21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years

1) Do things because you love them, not because it’s expected.

For me, this manifested a lot in wearing makeup. It also seemed like I would be liked more if I wore makeup. PSA: If someone only likes you because you started wearing makeup, they are not friends!

2) The sooner you create a personal hygiene routine, the better.

So, up until basically this year (sophomore year in college), I didn’t have a hygiene routine. Or really a routine at all, other than going on the computer. Routines do so much and have given my daily life structure. I do wish, however, that I’d started the process when I was about 13 or so. I wasn’t working, I didn’t have a ton of homework, and my bathroom at the time had a heater! (it is so much easier to take a shower at night with a heater in the bathroom).

3) Water is your friend.

You don’t know how much I hated drinking water as a kid. If there wasn’t anything else to drink but water, I’d go thirsty. (Thankfully I wasn’t in a part of the world where there isn’t anything other than water and sometimes the water isn’t even clean). Water has many benefits. It clears up your skin, hydrates you (did you know that if you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated?!), gives you energy, and makes you stink less when you sweat. (side note – did you know that you can actually train yourself to crave water! Thanks to my friend for sharing the tip her teacher gave her when she was younger)

4) Mistakes are not necessarily bad or shameful.

If you never made a mistake, how would you learn not to do that said thing? I mean, someone (a parent, hopefully) could tell you ‘don’t touch the griddle, it’s hot’, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect as slamming your hand down on the hot griddle and learning your lesson that way. In that case, you have multiple pathways in your brain firing in the ‘don’t touch the hot griddle’ direction. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I’m guessing everyone else has too. The only thing that makes a mistake a bad thing is not learning anything from it. Sure, you might make the mistake several times (like putting your shoes on the wrong feet – I did that again this morning, and last week, and two months ago), but each time you learn something from it and you learn a bit of a different lesson. Going with the shoe example, this time I learned that if I have to force my feet into my boots and my feet hurt, it’s time to stop. It’s a different lesson than I’ve learned in the past, and they were rain boots, not my normal boots. But I’m not a bad person for putting my shoes on the wrong feet. If a doctor messes up in a surgery. Yes, that’s a horrible situation and it’s really bad. But that doesn’t mean they are bad or need to be shamed for it. And I’ll bet you that they learned a big lesson from that surgery!

5) Going to therapy does not mean you are weak.

I go to therapy. My therapist goes to therapy. If that second line doesn’t tell you anything, I don’t know what will. In my statistics class today (yes, in my MATH class), my professor was talking about how he has a friend who’s a psychiatrist and his friend goes to another psychiatrist. The whole point of that discussion was that everyone has variations in their mental state (variations – deviations – standard deviation – error measurements from the line of best fit – it’s all math). Going to therapy means you are HUMAN and you have emotions and issues in your life occasionally that you can’t work through on your own. And that is okay! Life is extremely complex. Sometimes all I do in therapy is just rant to my therapist about something I didn’t like that happened at work. Or about my parents (they’re probably reading this, but I hope they know that I rant about them to my therapist). Or my friends! My therapist knows many of my friends, and sometimes she brings them up. If she knows I’m having a hard time ‘have you talked to _____ lately?’. Also, you don’t have to have PTSD or autism or a very severe mental disorder that can only be found deep in the DSM-5 to go to therapy. I remember in high school I found out one of my friends went to therapy. She was very open about it, and I didn’t think less of her because of it, but I remember thinking ‘I am never going to go to therapy’. Well, look at me now. I thought if I went to therapy that would make me weak and mean that I couldn’t pull myself up and function ‘normally’ without help, which meant I was bad. Quite the opposite actually! Asking for help when you need it is actually a sign of strength.

6) Love yourself. I don’t care if people around you think it’s conceited. It’s not.

I am still working on my journey to self-love, so I can’t say I’ve got it all figured out. But self-love is not conceited or big-headed or something to be judged about! If someone is trying to judge you for loving yourself, it’s time to step away from that person. Loving yourself makes you happier overall, and it’s way easier to laugh at your own jokes.

