21 Life Lessons You Need To Learn By 21

life lessons and being 21
Priscilla Du Preez


You can’t please your parents. It’s simply impossible for your parents to agree with every single decision that you make. Unless you are their replica, that is. And yes, you should definitely love and respect your parents, but where would the world be if we were all replicas of our parents?


You will never find a religion that you agree with completely. Regardless of whether you were brought up in a particular faith or if you have spent a significant part of your life asking the big questions, there will always be some minor (or not so minor) things that don’t sit with you in a particular faith. Mostly because religion was created by people to make sense of what can never fully make sense. Don’t agree with me? See below.


You will never agree with anyone on anything. Yes, in childhood, our friendships were based on how many favorites in common, but now that you are something of an adult, wouldn’t you want a friendship that is more intellectually stimulating than reaffirming each other’s tastes in ice cream and boy bands?


You will not have children by a certain age. It doesn’t matter how your parents or relatives or friends or [insert any nosy judgmental creature] expect you to live your life, being born did not come with a guarantee to an opportunity for procreation at a particular age. Don’t believe in waiting until marriage? See below.


You will not be in the relationship you want by a certain age. Doesn’t matter whether your ideal relationship is a marriage that lasts a lifetime or a new hookup every weekend or something in between, relationship bliss is just one of the many things that you are not guaranteed in life.


You will not work in your dream job by a certain age. Also just one of the many things that you are not guaranteed.


You will have to work hard to get where you want. To reiterate, no, you are not guaranteed your dream job by a certain age. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t concrete steps that you can take though, whether that be transferring to a university degree that is more line with your interests or applying to be an underpaid assistant to the person you’d like to be one day.


You will have to do a lot of boring stuff in your life. Cleaning up your toys. Learning the times tables. Washing the dishes. Memorizing formulas. Reading set texts. Filing papers. Doing your taxes. Changing your children’s nappies. It started in kindergarten and it’s not about to stop. Do you think someone else’s life is more interesting? See below.


You will never see anyone’s real life on Instagram. It’s not that anyone is deceiving anyone on purpose (necessarily), it’s just that social media is conducive to showing only the highlight reel of your lives.


You will always feel inferior scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. Just because you understand on a cognitive level that you are only seeing a strongly filtered selection of your “friend’s” lives and you shouldn’t compare that to your (perfectly acceptable) ordinary reality, it doesn’t mean that your brain will stop doing what it is wired to do: compare, compare, compare…


Your virtual relationships (real or not) cannot replace the ones in your real life. Yes, it is so much easier to find people with common interests online. It is also much easier to be emotionally vulnerable with someone you don’t have to face every day. However, given that most information is communicated non-verbally, it makes sense that no amount of heartfelt text messaging and supportive blog comments will make up for a real life conversation (awkward eye contact and all).


You will have to put effort into your relationships (and not just romantic). While I do think that you should invest in relationships with people you instinctively feel comfortable around (and I absolutely abhor the comparison of dating to work), that’s not to say that relationships don’t require effort. Whether it’s being civil to a family member who holds vastly different political views to you or overcoming your fear of emotional vulnerability, sometimes spending time with people is downright exhausting.


You will get rejected. Whether it’s for a date or a promotion, the laws of probability tell us that if we are not getting rejected, we are not embracing all the opportunities that are coming your way.


You can’t do everything. There is simply not enough hours in the day, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can start putting effort into the things that really matter. (Yes, that does mean you can’t embrace ALL the opportunities that come your way. Doesn’t that calm your fear of rejection a little? Fewer opportunities embraced = fewer rejections inflicted? Or maybe more meaningful risk = more painful rejection? Who knows?)


You can’t escape paradoxes. From the value of our creative work to the significance of our first sexual partner to the meaning of our very existence – it all matters very much and very little at the same time.


You are the only one who can decide your values. But what about God? And what about my parents who taught me that He commanded me to obey them?

If you live in a secular democratic society (as I sincerely hope you do), you have the right to choose your faith and how you practice it. Embrace this freedom, define your values and live according to them. If your faith was genuine to begin with, it will grow only stronger as a result. Don’t use religion as an excuse for your indecision.


You will never REALLY know about history (or current events). Sure, conspiracy theories are great (mostly because whenever our brain can connect a series of events in a story arc, it releases the feel-good chemical, dopamine), but if they are making you think that the world is an awful place to live in, maybe it’s time to rethink how many you need to know? Maybe it’s time to accept that history is the result of complex factors and random occurrences at play which cannot be explained in a singular fashion? And since current events are just history in the making, maybe we can accept that there will never be a simple explanation for those either?


You can make positive assumptions. Yes, it does feel naive to assume that a maniac shot JFK and your crush simply missed your text, but give it a go and you might find yourself getting a little less agitated.


You have a lot to be grateful for. It’s not just that if you have food in your fridge, a roof over your head and a place to sleep that you’re richer than 75 per cent of the world; you can also start intentionally practicing a daily gratitude ritual and start reaping the many benefits of gratitude that is rooted in mindfulness, rather than comparison.


Your life will be full of suffering, but you have what it takes to get through it. That’s basically what every religion teaches us. Some tell us that we will overcome suffering if we meditate long enough, some tell us that we should treat this life as a test for the next one, some tell us that we should embrace the love of a deity’s offspring. Embrace the one that makes the most sense to you.


Life is going to pass you by, regardless of what you do. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

just another human for whom existence is insufferable without reading and writing

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