I always pictured my twentieth birthday as some far away, magical day. It would be full of omens and distinct experiences, ultimately signifying the start of something new. A new decade, a new level of freedom, newfound reassurance, hope, confidence, and pride. I wanted my twentieth birthday to be the day of all days where I would somehow be one step closer to reaching my true self.
Like Jenna in 13 Going on 30, I was infatuated with a day that signified nothing more than my time on earth. In the way that Jenna strove to be “Thirty, flirty, and thriving,” I branded this as the day I would be “Twenty, funny, and smiling.” Time to cut the bullshit.
On my birthday it rained, it was pretty chilly for the first week of June, and I had not one, but two therapy appointments. One with my physical therapist and one with a head shrinker. I didn’t see any friends, as most of them were abroad, and I had done virtually nothing worthy of my “Twenty, funny, and smiling” label. “This is twenty.” I thought to myself instead.
A year prior, on my nineteenth birthday it was hot, sunny, and I spent the day with my then best friend. A month prior, I had just gotten my heart broken so badly I was convinced I’d need a new one. But, I was content. Happiness, like importance, is subjective. This is one of the lessons in growing up (sorry, I had to!) that I will take with me into this new decade of my life.
Instead of writing about all of the things that I want my twenties to be, I’m going to talk about all of the things I’ve learned along the way.
1. It’s ok to not know what you want. I have recently become so comfortable with the fact that I don’t have all of the answers. Whereas the mere thought of the unknown used to trigger feelings of panic, I almost gravitate toward it now. You will never know everything, so keep trying, keep living, keep moving.
2. Everything is a learning experience. Whether or not things go your way, always take them for what they are and move on. I have wasted so much time trying to fix things, or make them better, that don’t need changing in the first place. Never stop learning and questioning because that is when life becomes stagnant. But, don’t obsess over nothing.
3. Nobody worth keeping is kept through force. When I take a look at all of the people who matter most in my life, they all have two things in common. Our relationships are not forced, and we never sought each other out. I have met all of my greatest loves by pure coincidence. What caused them to stay was choice, not obligation or coercion. Whoever wants to be in your life should, and whomever doesn’t can bounce.
4. Stick to your guns. The peanut gallery never quiets down, and it can be hard to listen to yourself when you can no longer hear your own voice. At the end of the day, nobody knows what’s in your best interest better than you do. Don’t back down, never be silenced, and always stay true to yourself.
5. Nobody is reading your mind, so speak your truth. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and speak up. There is no point in keeping your most dire needs to yourself, in hopes for attention that you definitely will not get by refusing to give voice to your inner monologue.
6. Do what you love. So your passions don’t pay the bills; so you’ve gotten older and can no longer run like you could in high school; so you suck at painting… do you love it? Make time for it. What we love is part of what makes us who we are. Never lose sight of that. Life is SO short.
7. Nothing worth having will be handed to you. The level of gratitude and pride I feel when I earn something is worth one thousand times more than the trivial satisfaction I feel when something is just given to me. If anybody can have it, then I don’t want it.
8. Words matter. My mother always told me this as a child. It’s because of this saying that I am a pacifist. Whether you are saying something good or bad, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. People never truly forget how your words have impacted them.
9. Never be afraid to ask for help. I wish I had asked for help more often growing up. I probably would have ended up being better at math and science. I also would have had a lot less panic attacks when my stress-o-meter ran out. I’m not a superhuman, so help is always the move.
I have spent the majority of my time writing about who I am, what I’ve learned, and who I want to be. I don’t have all of the answers, but I started this series in hopes of finding some along the way. If I had to add a tenth lesson to this piece it would be to take a minute and just revel in your current situation. Look around, make a note of where you are, where you’ve been, and how you feel. Just be. These moments will pass and they will never come again in the form of infantry, childhood, adolescence and even your twenties. As I write this, it’s hot, cloudy, and I have a headache. But I’m happy. I got the day off from work, and I’m going out with my friends tonight. What more could I ask for?
This is 20.