21 Things I’ve Learned Before Turning 21

woman standing in front of multicolored wall
Tyler Nix / Unsplash

1. No good comes from forcing yourself to grow up.

I made this mistake a long time ago, I forced myself to grow up and I did it big time. Yes, we all mature at different stages in our lives, but to put it bluntly you’re not an adult until you become an adult. I was 14 hanging around with guys twice my age, I’d sit and pretend I understood their adult conversations by nodding and secretly googling all their topics. I never put effort into schoolwork because I thought I was somehow above it, I rarely saw friends my own age for fun, I would sit with a coffee and smoke my way through a pack of cigarettes complaining about problems in my life that frankly didn’t exist. Not fun.

2. People come and go.

BIG ONE. Life is a journey and it is mixed with surprises, experiences and disappointments. We all meet people daily and some will choose to stay in your life while others will walk away, Think of friendships or relationships as seasons throughout the year, they come and go. No winter is the exact same as the last, people may leave but something or someone better is coming. There’s no magic reason as to why some friendships don’t last a lifetime but that’s the beauty of it, nothing lasts forever so you just gotta find the people worth sticking around for.

3. Stay in the present.

Do not dwell on the past and try not to worry about the future. Work toward attainable goals and do not hold expectations, let everything fall into place and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by everything life gives to you when you’re least expecting it.

4. Water truly is your best friend.

I’m not going to bullshit anyone here, I’m definitely not the poster girl for living a healthy lifestyle all day everyday, however the one thing I can vouch for is drinking lots and lots of water. I’m lucky in the sense that I hate fizzy drinks, so water may as well be the only thing on offer. I’m a water snob, the second I see anyone drinking Pepsi or dare I even say it a Dr. Pepper, I have to stop myself from the urge to chuck Evian’s at their heads. Try drinking at least 8 glasses each day. By doing so, it helps the body flush out any toxins which actually enhances your hair growth and helps to clear your skin, and who doesn’t want nice hair and beautiful skin,ey.

5. To stop worrying so goddamn much.

I’m a huge worrier. I worry over almost everything, most of the time creating problems that don’t even exist. I’m well aware that things are uncontrollable and unpredictable, yet still seclude myself to suffer from over thinking. This just has to stop, in the wise words of Missy Elliot you gotta put that thing down, flip it and reverse it. Worrying solves nothing, it creates more problems, it doesn’t change an outcome, so slow down, let things be, put your mind at ease and enjoy the journey.

6. You’ve got to love yourself.

This is probably my biggest flaw. All cards on the table, I’ve hated the way I look for a long, long time. Blaming myself for not being enough when things go wrong. Truth is you have to love yourself first in order for anyone else to love you. I’m never going to be Megan Fox or Gigi Hadid, but why is that a problem? There is no common ground on what beauty is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, start loving yourself and let the rest follow, life’s too short to worry about the things we can’t change. Be kind to yourself.

7. Stop bleaching your hair so much.

I’m so bad for changing my hair colour a lot. I switch between blonde and brunette like hair dye is going out of fashion. I’ve been black, ginger, pink, blue, grey and had every hair length and style you could imagine too. About two years ago my hair started to fall out and I was absolutely devastated, it took a long time and a lot of pricey products for me to get my hair to grow back and be healthy again. Take my advice on this one, a change now and then is great, a new hair colour can give you a new found confidence however just be bloody careful and look after your beautiful locks whilst you can!

8. NEVER TRUST A PERSON WHO DOESN’T LIKE DOGS.

Don’t think this needs a big explanation to be honest. Just don’t do it.

9. Learn to say no.

We often feel obliged to say yes even when we want to say no. I’m definitely guilty of being an occasional people pleaser, but you need to remember to put yourself first and say no if you really don’t want to do something. No one is going to kill you for saying no, nothing bad will happen and you’ll feel a whole lot better knowing you did what you actually wanted to do.

10. Smoking isn’t cool.

If you can manage not to become a smoker, do it. Smoking doesn’t make you cool, I’m still trying to understand where this whole idea that having a cigarette in your gob all of a sudden makes you alternative, it doesn’t. I started smoking at 14, and if I could turn back the clock and have never smoked, I would. It’s not cool, it’s expensive and it’s a waste of time. Think about your pretty little teeth, your health, money, and likelihood of finding love on a dating app, smoking is a turn off.

11. Likes on Instagram are not important.

I’ve definitely been guilty in the past of reading too far into likes but come on it’s time to admit they’re just likes. They don’t mean anything, there’s no hidden secrets being unraveled here, a certain amount of likes don’t make you ugly or pretty, same as a certain person liking your picture doesn’t mean actually mean anything at all(SORRY BUT IT’S TRUE). I’m constantly hearing “I only got 10 likes on this photo so I’m just going to delete it,” “My ex just liked my picture. She/he obviously wants me back,” Since when did we decide that these interactions mattered so much to us or determined our worth to others? They don’t! End of story, move on.

