Turning 21 is exciting. Seeing another year of life in general is exciting but 21 has perks. You can do all the fun stuff you’ve watched older friends and family do your entire life.
Someone finally passes you the bottle, tells you the family gossip, and it seems like you’ve been crowned an official adult — but other times, it really feels like a wave crashed onto your body at the beach, the water filled your ears, and there’s sand in places you never wanted it.
However, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and sprinklers to rinse off the sand.
My 22nd birthday is quickly approaching and I’ve taken the time to list some of the major lessons I’ve learned while being 21 years old. Depending on your age and your story, some may seem like common sense, some may be a reminder, and some you may be struggling to comprehend at this very moment.
To whoever, wherever, I hope this helps you at whatever age.
1. Being around people with negative energy is 100% draining.
I understand that people have bad days and sometimes they need to be around love. However, some people are completely pessimistic and knowing there’s nothing you can do to change their outlook makes you feel like you just did a series of lectures to a class where no one was listening. It’s not a good feeling and I’ve learned to show these kinds of people love from a distance.
2. Life is a journey to be taken at your own pace.
I changed my major my junior year in college, adding an extra semester onto my undergrad experience and this past May. I watched everybody I started the previous major with graduate. I watched everyone participate in Black Grad and take really amazing photos and it left me with a sting in my heart.
That could have been me, but I also wouldn’t be happy with my major or my grades. I’ve learned that the steps I take are different than the next person’s and the barriers that somehow find a way to block me come at a different point for someone else.
3. Being able to legally purchase liquor is a scheme.
The drinks at the bars and restaurants are never consistently good or equally mixed and if you go out enough, you’ll find yourself indulging in a very enticing, bad habit.
4. Families aren’t perfect and neither is the world.
This is something I’ve known since before 21 but it’s definitely something that I’ve come to terms with this year. As I’ve ventured out into adulthood and become socially aware, people’s flaws stand out a lot more and family secrets are easily noticeable. It’s not my job to judge, condemn, or check anyone, but it is my job to love and see the good in someone or something.
5. You have the ability to change what you see (or feel).
My grades were terrible two years in a row but I took everything in me and shoved myself towards a 3.0. I know it’s easier said than done. I know sometimes, advice makes you feel worse because you feel like you can’t do what’s being asked of you, but I’ve learned that constant reinforcement of positivity is what works for me.
I have notes written and taped everywhere around me to keep me from drowning in self-doubt and anxiety. When everything looks bad, zoom in on the smallest good, hold onto the image, and push yourself towards change.
6. Practice your craft, gift, talent for you and no one else.
My blog is something I love doing, especially because I get to be vocal about who I am and what I think as well as write. However I get discouraged because there are a million and one bloggers doing the same exact thing. A friend of mine reminded me that it’s for me first and if no one ever reads this blog, I still did what I felt an urge to do.
7. Check your priorities and then check them again.
In your early 20s, the limit for fun and “want” does not exist, until you need to visit the doctor, get your car fixed, and pay rent all on $10 an hour. You start college with complete freedom and then two seconds later, you have to slow all that down and get serious.
Although as a millennial I have some setbacks that I hate to go in depth about, I’ve learned that fun has to be a once in a while thing rather than an every weekend thing if I want to be successfully responsible.
8. It’s still okay to enjoy things.
Put your phone down at a concert instead of recording the entire thing on Facebook live. Order dessert first. Grab those shoes, if you can afford them. Spend time in a really long bubble bath. Treat yourself with moments of utter and complete joy, rather than irresponsibly shopping or indulging in something that will make you upset with yourself later.
9. No failure or loss is a waste.
With every loss, you take with you a lesson. You gain a new outlook. Think of failures as visual sources of motivation to keep you working hard.
10. Your friends are not legally bound to you or any plans you have.
I love my friends, especially when we’re all together laughing until tears are streaming down our face and my cheeks are hurting from smiling so much.
However, we’re growing adults. Some are married or in committed relationships, we all have jobs and schedules that need at least a two week notice for plans, and we have families that want to share those same sorts of moments with us. Someone is going to miss an event, you might miss an event, and that’s okay, even if you don’t want it to be.