It’s that time of year again! I just turned 21, and I wanted to share 20 lessons I learned while I was 20. It was a year like no other in every way possible, so buckle up, and let’s get started.
1. Life is not a sprint
This feeling is something I think most 20-something people will recognize. The farther you get into your 20’s, the more pressure you feel to succeed and “do something” with your life.
There’s no crime in not knowing what you want in your 20’s. It’s enough to keep trying things and experimenting with who you want to be, and that looks different for everyone.
2. That person I wonder about does not care as much as I wish they did
I read something once that said, “If someone really likes you, you won’t be confused.”
That’s the truth of it. Someone who is legitimately invested and interested in you will not leave you in the dark questioning every word and action, wondering where you stand. I think I’ve learned this lesson every year so far. Maybe this will be the last one.
3. Cappuccinos are delicious
I have graduated from mochas to cappuccinos for fancy coffee days, and it’s been great. Would recommend. 10/10 stars.
4. I can do/handle even more than I thought I could
My 20th year taught me that even the things I think I can’t live without, I can. Even when I think I’ve reached my breaking point, I find that there’s more to pull from, and I can and will keep going until I (metaphorically) bleed out.
5. It’s the simple things (for real)
The notion of nostalgia has never felt more potent than it did at 20. The simple things really are what you miss the most looking back —Rollerblading through my neighborhood, hanging out with my dog in the backyard, brushing my teeth with my brother.
Simple, priceless moments that still prick my heart during my walk to work every morning.
6. Most parts of the professional world are built around guessing and instinct
Instinct and guessing can be a strong currency and downfall in most companies and projects.
Never underestimate the power of instinct.
7. Being an adult is mostly remembering how to be a kid
So far, the most different part of being an adult is having the independence and the responsibility to craft a life that is your own in a way that adds value to others and brings joy to your heart at the same time. To help keep your sanity and bear that weight, it’s important to call back to what built you. Stay in touch with the kid inside.
8. Traveling isn’t (that) scary
I flew alone for the first time this year, and minus a small panic-filled gate-search at a layover, I was able to navigate the airports without breaking down into tears.
Protip; If you don’t have a car / a reliable way to get to the airport, make sure to book your flight later in the morning to avoid asking for favors from friends that require them to get up at 2 am on a Friday.
9. Most of my limitations are self-inflicted
Often there’s no one telling me I can’t do something besides myself. Other than the steadfast limitations of the human body and the law, nothing is stopping me from reaching for goals and dreams that seem insane.
10. I freaking love the freedom of being with people who see me for who I am
This is a strange time for me. I haven’t had a group of friends since I was 13 – I never really thought I would again. But here we are.
It’s different than middle school, and I’m different, too. To have people see me and know me for who I am now and decide that I’m a person worth their time feels almost luxurious.
11. Respect is always best served by example, not by force
Leadership can be a tedious place to be. It’s hard to be the one people look to for answers, directions, guidance, etc. I understand that.
That does not mean that it’s okay to demand respect after tarnishing a relationship. It does not allow for damaging practices to go unchallenged.
12. People can say all of the right things and it can make no difference to the truth
Sometimes, “saying all the right things” doesn’t matter when the trust has been ruined.
13. I love Taylor Swift and I don’t care what anyone says
I said what I said. If you’re trying to tell me that she’s not a real musician and blah blah blah, I can’t hear you because champagne problems is blasting out of my earbuds, sorry.
14. Do not shrink yourself to fit where you don’t belong
I read somewhere that it’s better to be disliked for the truth than loved for a lie, and I’ve never felt that resonate stronger than it did at 20.
15. No, it’s not just you
If you’re wondering if something is off, or if you’re just overreacting, it’s likely that it’s not just you. Speak up.
This goes right along with the whole “If you have a question, someone else probably has that same question, too,” philosophy of raising your hand in class.
16. Wear it
I’ve had a lot of style aspirations over the years. But at 20, I started wearing them. Those skirts I thought I didn’t have the figure for? Wore them. Those super cute shoes I was worried I’d trip in? Got comfortable in them. Those sweaters I thought I couldn’t pull off? Wore them anyway.
Life is much too short to worry about if strangers approve of your blouse or not.
You’re overdressed for the occasion? Not a problem. You’re wearing what you want to wear.
You’re underdressed for the occasion? Not a problem. You’re wearing what you want to wear.
This is the age I started to stop looking around and comparing my choices to what other people decided to wear and stuck with my personal vision of style.
17. I am not my work
My work is a part of me; it is not me. This blog post is a part of me; it is not me. I am my dreams, my heart, my soul, and the people who have poured their love and energy into me.
18. So what?
At 20, I started to see a theme. When I get anxious, it’s usually because I’m worried that I came across wrong to someone, or I’m being annoying, or everyone is lying to me, and they all wish I’d go away. Nine times out of ten, it’s something to do with how others perceive me.
That’s foolishness. So what if they misunderstood you? So what if they don’t understand? So what if you’re not wanted? I know who I am. It’s okay if others do not like who that is, or do not see who that is clearly. That does not change the fact that I am whole.
I’m not done learning this lesson yet, unfortunately, but it’s getting farther in the rearview mirror every day.
19. I wasn’t faking
After being in the professional world, part of a team, and in close contact with others at a professional level, I’m starting to realize that I haven’t been faking.
I haven’t been faking my reliability, independence, leadership, creativity, empathy, or skills. I use them every day. I am not faking — no matter how loud that imposter syndrome voice screams inside of me, I have evidence for myself that begs to differ.
20. There’s more
20 years is not that long; there’s so much more. That thought was once daunting and full of pain. Now, it lights me up to know that there is a life to live that I haven’t even dreamt up yet.
Proven by the fact that if you would have told my 10-year-old self that I’d be a Content Developer living in New York before my 21st birthday, she would have laughed so hard she cried. She never would have believed it.
If you would have told my 14-year-old self that she’d have friends who made her feel seen and loved instead of anxious and hurt, she would have glared and pulled up her hoodie, stalking away into the wind.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. Thank you for reading! 21 feels…the same, to be honest. But if 21 is anything like 20, I’ve got a whole lot of growing and surprises ahead.
Thank you all for sticking with me, both through this lengthy blog post and the last year. It warms my heart!