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.

Grace

My mom and I have this thing where we say to each other a line from the song Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol – “I need your grace to remind me to find my own,” it says. Almost every time I’m home or if one of us is going through a rough time, we lay on the cold kitchen floor and play this song as loud as it can go – one or both of us crying but feeling peace as this line flows from the speakers. In times where I’m feeling particularly down, this phrase is almost always guranteed to cross the depths of my mind and make its way to my heart. In each low point of my life, before I even know it, I’m longing for grace.

When I was younger, my mom used to joke around saying she should have named me Grace because of how clumsy or, better yet, ungraceful, I could be. It’s funny how that word has taken on a new meaning to us now.

Grace can mean a lot of things. It can mean elegance, goodwill, blessing, prayer, etc. With all the different meanings it possesses, I could ask for grace a thousand different times over and still ask for something new each time. The one thing that stays the same, though, no matter who I’m asking, be it my mom, God, or anyone else, the point is that I’m asking for something that I lack – I’m asking for a reminder or a renewal of something I am in need of.

I’m at this point in my life where I need grace from everyone around me, everything within me, and my God above me. I need grace because I know I have fallen short a thousand and one times, but I will always try to do right by that. I need grace because I am far from perfect, but I am looking for perfection in everything I find. I need grace not because I deserve it, but because I don’t deserve it. I need grace so I can better learn to give it.

I need grace to be reminded of the grace I already have.

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.

Perspective

As spring break is in full gear for students everywhere, social media seems to be overtaken by pictures of the beach or videos of friends in exotic places. I remember clicking through photos of sandy beaches and palm trees as I sat outside… in a lawn chair… with five inches of snow at my feet and a fire as the only thing keeping me warm(ish). Needless to say, my spring break was a little different than some of my friends back home. I mean, who could turn down camping in southern Indiana in the middle of a snowstorm? It was obviously a well thought-out plan. My friends and I spent the entire trip joking and laughing about every little situation we got ourselves into (like pushing a van out of the mud at 10 a.m. or forgetting to pack lunch for a 6+ mile hike), which made the memories even greater. But at the beginning of the trip, my friend said something to me that really stuck. She mentioned how some things seem a lot bigger when you’re up close, but as soon as you step away, suddenly they’re not so large.

Maybe you think that’s profound or maybe you think it’s ridiculous, but either way, I loved it (shout out to you, Riley!). We went camping at Clifty Falls, which is right on the border of Indiana and Kentucky and very close to some smoke stacks that were part of an energy plant. From our campsite, you could see the stacks peeking through the tops of the trees, but they seemed so small and distant. But once we started our hike and were standing right next to the stacks, we realized just how large they really were. It was like being in a big city for the first time and realizing that pictures will never do justice for the enormous skyscrapers towering over you. Whether I was standing next to these smoke stacks or passing a waterfall or sitting at the top of the trail as I looked at the land beneath me, I couldn’t help but to think about perspective. I started to think about times where I was faced with a problem that felt as if it was towering over me in the same way those smoke stacks were. A problem that, when looking at it, made me feel uneasily small and insignificant. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt like that – who has felt helpless in the shadow of a problem looming over them. But then, like Riley said, as soon as you put things into perspective and take a few steps back, that thing is no longer as big and scary as it was up close.

I think the reason I like this so much is because we seem to quickly put things into a perspective that enhances what we see, rather than diminishes it (or maybe that’s just me?) We put our problems under a magnified glass expecting to solve them that way, rather than taking a step back and changing our perspective. Maybe that mountain you’re facing isn’t really a mountain at all, but you’re standing too close to see how to get around it.

I could have easily examined everything that happened on that trip through a lens that made the bad seem worse and the great seem not so good, but I didn’t. I changed my perspective, and even though I could barely feel my toes and I constantly smelled like fire, I saw the trip as something wonderful.

Take a step back.

Change your perspective.

Mourning Life

We were fit into a mold the second we were born. This mold is one that grows – think of it like the spray on shoes in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It stretches to keep fitting us as we grow, but it is a mold nonetheless. This mold is made up of rules and expectations that are attached to our beings, and the threat of what will happen when we break them is greater than our desire to actually do the breaking. We are pawns in a game that can only be won by queens and kings. But it seems to me that the threat of breaking these norms is only great because the system (the game, if you will) has been the same for so long that people can’t bear the thought of something different. But rules were made to be broken, and I like to think my generation is pretty good at doing just that.

I have the utmost respect for my parents and other adult role-models in my life. However, if I hear the phrase “because that’s just the way it is” one more time, I will lose my mind. The “way it is” is the way it was set a long time ago, and we live in such progressive times that I, and anybody else for that matter, can’t honestly be expected to follow in the same footsteps as my parents or my parents’ parents or any generations before. We are expected to get a decent paying job, have a decent family, and live in a decent house. But I don’t want to live a decent life. I want to live an extraordinary life.

This game we are forced to play isn’t one that I want to be a part of. I have never cared about being rich or living an overall stable lifestyle because I know that with my goals that’s not something that I’m likely to have. I expect instability and a few bumpy roads along the way. But as long as I’m taking part in something that brings me joy and benefits not only me, but the people around me, that’s what really matters. I know quite a few people my age with this mindset – one where the price of the game isn’t worth it. I hope someday this can become a more widely accepted perception of life. I know there are people out there who are working jobs they hate and walking through life just to get through the day, and I know they are doing that because they feel like they have to. But it’s about time we realize this is not the way life has to be lived.

We need to stop mourning a life we don’t have because we feel our dreams died before they even had a chance to live.