If you couldn’t tell already, I just had a birthday! I know Friday the 13th is supposed to be an unlucky day, but with the way 2020 is going, I think we deserved to make this an exception. I’m 24. I’m in my mid-20s. 10 years ago I was in the 8th grade. Five years ago I was finishing up my first semester in college. And a year ago I was insanely busy at a job at my favorite hotel and starting to plan all of my adventures for the following year. Spoiler alert: not everything had gone to plan.
365 days later, and so much has changed! Some may argue too much has changed. From all of the unexpected twists and turns this year has brought me, I am not sure if I should look back at year 23 with disappointment, laughter, or just scrap it altogether. I mean, I was laid off, lived through a global pandemic (yet the jury is still out on that), had to move home, file for unemployment, my closest friend moved away, AND I’M STILL SINGLE!
I could look back at this past year with positivity and the hope that nothing could get any worse, but another part of me is screaming “if all of that could happen, then who’s to say a meteor couldn’t just fall out of the sky and end us all?” Yes, I am aware that I am a paranoid person who over thinks everything. Why do you think I’m wording my paragraphs like we’re having a two-way conversation and I know exactly what you’re saying? See, I’m a crazy person.
But with all of the craziness of 2020- and just my whole life in general- I could say that I have learned a lot. Isn’t that what growing up is really about? From the importance of taxes to “maybe you shouldn’t hook up with the DJ” the life lessons I have learned along the way before I reached the ripe-old age of 24 have shaped me into the person I am today, and hopefully who I will be in the future.
Like I said. I have learned a lot in 24 years, but if I could only take 24 lessons with me, it would all come down to the following:
1. Life is short and unexpected
days, weeks, months, and even years will seem like they’ll take forever in the initial moment. But once you look back everything seems like it happened just yesterday. Bask in the moments and try to only take away the positives.
2. There are more reasons to live than to die
This one was the toughest to learn. Things haven’t been easy, and emotions are hard. You can always find the cons of life. They seem to be the loudest; but it is so very important that you always keep in mind the pros. whatever the pros may be, always stick to them.
3. Endings aren’t always a bad thing
An end doesn’t always have to be sad, or really the final chapter of a story. It can be a chance to start a new, to start on a happier path, or achieve a catharsis. I find that if the end sucks then it’s not the end. Ends are really subjective, and not really permanent.
4. Holding grudges are a waste of time
You can waste years on being angry. I know I could. I still hold a small grudge for that girl who “accidently” broke my tailbone during a basketball game. But that kind of energy and anger only weighs you down. You don’t have to necessarily forgive the person or make amends, but just simply letting go of it is a weight off your shoulders.
5. Start saving as soon as possible
I don’t believe in astrology, but the most Scorpio thing about me has to be that I LOVE spending money. I buy some really dumb things, and I never have a savings account for too long because I can never maintain it. But 2020 has taught me that you never know what exactly you’re going to get hit with, and it is always a smart thing to have at least something to help you out financially. Man, capitalism SUCKS!
6. Cross something off your bucket list at least once a year
We all have a list, whether it’s a mental list or something written down and collecting dust in an old shoebox, of all the things we want to do before we die. With all the craziness of everyday life we often forget that list. Make a goal to cross at least one thing off of that list a year. Maybe even ten things. Who know? I didn’t write your list.
7. You will always have time to stop and smell the roses (or the ocean breeze for all those coastal residents)
I get so wrapped up in the stress and responsibility of adult life that I forget to take a moment to appreciate all of the little things around me, like the smell of roses.
8. Good friends are always found in unexpected places
You never know when or where your people will turn up. I met my oldest friend during a costume party when I was eight. I met most of my favorite people while visiting other countries. The point is good people are always there, even if they are hard to find.
9. Projecting your negative feeling you have about yourself onto other people just isn’t cute.
We ALL had a ‘pick-me’ girl phase growing up. We all have at some point projected are own insecurities and self-loathing on other people just to bring make them feel as low as we do. That kind of behavior is so toxic and so negative that it makes people not want to be around you. All you’re doing is isolating yourself. Be better.
10. It’s okay to leave toxic people behind, even if you still care about them
I still think about the people that I had to leave behind. Yes, during those relationships and friendships it was negative, and often led me to dark places, but even as much as I was hurt by those people, some part of me still hopes they are fine. Maybe it’s my savior complex. Who knows? I cared about these people, but in order to save myself I had to cut them loose and move on. I am happier now with that decision and I wish them all the best.
11. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help
There is strength in asking for help. We can’t do everything ourselves and we all have moments of struggle. It’s scary to lean on someone for support, but there it’s a good feel knowing that there is someone there to help you when you need it.
12. Don’t spend so much time thinking about what you’re doing wrong, and focus on what you’re doing right
I am my own worst critic. I can tell you all of the ways I have screwed up in my life, but if you ask me what I accomplished I look like a deer in headlights. I have accomplished a lot for a 24 year old. I have been to 16 countries, I’m a college graduate, and frankly I really five zero f*@%s! (Trust me, that last one really is an accomplishment) we all have our successes and it’s better to focus on that we are went right rather than to dwell only on the things that went wrong.
13. Sharing your opinions is not being disrespectful
Take this one with a grain of salt. People do have opinions that are disrespectful, xenophobic, racist, and sexist, you name it. Those opinions do not count with this statement. But discussing your options in a respectful manner, even with someone you disagree with its not treating that person with disrespect. Question things. Don’t let people tell your opinion is irrelevant to the conversation.
