20 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

1. People come into your life for a reason.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be exposed to a lot of people in your life. Some of them you’ll connect with and some you won’t. Some you’ll connect deeply with and keep that connection lifelong; others you’ll connect meaningfully with for a brief moment and then may never see them again. This will happen throughout your entire life. Learn to embrace the fluidity of your relationships.

2. Potatoes are not an entire meal.

Yes, they are a cheap vegetable and easy to cook. So are lots of other vegetables. So is rice. Your body will thank you later if you throw a spinach salad and some red and orange in there every once in a while.

3. Don’t stay too committed to your ideas and opinions.

Being stubborn is helpful in certain situations, and sure, it’s important to know what you like. Don’t be afraid to stay open to new ways of seeing the world or to reshape your opinion. Holding onto archaic ideas in an ever-changing world is a recipe for disaster. Stay flexible.

4. Reading is more relaxing than watching TV.

While TV may seem like the obvious choice for winding down, it stimulates your brain so fiercely and in so many ways that you’re actually doing the opposite of relaxing. If you need to chill, pick up a book and let your mind escape into the story.

5. Your parents are right most of the time.

They have lived a lot more life than you and genuinely want what’s best for you, so give them a chance to be heard. That being said, take everything they say with a grain of salt. The world was a different place when they were your age, and while their advice holds a lot of merit, there should always be room for your own voice and feelings.

6. There’s no rush.

Yes, of course you could die tomorrow, and so maybe you feel like you need to accomplish everything right now. But I implore you to ask yourself this: If you did die tomorrow, wouldn’t you rather enjoy today instead of worrying about leaving the ‘perfect’ life behind? Your story unfolds because of the choices you make, and you and only you get to live with the results of those choices. Don’t be in a hurry to get through life and check things off of some imaginary list just to check off the next one without pausing to soak in the moment of glory following the accomplishment. Slow down.

7. Nobody will ever care about what happens to you as much as you do.

Life is personal. Your experiences are yours. You can share them with people as much as you want, but hold them sacred to your heart knowing they will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to you. It’s okay to keep precious moments close to yourself.

8. You can take responsibility for your life.

Seek help from therapists, get massages, and ask for advice, but know that ultimately the work of healing and learning must be done by you. You cannot outsource the work of changing your life. If you want things to be different, take responsibility. Become aware of changes you can make and then make them.

9. There is nothing embarrassing about a close-knit family.

There may have been a time in your life where it felt mortifying to be hugged so tightly by your uncles or to have your grandparents show up at your dance recitals. The reality is you are extraordinarily lucky to have so many supportive people in your family. It’s true that they don’t have a choice to be in your life, but they do have a choice to care about you, and that’s the choice they’ve made. Never take that for granted.

10. Your body will treat you as well as you treat it.

If you stay up all night eating junk food and slam energy drinks and coffees to get through the day, never stretching or strengthening your vessel, it will start to betray you. If you eat pronounceable foods, sleep a decent amount, and move your body in creative and dynamic ways, you might just be surprised at how great you feel. Yes, it does matter what you eat. Yes, it does matter if you exercise or not. It may not feel like it now, but sooner than you want to, you will start to feel the effects of years of potato marathons and two-hour naps.

11. Everyone goes through life at a different speed.

This holds true with learning, falling in love, or establishing a career. You’re not failing because things happen for you in a different order.

12. It may take a while for you to figure out what you want.

Not all of us are born knowing we want to be pilots or musicians or teachers. For some of us, discovering our passions takes years. Don’t be afraid to try new things and expand your comfort zone if life isn’t going how you thought it would.

13. Sex is neither a dirty word nor a dirty deed.

A healthy sex life is key for a healthy life, and exploring your sensual side will only make you happier and healthier. Yes, that means masturbation! There’s so much science on the health benefits if you need an excuse to touch yourself.

14. Asking for help does not mean you’re needy.

Think of how good it feels to help a friend when you know they need it. Now let yourself be the one to receive when you need to. That’s what support systems are for. People who make you feel needy when you ask for help do not have your best interests at heart.

15. Not everyone you meet will like you.

Do you want to be best friends with everyone you’ve ever met? Surely not. Have opinions about people. Establish boundaries and decide what are important qualities in your friends and partners. It’s okay to be choosy about the people in your life. Learn how to be okay with people not wanting you in their life.

16. Repetition is sexy.

If you’re good at something, keep doing it! In neuroscience, they often say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” That goes for math problems, dance moves, and languages; basically anything that becomes programmed into your brain and body can be lost if it’s not used. So, make use of the connections that exist! Stay good at what you’re already good at. It’s also neat to learn new things, but don’t give up on what you already know. Foundation is key.

17. A morning routine will change your life.

Whether it is an elaborate tiered schedule allowing for variations in time or a simple check-in, spending some time to set the tone of your day will radicalize your life. The novelty of jumping out of bed and running out the door wears off pretty quickly.

18. Authenticity is difficult.

Staying true to your beliefs, morals, and values can be incredibly challenging in a world that becomes increasingly focused on profiting off the similarities of the masses. Standing out becomes not only a radical act but can damage your social standing, which may in turn damage your livelihood. Recognize that you may have to, under certain circumstances, make a trade-off between sticking to your guns and just surviving. Ultimately, you get to decide if speaking up for what you believe in is worth losing a job or a connection to a group of people. Authenticity is a choice, and one that is always difficult to make.

19. There are no positive or negative feelings.

Only pleasant or unpleasant. Feeling joyful is much more pleasant than feeling terrified, but they are equally important. If you need proof, watch Inside Out.

20. The best parts are the little moments.

I have this image burned into my mind’s eye of my mum standing at the end of the grocery aisle. She was ahead of me and turned back to make sure I was following. When she saw me, she smiled. Nothing more than that. It’s one of the best memories I have, and I always call on it when I need a boost. That was free, spontaneous, and simple. Don’t overthink the enjoyment of life.

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