21 thoughts as I turn 21
Musings as I become an ~adult~
So today is my birthday, and the day I can legally start all the debauchery America allows. But instead of doing that (since I chose to go to a 21+ arcade to play pacman instead of downing tequila shots. You’re welcome liver), I thought I’d reflect. Here’s a little glimpse of what I’ve been up to and the lessons I’ve learned in the past couple months + 21 years :)
1. The adventure isn’t always glamorous
Saying that I’m going to take a path less-taken, become more comfortable with being uncomfortable, take more risks, be less afraid, all that fun kumbaya stuff I preach all the time is SO MUCH HARDER IN PRACTICE.
Uncertainty isn’t always fun. It’s stressful.
I’ve found myself worrying about if I have enough funds to still eat chipotle every other day. If the job I’m currently in actually adds any value to my life. If I’m doing the wrong thing. If I’m wasting my time. If I’m just not cut out for taking on the world.
Self-doubt creeps in all the time. But I have learned a few things. For those dark, gloomy moments, I’ve found resilience, I’ve found inner strength, and I’ve found the world’s most amazing support system of friends, family, and mentors (there’s something like team of 20 people looking out for me).
It may not be as glamorous as I expected, but there’s always something I can get out of each and every experience.
2. However, the adventure is also a lot of fun once you start settling into the ambiguity
Once it stops sucking so much, it does actually get really fun. I’ve found myself going on random adventures from LA to Vegas to Oregon to San Jose to back to LA to New York again to Oregon again and maybe Berlin, Germany coming up???
Staying open-minded has helped create a lot of these unexpected surprises. If you’re curious as to how all of those adventures happened and the more specific details, just shoot me a message. Somethings are NSFMedium. I promise it’s as crazy as you think. And I’m having a ball :)
3. Unexpected people will always walk into your life (for better or for worse. Mostly for the better)
I’ve met new friends in houses in the middle of a forest, friends who I’ve never actually met (because we either work together remotely or they decided to send me a random facebook message and for some reason I replied), exes who turned out to be really useful and helped me get jobs, dates who showed me a new way of living life, and everything else in between.
People are so beautiful when you let them be. And when you can absorb all the good they have to offer, you’ll be better off for it.
4. Time is precious but you can forgive yourself for taking time
I struggle with the idea that I’m never doing enough. Everything has to be now now now now now now now. It doesn’t. I’m not saying to waste time and let it fly by you. But there’s no rush to do everything at 21. Just some things will do.
I’m coming to appreciate all the things that I have been able to do at my age. Not the things I haven’t done. Keeps me way more sane.
5. Making mistakes sucks. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them
I never really made mistakes growing up. That’s cause I either avoided situations where I knew I would or I got really good at seeing other people’s mistakes and learning from them. Life doesn’t always work out like that.
I’ve already made mistakes. They sucked. What I wasn’t expecting was how mistake-averse some people in my life were. Yes, the world is competitive and you have to be way more on top of your game. But not being able to make mistakes and learn from them is the easiest way to stunt your growth. More so, rarely are these mistakes permanent with how fast things change these days.
So I gave myself permission to make more mistakes. They’ll continue to suck. But at least over time, they’ll suck less.
6. You can never plan serendipity but you should always include it in your plan
Best things in life are always the ones you weren’t expecting. How do you think I ended up in a few random states? If you keep your spirit open, people will come in and take you for an adventure. And as long as you’re safe, don’t be afraid to hop on for the adventure.
7. Those closest to you will always be your biggest supporter. But they won’t always agree with you
That’s okay. I had to remember they were all coming from a place of love and concern for my well-being. But I also trusted myself enough to know that things were going to be fine even if they didn’t believe it.
It becomes a fine balance between appeasing the ones that have given up a lot for me to succeed, letting them know they’re being heard, but also doing the things I want. At the end of the day, it’s my life. I have to live with the choices I make.
8. Somethings aren’t what they seem like on the surface
One thing I’ve learned is do your research. Don’t use blind faith and trust if you can avoid it. Make sure you have all the information, ask for second opinions, get a few people involved, a couple contracts, some prenups (okay this is dramatic but still). Then, make sure you cover your ass when shit blows up. And have a back-up plan.
Also advise learning this before being stuck in a situation where you’re forced to.
9. Sometimes letting go is the best thing to do even if you don’t want to
There’s been a few people that I’ve had to do this with. It was either in the best interest for them or for myself. Either way, it’s never fun. But you just have to hold on to the reason and hope for the best.
10. You’ll always be hardest on yourself
I’m particularly hard on myself when I know I could be doing something better. Be it work, relationships, academics, etc.
Case in point (you’ll get the pun soon if you’re a consulting nerd), three days ago, I had an interview with a startup in Berlin, Germany. It was 3 case interviews back to back and I hadn’t prepared at all for it. To me, that was clearly evident during my interview. I left the interview feeling defeated and I moped around for the entire day. I ended up getting the offer (probably cause I smiled a lot haha).
