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.

Getting Past the Fear

I have never had a fear that I haven’t done my best to face. When I was afraid of heights, I jumped from a cliff into waters that engulfed me and washed me from the tremble I felt before the leap. I climbed a mountain and veered over the edge, looking from a thousand feet at the ground below. I soared in planes above the clouds and watched out the window for hours until the sun set and there was noting left to see.

When I was afraid of speaking in public, I voluntarily took part in speech competitions and public speaking classes. I went out of my way to present first in classrooms and introduce myself to new crowds of people, forgetting to the best of my ability the lump in my throat that urged me not to speak.

When I was afraid to love, I loved deeper and harder than I had thought possible. I opened my heart and let the love pour out because I knew no good would come from holding it back and a life without experiencing love was not one I wanted to live, despite my fear.

And while I understood the sense of fear that came with each fall, stutter, and heartache, I also experienced the liberation that came with facing the very things I had never before thought to endure. There was freedom with each word I spoke. Freedom with each jump I made. Freedom with each beat of my heart.

I wonder, then, what I am so scared of now. If I am a repeated champion of facing what I fear most, what is there left to fear? If I know that in the moment my legs may shake and my heart may beat a little faster but I will ultimately stand tall and firm, what is there to worry about?

I believe life revolves around the conquering of the very things that try to hold us back. We must live with a trust that there is something just beyond our fears; our worries; our doubts. We trust that the water will break our fall and that the view will be worth the climb. Our attitude in day-to-day life should be the same. Even when the rain is pouring down and you can’t see a break in the clouds lasting long enough for your bones to dry, you trust that the storm will end eventually and the warmth from the sun is only so far away.

I’m starting to learn how the only way to combat fear of even the most natural of things like uncertainty is to simply trust.

Facing fear isn’t about bravery or strength, it’s about trust.

There is freedom and peace in the fall, but first you must get past the fear of the jump and trust in the landing.

Extremes

I’m not sure what’s in the air lately, but I have a lot of friends who are going through the most extreme parts of life and experiencing things in highs and lows with no middle ground. Be it marriage or heartbreak, love or loss, loneliness or fulfillment, everyone I know seems to be experiencing so much. Once is a coincidence. Twice is a coincidence. But three times is a pattern. And this summer seems to have a pattern of extreme emotions.

I love to listen to podcasts to hear what other people have to say about life. One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is called “Ladies Who Lunch” (LWL) and while they’re no longer recording anything, I still listen to their old episodes somewhat frequently. A few weeks ago while I was donating plasma I turned on one of their episodes in which they talked about moving on and letting go and, while they said a lot of really great things, there was one thing in particular that stood out to me. They got a letter from someone whose father had passed away less than a week before, and the person in the letter was asking how they can move on from the hurt they were feeling. LWL gave the typical responses of surrounding yourself with friends and family who love you, doing things to keep yourself busy, etc. But after giving all of those suggestions they stopped for a second to let the person know that it’s okay to simply feel, and something about that really resonated with me.

Throughout the summer as I’ve watched my friends go through all different emotions (or even experienced them myself) I’ve noticed how we’re always trying to move on to the next emotion. If we’re sad, we want to stop being sad and feel something else. If we’re happy, we’re questioning our happiness and anticipating something else. Very rarely (particularly in moments of negative emotions) do we just let ourselves feel. I think this lack of accepting our emotions is another byproduct of our need to constantly desire more. But I also think it’s time for that to change.

If you’re sad, be sad. Let yourself feel. Let yourself hurt. Go through the motions and roll with the punches. I’m not saying you should wallow in self pity and go about life feeling miserable forever, but what I am saying is that sometimes it’s harder to move on from an emotion if you don’t fully understand what you’re feeling. Get comfortable with the pain so you know how to work through it. When you break a bone, you don’t just ignore it and hope it works itself out. You straighten the bone and look at x-rays and wrap it up in bandages and casts which will be full of pain and annoyance but by doing this, you’re understanding the injury so you can enhance the healing. You have to allow yourself to feel your hurt to understand it, and once you understand it you can heal from it.

The same goes for positive emotions. Stop questioning the way you’re feeling. Stop thinking the higher you go, the further you fall. Stop falling in love only thinking about the potential heartbreak. Stop feeling joy only thinking about the potential sorrow. Let yourself feel good. Even if the worst thing happens, at least you were able to truly enjoy some of the best parts of life.

We need to stop fighting things. Time is always on your side and it will keep moving even when you think you can’t, so it’s high time you just roll with the punches and enjoy the ride.

Choices

I’ve come to learn that we have a lot more control over our life than we think. Sure, we can’t control the choices or actions of others. Yes, the workings of the world around us are out of our hands. But we control our actions and our perceptions, and that’s a lot.

So, if you want to do something, do it. Maybe it will take time and hard work, but it can be done if you prioritize it and try.

If you want to be someone, be them. I don’t mean someone else, but merely a better version of yourself. The only one standing between who you are and who you want to be is you.

If you want to accomplish your dreams, keep pursuing them no matter how hard it gets or how crazy people think you are. You must be fearless in your pursuit.

Choose to be fearless.

Choose to be happy.

Choose to be you.

It’s like the wise Dr. Seuss once said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Intentionality

Intentionality – the fact of being deliberate or purposive. (Google Definition)

Intention – a determination to act in a certain way (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Not long ago I had an interview for a position as an orientation leader for my university for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. The interview was very laid back and consisted of three parts: an impromptu speech, a group activity, and a one-on-one interview. We rotated in groups and I just so happened to be one of the last people to take part in the one-on-one interviews. While I was waiting for my turn to go in I was thinking about my transition into college and what advice I would offer first-year students based off of my own experiences. This wasn’t my first time thinking about this, but I figured giving it some extra thought might be helpful considering there was a very good chance I would be asked a similar question. Luckily for me, that was one of the very first questions I was asked.

At first I wasn’t sure. There is a lot I would want to tell a person making such a large life transition, and a lot that I wish I would have known, but nothing I was thinking of seemed good enough. But then I remembered a quote that I had read in The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst: “Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances.” I have this quote written on my calendar in my dorm, and beneath it, in bold letters, I have written, “BE INTENTIONAL.” So, when the interviewer asked me what advice I would offer a new student, I said that I would tell them to be intentional with their choices. It will be so tempting and easy to do what you want without putting much thought into your decisions because you finally have that extra freedom you never had before… I mean, you’re in college, right? But only so much time will pass before you realize that these decisions you’re making aren’t paying off in the way that you hoped they would.

As I was talking to the interviewer, I felt as if I were giving myself advice more than anything. I dedicate a lot of time and energy doing things that I know (or at least hope) will put me closer to a goal that I hope to achieve. Being intentional with my choices can be really easy when it comes to large scale decisions, but what about the smaller things that I do with little thought? Things such as the way I communicate with others, the music that I listen to, or even the people that I surround myself with seem to happen automatically, but maybe they shouldn’t.

A few days ago I asked a friend how you can know if you’re on the path that God laid out for you and she said that as long as you’re being intentional and praying about all aspects of your life – big or small – you’re on the right track.

Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances, but each day is full of thousands of choices… how intentional are you being with yours?