14. When people tell you their problems, it doesn’t mean they’re asking for advice
I personally hate it when people do this to me. Just because I’m complaining about Becky from accounting doesn’t mean I want your advice on how to deal with Becky. Becky’s a b***h! No one wants to deal with Becky. Unless that person asks you what you think they should do. Just keep your damn unsolicited advice to yourself. Just sit there, drink some wine, and agree- Becky really is a b***h!
15. Drinking enough water will make you feel better
I like water. Water is nice! I survived most of my middle school through college years on diet Mello-Yello, dark blue Gatorade, and Dunkin’ iced coffee. If it wasn’t cross country season, I wasn’t drinking water on its own. I had bad skin, severe headaches, and I was in a crappy mood all the time. I’m not saying water cured all of that, but the skin thing is a real bonus. Just, drink water, please! Do it for me!
16. Don’t bite off more than you can chew
This saying is so cliché, but hey, don’t fix things that aren’t broken. In our culture we are so focused on moving up in our careers, trying to stay healthy, have a busy social life, have hobbies to make you more interesting, and working to pay bills and pretty much stretching ourselves so thin, the smallest things start to break us. Do you know how many panic attacks I’ve had in the past 10 years? A lot. A lot is the answer. I was so busy I had to schedule “crying time” into my planner just so I could take the time and stress cry before heading into work. Don’t believe me? Just ask my co-workers who would as if I was high because my eyes were still red from crying in my car. We can’t do everything, and eventually something going to have to give. Be realistic with how many hours you have in a day. Your mental health will thank you.
17. Mental health is just as important as physical health
Like I said, I used to schedule my crying sessions because I refused to lighten my schedule and I hadn’t made time to go to a therapist to address the state of my mental health. I like being athletic and working out every day, but if you’re healthy emotionally and you are suffering, it can take a toll on your entire body. Your mental state has to be a top priority. You don’t need to see a professional (even though there’s absolutely no shame in doing so) but even if you take the time to meditate, take deep breaths, talk with someone you trust, or even write every fleeting thought you have on a blog for random internet users will stumble upon, make sure you are okay mentally, as well as physically.
18. It’s okay to let your emotions out. Don’t bottle them up!
Keeping things inside really does a number on you. When you push thing down deep enough and often enough, eventually all of that energy is going to explode out of you and you will do something crazy. Learning to talk about how you are feeling in a given moment in a constructive way is a sign of real maturity and high emotional intelligence. It’s healthy to be angry or sad or pissed off, but what’s not healthy is ignoring those feeling and letting them fester until one day… ka-boom!
19. Don’t trust someone who has no problem talking about people behind their backs
The person who talks to you about your friends who just walked off from earshot has absolutely no problem doing the same thing to someone else about you. It’s one thing to mention someone in conversation and talk about them when they’re not in the room. However, it’s when you’re spreading rumors, or sharing things that person had told you in confidence, or saying hurtful things behind their backs and pretending to be their friend when that person is around. That is untrustworthy. I had friends who were kind and friendly to my face, but as soon as I turned around, that was when I would be called annoying and fat and that person actually hated me. Don’t trust those people. Don’t be friends with them. They live sad lives and only live to put people down just to make themselves feel better. There are better friends out there.
20. A stranger’s opinion is worthless. Only the people who truly know you have a right to their opinions about you.
I don’t care what people think of me… except for a few, select people. I care what my parents, my grandparents, and my oldest and closest friends think of me. Most people come and go, but the ones that will stay, I will always care what they have to say and what they think of me. At some level I will always want validation from those people because I know that no matter what, they will love me unconditionally. (Unless I become a Patriots fan. Then I might be disowned).
21. There is beauty and happiness in everything around us. Even in the ugliest of times
The first time I had ever seen snow was on my way to my Aunt Linda’s funeral. It was a sad and heartbreaking time and a part of me will always associate snow with that memory. But even in those days, it was sunny out. The snow looked like cotton, and the icicles formed on tree branches, house gutters and bushes would shine like they are made of crystal. That same week was also the first time I went sledding and my cousins made some happy memories. Even when things are dark, there are still moments of light that help us get through it.
22. You don’t need to change who you are to please others
The only people who can change us are ourselves. We grow and change over time and it’s natural to change, but once we start to change who we are to make other people comfortable with our existence that is wrong. If someone doesn’t like who you are, what you like, or what you wear, then that person isn’t worth your time. Who you are now in this moment is enough. Don’t change that because some jerk in a Honda Civic tells you he likes girls who only eat salads. Girl, just eat a damn bowl of pasta and find people who enjoy that quality.
23. If you want to try something new, just do it!
The worst thing that will happen is, well, you die. That’s always the worst case scenario for everything if you think about it. Really, even if it didn’t like it you won’t have to do it again.
24. Failure is a part of life, but accepting failure is a choice. Keep pushing for success no matter how much you’ve failed.
I have lost a lot, especially this past year. Sometimes those failures seem to come in quicker than I am ready for. If I take one step forward I am pushed three steps back. It’s easy to blame everything on a failure… or 100, but only focusing on the negative aspects failure is only going to keep you from seeing more opportunities. Think of failures as learning opportunities. The more you fail the more you learn.
There is so much that these past six years of adulthood has taught me. I definitely don’t have all of the answers. I don’t even have a fraction of them. But even in this short amount of time I have still manage to lived more, experienced more, and learned more than a lot of people do in their entire lifetimes. People learn different lessons with different experiences, and I can’t wait to see what I learn by the time in 25.
So, does anyone have any advice for a very cute, kind-of funny 24-year-old?
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