The past year has been, undoubtedly, the most difficult, the most heartbreaking, and the most painful year. It brought smiles and some good memories, but it also brought tears, many nights lying awake at 3 a.m. and questioning myself, long and lonely days wondering where I went wrong, or if I was even good enough for anyone (or anything).
It was also about coming the realization that I had to undergo these struggles in order to learn some of life’s most important lessons. Living out those difficult experiences helped me to understand some of the following things, and it wasn’t easy.
These are the 20 most important things I learned at 20. These are the things I will take going forward this year.
1. You don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t owe them an explanation for your emotions, and you don’t have to justify why you feel a certain way.
2. Be accountable for your actions. Don’t leave your work or your things behind for someone else to do. That time should be part of your own day, not taken out of someone else’s.
3. You aren’t obligated to give someone your love, care, attention, or intimacy if they’re not treating you right.
4. Listen to your gut. Always.
5. If someone does something to intentionally hurt you and they try to tell you that it’s the first time they’ve ever done it, chances are it isn’t. Walk away—you don’t need excuses for not being respected or heard.
6. If your body is telling you you’re tired, doing that extra 30 minutes, hour, or more of whatever you’re doing isn’t going to be productive. Take a break. Go on a walk, whether it’s in nature or down the block or through the supermarket aisles. Take a nap. Eat your favorite food. Spend time with your pet.
7. Try your hardest in everything you do. If you say you’re going to commit to something, see it through to its completion and beyond. The worst feeling is knowing you could’ve done more to get a better outcome. That’s on you.
8. Know your boundaries and your limits (physically, emotionally, and mentally). Nothing is worth so much that it’s at the expense of your mental health or physical health. It’s okay to say no to something or someone, even if that means you have to experience discomfort in order to express your stance.
9. Pick your battles. Don’t get hung up and upset about people who won’t initiate contact or conversation unless you do. It means you have a good heart, because you cared about them.
10. Some people that you thought would always have your back, won’t. You’ll know who aren’t your real friends when they’re only there for you when it’s convenient for them, but disappear when you need them most.
11. Going outside for some fresh air will do you good to clear your mind and help ease the tension in your body, whether you’re tired, just had a big fight with someone, or frustrated about something.
12. Remember where you came from. It doesn’t hurt to help people who are in the same position as you once were in. Life isn’t about stepping on people or refusing to help them because you’re worried their endeavours will get in the way of your success.
13. Do your best to care for yourself. One day, you won’t be this young, this energetic, this lively, and this awake. Keep yourself healthy, exercise, and make good food choices. It really pays off.
14. Watch out for gaslighting. Sometimes, people will take advantage of your kindness and willingness to do things and use it solely for their own benefit. They’ll make things sound like your fault, and you’ll question yourself every time, wondering what you did to make things this bad. It’s not your fault. Cut out those manipulative, draining people from your life.
15. Know people’s intentions before you trust them.
16. There is so much more to life than the pain and frustration you’re feeling right now. One day, you’ll look back on it and realize how grateful you are that you got through it.
17. Don’t force friendships.
18. It’s okay to go out alone, like to the movies or to a restaurant. It can be daunting or even awkward at first. But it’s nice to sometimes enjoy life’s simple pleasures with no other company but yourself.
19. Even though you feel like you’re being judged, in reality, everyone is too busy with their own things to have noticed. Anything stupid you’ve done and felt embarrassed about, someone else has probably done too. When you stop caring about what people think about you, life gets easier.
20. Time heals all.