Today on my 20th birthday, I'm taking some time to reflect on these last 20 years and the lessons I've learned along the way. These pieces of knowledge are based on my personal experiences, and you may not have found them to be your own truths. I'm sure I'll unlearn several of these lessons, while others still I will continue to have thrust in my face until I truly learn them. As long as I feel I've lived, I know that I have a hell of a lot more life to live and I hope in 20 years I've learned a hell of a lot more.
1. Everyone is different, but different is not synonymous with "bad." Respect differences of opinions, beliefs, cultures, priorities, wants, needs, and lifestyles.
2. Put yourself first. You are the only one who knows what you need and how/when you need it, and there's no use waiting around hoping someone else is going to magically guess exactly what this is. Rely on yourself and you'll find it a lot easier to offer support to those in your life when they need it.
3. Invest in a good bra. I'm not sure what the equivalent of this would be for those of you who don't wear bras, but it's still been an important lesson I've learned in my own life. Trends may come and go, but chances are your breasts aren't going anywhere. Fork over an extra couple bucks and your breasts (and your back and your posture and your self esteem) will thank you.
4. Don't forget to treat yourself. Even if your biggest accomplishment of the day was getting out of bed, it's still an accomplishment. Don't forget to acknowledge and reward yourself for a job well done.
5. Don't take shit from anyone, especially yourself.
6. You don't need to figure out what you're doing with the rest of your life. Not now, not even later. Just live and let your life figure itself out.
7. Leggings do so count as pants. You can absolutely wear socks with sandals, and I'm sure that ugly Christmas sweater you're wearing unironically is warm and comfortable. In other words, wear whatever the hell you want.
8. It's okay to ask for help. The people in your life are here to help you, but chances are they're not going to know what to do if you don't let them know. Once you're back on track you'll be happy to repay the favor.
9. Let your regrets fuel you, not hold you back. As a 15-year-old me once tried to say in an oral English final, "success is the best revenge."
10. Check your privilege. This doesn't mean you need to feel guilty about every choice you make or every word you speak. It does everyone good to examine their own personal bias and how it might affect their behavior and perspective of the world.
11. Listen before you speak, and listen when you're done speaking. There is so much more out there for you to hear and learn than there will ever be for you to say.
12. Do what you need to do to get through the day. I recently accepted that I need to spend more time in bed than most people do, and that just because I'd rather watch Netflix than work out doesn't mean I'm a bad person. I'm just trying to get through my day and if these coping mechanisms help me do so, then more power to me.
13. Make a reasonable budget and actually stick to it.
14. There are some things in life you'll need to do just for the experience. Other things you should never do even if people tell you the experience is worth it. Also: recognize that the people in your life are going to make different mistakes than you and have to try things you never tried to learn important lessons in life.
15. Learn how to prioritize. Make a list if you have to... No one wants to be the person who accidentally makes getting drunk their number one weekend priority every weekend just because they forgot to think about what else they wanted or needed to do that weekend.
16. Learn the difference between an opinion and a belief. One is a sum total of all the information you've gathered on a subject, and the other is simply something you hold true to yourself. Please act accordingly.
17. Try not to knock it until you try it... Note that this rule only applies to little things, like getting a facial or trying fast food.
18. Work hard to develop a loving relationship with yourself. You are the only constant in your life, and the sooner you are able to support and love yourself, the better.
19. You do not owe anything to the toxic people in your life. If someone is consistently taking advantage of you, making your relationship all about them, or making you feel bad about yourself, you do not need them in your life.
20. And finally, spend your life learning and immersing yourself in new things. After all: what is life if not one big learning experience?