My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and I turned 23 years old. (Almost a New Year’s baby!) With every year that passes, I take time to reflect on the life lessons I learned along the way.
Honestly, I wasn’t excited about turning 23. I think it’s because I feel a lot of pressure in this stage of my life. Pressure from all directions. From family, my peers, society, and myself. I put the greatest pressure on myself.
All of a sudden, I’m expected to have it all figured out. I’m expected to follow the path that everybody else follows. I’m expected to tailor my life to fit society’s standards, its idea of what is best for me.
I don’t want a cookie-cutter life.
23-year-olds are expected to finish college, get a 9 to 5 job, and spend years working their way up an elitist corporate ladder that does not value everyone’s skills equally. In the corporate world, I feel invisible.
There is nothing wrong with getting a 9 to 5 job and giving the system what it wants. In fact, that might be an easier path to success. But I’ve decided that is not what I want for myself.
My most important realization from year 22 to 23 is that this is my life. I am so grateful for the people in my life, and I respect their opinions. But as someone who has spent my whole life trying to please other people, it’s time for me to do something for myself.
Being my own boss.
I currently have two part-time remote jobs with companies I used to work for in-person. (I’m so blessed!) My plan for Q1 is to diversify my income even more. I’m seeking more freelance writing gigs, and I’m spending a lot of time on my blog. You’ll be seeing me around more often. 😉
2020 is the year for me to take control. To take the things I’ve learned and do the damn thing. I’m ready to work harder than I’ve ever worked and let my passion guide me. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve earned and the lessons my experiences have taught me.
Here are 23 life lessons I learned in 23 years:
1. I’m not meant to fit inside a box.
Ever since I was little, I’ve had a wild imagination. Going into adulthood, that creative energy translated into big goals that sound crazy to some people. My ideas often transcend the metaphorical “box.”
When I was in school, I did everything I could to fit in and live a life that other people deemed appropriate. But on the inside, I knew I was weird. I was painfully insecure about it. I didn’t want anyone to know the real me.
At 23, I have fully embraced my uniqueness. I’m happy to be different.I'm not meant to fit inside a box.
2. When one door closes, another one opens.
Not every opportunity works out, but I’ve realized that a better one is always around the corner.
Before my first year of college, I decided to go through sorority recruitment. Long story short, all the sororities I felt connections with dropped me after the first day. I was devastated.
I felt so hurt that I decided to quit the process completely. In retrospect, I should have continued with it. But my 18-year-old self felt embarrassed and ashamed to show my face anywhere after my sorority recruitment experience.
The next three years of college were nothing short of amazing. I made incredible friends, got involved in student organizations, and had the time of my life. Even though Greek life didn’t work out, the universe had better things planned for me.When one door closes, another one opens.
3. Being judgmental of others is a waste of energy.
I’m more productive when I focus my energy on improving myself instead of criticizing other people.
These days, I hit the pause button whenever I catch myself judging someone else. In 2020, I actively avoid doing things that deplete my energy.Being judgmental of others is a waste of energy.
4. Passion is my single biggest motivator.
If I’m working on my blog or a freelance writing task, I can grind for 12 hours a day without wanting to quit. At a regular job, I’m ready to tap out by the fifth or sixth hour.
I’ve realized that I have to let passion guide me in my professional endeavors. If I love what I’m doing, I can be twice as productive.Passion is my single biggest motivator.
5. Authority figures are not always right.
As a kid, I always followed the rules. I was afraid of parents, teachers, and other authority figures. I grew up thinking they knew everything. I believed the people in charge always had the right answers.
Now that I’m an adult, I respect others’ opinions, but I trust my intuition above all. To find direction in life, I have to go with my gut.Authority figures are not always right.
6. People-pleasing behavior is toxic.
I love my family. They are amazing. But when I was young, I developed an unhealthy people-pleasing habit. I did everything to please my family instead of focusing on things that I wanted to do.
My constant need for approval carried over into my friendships and romantic relationships. I became a pushover. I subjected myself to multiple abusive relationships without even realizing what I was doing. People walked all over me.
I’ve learned that I can’t underestimate the dangers of people-pleasing behavior. Going forward, I am putting my own desires before anyone else’s.People-pleasing behavior is toxic.
7. Other people don’t know me better than I know myself.
I know what is best for me. I consider the opinions of my family and friends, but they don’t know me like I know myself. It’s difficult when the people I love don’t agree with my life decisions, but as an adult, I have to trust myself more than I trust anyone else.
In 2020, I strive to be more independent. This is my year!Other people don't know me better than I know myself.
8. My emotions are valid.
When faced with conflict, some of my past romantic partners have completely invalidated my feelings and made me feel small. After reflecting on the situations, I’ve realized how insensitive it was for them to tell me I shouldn’t feel a certain way.
It didn’t matter. Even though they didn’t understand why I was upset, my feelings were still valid. Everyone reacts differently, and it’s not OK to make people feel like they’re crazy for having emotions.My emotions are valid.
9. I must value my skills.
Writing is one of my talents. Unfortunately, the corporate world doesn’t value writing skills as much as it should. I decided to work for myself instead of immediately searching for a 9 to 5 job because I wanted to price my services based on what they’re worth, not based on a business’ budget.I must value my skills.
