At 20, I was a little bit anxious I lost the ‘teen’ suffix and my age has become somewhat ‘responsible’. At 21, I started feeling very unaccomplished for someone, who’s getting closer and closer towards their 30th birthday. In the early hours of tomorrow I’m turning 22 and now I am terrified, as I finally know that none of the previous years required as much adulting as this one will.
So before the clock strikes midnight, I want to memorise the things I’ve already learned in life so far. To remember later on that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, and also realised how small and insignificant some of my troubles were. However educational, past is still in the past – what’s going to happen next, that’s what really matters. So including things I still need to do or learn, possibly within the next year of my life, seemed necessary too.
Truths learned and things that I yet have to discover and practice. 11 of each, for each year of my life. Let’s go.
1. Not everyone is going to love you
Being an only child, a very spoiled and loved one, has made me extremely vulnerable to any critique or dislike from other people. Realising that they might be as hurt by something I did or said as I am when they tell me this to my face was a massive turning point this year.
2. Grades are just numbers, there are more important things
It has taken me 3 years of ripping my hair out at University to finally realise that although First Class Honours sound beautiful and it’s a great achievement that I have no intention of rejecting or diminishing, I made some sacrifices to get it that weren’t quite worth it. Priorities in life is still something I am in the process of working out, and I don’t think it will ever be completed.
3. Losing weight doesn’t make you a better person
Looking back at my ‘skinny months’ at the beginning of this year, I can see that if uncontrolled and too obsessive, weightloss can make you the exact opposite. I was feeling superior of people who didn’t eat well, I body shamed bigger girls in my head. And I ended up in deeper shit than most of them. So I guess karma is a bitch, but so was I and I’m still paying my price.
4. True love is worth fighting for
This is one of the priorities that had to outgrow all the other ones, as no job, money or degree can substitute for losing the most important person in your life. Hold on to people that have seen the worst of you and still love you, because they are very hard to find again – that would be my lesson, and advice to you too.
5. Perfectionism can be harmful
This is very much linked with the grades obsession, but my perfectionism (that I am still working on) has lead me to believe the life I was living was worthless, if I had an off-schedule day, didn’t work out hard enough or woke up 2 hours past the alarm. Nobody’s perfect, we’re all just human beings, and from now on I shall choose happy over perfect every time.
6. It’s okay to NOT know what you’re doing with your life
Some adults will agree with that, some will not, which probably makes them go on to doing Masters degrees or accepting jobs they despise just to prove ‘you’re staying productive’. I got a job straight after uni, but I was prepared not to. I was ready to take some time to not try and figure out who I want to be, but just go with the flow, work as a waitress, live, see the world. True career waits, and you don’t own any explanations to anyone. It’s a bit like virginity, I just realised.
7. Be yourself, everyone else is taken
A truth very hard to accept for someone with a gigantic Instagram feed and little confidence in their own looks/success/life, but I am slowly starting to like just being the person that I am. A rehab away from social media could probably help a lot, but since I can’t do that, I will just repeat that phrase to myself every morning, in front of the mirror. Until it sinks in.
8. You can’t ‘tweak’ people to make them suit your needs and ideals
Friends can be annoying. Families can be annoying. Partners can make you go crazy. But it’s how it is, and turning your back at them for it is just stupid. They probably hate your guts sometimes too, but we’re not all the same for a reason, and disagreements come with the whole package. It would be sad if we just all got on, all the bloody time, wouldn’t it?
9. Travelling is the best therapy
And I’m not saying that it’s okay to run away from whatever is troubling you, as problems need to be faced (another thing I’ve learned). But to get away from all the same streets, stuffy rooms and faces is refreshing. I realised it makes it motivated, gives a reason to take my pen out, to dust off the camera. Travelling heals, in a way, especially when just before leaving you start questioning it and want to stay in your cave. This lesson I particularly loved.
10. People who love you are allowed to know you’re not okay
No, telling them will not make you seem weak. Like you’ve failed, or disappointed, did not live up to their high expectations. I understood, finally, that my own expectations of myself were a lot higher, more demanding, more damaging than those of my loved ones. They only want you to be happy, as this (and health) are the only things in life that truly matter.
