Many people believe that turning 20 is the beginning of a quarter life crisis. I, on the other hand, spent my 20th birthday contemplating and celebrating the various experiences I have had and the many people I have met that have made these twenty years of life amazing. In the 20 years I’ve lived on this Earth, here are 20 key things I’ve learned:
1. The only opinion that matters is your own. Basically, give no fucks.
You are your best friend. You know yourself better than anyone does or ever will, so don’t give a shit about other peoples’ opinions. People are going to judge you no matter what and some may be judging you right now. But the only thing that really matters is your opinion of yourself and how you carry yourself. There is only one you in this world so be all the things that make you unique. Want to wear rainbow short shorts today? Do it. Those who make fun of you are probably just jealous they don’t have the confidence and self-esteem to be like you and not conform to societal norms. Those who you really want in your life won’t care what you do, as long as you are happy. Life is short, so as long as you are not hurting others or yourself, live your life how you want to and not how others think you should live.
2. Love your body.
The media constantly bombards us with photo shopped images on what we should look like, but I’m guessing only about 1% of the world’s population actually looks like the images presented. However, people still try to conform to this “ideal” image, especially women. People resort to eating disorders, becoming exerciseholics, going on absurd diets, taking medications, and doing a variety of other ridiculous things and spending large sums of money trying to look like this “ideal” image. The truth is you have to come to accept, respect, and be comfortable with your body. Your body is an instrument of your life not an ornament. Every second your body is performing millions of functions to keep you alive and you don’t even realize it. Basically, YOUR BODY IS AMAZING. You were given this body and you can’t change it, unless you stupidly get plastic surgery. But I promise you are beautiful/ handsome no matter what the rest of society says. The people that really matter in your life will love you no matter what you look like. Live to your own standard of beauty, eat when you are hungry, rest when you are tired, and surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.
3. Keep care of your body.
You are young and hopefully have all your limbs so might as well use them. We spend so much time sitting on our asses watching screens, at work, or in class that it is so important to remain active. Pick up a new sport, walk your dog, go on a hike, go for a swim etc… Just do something outside where you are moving your body. You can sit on your ass when you are old and wish you were young again. Along with staying active, it is also very important to eat well and in moderation. It is fine to occasionally binge eat on your favorite junk foods, but you just have to balance it with exercise and a nutritional diet. And please STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS! I regret various experiences I have had that have resulted from drug use. Yes, certain drugs are fine on occasion and in moderation but they truly aren’t worth it in the end. They permanently fuck up your brain and body to create this temporary, false sense of euphoria. You should not need to spend money on substances to have a good time. Life is more fulfilling sober. And finally, your brain and body do so much for you throughout the day that they need rest in order to function properly so make sure you sleep well. Your body is an amazing thing so keep care of it and ensure that you can live a happy, healthy, and lovely life.
4. Surround yourself with people who have great personalities.
Personality is the most important feature of a person regardless of what society tells us through media and advertising. Imagine when your old, wrinkly sitting in a retirement home, you are going to want to surround yourself with old, wrinkly people like you who you can have meaningful conversations with and who are genuinely nice people. It is so important to develop relationships throughout your life with people who you can trust, laugh with, have conversations with, and enjoy life with. I don’t care if they look like Ryan Gosling or a Victoria’s Secret model. Are they interesting people? Are they someone you can talk to hours with? Will they be there for you during your darkest times? Do they make you happy? Human connection is so important in life that it is essential that you surround yourself with people who are worth having a relationship with and who will make you a better person.
5. If you are going to be in a romantic relationship, be with someone who is worth the time and effort.
I don’t have a lot of experience in terms of romantic relationships, but I can tell you that someone else isn’t going to make you happy. Yes, they may increase your happiness, but in the end it is up to you to decide whether or not you are going to be happy. I’ve seen too many people get into relationships thinking that the person they are with will solve their problems or make them happy but it always fails. We must work on ourselves before beginning a relationship with someone. And don’t just start a relationship with anyone out of fear of loneliness. There are billions of people on this Earth who could make you happy during your life. Relationships are not easy and you need someone who is worth your time and effort. Find someone who will challenge you, someone who will make you a better person, someone who is intelligent, someone who you can trust, someone who thinks you’re awesome, someone who is loyal, someone who you can be intimate with, someone who makes you laugh, and someone whose life path is compatible with your own. Finally, find someone who will be your adventure buddy during this crazy, little life. They may not be the one you marry, but as long as they make you happy and you make them happy, have fun.
