I never understood people who hate birthdays. Those who spend the day as if it were any other – or even upset about turning a year older. Personally, I’ve always loved this special day, no matter the year, no matter the current events happening in my life. Birthdays are a reminder that there is so much more to come. There are a few “key” years that every young person excitedly counts down to. Those promising ages that are meant to change our lives. The almighty Sweet 16 with a new car and cool high school kids. Or 18 when we feel like total adults – until we realize we don’t actually smoke and and that buying a lottery ticket isn’t all that fab. And of course, the big two-one. 21 is all fun and games until you’re really bored of the margaritas you’re now allowed to have. To tell you the truth, I liked being 16, 18 was pretty kick ass, and I loved my 21st birthday. But none of those birthdays were the ones I looked forward to the most.
What I have looked forward to the most is this next part – the part when we become truly independent. The time when we can be our own person with our own successes and failures. A time when we’re allowed to be someone completely new and let go of who we were in high school and college. A time that marks the beginning of the rest of our lives.
Because I’ve realized, my friends, that 23 is the real 21.
The years prior to turning 23 tend to be a bit weird. There are lots of changes, lots of unknown circumstances, and a lot of confusing experiences. But it’s also what prepares us for what’s to come – a true sneak peak of what lies ahead.
Growing older and learning these lessons will help us through the best years yet – an exciting time worth celebrating.
1. Happiness Is A Mood, Not A Destination,
It’s exhausting to look for the one day when everything will be perfect – because that day does not exist. We need to accept that happiness and success are moods that change on and off throughout our lives, and that’s okay.
Enjoy the best moments when they happen, and keep your head high when things are not at their best.
2. Take Care Of Yourself.
Binge-drinking and eating chips for breakfast lunch and dinner might have worked for you in the past. But learn to actually take care of yourself. No matter where you are right now – at home, in an awesome new job in NYC or living in your grandparents’ basement, learn to do things on your own. Cook healthy meals. Exercise. Go for a walk. Meditate. Your body won’t be young forever, so take care of it. You wont believe the amazing things it will do to your mind and soul.
3. Family Matters.
Whether it be blood relatives, adopted family members, or the people that you work with – appreciate them. Love them. Cherish them. They are the ones who keep up with you every day, and the ones who keep you going.
4. Read More.
I know it’s hard to stay away from social media. It’s hard to put the iPad down. But do me a favor and start reading more. This isn’t kindergarten; it won’t make you a “nerd.” It won’t make you lame. Find something that you love – I don’t care if it’s a book about politics, I don’t care if you love gruesome murder stories. I don’t even care if you feel like catching up on the latest Twilight book (okay maybe I care just a little). The point is, get your mind off whatever you’re doing. Feed your brain some new information and ideas. Trigger thoughts and feelings from an outside world away from all the chaos inside your head. We all need healthy distractions.
5. Learn To Manage Money.
Being clueless won’t get you too far and loans won’t pay themselves. Stop eating out everyday and then complaining that you’re broke. Being financially savvy is something you will always find to be beneficial in life, so why not start now?
6. Being Alone Doesn’t Mean That You’re Lonely.
Our early 20’s are a confusing and awkward time. So many questions. So many things still unknown. It’s easy to feel lonely. Maybe you’re not with your best friends every day. Maybe you’re single. Maybe you just moved to a new city and you miss your family. Please know that you’re not the only one, and that we all feel that way from time to time. Hang in there.
7. There’s Nothing Wrong With Needing People.
We are not superheroes, and we don’t go through life without struggles. Whoever your person is, talk to them. Take a trip back home. Call someone and tell them you miss them. Stop bottling feelings in. The more negativity you keep inside, the more it will poison you. We all need somebody.
8. Open Your Eyes.
Open Your Mind. Meet new people. Learn from other cultures. Try and understand different philosophies and ways of viewing the world. There is so much that we can learn from others, and we just don’t do it enough.
9. Push Out Of Your Comfort Zone.
No matter what your personality type is, no matter who you are – do something that scares you. Do something you’ve never done before. Do something you might regret later on. I once heard the phrase “the beauty is in the attempt.” And isn’t that the point? To try. To explore. To push ourselves – the rest will work itself out.
