22 Things I’ve Learned Over 22 Years

On Feeling Lost – It is scary not to have any idea of what you want from life, but it is also completely normal. So, never let that stress and anxiety reach a point where it begins to damage your mental health. Always remember that things have a way of falling into place eventually.

On the Past – Rafiki from The Lion King can probably explain this one better than me: “Yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.” Having been running away from my past for 22 years has created a state of denial within me. Now, I’m not saying you should always look back at your past because that will just leave you resentful, I’m saying that you should learn from it and move on. Don’t carry the guilt and anger with you through the years but learn to slowly let it go.

On Vanity – Although we live in a world that prioritizes beauty over everything else, know that beauty has an expiration date. But what doesn’t have an expiration date is knowledge, so, get that degree, educate yourself about the world you live in and interact with the people around you at a deeper level. Your education is something that no one can take away from you and frankly, too many women have sacrificed for you to not go and get that degree.

On Body Positivity – As a woman, there are days where your skin will break into a million zits or when the rolls of your stomach seem more prominent. But you need to understand that THIS IS NORMAL. As a woman, your body undergoes a biological cycle every month, with hormones affecting your mood and weight but that’s the way your body was designed. So when you go to college and gain that Freshman 15 or binge on a family size bag of Lays, don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember that you’re beautiful despite the visible ‘thigh gap’ or the rock-hard abs or the glowing skin. You need to celebrate and love your body just as it is.

On Being Single – Speaking from experience, being single is FREAKING FANTASTIC. You’re allowed to focus and invest in your passion projects, strengthen your female friendships and most importantly become self-reliant. Really enjoy those single years and don’t spend that time waiting and hoping for romantic love, because that too will come. And when it does come, then really enjoy being in a relationship!

On Solitude – They say solitude begets creativity. Now, I’m not saying that you should hole up in your room all day but, instead, you should create little spaces of time when you’re just alone. During this time, indulge those creative juices of yours, reflect on things which may bother you, write in a journal or read that book you’ve been meaning to get to.

On Gratefulness – If you’re in a privileged position i.e. have food on the table, a roof over your head, a secure home, be grateful. A large percentage of people in the world dream to have the things you take for granted. If you’re fortunate, use that upper pedestal for the betterment of the community around you.

On Taking Risks – Take a whole bunch of risks in your 20’s, career-wise or in the romantic arena. Your 20’s are the best time to bet on your future because as you grow older, the responsibility and the need to settle down kicks in, so go ahead and be adventurous!

On High School – If you didn’t have great friends or a happening social life in high school because you were considered ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’, don’t let that bring you down. You will find your tribe in college who accepts you just as you are and who’ll ADORE your quirkiness.

On Social Media – Unfortunately, you’ve been born into the ‘social media generation’, which through apps like Instagram and Twitter can make you feel as if you’re living the loneliest and boring existence in all of mankind. Social media is great at creating a façade of happiness by making it seem as if people have got their lives together but trust me when I say, they don’t. Never let the number of likes and retweets make or break your self-worth because you are an entity greater than something that needs to be validated by a heart button.

On Inspiration – It’s easy to get inspired by Victoria Secret models and random influencers online, but it’s often better to look at real-life examples of women actually doing meaningful and substantial work in their respective fields. Go look at the female doctors, engineers, writers, homemakers, and lawyers around you to gain inspiration rather than an Instagram model. Aspire to be a woman who values intelligence and carries herself with grace and is a role model to young, impressionable girls.

On Rejection – There will be so much rejection in your life and that is a simple fact. It may come in the form of unrequited love or the job that you thought you were perfect for but didn’t get but take that rejection with a pinch of salt, learn from it, and move on. Keep failing and keep trying because with that comes even greater growth. Understand that each closed door was probably life redirecting you to the path you were meant to stay on; the path leading you to your dreams.

On Race – If you’re a person of color, there will be times when the color of your skin becomes a determinant of your value in this world. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where racism exists but to survive and protect yourself emotionally, you need to never allow someone to make you feel inferior and unworthy. Instead, channel that frustration into your work and you’ll end up reaping rewards that will leave the people who invalidated you, shamefaced.

On Bullies and Toxic People – The hard truth of life is that bullies and toxic people exist everywhere; from the classroom to the workplace and sometimes even within ones’ family. These people tend to manifest their own insecurities through emotional, verbal and even online abuse to cause pain to people. It took me 22 years to realize that you can’t let these people win. You can’t let that toxicity control you and affect your mindset because you’re life is too worthy and not deserving of this trauma. So stand up to that bully and remind them that you’re not the little girl who didn’t know how to defend herself anymore – take your stand.

On Marriage – As you head through your 20’s there will be a lot of societal and cultural pressure to begin thinking about marriage and ‘settling down’. But you need to know that getting married is not something to check off a list and neither is it an accomplishment. Marriage is a choice, it’s a sacred commitment you make when you’ve found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. So never let anyone pressure you into taking that huge step unless and until you’re ready for it.

On Asking For Help – Life isn’t easy. There are times when you feel stressed or depressed or just plain anxious, but you continue to weather on by suppressing those feelings. You continue to struggle in this hole you’ve unfortunately found yourself in not realizing that there are a whole host of people whose hand you can reach for. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness or a personal failure, it’s a sign of courage. To ask for help shows that you admit that you’ve been struggling and don’t want to struggle anymore. It simply shows your willingness to get better.

On Accomplishments – Often whilst running in this rat race of life, we forget to stop and pat ourselves on the back just to appreciate how far we’ve actually come. We’re so caught up on getting the next big thing or taking the next step, that we forget to celebrate the little and big victories along the way on the way. Learn to be happy in the present and acknowledge how much you’ve accomplished up till now.

On Parents – As you grow older, so do your parents. Your parents aren’t going to be here forever, so cherish the time you have with them, respect their opinions and just have a nice chat with them. Ask them about the stories of their childhood and what they were like at your age. And be as, if not more compassionate to them as they grow older. After all, didn’t they do the same for you when you were a baby?

On Delayed Gratification – In the world of instantaneous likes and retweets, we’re used to getting things we want very quickly. So, when we don’t get the things we want immediately, we’re disappointed. But you need to understand that Bill Gates didn’t become Bill Gates overnight and Serena Williams didn’t become a Grand Slam Champion through luck. These people hustled and worked harder than all the people around them for years on end to get to the position where they are now. So keep going at it with that big passion project of yours and give it time until it comes to fruition.

On Pleasing People – This is a tricky one because after all, who doesn’t like to be loved by everyone. But trust me when I say that even the most popular kids at high school had a few haters. There will be people in this world who will just not like you by no fault of your own and sadly, there’s nothing you can do about it. So, be kind to everyone you meet and do your part of a decent human being.

On Reading – And by reading I don’t meet the glancing at the headlines on Twitter or skimming articles on Facebook, I mean picking up the damn book and devouring it. Not only will reading make you a more empathetic person and a great conversationalist, but it’ll be greatly pleasurable. Not to mention, all the successful people (J.K Rowling/Warren Buffet) in this world were avid bookworms.

On Life – Life is not and will never be linear. It is messy and difficult to decipher at times but unfortunately, that’ll be something you’ll just have to accept. And if I’m being honest, I think you already have.

About the author
A convoluted mortal currently residing on Mother Earth Follow Neha on Instagram or read more articles from Neha on Thought Catalog.

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