21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years

As I sit here writing this in my bed, very hungover on my 21st birthday, I’ve decided to compile 21 lessons I’ve learned over the years, as a way to acknowledge the amount of self growth, but also as a way to see how far I still have to go. I hope you can find little nuggets of inspiration or relate to my lessons, and if not, get to know me a little better.

So here we go.

  1. Love your quirks.

Anyone who has met me knows I’m a very quirky person (hence the name of this blog). Growing up in grade school, I was so shy and awkward because I thought being quirky was a bad thing. I’d try my best to suppress it in front of my peers, thinking it was “uncool”. Over the years, I have learned that my quirks make me who I am, and I love that girl, no matter how uncool I might seem. It took me leaving my hometown and going to an art school 10 hours away for me to realize that everyone is super weird in their own ways and that is 100% okay. I wish my younger self would have embraced her quirks sooner.

2. Ask questions.

Growing up, I never dared to ask a question during class. Not one. Every time the teacher would ask if anyone had questions, butterflies would well up in my stomach at the thought of asking a question in front of the class. Questions are not dumb, they are not a waste of time. Questions help you learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask for help. I recently started a new job working as a floral designer, something I have never done before. You better believe that I’m asking tons of questions, not because I’m stupid, but because learning something new requires time, patience, and guidance.

3. Your body is exactly the way it should be, so love it.

Oh, the discussion of body image. This could be a whole series in itself. As kids, we don’t think twice about the way our bodies look. We are the way the way we are, and we have other things to attend to. But then one day we start to compare our bodies to others, and point out things we don’t like about ours. This is a really sad thing, and it’s something I believe everyone has struggled with at some point in their life.

No one is created the same. We are created equally, but drastically different. There are 7.6 billion people in the world, and you are uniquely different from them all. That includes your body. There is not a “right” or “wrong” way to look. How you look is how you were created. Learn to love it! Just how I learned to embrace my quirks, I also learned to love my body. Is it perfect? Hell no. Do I still get insecure? Of course, I’m human. But I know the way my body is formed is exactly how it is suppose to be. I’m going to be living in this body for a long while, might as well learn to love it.

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4. Don’t apologize for the priorities you have set in your life.

Over time, you will find that you prioritize certain things over others. Whether it be your career, your faith, your kids, your spouse, what you prioritize is up to you. Some people might not agree with you, or might think you are wrong, but it’s your life, and you get to make those decisions.

5. Your mistakes don’t define you.

Something that makes growing up difficult is making mistakes, and learning how to deal with them. I have always held myself to a high standard, and when I mess up, or don’t meet those standards, I tend to really beat myself up about it. What I have learned, though, is that those mistakes don’t define you. I went through a phase where all I saw were my mistakes, but that’s not how you should view yourself, and it’s certainly not how others view you.

We all screw up, and we all do stupid things sometimes, but your worth is not defined by those mistakes.

6. Learn to counteract negative thoughts. 

This is something my mom has been teaching me my entire life. Our thoughts are sometimes the most toxic words that we hear. “You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty. You’re too fat. You’ll always be a failure. You’ll never reach that goal.”

Your brain has a lot of power of you, but that’s just it, it’s yours. Take control of what you tell yourself. If you feel yourself saying negative, hurtful things, counteract them.

“You’re not good enough.” ——————- “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“You’re too fat.” ——————- “I am exactly the way I am suppose to be, and I love myself.”

“You’ll never reach that goal.” ————- “Well, I’m gonna work my ass off trying, and not let stupid comments bring me down.”

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7. Life is really difficult sometimes, and that’s okay.

Y’all, I spent my share of time riding the struggle bus. Middle school was awful, high school sucked, the first year of college I made no friends and wanted to drop out. I went through a breakup last year that I thought was going to kill me. (it didn’t.) Life is really hard sometimes, and with the constant media intake of Instagram and Facebook, other people’s lives look exponentially better than your own. Trust me, it isn’t. Life is hard no matter who you are. Embrace your humanness.

8. Friends are allowed to grow apart. 

I’ve always been a huge advocate for BFF’s. But honestly, sometimes friends aren’t forever. Life moves on, friends move away, and you drift apart. That doesn’t mean you don’t still care about that person, it just means y’all are doing different things with your life. Acknowledge that truth, and respect the time you had with your friend.

9. Let go of bitterness. 

This is easier said than done. I’ve heard the saying, “nothing kills the soul faster than holding onto bitterness.” I never knew what that meant until I had my own bitterness to let go of. It honestly kills your joy. People are terrible and do awful things sometimes, but it’s not worth killing you soul for. Learn to let go. Even if you can’t all at once, every day, make a conscious effort of letting a little bit of that bitterness go. Trust me, you will be better off because of it.