For a few months now, as I’ve lingered in the terrifying stupor of doing absolutely nothing with my time, hearing ‘you only get one life, it’s your duty to live it to the fullest’ was making me extremely angry and sad, as I wasn’t able to fulfil my duty. But I know it’s true and I will try better, before I’m 40 and full of resentment when looking at 20-year-olds. Missed chances, I think, taste rather bitterly.
12. Get professional help and face recovery
Telling someone that you’re struggling is one thing – admitting it to yourself is much harder. The most brave of all though, is telling the demons in your head to fuck off and getting help. I’ve made some steps forward, but for each I make a step back. This new year of life is for getting real.
13. Stop hoarding, start letting go
I’m a collector, I’ve always been. Postcards, love letters, clothes, magazines – you name it, I hoard it somewhere in my room. Realising that memories last without material evidence is something I yet have to work on, starting with small donations to charity shops and big recycling bags.
14. Don’t take the lead in planning a life with someone
A big change is coming up. I’m about to move in with my partner for the first time properly, and the individual that I am, with newly discovered, yet quite strong leadership qualities, I need to learn how to not take over major decision and let our voices unite. Especially with decorating. And cooking. And planning the wedding.
15. Save some money for things that are worthwhile
I am very stingy when using someone else’s money. As soon as I earn my own, I spend like a maniac, on the most irrelevant, stupid items I don’t need. This year will be about coming up with actual goals that I’d be proud to provide funds for myself. Living more humbly every day to afford great adventures every now and then sounds good enough to me. Also, someone has to pay for that wedding and I’d rather it wasn’t all parents.
16. Learn to rest and enjoy life
Don’t get me wrong, I rest A LOT. But it’s not the right kind of resting. I tend to go from absolute overworking and exhaustion to this numb, stale stagnation that I hate. Resting that doesn’t make my brain tired is something I’ll be working on.
17. Write a diary again
Reading my diaries from secondary school years is probably my favourite thing to do when I go home – so much drama, stupid anecdotes, break ups, falling in love again, and again, and again. I miss pouring all of my joys and pains onto paper at the end of the day. My life, especially the love department, may be a little less complicated and novel-worthy these days, but I’m sure I can find moments to write about each day and look back on when I’m old and rusty.
18. Find a physical activity that’s not a chore
Same as with my hobbies, I’ve gone through so many sports: skiing, snowboarding, tennis, rollerskating, dancing… So of them I never had the patience for, some were just seasonal. But there were also those I left because I had to, especially dancing. I need to find that girl again, who loved dancing so much she never felt tired. Why not this year?
19. Get a hobby that isn’t Netflix
The comparisons to other people that I always (unfortunately) make have led me to believe I don’t have a real passion in life. And although it saddened me greatly, I now see a positive side – I have yet to unravel this mystery of what it is that actually makes me mad with happiness when I do it. Hmmm…
20. Read more Murakami
Read more in general, but that sounded a bit too cliche. Dad introduced me to Murakami’s world a while ago (I wrote about it here) and it’s a twisted, yet beautiful world. Full of metaphors I adore, and events or characters I don’t understand (which I usually don’t like in novels but here it’s the whole point of them). Less Sparks, more Haruki!
21. Finish what you start(ed)
A flash in the pan – I think that’s the accurate translation. So many unfinished journals, barely scratched projects, ideas.. Getting this blog going is one of them. I get discouraged way to easily and it’s always been this way. Maybe it’s high time I changed that.
22. Love your body as it is, but don’t neglect it
The way I see it, there’s a fine line between “I love and accept my love handles” and “I will eat the contents of the entire fridge, because I don’t care about my weight.” Kilograms are not just about looks, and I am still learning that. What you put in yours body can be damaging it from the inside. So less stressing about muffin tops, but also less muffins. Who needs diabetes when they’re 22, not to mention high cholesterol. I should save that for when I’m really old (30).