7) There is always going to be new ‘stuff’ out there. You cannot see it all.

Mostly for me, this applies to YouTube. Every once in a while I search something and you know how 500+ videos pop up? Well, I somehow think that I need to (and can) watch them all. I end up getting overwhelmed and frustrated because in the next 20-minute long video there might have been something new that would have been life-changing to know. Yes, there is that chance. But honestly, my life won’t be any worse without that information. I’m still trying to learn this one (as evidenced by my 300+ videos in my watch later playlist), but it’s a lesson that I have learned in 21 years. I’m just still trying to put it into practice.

8) Sometimes done is good enough.

Especially with school. If getting all A’s in your classes causes a mental breakdown, take a step back. I’ve gotten a few C+’s in college, and it’s not the end of the world. In high school, I got a B+ in my Freshman year English class, and given that I still haven’t let it go 7 years later, you can tell how much I cared about it at that time. Even if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, grades aren’t everything (here you see me trying to convince myself that I’ll still be able to get into vet school with a C+ in physics). When I’m writing a research paper for a class, I don’t stress myself out about it being perfect. Especially if the professor didn’t define the specifics needed in the paper, or explain the material clearly enough. If I don’t get an A on that research paper, that’s okay! My overall grade depends on many things, and that research paper might have only been 5 or 10% of my grade, maybe even less! But not turning it in will always make that assignment a zero.

9) The fewer things I put on my skin, the better.

I hardly ever wear makeup. For me, it’s mostly just more effort than I want to put in on a daily basis (refer to tip 1 if confused). I have one brand of lotion that I put on my face to minimize the ingredients (my night cream – my morning cream). I use sensitive skin face wash, and am considering after this bottle runs out (my current face wash) just using my unscented Dr. Bronner’s for face wash and body wash (fun fact – it can also be used to clean pets! Just make sure it’s unscented – essential oils can be toxic to pets). My skin is SUPER sensitive, and if I have a flare-up, there are fewer ingredients to try to eliminate if I’m only using simple things. Also, after about 6 years of wearing Bath and Body Works lotion and body spray, I finally figured out that something about their products was causing my skin to break out. I was super upset because have you smelled their products?! I mean, come on! So now I stick to their candles, which still smell pretty good. I do have perfume, and I can use scented products on my hair, but anything that I put on my skin has to be thoroughly tested and have simple ingredients. Which is annoying! Especially because lavender is something in almost every single ‘stress relief’ or ‘soothing’ product, and I’m allergic to it! This may not be the case for everyone. But always better to learn if it is the case sooner rather than later.

10) Don’t say sorry as much.

When you bump into someone accidentally, try saying ‘excuse me’ instead. You don’t need to say ‘sorry’ when you’re passing in front of someone in the aisle of the grocery store. ‘excuse me. Thank you’ will suffice. I’ve found that saying sorry really puts myself down and puts me in a mindset of being less than everyone else and living to serve, and that’s not a cool mindset to have. Try monitoring yourself to see how many times you say ‘sorry’. And then try exchanging it for something else that’s less demeaning. Of course, if you hurt someone, a sorry is in order, just don’t overuse it.

11) Sleep is amazing.

When I was younger, I would never take naps. Now, I live to take naps. Sleep is great! I wish I’d started getting that mindset about sleep when I was younger and had time to take naps but see point 13.

12) Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

This goes along with some of the previous statements. I forget who the quote is by, but if you Google it it’s a pretty well-known one. Just let the quote sink in for a minute.

13) You have to be ready to better yourself.

Do I wish I’d created a personal hygiene routine earlier? Yes. Was I ready to create one? No. I have to believe that I’ve done everything in my life for a reason and that everything was done at the right time. Otherwise, I’ll go into existential crisis mode, and that isn’t fun for anyone. Although it’d probably be hilarious to watch.

14) Stop looking to others for validation.