Man I need to RELAX! You should too. Life is so much better when you’re nice to yourself.
11. Success in school doesn’t always equate to success in life
As a person who succeeded in an academic environment where I just had to follow a few criterion, figure out how a professor grades, and write a few papers here and there, “life” was quite the shell-shock.
Nobody gives you a grade, a gold star or a job well-done. Paths to “success” are less defined. Just because I was a straight-A student didn’t mean life was going to make it easy for me. I still had to fight for it. And I’ve definitely found myself with more Fs (or NCs since I go to Brown haha) than As so far.
But the cliché holds true; you learn more from your failures than your successes.
I’ve definitely learned more in these two months of things not going to my plan at all, than I have in my two years at Brown where everything did (more or less). I’ve found a resilience in me that I didn’t realize I actually had. A strength to keep going and not giving up. And how to be resourceful when I didn’t have the most resources. Plus, I’m still alive and kicking so “failing” isn’t really that bad.
12. Finding the things you don’t like is just as good as finding the things you do like
As my mentor says, keep experimenting, learning, applying and iterating. If you don’t like something, DON’T DO IT! Check it off the box and try something else. There’s plenty of other options out there. You just have to look :)
13. It’s okay to say yes, no, and I don’t know (but I will find out)
Say yes to more opportunities you’re not prepared for.
Say no to things you don’t want to do (and find the things you do want to do).
Say I don’t know but I will find out when you’re confused and lost. Nobody knows everything. But everyone is capable of finding out.
14. You can’t control who you like
Funny I thought I could haha. I’m human too! But every so often, you do meet someone who takes you by surprise and makes you become a better, truer version of yourself when you’re too lazy to make that happen. I was definitely too lazy at times. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that wasn’t an answer for this particular individual.
15. Let yourself be loved and cared for
For as much love I love giving to people around me, I struggled to let other people care for me. Maybe it was because I didn’t like being vulnerable around others.
I wanted to be the rock for so many people but I didn’t want to need someone else to be a rock for me.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to be a squishy sponge sometimes instead of a hard rock. It’s okay to let those who care about you to actually take care of you. I don’t always have to be a rock for myself. I can ask a few special people to do that for me when I need them. My support network is my everything, and it’s one of the things I hold very dear.
16. Most people are kind. Most is not everyone
A hard lesson learned from my mum: “Not everyone is as nice as you are. They will take advantage of you if you’re naive.”
This definitely won’t take away my belief in the good inside of everyone. And my experiences have showed me that more people are kind than not. But that isn’t an excuse to be naive and let someone else take you for a ride. It’s important to know your value and stand up for yourself.
17. Things change in an instant if you make it change
One gloomy morning (about a week ago), I had just finished talking to my mentor. I had decided to leave my current job with nothing lined up, my apartment lease ending in 10 days, and a few contacts to reach out to.
12 hours later, I had two startups in Germany reach out to me courtesy of an old flame from two years ago circling my resume, an offer in Santa Clara at a startup courtesy of a friend, and 4 conversations lined up for the rest of the week.
Things change quickly. Sometimes it’s luck. But things also change if you do something about it. So do something if your universe isn’t how you want it.
18. No decision is permanent
There’s a fear around making the right decision or the best decision. Obviously you should try to make the best decision possible given all the information you have. But even if that decision turns out to be a poor one, very few things are permanent or will permanently change the trajectory of your life.
Just ask me! I’m living it right now. There’s a lot of decisions I’ve made in the last few months. Some good. Some bad. Some really stupid. Some highly questionable. I’ve changed my reality a few times already and we’re barely getting this year started.
I still have a roof on top of my head, fantastic pad thai in my belly, and a smile on my face. Nothing is as stuck as it seems.
19. Be kind, care about others and they’ll come to care about you
I sound like a broken record player when I say how lucky I am to have so many people care about me. Honestly, I never understood why. I didn’t think I was that special. So I asked why they care or took a vested interest in my well-being.
It’s because I was kind. Because I cared about them. Because I listened (and truly listened). Because I opened myself up. Because I was myself. And in turn, it made the decision easy for them.
20. Treat yourself like the royalty you are
Love yourself. Treat yourself. Be kind to yourself. Get that spa treatment. Eat that food. Lie in bed. Seriously! You are a shrine to be worshipped. Remember that or I will remind you.
21. Ask questions and reflect
Reflecting is fun because it’s a moment to pause and think about everything I’ve learned, everything I haven’t learned yet, and what questions I want to continue asking.
So as I turn 21 and am about to go play pacman like the adult I am, my ask for everyone who actually bothered to read this (THANKS ❤), continue to ask yourself and those around the hard questions. Take a moment to reflect. And enjoy life for all the mysterious beauty it has to offer :)