my thought was then? “I hope I don’t end up gay. It would be so scary because gay people are treated so badly.” Well here I am, a little less than ten years later and it turns out that I am very gay. I consider myself extremely lucky that I’ve never been treated badly because of it yet. Even if I am at some point, I will let it roll off my back. I am not afraid to be who I am. In fact, I am very proud to be who I am. (For the record, it is also okay to be transgender, gender queer, intersex, pansexual, asexual, polysexual, or questioning.)
6. If you want to make a big change, you have to get used to being outside your comfort zone.
If you want to lose weight or build muscle, you have to work extremely hard and you’ll be outside of your comfort zone physically. If you have a mental illness or an addiction and you want to get better, you’ll have to open up and be outside of you emotional comfort zone. If you want to make more friends, you’ll probably have to put yourself in situations that you aren’t used to and you will indeed be outside of your comfort zone. It is so easy to stay inside your safe routine, but if you want your life to be different then you have to do something different than you’re doing now and no it not comfortable, but it’s worth it.
7. Sometimes you have to really feel the negative emotions.
This is something I’ve learned in the past year. Before my therapist taught me this, I would try to shove the negative emotions away. It is really easy to try and do this. Negative emotions are uncomfortable to feel and we don’t like to feel uncomfortable so we just try to move on. However, if you take the time to actual feel the emotion and to process it, then you get past the emotion faster. Don’t wallow in it either though. Give yourself a certain amount of time (say ten minutes) to just sit and really feel the emotion and think about what is upsetting you and once the time is up get up and move on with your day. You can always have 10 more minutes tomorrow. It is just like Disney/Pixar’s movie Inside Out, teaches us. You can’t have Joy without Sadness.
8. Politics affect every aspect of your life so GET INVOLVED.
It is important to be more involved in politics than just choosing a party and voting in elections. You need to speak your mind. Write to, email, or call your congressmen. Sign petitions for what you think is important. Join a protest if you think it’s necessary. Just get involved. Every part of your life is affected by the government and their policies in some way, so it is important to make sure that you are a part of the political process.
9. It is important to know how to physically defend yourself.
The first time I ever learned some moves to protect myself was while I was in Girl Scouts in elementary school. I think it is sad that we live in a world where we have to make sure we don’t walk alone at night and that as a woman there is an extra fear of being attacked whether it is sexually or physically( such as in a mugging). I’m also extremely realistic. It is important to know that if you are ever being attacked to run before you fight and to know some self-defense moves for if you do have to fight. Mace and pepper spray will also only go so far. It is also important to brush up on the self- defense moves and tips you’ve learned every now and then because no one will get them memorized after one time. One tip I’ve learned that I will never forget is to walk with a key in between your thumb and pointer finger. Knowing self-defense tips is important for everyone, but it is extra important if you’re living in a city area.
10. “Heartbreak is the perfect reset button for your life.”
This is a quote from a recent Zara Barrie piece. This is a lesson I learned this year and when I read this quote it perfectly voiced what I had been feeling. In the fall, I was already feeling like my life was falling apart when I also experienced my first heartbreak. It sucked at first, but now here I am six months later and I can’t remember the last time I was this happy. Being heartbroken, anxious, and depressed at the same time forced me to pull myself up and stand on my own two feet. Heartbreak will always feel like shit, but you will learn from it, I promise you.
11. Education is extremely important. It is also a luxury, not a right.
There are people all over the world who aren’t nearly educated enough. Even in our own country. Even in your own city. Sometimes, when your knee deep in a paper and you have two exams the next day, it can be easy to think of school as the enemy. Remember, how lucky you are to be learning and receiving an education. If you are able to go to college than you have a luxury. Yes, a luxury that may end you in an incredible amount of debt, but still a luxury. So many people would love to receive even one tenth of the education we’re receiving. I am so thankful to be able to learn from professors, TED Talks, literature, and the people around me.
