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.

The Things I Cannot Change

My mom used to mutter this prayer a lot when I was growing up: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” There was something about peace and wisdom too, but I never took the time to remember those parts. I’ve been learning a lot about acceptance lately, so this prayer has been on my mind. I’ve been learning about how sometimes the sun doesn’t set in a way that leaves me in awe and sometimes it will only rise to reveal another cloudy day. I’ve been learning about how chasing a dream is a lonely journey because some dreams you can only dream alone. I’ve been learning about fear and love and how they’re two sides of the same coin.

I’ve learned about how all of this is okay. That even though the sunsets and the sunrises don’t look the way you want them to, they’re still signs that the world is moving forward and so are you. That even though you can only dream alone and not everybody will understand, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream at all. That even though fear and love are two sides of the same coin, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel both with a whole heart and let them drive you to make radical decisions. Life is about accepting everything that comes your way and trusting that every pain you feel, love you show, or decision you make is meant for nothing other than good.

Because you are meant for nothing other than good. You are meant to do what you know is right and trust me when I say you know what is right. You will feel it in more than just your heart. You will feel it in your mind and your soul, and it will flow down to your toes and pulse with each step you take forward. And when you feel the pushing and the fighting from your head, you will know that that fighting is nothing other than the world testing your endurance and your understanding of who you are and what you want.

So let it test you. Let it push to the cliff as Fear itself believes it is getting you one step closer to a fall. One step closer to a fail. It will laugh at your struggle and embrace your discomfort. But just as it starts to think that it has you figured out as you stare over the edge into the darkness and your toes curl as they lose ground beneath them, jump. Fear and Doubt did not push you over the edge because you were always meant to take that leap of faith – they simply gave you the courage to do it. And as you find yourself falling and learning to fly, accept that this moment right here is not something you can change (nor is it something you should want to change) because it is exactly what you are meant to be doing and trust that you will land exactly where you are meant to be.  

To The One Who Broke My Heart…

To the one who broke my heart, thank you.

Thank you for leaving me shattered and alone as I was left to pick up the pieces you left behind. Because of this, I have been able to see how every part of me comes together to create the beautiful and strong woman I am.

Thank you for not being able to love me the way I wanted to be loved. I can see now the kind of love I deserve. I can see now that the love I want needs to come from myself and the love I need will show itself in a call from an old friend or a sunrise after a night full of tears. It will not come from someone who’s not ready to give it to me.

Thank you for not making me the only one you wanted. You showed me how little I wanted myself and how much I relied on others to feel wanted. I will not make that mistake again. I will learn to want myself.

Thank you for not fighting for me. You not choosing to fight for me to stay in your life gave me every reason to fight for myself. My mom has always said you need to pick and choose your battles, and though understanding why I wasn’t someone worth fighting for has been a tough thing to come to terms with, I know I am coming out a stronger fighter because of this particular battle I now face.

But most importantly, thank you for teaching me how to love. Opening up my heart to you was one of the greatest and scariest things I had ever done, and despite the way things turned out, I do not regret a thing. The brokenness I feel is only a sign of the healing I needed and the wholeness that is coming.

To the one who broke my heart, thank you. You have made all the difference in making me who I am.

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.