I turned 23 this past Monday and although birthdays are always fun, it also made me reflect on what I have learned so far as I make my own path in this world.
1. Appreciation for the fact that we all move through this world differently. Everyone has different factors playing into the way this planet will treat them and the way they’ll experience their lives. Be willing to listen to others who may have a different vantage point than you. Learn from them.
2. An understanding that traveling doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. You don’t have to shell out major cash on a vacation in order to be a more well-rounded person. Read a book you’d never consider reading before from your local library, learn a new language, research (and understand!) your country’s political system, volunteer, etc. There is definitely value in getting out of your space to shake up your perspective, but it’s not the only route.
3. Faith in your ability to survive, despite people leaving. Because people will leave. Sometimes in painful ways, sometimes because you simply grow apart. That’s just how life works. Whatever the circumstance, you need to believe that you can be okay without them and that another’s presence will never define you. It’s okay to grieve, be sad, angry, etc., but ultimately learning to let go gracefully will be one of the best things you do for yourself.
4. A few well-loved books to reread during difficult times. Because sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with an old favorite.
5. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it. Shit happens and learning to be emotionally resilient is something you absolutely deserve to learn by the time you turn 23.
6. There is no substitute for hard work. Don’t be afraid to work your ass off, be that for your career, your health, your wellness, your relationships, etc. You’ll become more disciplined and stronger this way.
7. But there’s also no substitute for taking time for you. It’s okay to unplug. It’s okay to take breaks to stretch your legs. It’s okay to spend to take a weekend off to regroup. The office won’t burn down. Your emails will get answered. You can get healthier. Your friends will still be there if you need some time alone. So take a second, and breathe.
8. Your parents are getting older. And are only going to age more. Spend time with them.
9. What a healthy relationship looks like. No more chasing those who don’t want to be caught, no more saying you’re okay with behavior you’re not okay with, no more depending too much on someone else and vice versa.
10. Accepting that it’s okay to not be where you want to be. In fact, it’s a good thing! Think of it this way: life would be a hell of a lot more boring if you were always where you thought you should be, never having any goals or things to strive for.
11. An ability to want to evolve but to also be loving to who you are now. You can appreciate where you’re starting from and love who that person is while still aiming for self-improvement. You don’t have to change out of self-hatred. Because you couldn’t become the person you want to be without having to be the person you were before that first.
12. How to listen without just waiting for your turn to respond and/or talk. This will be one of the best things you do for your relationships, yourself, and this world.
13. How to disagree with your friends while still supporting them. Your friends are going to date people you don’t like, make choices you don’t necessarily agree with, and live their lives in their own way no matter what you think or say. Unless it’s truly detrimental to their well-being, love them and support them anyway.
14. Your weaknesses. You’re not perfect. You’re human. It’s okay to have weaknesses and shortcomings. Knowing what these are will actually help diminish their effects, so being aware of what is difficult for you will only help you, not hurt you.
15. Your strengths. Self-awareness goes beyond your weaknesses, too! Know what you’re good at. Know where you excel. Know your strong points. And then use those to your advantage.
16. The truth that only you can save yourself. No one or nothing else.
17. Waiting for someone to love you back is not romantic, it’s self-destruction. It’s not going to turn out the way you hoped it would. Let them go.
18. Romantic love isn’t everything. It’s a huge part of life, but a relationship will never truly define you. It’s okay to want companionship, but it’s toxic to think another person will make your life complete. A solid partnership will add to your life, not make it whole.
19. Your standards. By now, you should have a clear understanding of what you want, what you don’t want, what you’ll tolerate, and what you can do without.
20. The art of choosing your battles. Not everything needs to be acted on or acknowledged. Sometimes, it’s just not worth the energy.
21. Some years will be harder than others. It’s the insights that you take away from those hard times that will make them worth it.
22. People aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are. They’re mostly thinking about themselves, just as you’re mostly thinking about you. So don’t worry about that silly thing you said or did, most people will forget.
23. Peace with the fact that life is never going to look the way you thought it would. Live it anyway.