6. You don’t need a lot of friends, just a few really good ones.
Throughout my life I have been very blessed to have so many amazing people in my life; people who I consider to be family. These are people I can be myself around, people I don’t need to impress, people who have been with me through my many ups and downs, people who I can have long, deep conversations with for hours, people who go on adventures with me, and people that still like to hang around me despite the fact that I’m bat shit crazy. Who cares that I’m not considered “popular” (whatever that means). I’ve realized I’m not going to be friends with everyone. There are some people who I just don’t feel connected to. However, I have a few key people in my life who make me happy and are great companions as I make my way through this world and that’s all I need.
7. Appreciate your family.
Your family is made up of people who know you best. Your whole life or their own life they have lived with you. They know all the good and the bad: how beautiful you look in the mornings, the weird shit you do when you’re comfortable, what makes you pissed off … everything. And despite that knowledge, they still love you even if it doesn’t seem like it. You probably don’t realize it, but you are probably really annoying to live with at times, yet you can trust these people aren’t going to kill you in your sleep. Yes, your family is probably made up of people who are completely different, but you are all connected by blood. Friends and significant others will come and go, but your family will always be there. Appreciate every member; there is no substitute in life for any of them.
8. Be nice to everyone.
We all are born and die, we all have dreams, we are all not perfect, we all have personal battles we are facing, we all fear the unknown, we all don’t want to be alone, we are all searching for love and human connection, we are all trying to find our place in this world, we all are scared, and we all don’t really know what this whole life thing is about, but we’re all doing this together. Everyone deep down is a nice person and you never know what personal battles they are struggling with that may make them mean or unfriendly. We all have to work together to make it through this crazy mess that is life so might as well be nice.
9. Learn to not be lonely when you are alone.
Sometimes other people truly suck and alone time is necessary. We ultimately spend a lot of time by ourselves during our lives and if you don’t know how to live with just yourself that needs to change. Yes, you can be alone but that doesn’t mean you should feel lonely. As stated before, you are your best friend so learn to love yourself and all the things that make you unique. You should not be dependent on other people to make you happy.
10. You are going to experience pain.
You are not going to be happy all the time. We all experience pain, whether psychologically, emotional, or physical, but it eventually passes. This life is a constant cycle between pain and joy. Pain teaches us to become stronger, builds character, makes us wiser, and helps us realize what true happiness feels like. However, you must not let the pain overcome you. Just know that everything takes time and you have to make the decision to get better.
11. Choose happiness.
Every day you have to wake up and make the decision to be happy. Happiness is all up to you. If you are unhappy it’s no one else’s fault but your own. I’m so tired of people complaining they are depressed and, therefore, need to make others around them depressed or resort to taking drugs to somehow make them happy. You need to learn how to strengthen yourself mentally and make yourself be happy. You are ultimately in control of your emotions. You have the power to change every aspect of your life. If you are unhappy with how you are living your life change it. Do what makes you happy, not what society tells you to do to make you happy. There are so many people who live their whole life living this societal expectation of how they should live that they never do what they truly want. The truth is you have the power to live your own life; a life full of happiness.
