A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday, and I turned 22 years old. That was the first birthday that I’d ever spent away from my family home, and the first birthday where I genuinely felt older. To me, 22 is a ‘real’ age. I may not be mature but I feel like an adult now. So I thought what better way to mark it than to do a post about some of the life lessons I think I’ve managed to learn in the past 22 years.
1: There’s a lot that can be said for doing absolutely nothing at all.
I think I’ve always been a person of action. I need immediate resolutions to problems and I’m not comfortable unless there’s something happening; whether it’s in my social life or my professional life. Lately, I’ve been learning the art of not saying or doing anything can still teach me a lot about where I stand – I don’t need to try to force my life to progress, it will do it naturally itself without me speaking or acting.
2: You can’t force people to like you.
It might seem like a pretty obvious thing to say, but it’s taken me a long time to realise what it actually means. I’m a people-pleasing kind of person that would get really hung up on making sure that everyone 100%, definitely, truly likes me. The idea of someone not liking me used to bother me so much that I felt I had to convince them, or change myself, in order to make them like me. But the truth of the matter is there is literally nothing I can do about it. Nobody is going to suddenly start liking me if I beg and plead with them to do so. If I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I’m comfortable with my decisions, then there’s nothing I can do to change what they think.
3: Find peace in little things.
As ridiculous as it sounds there’s nothing like making my bed to help ground me when I’m feeling stressed. I don’t know why these things are connected in my head, but I’ve managed to convince myself that if I can make my bed in the morning then I can deal with anything else that comes my way. Only if I make my bed first.
4: Stop doing things that you don’t enjoy.
Maybe this one is just me getting old and bitter and lazy, but in particular I’m so done with clubbing. Even at 18 the idea of staying out till 4am to stand in a dark and crowded room with music so loud that you can’t hear yourself think trying to convince strangers that you don’t want to sleep with them has never been that appealing. But for the sake of ‘being social’ and really just trying to keep up with my friends, I would do it. Now at 22, I’m old and I’m tired and don’t care if it’s antisocial… I just can’t be arsed.
5: Not being afraid to try new things.
This one was huge for me. I was a quiet child that would never venture to try anything new, had a very strict idea of what foods should be eaten and would never ‘get involved’ with anything. As I got older this also manifested into a fear of change. But since moving abroad and being forced into a daily life of new sights, sounds, smells and foods I think I’ve learned to embrace change. I’m not there yet, but it’s a solid start.
6: Everything will be easier if you stay organised.
Also known as, ‘proper preparation prevents piss poor performance’. I can’t control the amount of deadlines that university is going to throw at me, or the amount of errands that I need to complete in one week. But they’ll all seem manageable if I can organise them with some post-it notes and colour coding.
7: Not age, life stage.
I used to worry that I’m not doing the right kinds of things for my age. As an early teen I felt wise beyond my years like I’d outgrown childhood too quickly and now as a young adult I don’t feel like I’ve progressed far enough, or that I’ve achieved enough. It doesn’t matter that there are people younger than me that are already where I want to be, and it doesn’t matter that there are people older than me who still love childish things. Everyone has their own pace.
8: The real life lessons are hidden behind the word ‘cliché’.
A cliché itself, which only makes it true. Fake it till you make it. Actions speak louder than words. Everything happens for a reason.
9: The literal purpose of social media is to share.
I’ve heard too many rules about ‘only posting on Instagram once a day’, ‘too many selfies’ or how ‘Facebook statuses about your daily life are so mundane’. I think the ability that we all have to document our daily lives online is amazing. Imagine what a field day that historians in two hundred years’ time are going to have when they can sift through all of our social media. What I wouldn’t give to see a Facebook status from the day that World War 2 broke out and all of the political arguments in the comments. I’d give anything to see a selfie of my great-grandparents out on a date together. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting the mundane online, because one day it’ll be a distant memory and it’ll give 90-year-old me a chuckle when I can show future generations things that I posted.
10: Not all friendships last
and that’s okay. Sometimes people appear in your life at certain stages but you’re not able to carry that friendship into your next life stage. It’s neither person’s fault, and you should try not to be upset about it. A person leaving your life is only a sign that someone new will be arriving, and you’ll still have all those memories that you shared together.
11: ‘I love you’ is so much more than three words.
There are relationships in my life where those three words are never said, yet they are felt so strongly in other little turns of phrase. ‘I miss you’, ‘take care’ and ‘how are you’ can all mean it too.
12: I can write a damn good letter of complaint.
Luckily I’ve very rarely had to do it, but as someone who complains literally non-stop (just ask my boyfriend), there’s nothing more satisfying than getting it all out on paper with some overly formal wording to really let my frustration hit home.
13: Don’t feel guilty about guilty pleasures if they’re a pleasure.
Kind of similar to my point about not doing things that you don’t enjoy… revel in doing the things that you do enjoy, regardless of how uncool they are. Life is bloody hard and if you can find things in it that make it even the slightest bit more bearable, then get that early 2000s playlist on the highest volume setting and sing like you’ve just won the X Factor. (oh? is that just me that does that?)
14: Learn the basics.
Learn how to cook; learn how to clean yourself, your clothes and your surroundings; learn how to manage money. You’ll mess up on all of these things at one point or another but they’re the essentials.
15: Conversations after midnight are the purest conversations you will ever have.
Love, friendship, philosophy, religion, psychology, philosophy and the meaning of life can all be discovered in the early hours of the morning and usually forgotten by the time you wake up.
16: Experiences are worth so much more than tangible objects.
I’m all for treating myself every now and again. Whether that’s to clothes, makeup, books, whatever. But all of the most precious things in my life are still the ones that no money could ever buy.
17: Don’t say anything about anyone unless you would be happy to say it to them.
That was my mantra when I first started university, and in general I think it held me in good stead. It forced me to think about how I would word things, and encouraged me to talk my issues out with people instead of just bitching about them out of earshot.
18: Friendliness is a really undervalued trait.
Another cliché that I love is that you should be kind to everyone, because you never know who is fighting a hard battle. I also appreciate that it’s actually quite difficult to be really kind to everyone all of the time. I mean, that’s exhausting and no one is that tolerant. But keeping it in mind is a good attitude to start with.
19: Quitting is not failure.
Sometimes you start things then realise that they’re not meant for you. Sometimes you start things then circumstances change. Sometimes it would be a better decision for your life to just walk away. That’s not failure, that’s prioritising what’s important and what’s not.
20: Everyone is human.
Here we go with some more stating the obvious, but you would honestly have thought that teenage me didn’t know that. I’ve never really suffered with social anxiety but I did have a lot of unnecessary nerves. Turns out that everyone I interact with actually have their own thoughts and worries and are usually too busy thinking about themselves to really be concerned about the fact that I said that word a bit weird or paused for too long or stuttered. Realising that the doctor’s receptionist on the other end of the phone is just a normal person at her work honestly changed my opinion on communicating with anyone. No one really knows what they’re doing, the majority are just pretending… and that goes for your parents too.
21: Every single person lives a completely unique life.
I know that some people might read this list of life lessons and disagree with the majority of them. Maybe they’ll think I’m outright wrong, or they’ll have some kind of life experience that makes them see things differently. Maybe my own opinions will change in the future and some of these will become invalid. Some people still have these lessons to learn and some will never need to learn them. But until then this is what I’ve learned, and this is what I’ve needed in my life.
22: I still have so much to learn.