I have officially been on this Earth for 23 years, which means I’m pretty much at the helm of adulthood. During those 23 years, there’s no doubt that I’ve learned a thing or two as I endured the plenty growing pains that life had to offer. While I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made in the past, I do acknowledge the fact that I may have made some choices and took on certain mindsets that made living life a little bit of a challenge, both for myself and those around me. I’ve compiled a list of 23 pieces of advice – one for each year I’ve been alive – that I would have wanted my younger self to know.
1. Keep your expectations low.
This may be a weird piece of advice to start with, but allow me to elaborate. Having expectations is a good thing – it allows you to gauge certain situations and truly helps you find your worth in a situation. With that being said, there have been plenty of times where my expectations were probably a little too high. What I soon realized was that by having certain expectations, I was only setting myself up for disappointment. That may be a bleak way of looking at it, but it’s the truth. I think when you have certain expectations about things, you build yourself up a bit too much, and when things don’t go as expected, you fall hard and fast. Life shouldn’t be filled with moments of being thrown down by its aggressive hands just because something didn’t go quite as you had expected. By having little to no expectation, you’re forced into the mindset of going with the flow, and thus being satisfied with whatever happens – because you didn’t expect anything from it. And when things go way better than you expected, the end result is that much more satisfying. Keeping your expectations low makes living life a way more pleasant thing to do.
2. Karma is real, but it’s not always your place to make sure it gets served.
This is a bit of a new thing that I’ve learned. Over the past year or so, there have been so many people who have wronged me, and in each situation, I wanted nothing more than to make sure justice got served. From landlords financially screwing me over to people just straight up being disrespectful to me, it all cuts deep. There were moments where I found myself wishing that I was a more vindictive person so I could get the satisfaction of ensuring the whole “an eye for an eye” thing came true. But vindication isn’t in me, and I can never bring myself to be anything but respectful to everyone, even to those who have been less-than-quality human beings. I eventually came to the realization that festering in my own anger wasn’t really serving me. If anything, it was eating away at me more than the actual situation I was angry about. I eventually learned to simply walk away from the situation and any malice I was feeling, and made sure to take the high road as I made my exit.
3. Sometimes things need to fall apart in order to fall into place.
This is something I’ve had to cling onto for a very long time. There was a period in my life when I felt like everything, everything, was falling apart, and all I could do was watch as my entire world went to shambles. But after much introspection and prayer, I soon realized that while things were falling apart, that means that things could only go uphill from here. I realized I was being torn apart only to be put back together again, and in the end, I always came out resilient and even stronger than before.
4. If you put positive energy out into the universe, you will get positive energy back.
It took a friendship going awry for me to realize this. This friend of mine would find ways to pass unfair judgment on people, and eventually, being the highly impressionable person that I am, I began doing the same. I found myself pushing so much negative energy out into the universe, that I became so cynical and pessimistic. Eventually, I could only see the negative in every situation. It took losing the friendship for me to realize all of this, and that along with a cynical attitude comes selfishness. I was only thinking about how things affected me, how I felt about a situation, how I could put myself above others. As soon as I was removed from that negativity, I found that the universe I was living in wasn’t nearly as awful as I had thought it was. I flipped negative situations on their head, and tried pushing more positivity into the universe to make up for the years when I was nothing but negative. Life is so much more beautiful when you actually look for the beauty in the universe.
5. You won’t always get along with everyone who comes into your life.
I have a coworker who, for whatever reason, is just not having it with me. We’ve only worked together for about three weeks, and we’ve never interacted, never really had a conversation with each other, and so you’d think that there should be no reason to not at least tolerate each other. One morning last week, I ran into him in our break room, and so naturally, I greeted him with a “hello” and a kind (but tired) smile. What did he do? He looked at me, said nothing, and moved to the other side of the room. What did I do (aside from screaming copious amounts of obscenities inside my head)? I shrugged and decided that any contempt he has for me is his problem, and not mine. For such a long time, I’ve been stuck in the mindset of needing everyone to like me, and to be able to get along with everyone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, until you come across that one person who has every problem in the world with you for no apparent reason at all. When this happens, I get into my own head and become hyper aware of how I act and how I want people to perceive me. What you need to come to grips with is that you are never (never) going to get along with everyone, and not everyone you encounter is going to like you for whatever reason, just like you’ll inevitably come across a person you won’t be the biggest fan of. I’ve found that it doesn’t really serve me to be preoccupied with the problems that people may have with me, and so I eventually learned to shrug it off and move on.
