Somehow I have spent twenty-one years on this planet. Every year that passes offers new challenges and anticipations, and through the ups and downs, things always seem to take a surprising turn.
Just since turning eighteen, I’ve lived in three different places, and all over the world: Memphis, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve solidified my first love, writing, and found a new one, flying. I’ve made incredible friends and grown into more of my true self. (More on this later, I promise.)
I cannot wait to see what’s in store for me in the next twenty-one years of my life, but I’m pretty thankful for the ones I’ve had so far. Therefore, I’m going to be a little ridiculous and offer up twenty-one things I’ve learned since my introduction to Earth on December 1, 1997.
1. Drink lots of water, but treat yourself to that Diet Coke once in a while.
This will sound so ridiculous to so many of you. I have a (little bit) of an addiction to Diet Coke, as I don’t drink coffee or tea. It’s always been my drink of choice, so I’ve learned to limit myself so that I get my daily water intake. Water makes the skin glow, I’m telling ya!
2. Write until you can’t write no more.
DAILY QUOTA! For my usual readers, you guys have heard this many a time by now. The daily quota system has instilled a sense of accomplishment in the scope of my writing. It is a constant battle to make myself write, but over time it becomes easier.
Set a daily quota for yourself, and see how much your writing improves. It’s gold!
3. Listen with open ears and a full heart.
When people come to you, it is imperative you give them a chance. Now, some are definitely users, who will take your time and crush it between their fingers, but I truly believe most people have decent hearts–and they want your opinions.
Listening is key. People know when you are listening, both in how you respond to them verbally and with body language. Friendships are formed on two levels: Hard times and good times. There are two slices of you, in your happy times and terrible times, so if you want people to respect you, you must respect them first.
4. Pray, even when things are good.
I’m so guilty on this one. I tend to take advantage of the good times, and when things crash over the cliff, it’s like, “Okay, now it’s time to pray.”
This is not the point of view we should take. Give thanks for all you have, always. And if there’s something on your mind, pray to God. There have been countless times when I treat prayer as a genie’s bottle, expecting an immediate and resounding yes to my situation. But that’s not how life works.
So pray in advance! Things aren’t guaranteed to be easy, but there is a sense of peace when one closes his or her thoughts and allows the truth to come to light.
5. Say hello first.
When you’re out and about, you are exposing yourself to so many people, those you’ve met, haven’t met yet, and will never meet.
Isn’t that a weird thought to consider? We pass hundreds of people a day (or none at all, if you prefer the company of your home, hehe), and most of them we will never get to know.
So, when you get the chance to see someone you know or someone you don’t know or just someone in general, why not say hello first? Why not extend that olive branch, and see where it goes?
Another tip: Call people by their name, and do this often. This reinforces a stronger bond if you use a person’s name, because he or she will feel closer to you. (Maybe I watch too many psychology videos on YouTube.)
6. Be realistic (with a splash of optimism).
While optimism is a great trait to have, realism is where it’s at. We have to shoot for the stars, but be prepared for a failed rocket launch. (Hopefully that didn’t sound too pessimistic.)
I believe that being realistic (with a splash of optimism) allows you to accept the reality of your situation while pursuing your dreams. It’s not a fool-proof plan, but it works for me. When things go wrong, understand that it will eventually come back to being right, as is the cycle of the world we live in.
7. Sing whenever you can.
Some of you probably aren’t big music fans, but others of you are. I am obsessed with music, and not a day goes by when I don’t have my half-broken headphones jammed in my ear canals. Music helps my writing ten-fold, and I truly enjoy singing to myself like a real weirdo.
When I’m stressed, a guaranteed cure is to hop in my car, pump up the jams, and sing as loud as my vocal chords will allow me. It’s a great therapeutic tool–and one I recommend whole-heartedly.
8. It’s okay to say no.
When I first went to college, there was no way I could say no to anything or anyone. I loved being asked to do things and hang out with people, even if it was jeopardizing my mental health or what I actually wanted to do.
One night, a few friends staged an intervention to teach me how to say no. While at the time it seemed ridiculous, of course I could say no if I really wanted to, it became apparent that I really had no idea to say that simple word and not let others trample me. And so with this help, I became confident in my ability to say “no,” even though I do have quite a few relapses now and then.
Say no if it’s going to compromise your values, your happiness, etc. You have to do what makes you feel best, as long as you’re not hurting others in the process.
9. Time flies, so do what you love.
It kills me when I talk to people who have no sense of what they love to do. This is because I was lucky and found writing at an early age, and it has always been the driving force in who I am and why I am the way I am.
Therefore, I do believe that once you find what you love, you should pursue it (in a realistic way, to keep up with #6 on this list). If you love reading books, why not read as many as you can? If you love politics, why not get involved in your local community government?
If you’re not sure what you love, then you will find out in time. But I hope you find it soon!
10. Patience is key.
Patience is key, and unfortunately it’s a key I lose often.
Sometimes I look at my life and think of the things I haven’t done yet, and I lose my patience. Or when there are certain situations that I wish would take a different course, and then don’t… Or just the general bitterness toward a situation that makes you want to rip out your hair…
Patience is huge. It’s a skill, and it’s something we all should have. Things aren’t always meant to go our way, and we have to be okay with this. And it’s okay, because there’s typically something much better in store, right around the corner. 🙂
11. Spend time with the people you love.
A few years ago, I took a “Love Language Test” to see what my specific “love language” is. A love language is the way you appreciate people’s love for you. For example, mine is “Quality time,” as I find my happiness in the time I get with a person. Others include physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, etc. It just depends on how you are!