10. Do Things For Other People – And Don’t Expect Anything In Return.
We tend to think that we need to be Gandhi or Mother Theresa to help the world and be somebody, but we don’t. It’s so simple to help someone and to give back to the community. Find something – anything that interests you, and help in any way you can. We need more kindness in the world. And it all starts within us.
11. Stop Apologizing For Who You Are.
We’ve all done it. I still do it sometimes. It’s normal. It’s human. What’s not human is to constantly feel like we need to explain ourselves to everyone in the universe. This past year I’ve learned that the only person we truly need to please is ourselves. Do people judge us? Yes. Do they push us to do whatever they want? Sometimes. Do I let them? Not anymore. Our purpose in this world is to be happy, not to please everyone else.
12. Find Something To Look Forward To.
There’s such a beautiful world outside of the bubble we’ve been on over the last few years. If you don’t stop to explore it and appreciate it all, you’ll miss out on some really wonderful things. It’s okay to miss people and certain times in our life, but we need to learn to let go. If there’s things you regret or things you wish you could’ve done differently, understand that you still can. The next year allows for real freedom. You set your expectations. You set your goals. You decide what to do and who you want to be.
13. It’s Okay To Ignore The World Sometimes.
When things are simply too much to handle, tune them out. Don’t neglect important information and become ignorant about current events, but press the mute button once in a while. Go for a walk, listen to your favorite song. Let go of the weight that the world puts on your shoulders.
14. Don’t Hold Grudges.
It’s hard to let go of people and situations that have hurt us. But if we hold on to all of that anger, we’ll never move on. Understand that what happened was in the past, and leave it there.
15. Never Stop Looking For Something Better.
The key is to always be grateful for what you have now. As long as wanting something doesn’t hinder your ability to enjoy what you already have, then it’s okay to want more, better, or different. Never settle. Always keep going until you find what you’re truly looking for.
16. Spend More Time Alone.
Outgoing or not, extroverted or introverted, we all need time alone. What do you really think? what do you really feel? Step away from the white noise and the constant crowds and really spend some time alone with your thoughts. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn about yourself.
17. Everything Is Temporary.
It sucks when great things end – relationships, events, road trips, whatever you might love. But it’s also important to know that feeling sad or anxious wont last forever either. Appreciate the good while it’s there, and don’t stress about the bad – it’ll fade away when you least expect it.
18. Tell People You Love And Appreciate Them.
You don’t have to do it because you think some horrible accident will happen tomorrow. Just do it because you want to, and because it matters. People matter. Those who have hurt us have also taught us. Those who have left us have also put up with us at some point. More importantly, those who are still here are our real treasures. Acknowledge them.
19. Be Thankful.
I know how hard it is when things don’t go our way. We tend to blame everything and everyone around – including ourselves. I wont tell you to feel better just because some people are at war, or just because certain populations are starving. Yes, we need perspective. Yes, we need to appreciate what others aren’t so lucky to have. But most of all just be thankful for the sake of being thankful. It will make you happier and bring more positivity into your life.
20. Educate Yourself And Others.
We live in a world where it’s too easy to bash and judge other cultures, beliefs, and ways to view life. It’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to feel frustrated with those who don’t see things the way we do. But STOP the hatred. Stop the social media bullying. Stop sharing posts you know nothing about. Educate yourself first, and then educate others. Information overload isn’t fun for anyone and it causes more damage than good when used inappropriately.
21. Somewhere, Somehow, Sh*t Just Works Out – Stop Worrying.
This is something I have to tell myself every single day, because let’s be real – things are tough. Life throws us a lot of challenges, making decisions is never easy, and we’re under a lot of pressure on a regular basis. But you have to take a second from time to time and realize that you’ve overcome your biggest struggles already. You’re here. You’re still going. One way or another, things always find a way – all you can do is work hard and be the best you can be. I promise you that the rest will take care of itself.
22. There’s Still So Much Time.
Get excited about your next year. Your next step. Your next adventure. Turning 23 might mean the end of something great for some people. But in reality, it marks the beginning of something amazing. Now is when our life truly starts. Now is the time to do whatever we want. Now is the time to experience the real world and be whoever we want to be. It’s a time to reinvent ourselves, to let go of past mistakes and regrets – to turn the page and start over. So rediscover yourself. Rebuild yourself. You just need to pick a place, and start.