I say affirmations every night (out loud) from a ‘master list’ that I make at the beginning of each month. One that I added the first week of January is ‘I validate myself.’ Another one is ‘Only my opinions about myself matter.’ And it’s true! People can tell you that you are okay over and over again, but it won’t help unless you are the one telling yourself that.

15) Do what works for you.

Not everything that works for someone else will work the same for you. This includes mindsets. If someone tries to force you into a mindset that you suspect will negatively affect you or that you know will negatively affect you, say something like ‘thank you. I’m glad this works for you, but it won’t work for me. I appreciate you wanting to help me in my life.’ Whenever my friends tell me a mindset that works for them, I am super happy for them! But when they try to tell me that I should try having that mindset, I get a bit upset. It’s my life – I know what will work for me and what will not.

16) Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Nobody can get that job for you. Nobody can write your application essay for you (or at least they shouldn’t). Nobody can make you shower (well… again, they shouldn’t). The motivation and drive has to come from you. If you want to do something, you’ll do it. But if not, you’ll make an excuse. And that’s fine! Sometimes we don’t want to do things and nothing negative will happen if we don’t do them, even if they’re things that society has told us we have to do. The decision is yours. Are you living for yourself, or are you living to please society’s expectations?

17) Don’t leave things up to the last minute.

TRUST ME on this one. I’m in college. I’ve been through high school. You have no idea how many times I’ve written an essay that I’ve had weeks to work on the night before it was due. I’m an expert at it. And I’m not proud of that. In fact, I’ve been writing tips 10-21 at 1 am on the morning of my birthday, because I was procrastinating. It’ll make you do sloppy work and you won’t have the time to let it, as my friend says, ‘marinate’. If you have to force yourself to start the essay, do it! If you have to force yourself to call your parent, just do it! If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now. Opening a word document and putting the title takes about 30 seconds, and at least you’ll start. It’s easier to, once you start, work more on it.

18) Listen.

So many people listen to respond not to process and take in information. Listening to people, particularly when elders are telling you their stories, is not only a great thing to do because it will make them feel good and you feel good, but you might also learn something! There is so much knowledge out there in the world that we don’t know because we haven’t taken the time to listen! My math professor for January term is amazing. He tells the best stories. He talks a lot about real-life situations. For example, today he was talking about how we shouldn’t put ourselves down. He was telling one girl that it was her lucky day because he had an extra handout that he’d given out the day before, and she was saying how she wasn’t lucky. He then told us both about how we should never do that. He was also talking about peer pressure. Listening to stories like that make me smile so much. It’s clear that they want to pass on their knowledge to you, and that they have had fantastic experiences in their lives and learned a lot. And they are also fellow listeners; for that’s how they obtained that knowledge.

19) Forgiveness is the key to letting go.

You can keep holding on to anger or hatred or even just plain being upset, but you will never truly be able to move on until you forgive. As hard as it may be, for I know there are many different types of situations out there, forgiveness is really the only way to move on. Forgive yourself for being at a certain place at a certain time. Forgive yourself for not knowing it all. Forgive yourself.

20) Sleep with your phone far away from your bed.

I have started plugging my phone in on my desk at night. That way, I can still hear my alarm when it goes off, I can still play quiet music when I’m going to bed, but it’s not right next to me. I noticed that when I couldn’t sleep, I’d gotten into the habit of picking up my phone and surfing Facebook or something. Of course, that didn’t help me to sleep. I also find that when I have to get out of bed to turn off my alarm, it wakes me up a tiny bit more. Though I usually just crawl back in bed because I don’t have class until 10:30 all January. But 8 am’s start February 5th. Guess I’ll have to remedy my getting up routine…

21) Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Laughing with friends is one of the best stress relievers and it makes my mood go way up. When they say laughter is the best medicine, they weren’t lying. Also, learn to laugh at yourself. It makes life less serious and puts humor into the tough stuff, which can make it easier to talk about.

Let me know what you think!