Though I found the quiz quite corny, I did realize that quality time means the world to me. What is the point of living without the people we love? Nothing beats a good movie with friends, a shopping trip with my mom, an episode of 100% Hotter with my sister…
If you’re interested in finding out your love language, here is a link to a quiz to find out.
12. Hop in a car/bike/your own two feet and go someplace to clear your head.
This connects to #7 for me, because I love connecting my music to driving off into the sunset and clearing my head from all the nonsense that happens. So much pressure can be put onto our shoulders, and therefore it is important to remember that there is more to life than what the world throws at us.
Find a nook that inspires you, and go there in these moments. It is a great way to relieve that tension, and you’ll feel better as a result.
13. Exercise isn’t as bad as you think.
I’m not the biggest fan of workouts, because I’d much rather stay in bed, work on a book, or watch pointless YouTube videos. That being said, exercise is another great way to relieve stress and listen to your body.
When I work out, I like to jog. It can get boring, but that’s when you can spice it up by listening to music or watching pointless YouTube videos on the treadmill instead of while in bed. 🙂
Trust me, even though I am writing these 21 tips, it doesn’t mean I don’t stumble (and stumble all the time, too).
14. Travel when and if you can.
Traveling is expensive and, at times, pretty daunting. However, it is an amazing way to see the world, gain fresh understanding, and try something new. While I have always liked to travel, the bug didn’t really bite until I moved to California and went abroad for the first time.
But it shouldn’t matter where you go, as long as you are going with amazing people and have access to food/water. While specific locations obviously can be indications of an amazing experience, I’ve found that it is often the unexpected that truly solidifies a great memory.
15. Know that everything doesn’t need to make sense.
Why do I feel like I need to know everything that is happening in the world around me? Who gave me the authority to feel like the queen of my own universe, when there are seven billion other souls walking around this planet?
When it comes down to it, we are all selfish, and we expect the best things to happen to us, just because we are, well, alive. But that’s not how it works: Things happen that we can’t control. Sometimes, the events in our lives just can’t make sense at the moment they happen, but that doesn’t mean clarity won’t come down the road a little later.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, realizing that answers aren’t always clear and perfect. Sometimes, the answers we truly need can leave us helpless and lonely before the truth is fully revealed. We have to be willing to accept this logic, or life will never make sense to us at all.
16. It is okay to let people go.
This may be the most challenging conclusion I’ve come to at 21, because I love people, and I truly think life is nothing if there aren’t people in it. (I hope everyone thinks this too, I should add.)
But this is something I have been really struggling with lately: You have to do what’s best for you, and this can mean closing a door, the book you’re reading, the conversation you’ve been having.
Only you know what is best for you–and you have to be willing to protect yourself if others are bringing you down.
17. Have fun, but remember the opportunity costs.
Econ lovers, here you go: Opportunity costs. You have to enjoy the life you’ve been given, but you can’t slack off when it comes to your future.
For me personally, this relates to my current college experience. Friends are awesome, and you have to take some time for yourself, but what about future careers and opportunities? You can’t let the future slip through your fingers because you’re too committed to your present, but you also can’t let your present slip through your fingers because you’re so invested in your future.
18. You aren’t a writer unless you write.
This is going to sting: You aren’t a writer unless you write.
There are always excuses for why we don’t do things: I’m tired. I’m stressed. I’m busy. Well, you’ve got to stand up to those negative thoughts, and sit down and force yourself to get to work, or you’re going to be stuck with a blank page for the rest of your life.
Write! Don’t let anything stop you.
19. Talk about things that matter.
Some of my strongest relationships stem from pure honesty in conversations. Does anyone really like small talk? I don’t mind it most of the time, but then I realize that I want to know what’s really going through people’s minds. I want to know if they’re anxious or happy or confused or in love, thinking about Big Macs and summer getaways to Bali or an awkward encounter with a family friend. Everyone is so unique, and there are so many stories to tell.
I’m the kind of person who wants to dig in deep. I want to talk about God and politics and the future, and I’m drawn to people who are similar.
Find the things that matter to you, and find people with whom to talk about them! It’s cleansing.
20. No one is better than anybody else.
This may not apply to everyone, but I definitely feel as if we as humans are constantly assessing the people we pass by and judging whether or not we are better dressed, more attractive, wealthier, cooler, insert adjective here. It’s why people are attracted to people who look and act like them, right?
But here’s the thing: No one is better than anyone else. The homeless guy on the street is just as valuable, just as important, as the successful guy driving a Porsche right by him.
21. Give thanks in all you do.
We only have so many trips around the sun (got this from a classic Kacey Musgraves lyric). Therefore, it’s key to be thankful for everything we’ve got, because each person on this planet has things of value.
You’ve been given one life. Treat it with respect, even when things are not as good as they could be, even when it feels like there is nothing to be thankful for… I guarantee you that there is.
THERE YOU GO.
Such a good number in my opinion. Every number, though, is a good number, because it signifies that there is more time, more opportunity, more hope. No matter how old you may be, I hope these 21 things can impact your outlook and give you something to think about. When it comes down to it, we’re all on a journey for answers, and we must be willing to listen if we want to live life to its fullest!
I hope you guys have had a great beginning to December. The holiday season is in full swing, and that means Christmas is just around the corner!
Until next time,