12. Stop looking at screens.
I have a love/ hate relationship with technology. While, yes, it does promote worldwide communication and the sharing of ideas, it is also destroying true ways of communication. It is scary how we’ve become so dependent on technology that most of our time is spent looking at screens and not at our surroundings. I rely on my smartphone now for so many functions in my life: getting directions, messaging people, listening to music, taking and sharing photos, checking email, using it as my alarm clock etc… But by relying on this little machine so much, I spend way too much time staring at this small little screen. This does not even take into account the time I spend in front of my laptop doing work or browsing the absurdity that is the internet. And do not get me started on Facebook. While it is a great way to keep up with friends and create online photo albums, I have wasted too precious time on that site. Why am I wasting my limited time on this earth reading and looking at things about other people’s lives, when I should be out living my own and having actual conversations with people? And chatting with friends online, it’s almost as if you are talking to a robot not an actual person, which is quite unsettling. Nothing is better than a face to face conversation with someone and I feel like technology is ruining how we communicate with each other. Take some time every day to shut off your phone, laptop, or whatever technology you use and go outside. Stop starring at screens and look at the beautiful world that surrounds you.
13. Be a lifelong learner.
As much as I complain about school, I am truly blessed to have an education. Not only has my education ensured me that I will be successful in the future, it has also awakened me to the world and has given me a deeper appreciation for life. Our whole life is an education. Learning does not just happen in the classroom, at every moment, no matter where we are, we are learning through new experiences and information keeping our minds always at work. We are almost forced to be lifelong learners, but I believe we should embrace it. Read that novel everyone has been talking about, look up the definition of that word you don’t know, refresh yourself on ancient history, learn a new language etc… There is so much information out there that is waiting to be learned.
14. Spend money on experiences not things
On your death bed, you’re not going to be looking back at those two pairs of shoes you bought at Nordstrom, you are going to be thinking about the adventures you had with the people you love. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and media that claim we need things to complete us and make us happy which is just complete bullshit. All we need are the essentials (in moderation) in order to live a simple, good life: food, drink, music, education, friends, family, shelter, clothing, and a good attitude towards life. Life is just a collection of experiences we have, so go out and do things! Explore the world, try new things, make new friends, and get off your ass! Stop watching other people live fake lives on screens and go out and live your own. HAVE FUN!
We travel to not only lose ourselves for a bit, but to also find ourselves. Traveling gives us a chance to slow down and take a break from our fast paced lives allowing us to recognize what is truly important in our lives. We travel to get a new view of the world that enables us to learn more about the world we live in, the people, the places and our history. Nothing is more exciting than going out and exploring the unknown. That to me is living life. Our whole life is unknown; we never truly know what we are doing or why we are here, but we go out and explore and find out what makes us continue on this life path. There are so many exciting adventures to be had in new, amazing places throughout the beautiful world.
16. Don’t stick to a routine.
Every day is a blessing and a new adventure. You are given a new day to experience the world and change your life. There is an endless amount of experiences to be had so say “Yes” more often. You are going to regret the times you didn’t break out of your comfort zone and take a little leap. Don’t stick to a routine; you will get stuck in this monotonous cycle of events that will just drag on and on. Mix it up! Make it your mission to try something new every day.
17. Live in the now.
We have such limited time on this Earth and you never know when your time could run out. Are you living as you would if you were to die tomorrow? No? Well then why not? We have to stop living in the past and future. I’ve met so many people who let their past bring them down or are constantly thinking about their future life. Always anxious, worrying, or sad about their past or future, they never truly appreciate the present moment. All we have is this present moment so take full advantage of it and embrace the endless opportunities you are presented right now.
18. You control your own destiny.
I constantly hear people complain about how they rarely get what they want in life like some ruling force is making them miserable. However, the truth is that they are the ones that are stopping themselves from reaching their true potential. Your life is simply a mental projection. Everything that has every happened, everything that will happen, and what you perceive to be the physical world right now has its origin in the inner world of your thoughts and beliefs. To become the master of your destiny, you must learn to control the nature of your thoughts. If you are thinking negatively, negative things will happen, and so is the case for positive thinking. By controlling your thoughts, you will be able to attract into your life what you want and experience a reality created by your thoughts. Live the life you have wanted; nothing is stopping you except yourself.
19. Don’t take life too seriously.
Most of the things that worry or upset us are so trivial in the grand scheme of things. As cynical as it sounds, we’re all going to die in the end so loosen up and enjoy the ride.
20. Life is beautiful.
Enjoy every second of it.