21 Things I learned Before Turning 21

  1. Don’t be afraid to love. Love everything and love fiercly and I promise that love will always find its way back to you.
  2. That being said, do more of what you’re afraid of. Some of the greatest things happen just beyond that leap – just beyond your fear.
  3. Find the thing that grounds you – whether it’s a religion, a hobby, or otherwise – and invest yourself in it. Everybody needs a crutch.
  4. Spend more time outside. Feel the ground beneath you and the space around you. Let the earth make you feel small and humble you.
  5. Learn how to be present – whatever that means to you.
  6. Decisions are rarely hard to make, they’re just hard to do. Trust yourself and your insticts and go.
  7. Practice empathy every chance you get. You never know how far a little understanding can go.
  8. Become more self-aware. Learn about the who, what, when, where, and why that make up your being. Understanding yourself is peace.
  9. The opinions of others should matter, but not the opinions of everyone. Find your circle, learn who your people are, and trust what they have to say.
  10. Travel. Even if all you’re able to do is explore the cities around you, travel. There is too much life to be lived and too many things to experience. To do it all in one place would be a waste.
  11. Take advantage of the dull moments. Journal, meditate, exercise – don’t let spare time become wasted time.
  12. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Keep evolving into whoever your spirit is telling you to become and don’t stop until you can sit back and think, “this is who I’m meant to be.”
  13. Be nice. Just be nice. There is absolutely no reason for me to explain this. Be nice to strangers. Be nice to non-strangers. Be nice to someone even if they’re not nice to you. Just be nice to people. And don’t forget to be nice to yourself, too.
  14. Understanding your pain is the key to understanding happiness. Enjoy both.
  15. Things are almost never as complicated as they seem. Just trust that some things in life really are that simple.
  16. Remember that you’re not alone. It may not feel like it sometimes, but there will always be someone who understands.
  17. If somebody wants to be generous, let them. Don’t always fight it.
  18. Make goals for yourself. They can be as ambitious as a dream job or as simple as getting out of bed. Be proud of every accomplishment.
  19. One thing at a time. Focus on figuring life out one thing at a time.
  20. Have a mantra for yourself. Let it save you.
  21. It’s always a good day for a good day.

My Own Battle

A few weeks ago, in the midst of a very emotional conversation, I opened up to someone about something I had been holding back for what feels like my entire life. Overcome with tears, I told them about my own personal mental health struggles and how, for a long time, I haven’t felt okay.

I’ve never been the type of person to get too emotional. For years, some of my closest friends had never even seen me cry. It wasn’t until senior year that that started to change (granted, it was a pretty emotional year for everyone). Yet, I was still the one others would turn to for advice, encouraging everyone around me to enjoy life even in the middle of chaos. I was always the “overly optimistic” one, the “positive” one, the “happy” one.

I’m not saying I didn’t always feel that way, because sometimes I did – I meant every “it’s a good day for a good day” that I said. I just believed so strongly in this “attitude is half the battle” mindset that I used every ounce of strength I had to ensure I had the right attitude because that was the only way I could win the battle. I even thought that if I could make everyone around me happy, then I would be happy too. Didn’t Gandhi say something about a candle never losing its light by lighting others? In reality, though, what ended up happening was I was giving so much of myself away that, rather than being filled in return, I was being drained. My light may not have faded, but I was running out of candle to burn.

I had done what I thought to be such a great job at shoving down my doubts and insecurities that I truly thought I was okay. The panick attacks or sudden mood swings or days where I would dissasociate myself were just “off days” and nothing to worry about. My relationships with others were even suffering but, to me, that had to be for another reason: fate, God, I don’t know, but it wasn’t because of me. But, as life got harder and things got to be more than I could handle, it quickly became evident to me that maybe the way I felt wasn’t just from one or two bad days, but from a mind that had been drowning and a heart that had been breaking for far too long.

In the initial conversation where I confessed these parts of my heart, I was still torn between feeling trapped and feeling free – now I had admitted to these feelings, so I needed to do something. Luckily for me, I was talking to someone who I felt confident I could lean on, so I wasn’t diminished or looked down upon in any way; I was encouraged and met with an equal understanding – something that I will forever be grateful for.

It’s only been a few weeks since that conversation that helped me shed some light on the darkest parts of my heart. I still don’t know exactly what to do; maybe I’ll go to therapy, maybe I’ll start yoga or mediatation, or maybe I’ll just practice being more self-aware, but I know I have seen healing in many ways since then. I’ve only opened up to a few people about the way I have felt, but the support I received has been beyond encouraging. It’s reminded me that, no matter how I feel, there will always be someone with a shoulder for me to lean on. It’s amazing what healing can come from simply acknowledging that healing is needed.

Now, I don’t mean for this post to be sad and my hope is that nobody reads it with a heavy heart. I hope that it serves as encouragement to open up and reach out. I talk so often about vulnerability and feeling without suppressing, but I neglected to acknowledge the deepest parts of me that needed to hear those lessons. It wasn’t until I opened my heart up more and more to another person that I began to notice that there was something deeper that needed attention from me. My hope is that someone reads this and something in their heart shifts in a way that lets them know it needs some extra attention as well.

The more I talk about it, the more healing I see. I’ve realized that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to not be happy all the time and it was always unrealistic of me to think I had to act that way. I hope that as time goes on, I can continue to accept that lesson. I know there is so much beauty to the life around me. Hopefully, as I continue to open my heart up, I can let the darkness work its way out as light works its way in and I can start to truly see that beauty again.

New Beginnings

When I was preparing to come home for the summer after my first year of college ended, I cried knowing things wouldn’t be the same next year.

When I was packing to move back in for my second year, my mom cried knowing that me leaving this time was different.

When I was talking to a friend after a week or two of being at school, she cried knowing things felt different.

The routine and steadiness of this past year became so comfortable that the new beginnings everyone was experiencing became overwhelming rather than exciting.

But the problem didn’t lie in the newness of what I was experiencing, it lay in the comfort of what I had experienced.

The overwhelming sense of “new” that was surrounding my life as I left home to go to college where nearly everything had changed from the year before had sent a shock to all my senses. While I was consciously aware that things were going to be different, it didn’t register until I actually felt the differences. But as I was in class writing a reflection of my week I realized that this shock to my senses was exactly what I needed to get out of the content mindset I was in.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but there is some danger in being content. I had gotten so comfortable in my way of life last year that I had also become content, not feeling the need for or even wanting change. So much so that when change happened I didn’t know how to respond.

But the new beginnings that are taking place in nearly every aspect of my life have served me well and reminded me not only to be careful about becoming content, but to appreciate change as well.

I know that with all the new things I am experiencing I will continue to grow into the person I want to be and learn each step of the way.

I hope you learn to appreciate and see the beauty in change as well.