Tuesday, April 12, 2011

21 Things from 21 Years

Just over a month ago I turned 21. For us Americans, it's a big birthday. Not only have you entered into your third decade of life, but you can legally drink! Which is not the point of this post. Not even close, my friends. The point of this post is what I have learned over these past 21 years. Surely, I am not as experienced as someone twice my age or five times my age, but I have certainly learned a lot, and I will continue to do so.

My blog is about learning. It's about learning everything that I can from relationships, places, cultures, food, objects, history, structures and challenges. Without our experiences, we are nothing.

And so, from my experiences, I have learned the following:

1.) Never be afraid to say no. I cannot stress how important this lesson is. If you are tired, stressed, sick, run-down, annoyed or just plain old don't want to do something, then do not--I repeat: DO NOT--do it. Say no! It's as easy as this: "No." And don't provide excuses either. Simply say, "No, I'm sorry. I can't." Then move on. Believe it or not, people will understand, and they will respect you more than if you say yes and only half ass whatever it is you said yes to.

2.) At the same time, never be afraid to say yes, either. Yes is a beautiful word. It leads you to new people, places and things. If you say yes, even if you're afraid of failure or challenge or disappointment, you might just find out that wonderful, beautiful, new and exciting things await you. Yes led me to Rome. Yes led me to La Salle University. Yes led me to my relationships with my best friends and my boyfriend. Yes led me to many, many wonderful things, and I've never regretted a single one.

3.) If you know that someone is wrong when they are pretending to be right, correct them, but do it politely and tactfully. This lesson can get you far in life, because not only are you shedding light on a topic for others who might believe that the person in the wrong actually is right, but you are standing up for truth. Just be sure that you are respectful, honest, and know what you are talking about yourself before you speak up. Don't get defensive or accusatory or aggressive--just simply state what you need to state with a smile.

4.) Make new friends, but keep the old ones. Okay, so I stole this one from Girl Scouts, but it's a good lesson! What could be better than making new friends all throughout your life, but keeping in touch with your first friends, as well? Nothing! Which is why this is a lesson to be followed. Don't lose touch with the old friends just because you meet new people. While the new people might be exciting, there will be a point where they become your "old friends," too. And so the cycle continues. So keep the old friends while continuing to make new ones. That way, when you're 80, you'll have more friends than you know what to do with and at your funeral everyone will have something wonderful to say about you.

5.) Work hard, because it pays off. There is no way that I can stress this enough. If you work hard in everything that you do, it will benefit you more than you can imagine at some point. It won't be tomorrow, and it might not be ten years from now, but at some point it will hit you and you will say to yourself, "Wow, I'm really glad I worked as hard as I did." No one says, "Wow, I'm glad I put no effort into that," because if you put no effort in, you don't reap benefits. So work hard, and reap those benefits!

6.) Do something every day that makes you happy. This lesson is self-explanatory, I think. If something makes you happy, why not do it every day? You'll be a much happier person because of it, and we all want happiness. For me, I'm happiest taking photos as I walk around wherever I find myself. So go and do what makes you happy, and do it every day!

7.) Do something every day that scares you. Eleanor Roosevelt said this, and she was a pretty intelligent lady. So take her advice. Because if you do something that scares you every day, eventually your fears will go away, and you will be able to live your life fearlessly and confidently. Or, at least, that's the goal. But even if you don't achieve that goal, do something that scares you anyway. It's about taking calculated risks. If you take these risks, you will truly experience everything you were meant to experience.

8.) Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Believe it or not, it's possible to be both stylish and comfortable at the same time. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other. So, you know that gorgeous dress you tried on that scratched like wool and was so tight you couldn't sit down in it? Ditch it and go for the other gorgeous dress that not only made you look fabulous, but helped you rock out on the dance floor to your favorite song. Remember those hiking boots that had all the latest hiking boot technology, but made your feet feel like you couldn't walk thirteen steps in them let alone thirteen miles? Forget them, and opt for the hiking boots that are both functional and fitting so you can hike thirteen hundred miles and still feel like you just walked out your door.

9.) Get Wrecked. And no, I don't mean go out and get shit faced by drinking way too much alcohol at your favorite local pub. I mean, go volunteer somewhere and lose yourself in the experience. Provide your time, energy, and personality (and not just your money) to a good cause of your choice, and I promise you it will change your life. It won't be easy, but it will change your life.

10.) Sometimes you get the emotional shit kicked out of you. It happens. Stay strong. You will make mistakes. You will not know what to do. You will get hurt and damaged and broken. But life will go on. You will also pick yourself back up and fix things. You will own up to your mistakes. You will figure out what to do. You will mend and ease and correct yourself. It takes time, but I promise you it will happen.