6. You can’t keep even the closest of friends in your life forever.
Here’s the thing – when you first meet people, you are in one stage of your life, and it just so happens that the people you come across and hit it off with are on the same page of life you are. Naturally, you are going to grow and move onto the next stage, and they will too. Unfortunately, you won’t always grow at the same time, and sometimes, you’ll even grow in different directions. Someone who was your best friend at one point in your life could inevitably be a stranger at another point – and that’s okay. It’s going to suck going your separate ways, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt and anger, but eventually, you’ll realize that what you had at one stage of your life was good, and eventually (hopefully) any resentment will disappear.
7. There is always room for improvement.
Attention: Humble brag ahead, proceed with caution. There is not a day that passes by where someone stops me just to build me up and stroke my ego in some way. Whether it has to do with this blog, my Instagram, something I designed, or something I said, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who are constantly looking to encourage each other. Even still, whenever I get these compliments, I have a physical reaction to them, and here’s why. I never want to be in the mindset that I’m good at anything, or to deem something as “my thing.” Blogging is not “my thing.” Math is not “my thing.” Social media is not “my thing.” The reason why I stray away from that mindset is that I know that no matter how good I may be at something, there is always going to be someone better. With that being said, though, I know my worth. Rather than walking around feeling sorry for myself, I find the fact that there’s always room for improvement to be both sobering and motivating at the same time. As long as I’m improving myself, or honing in on whatever it is I’m dabbling in that week, I’m constantly growing, and I’m more than happy to bring anyone interested along with me.
8. Frustration solves nothing. Patience is everything.
I remember one night when I was about ten years old, my parents tasked me with cooking rice to go with our dinner. I filled the pot with rice, and I was on my way to the kitchen to fill it up with water, but then I stumbled and the rice flew everywhere. Frustrated, I dropped to my knees in a huff, and hastily cleaned the rice off of the floor, one grain at a time. Seeing that I was upset with myself, my dad quickly came to my side and consoled me in my disdain. He told me that being frustrated wasn’t going to help the situation go away any faster, but patience would make the frustrating situation way less frustrating. Since then, I’ve clung onto that conversation and mindset whenever I find myself in a less than ideal situation. While it is okay to be inwardly frustrated about something, it doesn’t really serve anyone to push that negative energy out into the universe.
9. At no point in your life should you ever feel like you have anything figured out.
Since I started college, I’ve always felt like my official foray into adulthood meant that I would have it together and figured out. As I pinballed my way through different majors and career paths, I quickly realized that no one has anything figured out, and that life’s journey is all a learning process. Show me one person who tries to convince people that they have it together, and I’ll show you a person who is just as lost as everyone else.
10. Indulge (in) your introversion.
Many times in your life, you’re going to be told that you’re anti-social, and to come out of your bubble once in awhile. I’m not denying that social interaction is essential to be a functioning human being, but too much of it can get overwhelming, and you need to sit alone and decompress. This isn’t being anti-social, this is being introverted, and you need to indulge it once in awhile. I crave any moment of alone time I can get, whether that involves sitting in my room watching YouTube videos all afternoon or going to the movies by myself on a Friday night. While social interaction is important to function in society, having time to yourself is important for you to be a functioning human being.
11. Always make time for the Lord.
This one kind of piggy-backs onto the last item. Because I am so hungry for time by myself, that simultaneously makes more time to spend with God. It’s been a learning process for me to really figure out what it means to spend time with the Lord. When I was growing up, my “Jesus Time” involved saying the same prayer every night before bed – and oftentimes falling asleep before I could finish it. But spending time with the Lord involves way more than just spewing your wants and needs at Him. Just like spending time with anyone else, you need to quiet your brain and listen, too. It is in those moments that you can truly feel His presence, and understand where He ultimately is leading you to go. I’ve never known a life so serene until now.
12. Be bold.
Comfort zones are dangerous, which is a very funny thing to say, considering they’re called “comfort zones.” The problem with comfort zones is that it is often too difficult to leave them. Yes, it’s true that if you never leave that box, then you won’t be putting yourself in a position to experience hurt, sadness, or harm. But if you never experience the lows, you will never truly experience the highs, either. Sure, it may be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but it will only be that way for a little bit before you can truly experience the reward. Be bold and put yourself out there once in awhile – you very well might like what you see.
13. Know when enough is enough.
Whether this is with managing your money, knowing your alcohol tolerance, or with a friendship, know your limits, know your worth, know when enough is enough.