10. Find a hobby you love.

Life gets so busy, with work and school and everything in between. In your days of packed schedules and deadlines, be sure to spend a little time doing something you love. Whether that be hiking on the weekends (power to you), or taking a painting class. Maybe it’s blogging (s/o to Zany Lady for being my dearly loved hobby). Find something that makes your heart happy and do it often.

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11. Don’t be afraid to take lots of chances, and fail miserably at them.

My first year here at art school was absolutely humorous. I had taken maybe one “serious” art class in my life, and I believe I received a B. Yet, I took a chance and enrolled in one of the most intense art schools. My first year was filled with fails. Fails in lots of different forms, and it was terrible in the moment. But, in the midst of those fails, you find some successes, and you find what you’re good at. You learn, and grow, and all of those fails become worth while.

12. Rejection is a part of life, take it with a grain of salt.

Rejection is a really scary thing. But once you start applying for jobs and internships, you learn to embrace it. (Can I get an amen from my fellow 20-somethings?) Rejection happens, it has to. Not everyone can be chosen for everything. Just have faith that you will end up where you are supposed to be.

13. Don’t push people away who genuinely care about you.

This one is tricky to learn, because in the midst of pushing people away, you don’t notice you are doing it. This happened to me last year in a really low point in my life. I was lost in more ways than one, and pushing away those who know me better than I know myself. Letting this happen was one of the dumbest mistakes I’ve made, and I hope that moving forward, I will respect those people who care about me, even when they tell me things I don’t want to hear.

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14. Don’t date someone because they give you attention & say the right things.

Coming from the girl who didn’t start dating until college, once I started getting attention from boys, I loved it. Any smooth-talking boy was my type. Unfortunately, that doesn’t weed out the not-so-great guys. My advice to you, and myself, is to be a little bit more selective with the guys you allow into your life. Be selective. Being able to compliment you and text back is not exactly winning criteria (although a definite plus).

15. Let your guard down.

Friends who didn’t meet me until halfway through college laugh at the thought of me being a private person. I’m an open book. But, for a long time, I was afraid of being real with people, of being open about my life. I feared vulnerability. But I’ve found that in those times of vulnerability come amazing conversations, and genuine relationships.

16. Be open to new experiences.

Up until I left for college at the ripe age of 18, I lived a very sheltered life. Not because of my parents or my friends, but because I enjoyed living in my comfort zone. I didn’t want to try new things, I didn’t want to take chances.

That all changed when I moved away, started attending SCAD, and was forced to try new things. It allowed me to grow, and even though it was scary, it has shaped who I am today.

17. Make a choice every morning.

What I’ve realized over the timespan of my twenty-one years of life, is that we all have choices. You have the power to choose the attitude you have, the mindset you start your day with. Every morning, choose to be kind, choose to be positive, choose to see the good and the beautiful. Life will seem a whole lot better with a positive mindset.

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18. Take care of your body.

Fun fact about me: I have terrible doctor anxiety. Ever since I can remember, going to the doctor’s has triggered terrible anxiety for me, causing a fear of even stepping foot into a doctor’s office. Now that I’m responsible for my own health, I can choose not to go. Do I want to go? Of course not. I hate the doctor’s. But I also need to take care of myself, and that includes going to the doctor’s regularly. This past year I’ve made an effort to take better care of myself, which includes taking myself to the doctor’s, eating a more balanced diet (goodbye, boxed mac & cheese), and trying to stay active (some days are more successful than others).

19. Be confident in your own skin.

This will honestly change your life. Being confident in who you are and in the life you are living will make you feel so much joy. Just being content with where you are, who you are, and know that you don’t have to be perfect will feel so freeing.

20. Heartbreak is a part of life, so take advantage of it.

I know in the moment, nothing good can come out of a broken heart. It feels like the end of the world. But, through that experience, I have personally found 1. I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, and 2. I learned more about myself, what I want, and who I want to be. Those are all good things. So seek the good in those moments of pain.

21. You have a whole world of possibilities. Go get them. 

People will try to tell you that certain dreams or aspirations are not realistic. Those people are wrong. Honestly, if you’re determined and passionate, you will seek opportunities. Everything you need is out there, waiting to be found, and all you have to do is be brave enough to pursue them.

Well, there you have it, 21 lessons learned in my 21 years of life. I hope you were able to apply at least one of those points to your life. When you write it all out on a list, 21 lessons seems like a lot, but the reality is, I’m only just starting my life. I have a long ways to go, and many more lessons to learn.

Cheers to 21, and to the rest of our lives.

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