23 Things You Probably Didn’t Know At 23

A piece by Michelle Herman

1. It’s more important, and way more durable, to be able to trust and count on a man than to be kept on your toes, charmed, or swept off your feet by him.

2. It’s more important — yes, and durable, too — to have friends you can count on (a theme emerges here!) than friends who agree with your opinions, amuse you, share your impulse to rake over everything that’s happened in your and her life lately, or are available for long chats on the phone (that won’t last any more than being swept off your feet will last — it can’t; life gets in the way).

3. It’s more important to be someone who can be counted on than to be amusing, entertaining, sexy, or even a good storyteller (though there’s much to be said for all of the above — and especially the latter, in my book).

4. Even now, there are a lot of things about yourself that you are just going to grow out of.

5. When you become furious at someone over something that isn’t actually any of your business (“But she’s making it my business by talking to me about it!”), it will not be because you are wiser than the person behaving badly or making a terrible mistake but because secretly you are afraid you are just like and you hate that about yourself.

6. You still have a lot to learn.

7. Every single thing you do learn is going to be of use to you in some way — and usually not in ways that can be predicted, either. So it’s a waste of time and energy both to overplan/try to predict what you’re going to need later and to mope/rage about having “wasted” time/energy on something once you’ve done it — in other words, that particular undergraduate major, that particular job, that particular relationship…or even that particular conversation.

8. You never know when something you’ve done is going to turn out to be a decisive factor in the life that’s ahead. The life you’re going to lead is made up of a thousand — or thousands — of tiny puzzle pieces of decisions.

9. You won’t and can’t know until much later what they were.

10. Even when you think you have absolutely no time or energy to spare, you can always find the time and energy for things that matter.

11. The things that matter aren’t always obvious.

12. It’s easy to get it wrong, so think generously about “what matters.”

13. Thinking generously and being generous are two of the most crucial things you can do.

14. Another is being truthful. By which I don’t just mean “telling the truth.” I mean also thinking about larger truths, about living a truthful life. Paying attention to and accounting for other people’s experience and understanding of the world rather than assuming that your experience/understanding of the world is the norm, or obvious, or makes sense.

15. Empathy doesn’t just mean feeling sympathy — feeling sorry for other people: it means actually entering into someone else’s experience, understanding their experience and their feelings from their point of view. And this is essential if you are to have a full, rich, human experience of life yourself.

16. Much of what you need to do can be summed up in two words: pay attention. (This will help you to accomplish the last five items noted above — and many of those noted above that.)

17. You can’t control anything or anyone but yourself, even when you think you can. All you can do is the best you can, at everything you do. (Just calling it “the best” you can [“But I’m doing the best I can!”] is not sufficient. It actually needs to be the best.) (But there is nothing you can do about people’s responses to your doing the best you can. Not in love, not in work. See “can’t control anything or anyone,” just above.)

18. If you do the best you can — if you really do — one way or another, things will work out. Maybe not in exactly the way you imagined, but they will.

19. Under the category “do the best you can” as well as the category “be generous” (#13): It’s actually really important not just to think about doing things for others but also to do them. If you do something — better yet, more than one thing — that is completely generous, something for which you expect absolutely nothing in return (even if you’re sure you don’t have time [see #10], make time), amazingly enough, it will improve your own life immeasurably.

20. Your bad habits will not somehow fix themselves over time; you will not automatically grow out of them. It would be smart to address them while you’re young.

21. What those bad habits are (see #16).

22. Getting older isn’t awful — it’s kind of great. Even though there are parts of it that are hard to adjust to (most of them — come to think of it, all of them — physical), you might actually enjoy your life way more at 43 or 53 or 63 than you were enjoying it at 23.

23. There’s always something to look forward to. Because overall? Life is good. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Caro / Flickr

Michelle writes about life, loss, love, and what she’s learned over the years.

Keep up with Michelle on Twitter and michelleherman.com

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