11.) Complaining never works. So instead of complaining about something or someone you don't like, get productive and do something about the person or thing that's annoying to you. Instead of whining, make an effort to see the silver lining, and then focus on that silver lining. It's there. It's hard to see, but it is there.

12.) Eat your fruits and veggies, and drink lots of water. One of the best things I've learned from traveling is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. First off, they're healthy. Second off, they're delicious. And drink water. Water is the best thing for you to drink--way better than diet coke, grape juice or coffee.

13.) Stay confident, but not cocky. If you're confident, people will believe in you and trust you. People will want to spend time with you. People will want to do the things you're doing. People will not bother you as much as if you walked with your head down and your "tail between your legs." Don't be vulnerable, but don't be cocky either. Being overly confident is a recipe for disaster, but having just the right amount of confidence will get you far.

14.) It's okay to make mistakes, but own up to them. When you make a mistake, it's okay. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Without mistakes, we'd never learn anything. However, when you do make a mistake, make sure to also own up to it, apologize, and try to fix it (or let someone who knows what they're doing try to fix it). Owning up to your mistakes shows that you aren't above apologizing for being wrong and that you realize what you've done, even if your intentions were good.

15.) Write letters. Send postcards. Mail gifts. In a world where technology is king, and it's easy enough to send an e-mail, text message, facebook chat or IM. Those things take split seconds. And while it's perfect for quickly and efficiently keeping in touch with the people in your life, think of how you feel every time you get snail mail. It's probably one of the coolest feelings in the world, because it means that someone was thinking about you enough to actually write you out a letter or a postcard or send you a gift through the post man. It's a great feeling, so give someone else that feeling, and send something the old fashioned way!

16.) Listen to all kinds of music. Maybe you have your favorite music, and that's fine and good. But check out new music every once in a while. It's a great way to find new artists and bands to love, and you might just find a song with your new favorite lyrics, melody or beat.

17.) If you really want to live, get ready to get your hands dirty. This can be taken figuratively, but it might also need to be taken literally. Sometimes life requires you to get a little dirty, and if you aren't willing to get a little dirty, then you're sacrificing a really important part of your life--the part that requires a little elbow grease and some hard work in order to achieve something great.

18.) Get ready. Get out. Get active. Don't sit at home in your pajamas and slippers on the couch all day for no reason. While we all need vegetable days, making them a habit is the fast lane to gaining weight and depression. So instead, jump in the shower, put your clothes on, and get outside. Walk. Run. Bike. Skateboard. Roller blade. I don't care what you do, but get outside and get active. Even if you're just walking down the street to your local park or to your friends house. It'll make you feel better, and you'll create more last memories than if you were to sit on your ass watching TV for 14 hours straight.

19.) Eat breakfast. This one might seem like common sense, but it's amazing to me how many people do not eat breakfast. In fact, I used to be one of them. Unless my mother would bring me breakfast in the mornings, I never ate. And by 10AM I regretted it, because I was feeling tired, grumpy and slow. Now, I make it a point to always eat something, even if it is a just a banana or a granola bar and a glass of orange juice. Trust me, breakfast is magic. You'll feel much better throughout the day if you eat it.

20.) Let the little things go. I am severely guilty of not following this, and having to continually remind myself that the little things are just that--little things--and they won't matter in the long run. But at the time that the little things happen, they seem far worse than they actually are. And it's hard to let them go. However, I always try to take a step back and put things into perspective, and while it doesn't always work, it is a work in progress for me.

21.) Tell people, "I love you." This is probably the most important lesson I have learned. If you love someone, tell them and tell them as often as possible. And don't substitute, "luv u," "love ya," or "wuv youuu," for the actually three words: "I LOVE YOU." Because the former all mean something completely different. They mean you aren't willing to put in the commitment that "I love you" asks for, and they mean that you don't really, truly, whole-heartedly love that person. So make sure that next time you see someone you love, whether its your sister, father, friend, significant other, or grandparent, be sure to tell them: "I love you."

What is a lesson that you've learned that you would like to share?


  1. Just breathe! For all my involvement in music performance, I still get pretty nervous anytime I have to do anything in front of people and appear competent. If you can't relax enough to breathe well, you really aren't to get anything done. It goes for any sort of high-pressure situation - presenting, performing, dealing with people you don't like, etc.

  2. That's definitely a good one. Thanks for sharing Pete :-)


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