14. Don’t rush into anything.
In a society where instant gratification constantly plagues our lives, it’s difficult not to bring that need into other places – trying to get somewhere in a hurry, satisfying a food craving, or graduating within a span of time. For majority of college, I had myself convinced that if I didn’t get my degree in 4-5 years, then I had failed college. And so what did I do to meet this outrageous goal? I piled on copious amounts of units of coursework to an unhealthy degree. One quarter, I found myself taking 16 units of Math classes – and it did not end well for me. The ironic thing about rushing to get somewhere is that there is the dangerous possibility of being driven backwards – and that’s what happened to me. I know now to take things slow, but that’s not to say that I still get impatient once in awhile, because I definitely have my moments – commuting during rush hour brings out the worst in me. But the lesson here is to focus on the finish line, and you’ll get there in no time.
15. No one wants to go to a pity party.
Sucky things happen. It’s inevitable. You’ll experience hurt, anger, and heartbreak – welcome to being alive. Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to have an off day once in awhile. But guess what? You’re not the only person in the world to go through these things, nor are you the first person in all of humanity to experience a dip in your mood once in awhile. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and stop trying to get other people to feel sorry for you. It’s a bad day, not a bad life.
16. It’s not always your responsibility to take care of others.
A friend helped me realize this a few days ago. The reason why friends exist is so they can all take care of each other. You are never solely responsible for taking care of everyone. You have to take care of yourself too, and you have to let others in and be vulnerable so they can help you take care of yourself. The responsibility should be carried by everyone, not just one person.
17. Never be consumed by regret.
“Regret” is one of the words that I try not to have in my vocabulary. Of course, being human, it’s natural for us to wonder how things would have panned out if a decision was made differently, or if something else was said, if anything at all. It’s so important to not be so consumed by regret, mostly because being held up by things of the past will keep you from moving forward. You can’t change something that’s already happened, so why worry about it? Also, I’m a firm believer that whatever choices you do make at any point in time are the best possible ones to make, given your circumstances at that particular time. It’s over, it’s done, so move on.
18. Know the difference between ranting and character assassinating.
When we feel wronged by someone, it’s very easy to cross the line that divides getting frustration out and trashing someone’s character. It is so incredibly off-putting for me when people paint others in the worst light possible, and even more so when these people let outsiders pass judgment on a situation and those involved they know nothing about. Your feelings of frustration are valid, but don’t let that frustration dictate how you act at any given moment. Remember: The way you talk about someone says way more about your character than theirs.
19. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone.
There are going to be those people who will either wrong you, people who you won’t get along with, or blatantly disrespectful people. But just because they show you now respect doesn’t mean that you get to be a spiteful human being. Being respectful doesn’t necessarily entail faking kindness and enduring painful small talk you don’t want to have. It doesn’t even have to entail saying hello when you see them. But going out of your way to show contempt for another person, in my opinion, is never okay. The way you treat people is a direct reflection on you.
20. Nothing is permanent.
In the midst of any situation, whether you are occupied by a utopia that leaves you over the moon, or a situation that’s overwhelmingly miserable, you need to remember that nothing is permanent. Remembering this during a great situation will keep you grounded, and remembering this during a bad situation will give you hope that it will eventually pass and hopefully motivate you to stick out even the worst of situations.
21. No matter how bad you may think you have it, someone else has it worse.
Back when I was working at my previous job, I thought I had everything under the sun to complain about. I was working under someone who didn’t know how to delegate, who was working under someone else who made sure to let you know that you are beneath her. I had to deal with rude and angry students on a daily basis, and answering the nonstop ringing office phone got old very quickly. I would periodically hang out with a friend of mine and rant about the latest asinine thing my boss did to me. When I finished, she would tell me all of the drama going on in her own life, and hearing the intense things that were going on in her life made me realize that my life really isn’t so bad after all. Realizing that someone out there most definitely has it worse helps you appreciate the things you do have going on for you in your own life. Count your blessings. At least you’re alive.
22. Mom and Dad are getting older, too.
It’s true when they say that the older you get, the more you appreciate your parents, and I’ve come to realize that a little while ago. Though I myself am not a parent, I still know that it could not have been an easy task – especially with the shenanigans I put my own parents through during my teenage years. When I realized that everyone is lost and is still figuring out their own lives, I soon thought, “Oh yeah. My parents are human, too.” I’ve definitely tried to be more patient with them over the past few years and have bitten my tongue when a snarky remark was forcing its way out. Just like you, words and actions cut them deep. Be patient with your parents. They only want what’s best for you, and no matter how old you get, you are still their child, and want to keep you from getting cuts and bruises.
Finally, the main thing I’ve learned to do, and am still learning, over the past 23 years is to relax. Oftentimes, I get way too into my own head about things that happen in my life, and tumble down a hole of “what if’s” and “what could be’s.” I’ve gotten both way too excited and way too paranoid about things that haven’t even happened yet. But as I’ve gone through all of these things, I always made it out of these situations in one way or another. So to the child the still lives within me, I would like to tell him to relax. Everything is going to be just fine.