12. Save your money.

I’m really bad for needing immediate gratification, so basically, I like to spend my money and I like to spend it all. I once got paid more than expected for working overtime and the first thing I bought was a really fancy electric whisk… I don’t cook, or bake, or really do much in the kitchen except fill up the kettle to use in my pot noodle. I didn’t need a whisk and I haven’t once used it or picked it up since this purchase. WHAT A WASTE. (Will admit though it was a very pretty shade of blue and looks quite nice in my mums kitchen but she can thank me for that later.) Saving is the smartest way to manage your money. There’s no greater feeling than knowing you have money to spare in the bank, you never know when you’re gonna need it!

13. It’s okay to be a little lost.

IMPORTANT. I’m at a stage in my life where things aren’t as crystal clear as I thought they would be. I look around at my friends, people I went to school with, and strangers I see on the internet and get stressed over where they are in their lives compared to mine. I haven’t settled down yet, I haven’t found my dream job, I haven’t completed university, everything’s just a bit all over the place and i’m slowly starting to realise there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m still unsure what I want out of life and where I want to be in 5 years time, and that’s okay. I’ll figure it out eventually. So for now, I’m taking baby steps and learning to enjoy what I have got right now rather than what I haven’t, and that’s all we really can do.

14. Friends should support you.

Having a good support system is essential in everyone’s lives, our friends are a major aspect of this. Find friends who lift you up, make you laugh, make you happy and (although they may not always agree) support your decisions! We invest a lot of time in our friendships, so it can be very difficult to see which ones are positive and which are toxic. Sometimes, we are blinded by how long we’ve known someone or how the relationship used to be. We let that be an excuse for longer than it should. Friends come and go, and if any friendship in your life is a bit hit and miss, let it go. Getting rid of toxic friends is one of the most relieving moments you’ll experience. Scout’s honor.

15. Self care is more than a face mask on a Friday night.

One of THE most infuriating things for me is when people preach that the way to feel better about yourself is to slap on a face mask, take a bath, or listen to some music. I won’t lie, these things are great and extremely comforting but they don’t actually fix anything. What happens when the bath goes cold? When you have to take your face mask off? When your favorite playlist ends? Self-care is about keeping up with life and making sure to keep up with yourself too! Your mental, physical, emotional, and professional well-being is all part of self-care. Start by setting yourself goals each day, whether big or small, set a goal to put some money aside this week, do your food shopping, see your friends, or exercise. Sure, take a load of bubble baths too but make sure to prioritise the other aspects of your life.

16. It’s good to make mistakes.

One of my many talents is making a lot of mistakes, my mum’s favourite thing to say to me is “when will you ever learn?” I’d love to be a brat and spit back a witty one liner response, however, I ain’t got one. Truth is I’m not sure when I’ll stop making silly decisions, but what I do know is I’m learning everyday, whether I make a mistake once or a couple of times, I’m young it happens, one day I’ll stop, one day I’ll know what to do, but for right now I’m still learning and every mistake I make is shaping me into the person I will become. Mistakes are good for us, apologise when necessary and don’t beat yourself up about things taking a turn for the worst.

17. Abba fits every mood.

Seriously, the sudden buzz around Abba is truly amazing. Sad? Listen to Abba. Happy? Listen to Abba. Angry? Listen to Abba. Getting ready for a night out? Listen to Abba. Just got dumped? Listen to Abba. Trying to pretend you can’t hear your mum shouting you from downstairs? Listen to Abba.

18. You don’t have to party every weekend.

I love a good night out, I’m not going to deny that to anyone. I like to stay out late and get very, very drunk. But as of late I’m starting to appreciate more nights in catching up with friends over good food, a bottle of wine and crappy TV. Try it every now and then, it’s not as bad as it sounds and you’ll save a hell of a lot of money that would’ve been wasted on going to the same club you’re in every week, seeing the same people, having the same conversations. Adult life is about reaching a place when you’re completely okay with being labelled boring.

19. Change is constant and that’s not a problem.

People change. Feelings change. Situations change. People grow apart. Friends outgrow each other. People become attracted to different people. It’s easy to try and ignore these signs and power through however not always wise. It’s a scary thing when you can feel yourself growing apart from people you thought would’ve played a big role in your future. But we really need to stop fearing change. We need to live life and do what makes us happy. Not what is safe. Not what is familiar. Don’t stay put because you’re comfortable. Take risks.

20. You don’t’ have to react to everything.

I’m slowly learning that not reacting doesn’t mean I’m okay with things or someone is getting away with it, it just means I’m choosing to rise above it. We’re always too caught up in drama nowadays, it’s unnecessary and draining. I’ve decided for myself to take more precautions before reacting in situations, I don’t need fights and arguments. Sometimes not saying anything at all says everything.

21. Happiness comes from yourself.

Happiness should come from within you. You should never let your happiness depend on someone else. No boy/girl can make you happy. No number on the scales. No clothes. Nothing. Happiness is when you do not need anyone else to confirm that you are fully content with yourself. Happiness is a state of mind, not the product of circumstance. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

The People Bringing You Delicious Dairy

A new Thought Catalog series exploring our connection to each other, our food, and where it comes from.

Meet Alise Sjostrom
21 Things I’ve Learned Before Turning 21 is cataloged in , ,