24 Life Lessons for 24 Years
June 5, 2016 marked my 24th birthday. Not a huge milestone but I took some time to reflect over the past 24 years and all that I have learned and accomplished. At 24, I have successfully completed my first year of graduate school, made the move to New York City, acquired my own health insurance, and signed on to my first grown-up apartment. I have completed five internships, held numerous odd jobs, accumulated nearly one hundred thousand dollars in loans, and successfully paid my own bills each month. By many standards, this is considered adulting, but to me, the real world is still a foreign concept. With one year left of graduate school and financial aid to lighten my load along the way, 24 seems like a stepping stone to the next chapter of my life or a bridge between college years and the ever looming adulthood.
Over the past 24 years, I have stumbled my way through most of it, often making it up as I go along. I’ve had my ups and downs, challenges and successes, and countless awkward moments in between. As I look back over my 24 years of existence, here are a few life lessons I picked up along the way:
1. This too shall pass. Every moment of our lives is in fact just a moment. Every challenge, every struggle, every roadblock is just a temporary moment in life’s journey. Even the worst of circumstances will eventually pass. But just as bad things will pass, so too will good. Not even the happiest of times can last forever. So learn from the bad times and cherish the good times because this too shall pass.
2. Scars are beautiful. Scars are proof of what we’ve overcome. Whether emotional or physical, scars remind us of all that we’ve been through and how we survived despite it all. Scars should be embraced as a reminder of our past and a sign of hope for the future.
3. Embrace your weirdness. Being normal is overrated. So much of our lives are wasted on trying to fit in and conform to society’s idea of normalcy. Be the person you are and the person you want to be, even if that person is weird and awkward and socially challenged (like me).
4. Ohana means family, family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. For a children’s movie, “Lilo and Stitch” captured the importance of family perfectly. Family is everything. Whether it’s the family you’re born into or the family that you choose, your family is your biggest advocate, your biggest support, and your biggest inspiration. You may fight and bicker and say things you don’t mean, but your family will always be there in a way that others won’t. Appreciate them and hold them close because you never know when you might lose them.
5. Embrace your inner bitch. Don’t be afraid to say what you want and do what you want. Stop wasting your time being “nice” and letting people walk all over you. Stand your ground and go after what you want, even it is means being a bitch in the process.
6. Follow your instincts. Only you know what feels right in the moment. Do the best you can and let your natural instincts be your guide.
7. You are an expert at your own life. Everyone will try to tell you what is best for you and what they think you should do, but no one knows your life better than you do. You are the only one who has experienced every moment, and you are the only one who truly knows who you are. You are the expert. Don’t let others try to tell you otherwise.
8. It’s ok to make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable. We all make them. Embrace your mistakes and use them as vessel for change and growth.
9. Everything happens for a reason. In every moment, we are exactly where we are meant to be. We may not understand it and we may not like it, but for some unknown reason out of our control, we are where we need to be. Embrace these moments as necessary stepping stones to better days.
10. Struggle is not weakness. Struggle is a necessary and inevitable part of life. It challenges up and makes us stronger. Every struggle is an opportunity for growth and a testament to our resilience as a person.
11. Money can’t buy you happiness. Happiness does not lie in a dollar sign or monetary value nor is it found in a stack of dollar bills or in a biweekly paycheck. Money in itself has no value in creating a meaningful life, but what you do with that money can. Save your money. Travel, go exploring, try new foods. Don’t focus on the amount of money but rather the opportunities it can grant you.
12. No means no. Never be forced to do anything you don’t want to, whether it’s professionally, personally, or sexually. Feel free to say no and stick to your decision. Set boundaries and uphold them. Power lies in realizing you have ability to say no.
13. Everything in moderation. Food, alcohol, dating, work. Do everything in moderation. Never deny yourself luxuries. Allow yourself to eat what you want and drink what you want and date whoever you want but do so in moderation. So goes for work. Never take on more work than you can do. You’re only one person. Slow down and take it on in moderation.
14. Appreciate the beauty around you. The world is such a beautiful place if you just open your eyes to it. We miss so much of it by burying our heads in our iPhones and tablets. Take a minute to just be one with nature and appreciate all it has to offer.
15. Surround yourself with positive people. Surround yourself with people you lift you up and make you happy. Say no to negative people.
16. Find yourself. Take the time to get to know yourself. Reflect on your life, discover your interests. Experiment, explore, find what you’re passionate about. Experience is priceless.
17. #foreveralone. Despite common societal misconceptions, it’s ok to be single. Don’t force yourself into a relationship just because everyone else is. Take your time and get to know yourself first.
18. Drink water after every drink. Nobody likes the sloppy drunk girl who blacks out by 10. We’ve all been there. Have a glass of water after every drink to slow down a bit and lessen the hangover that will definitely be coming.
19. Self-care. Take time out of every day for yourself. Relax, light a candle, take a bath, and snuggle up with a good book. Tune into your stress level and do what you need to wind down after a long day.
20. Share your story. Use your experiences to help and inspire others. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and open up to the possibility of sharing your inner thoughts with the world. It’s a powerful thing.
21. Love your body. Embrace and love your figure as it is. Don’t compare yourself to models in magazines or actors on TV, and don’t fall prey to fad diets and popular weightloss trends. Figure out what works for your body type and rock it. Be your own kind of beautiful.
22. Let go of control. We are not in control over most of our lives nor can we control the people around us. We can, however, control our reactions to it. Learn to give up control and accept things as they come.
23. Give back. We have been blessed to be living the lives that we have despite the inevitable challenges along the way. Many people have not been so lucky. Use your resources and privilege to give back to those in need. Donate a few dollars, volunteer, or even simply smile at a homeless person passing by. A little bit goes a long way.
24. Age is just a number. Embrace where you are in life at every moment. Don’t get caught up in trying to act your age or doing what you think you should at a particular age. Life would be so limiting if you always had to act your age. Do what you want, be friends with who you want, date who you want, and forget about age in the process. Age, after all, is just a number.