12. SAVE. YOUR. MONEY.
It is uber tempting to buy every cute top you see, every new makeup product, and every interesting book and movie in the land. It is tempting to eat out every week and to spend a ridiculous amount of money on snacks. I am telling you though, DON’T. Save as much money as you can for things that will create memories for you such as travel or music festivals. Also save for you future. My older sister is in her late twenties and listening to her life makes me want to start pinching pennies and saving as much as I can for post-grad life. She is flat broke. Like she only has $10 to spend on groceries for the next two weeks broke. So let’s both learn a lesson from her and save some money so we can feed ourselves and be dog and cat moms shall we?
13. It’s never too early to invest.
I know I sound like an ad right now or like a 40-year-old man, but I’m really not kidding. It’s not impossible either. A couple of months ago I downloaded STASH, an investing app where you can seriously start investing if you only have $5 to spare. (STASH will even give you $5 if you use this link). I love going to check every couple of days to see how my funds are doing. Even if I only make a small amount on my investments, it’ll still be money that I didn’t have before! I also recently read about another investing app called Acorns which rounds all of your purchases up to the next dollar and saves it in your account. Then that change can be invested. I haven’t tried Acorns yet, but it’s definitely another option to invest a little bit when you’re not exactly making millions.
14. Use your manners.
This is kind of a no brainer for me by now. The values of being polite and using my manners were instilled in me at such a young age. It is still an incredibly valuable lesson though. I can’t imagine what kind of a person I’d be if I hadn’t been taught it as a child.
15. Own your sexuality.
I am not talking about who you are attracted to. I’m also not encouraging you to have sex when you’re not ready or more than you’re comfortable with. I am talking about the fact that you are a beautiful woman. Own that! It is important to take care of our bodies and to be confident in our own skin. You are the owner of your body. Don’t ever feel like you owe anyone anything. Take your beautiful body and strut your stuff knowing that you are in control.
16. Nature nurtures the soul.
I can remember going on hikes as a child and just listening to all the sounds. Nature is incredibly relaxing, grounding, empowering, and healing for the soul. I try to get in as much nature as I can (although not in the winter because I am very against the cold). Even just lying in a hammock in your backyard can give your soul a little dose of power that is nature.
17. Your body craves what you give it.
If you eat processed crap all the time then your body will want you to feed it more processed crap. If you fill your body with fruits & vegetables, grains, and protein then that is what it will crave. Likewise, if you go on walks and exercise regularly then your body will continuously want that, but if you sit on your ass all day then when you try to exercise your body will say “No way José!”
18. Gratefulness will change your life.
It is easy to be sucked into the trap of wishing you had this or your life was more like that. If you remember to be grateful though it changes your life for the better. One of my favorite mental exercises is to take something your annoyed with and think about all the things about ti that you are grateful for. For instance, if I’m having a particularly rough day at work I take a moment to think about the things I like about my job (i.e. I have a lot of coworkers that I love to talk to, I make more than minimum wage, my managers like me and my store manager often asks me if there are any days that week that I’d like some extra hours, etc). Try this exercise or a gratefulness journal and you will reap the benefits.
19. It is okay to have no idea what you’re doing or where your future is going.
I am very future oriented because of my anxiety. But for the first time in my life I am really comfortable having no idea what I’m doing. I don’t have a future career completely picked out, I don’t know where I want to live in the future, who I’ll spend most of my life with, and so much more. There is so much uncertainty and I’m okay with it. My anxiety hasn’t disappeared or anything, but when it starts to worry what’s going to happen next I’ll just say to it “Hey, it’s OK. We’ll find out soon enough.”
20. Life is HARD.
Life is super hard and frustrating. Sometimes we want to give up and just take a super long nap and hide forever. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one struggling, but you’re not. Life is hard for everyone, so don’t give up.
I learned so many lessons in the first two decades of my life and I know that this decade will bring even more important lessons and confusing times.
What are some life lessons you’ve learned over the years?