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.

Lost and Found

Almost every summer my family makes the trip out to North Carolina for a week-long vacation. We’ve been doing this practically every year since I was two or so, yet every year is filled with its own unique sense of adventure. When I was around the age of fifteen, I was sitting on a the pier closest to where we were staying and I had just taken a break from drawing in the little notebook I carried with me everywhere I went. As I was just watching the waves and the people on the shore and the seagulls flying overhead, not really thinking about anything in particular, a fisherman looked over at me and asked if I was alright.

“I’m sorry?” I asked in return.

“Darlin’, you look like a lost soul if I’ve ever seen one.”

I think I just kind of smiled and assured the man I was alright, just enjoying my time on the pier, but to be honest I don’t really remember what I said to him. But I never forgot what he said to me.

I remember that summer being a tough one for me – I went through a lot of personal challenges and I know I struggled quite a bit, so when that man said I looked like a lost soul I couldn’t help but wonder how right he was. I definitely felt lost, but I was astounded that a stranger noticed it as well.

It’s been nearly five years and I still think about what that man said to me on a regular basis. “You look like a lost soul…” practically plays on repeat in my head some days. I still wonder about the truth attached to that statement – about how lost I feel every once in a while (because let’s be honest, we’re all lost souls sometimes). But when I think back to my trip to the beach about a month ago, and I think about when I was standing on the pier next to three of my best friends – two from college, one from home – and about the week I had just had, I know ‘lost’ was the last word I would use to describe what I was feeling. Maybe I didn’t know exactly where I stood in life, but I knew what direction I was headed and to me, it was the right direction, and that’s all it takes to feel a little less lost, right?

Maybe I’m still a lost soul, but I like to think I’m a lost soul who’s a little more confident in her journey.