10. Self-doubt will kill my hustle.
In my 23 years, the single biggest obstacle I faced was self-doubt. During high school and college, my insecurities prevented me from dreaming. I sold myself short. I didn’t believe I could accomplish anything big.
In 2020, I am more confident than ever before. Don’t get me wrong—some days, I still lie in bed and cry because I’m so afraid of failure.
I have a strategy to conquer self-doubt. I remind myself that I am strong, capable, and talented. Even if something doesn’t work out the first, second, third, or fourth time, I know that I will get it right eventually as long as I keep trying.Self-doubt will kill my hustle.
11. I have to forgive myself.
I used to have a hard time letting things go. For example, if I made a mistake or embarrassed myself, I couldn’t forget about it and move forward.
Now, when a bad memory clouds my mind, I remind myself that no one is perfect. Instead of beating myself up, I focus on the lesson I learned from the mistake. I forgive myself and keep going.I have to forgive myself.
12. Patience is key.
At times, I am too impatient with myself, especially when it comes to long-term goals.
When I started my new fitness routine last year, it took months for me to notice any change. For a while, I thought I was stagnant—not making any progress whatsoever. But I was patient, and I didn’t give up. I eventually saw progress. The results were well worth the wait.Patience is key.
13. I am most productive in the early morning.
Fun fact: I got up at 3:30 a.m. to finish this blog post. I planned to finish it yesterday, but I couldn’t get to it. So, I set my alarm back a couple of hours, and I woke up super early to finish writing. At this hour, my mind is clear, and my work environment is distraction-free.
Whenever I’m behind on work, I just wake up earlier to get back on track. Because I am self-employed, I can make my own schedule.
Still not convinced the early bird life is better? Check out my post on 10 benefits of waking up early.I am most productive in the early morning.
14. Mindset is (almost) everything.
Life isn’t perfect. Both good and bad things are going to happen. Even though I’m not always in control of the circumstances I’m in, I can manage my mindset.
I try to stay as positive as possible in all situations. In darkness, I try to find the light. I’m blocking negative energy in 2020 so I can feel happy all year long.Mindset is (almost) everything.
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15. Little things in life are worth celebrating.
When I’m having a bad day, I try to find little things to be happy about—hugs from loved ones, scoops of ice cream, cute kittens, or warm blankets. Happiness is a mindset, and life will seem dull if I don’t slow down to appreciate its little pleasures.Little things in life are worth celebrating.
16. Money doesn’t buy happiness.
In college, I dated a guy who told me that money was the key to happiness. I disagreed with him back then, and I still do.
Of course, financial stability relieves stress, but material things only provide temporary happiness. I’ve realized that I can find something positive in every situation. Money is irrelevant.Money doesn't buy happiness.
17. Good habits are instrumental in making long-term changes.
Countless times, I have set goals and failed to stick to them. I must turn actions into habits if I want to see growth. When I prioritized fitness and made going to the gym a daily habit, I saw results. Personal growth is a marathon, not a sprint.Good habits are instrumental in making long-term changes.
18. Physical health and mental health affect each other.
When my diet is poor, I don’t feel like myself. And when I’m going through a depressive phase, my physical health also suffers.
Because physical health and mental health are connected, I’ve realized that they are equally important. This year, both physical and mental health are priorities of mine.Physical health and mental health affect each other.
19. I am my own best personal trainer.
I’m not saying this to discredit licensed personal trainers at all. They know what they’re doing. However, I’ve learned that I must find the motivation from within to get in shape, or else I won’t get anywhere
To achieve my fitness goals, I have to be in the right mindset first.I am my own best personal trainer.
20. Without downtime, burnout is inevitable.
In high school and college, I made the mistake of taking on too many responsibilities. I overworked myself, and I suffered from burnout.
Now that I’m self-employed, I’m in charge of my own hustle—but I know that downtime, self-care, and relaxation are crucial parts of my schedule.
I work hard every day, but I let myself have a break when I need it. I sleep when I’m tired. I eat when I’m hungry. I relax when I’m feeling antsy. By being kind to myself, I maximize my productivity.Without downtime, burnout is inevitable.
21. I have to be assertive to get what I want.
As a kid, I was super shy. People knew me as the quiet girl who sat in the corner.
After I moved to the city, I came out of my shell. The “shy girl” persona didn’t work for me anymore, especially as a communication major.
Now, I speak up. I know I will not get what I want unless I ask for it.I have to be assertive to get what I want.
22. Self-made people do not exist.
I would never, ever call myself self-made. I don’t think anyone should. (Kylie Jenner, this one is for you!)
I can’t get anywhere in life without the help of other people. I wouldn’t have been successful without the love and guidance of my family and educators.
No one is self-made. We are all influenced by the people around us. That’s why support systems are so important. As an adult, I’m selective with the people I allow to be a part of my life. I only want good vibes surrounding me.Self-made people do not exist.
23. Everything is going to be OK.
I’ve struggled with mental health issues for the majority of my life. There were times I thought I wouldn’t make it another week.
But no matter what happens, everything always works out. Things do get better. Even when I feel like my life is falling apart, I’ve learned that everything is going to be OK.Everything is going to be OK.
Thanks for reading!
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