Years fly by with the blink of an eye. One day I’m celebrating “adulthood” with my 18th birthday, and the next thing I know I’m celebrating 21. While it seems as though years have been flying by, my twenty-first year seemed to linger. I felt as if I was twenty-one for a full year as opposed to the 6 months the rest of my ages felt like. I attribute this feeling of extended time to the magnified number of lessons I learned during my twenty-first year.
1. I Don’t Have to be a Leader — Westerner society places unnecessary weight on leaders and leadership qualities. Everyone (myself included) is not a leader, and that’s okay. While having leadership qualities may be beneficial in some instances, when everyone’s competing for leadership roles, other roles, including self-providing roles, are neglected. I’ve never been a natural leader, and I’m just beginning to understand that.
2. I Also Don’t Have to be a Follower — People often assume that if you aren’t naturally a leader, then you must be a follower. This is also not true. Additionally, people assume being a follower is something negative. Also false. Being a follower or a leader requires you to be a team player. I am not, and that too is okay.
3. Be Less Abrasive — For a while I was entirely too concerned about policing the language and checking the offensiveness of almost anyone I came into contact with. This is not only tiring, but it isn’t good for my mental health. Sometimes, for the sake of my own livelihood, I have to let things go.
4. I am Not a Teacher — Very much tied to my last point, I am not a teacher. It is not my job to teach people — especially strangers online — why they are offensive or wrong. I used to feel like I was my obligation to teach people to make them more aware, but now I realize, I didn’t sign up to be a teacher, and I don’t want to be one for free.
5. I Don’t Have to Like Everyone Who Likes Me— This is still difficult for me to understand sometimes. It’s natural to want to like people who take to you, but faking a friendship that I don’t particularly want is draining. I’ve learned that doing what’s best for me is more important than sparing someone’s feelings sometimes, and it’s okay to be selfish in that aspect.
6. Pick My Friends (Wisely) — This one is cliché (arguably the whole list is cliché??) but 21 really but this into perspective. The people I surround myself with has more of an impact on my drive and productivity than I thought. I have a habit of letting my friends pick me instead of picking my friends, to my own detriment. Gotta let that habit go.
7. Move — I spent 7 months of my 21st year in Washington, DC. Before 21,I had never been to the east coast at all, and I assumed that I loved Southern California. Living in DC allowed me to realize that I don’t love Southern California as much as I thought I did. I would have never known that had I not lived somewhere else for a while.
8. Sleep — When I was in college, I didn’t sleep much, and I was okay, but after graduation, not sleeping started to change my face. I had to buy anti-aging cream to get rid of the permanent wrinkles and bags forming under my eyes. Sleep y’all… just sleep. See also: Drink water.