The day has arrived. Today I turn 25. I feel a step closer to fully embodying an “adult”. I graduated, got married, began my career, am managing my finances, and continue to pursue my passion of travelling as well as others, such as this blog.
At first I was resisting this chapter of life, being so fond of my early twenties, but now, I am very excited for this next phase of life. I now have the courage, discipline, confidence and experience I need for the goals and dreams I have for the next coming years. As I bid a fond farewell to this past chapter, and before I officially begin this next one, I would like to share 25 life lessons I learned throughout my early 20’s.
- Be Your Best Self
Your opinions, your desires, your style – all of that can change but who you are as a person shouldn’t. If you are generous, don’t become greedy. If you are kind, don’t become rude. Whatever is good about you, keep it safe and don’t ever feel ashamed that you are not something else. If you are more shy than social, that’s ok, because shy doesn’t mean that you don’t have meaningful relationships or that you are boring. If you are, however, any of these, you should work on it: fearful, arrogant, lazy, selfish, wasteful, irresponsible, etc. If you feel you are not your best self, that’s ok! You can learn and you can grow, but put yourself in the right company and situations to help you with that, who really inspire you to do and be your best self.
“Good, better, best. Never let rest. Until your good is better, and your better is best.” – St. Jerome
- Life Isn’t Fair
We all have a sense of pride and justice, and when circumstances don’t go our way it is natural to get angry. Getting angry is ok, it is a passionate emotion. What is not ok is to use that anger to lash out and start throwing blame around, or to throw yourself a pity party. Worse yet, you try to manipulate others or the situation to get your way. If you were raised with a sense of entitlement, I’m sorry to tell you, but life doesn’t work that way. Good farmers get bad weather, and mean employees get promoted. People don’t owe you ANYTHING. I’m going to say that again. People don’t owe you anything. I would say people should at least owe you respect, but we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone is a decent person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be one. Be respectful and make the best out of anything and everything that comes your way. Remember someone always has it worse than you. Always. Life isn’t fair, but you should be.
- Be Patient With People
I worked in sales, and it taught me A LOT. Dealing with customers opens your eyes to see what a beautiful virtue patience really is. This can be patient with having to wait a long time, with a small human error, or with situations that are completely out of everyone’s hands. If you pull up to McDonald’s drive through and order a breakfast meal, then get to your window and they tell you they are out of hashbrowns but want to offer you a cookie or muffin instead, the right thing to do is smile, accept their apology and take a chocolate chip cookie. How often, though, do we see people simply blow up and make absolutely everyone involved miserable? Learn to let small things slide, and you will be much happier for it.
22.You Will Make Mistakes or Change Your Mind- That’s OK
I always freeze with anxiety when I have to make a decision, even if it’s just to pick an ice cream flavor, because I’m afraid to make a mistake I will regret. You might go into Business school, only to realize that you actually want to become a pharmacist. That’s ok. It’s no different than deciding to move to a big city and realizing two years down the road that you actually much prefer the quiet country life. These kinds of ‘mistakes’ are not based on character flaws or lack of wisdom, necessarily, but simply lack of experience. You won’t know that you will outgrow the busy nightlife of a metropolis until you do. Or realize how much you want to start a family after living on your own for several years. As a young adult, I always felt like my decisions would have huge repercussions that would affect my whole life. Some decisions will, but many will just be a part of your life for as long as you allow it.
- Seek and Take Opportunities
All good things come to those who wait. Well…not entirely. It’s more like ‘ All good things come to those who have put in the necessary effort first, and waited for the chance to come.” I learned a pretty invaluable lesson from a group of friends I made when living in France. They showed me how perseverance and taking action will lead to opportunities. Don’t sit on the couch “hoping” something good to come. Don’t just pray and think it will happen. You have to take some action! The waiting comes after.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
- Walks Are Priceless
Whether these are on your own or with a best friend or significant other, take the time to go on walks. Let’s face it, our faces are in front of some sort of screen most of the day, whether we are playing Pokemon Go, watching Netflix, checking Twitter, or writing a paper. Down time is something we need to make time for. There’s something about being in nature that, scientifically proven, reduces stress. If we are always go, go, go and simply taking our free to time ‘distract’ ourselves, then we totally miss out on a chance to reflect on life. You’d be pretty surprised by how productive you will feel, mentally, just by pondering about things.
- Appreciate Your Family & Friends
Whether that is your parents, grandparents, husband, or best friend, make sure you take time to celebrate them and let them know how much they mean to you. I appreciate what my parents have done for me so much, and even I don’t always agree with everything they did, I know they did it out of love, and will always love and support me. As you get older, you begin to realize just how far you are able to go with people who are behind you. You owe them a lot, so be thoughtful and show them that they are appreciated and loved in a way that you know they would feel, and don’t always wait for special occasions to show it.
- Have A Budget
If you don’t have a good grip on your finances now, you are really limiting your potential and success. I don’t mean becoming filthy rich, but I have seen up-close what debt can do to someone. It literally feels like being a prisoner. If I could have one piece of advice for finances, it would be: Don’t go into debt. You might think I’m crazy, but I’m serious. It’s not unrealistic either. I know a young girl who just graduated high school and has been working at Sobeys (a grocery store) for 3 years or so. She has $15,000 saved up for university! I was BLOWN AWAY when I found out that this 18 year old has more money than my husband I have currently in our account! I thought, wow, now that is a smart move. Saving up money over time is just one way to have financial flexibility (meaning you can do just about anything you want, within reason, without having to worry about money), and having a budget is another. You got dreams and goals that require financial support? Do something about it! It starts with a plan.
“Having a budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” – Dave Ramsey
17. You Look Great
Remember when you used to pluck your eyebrows into oblivion? Or wear white eye shadow all over your lid? Remember when your body and skin was so awkward in high school? You probably look back and think “ew, what was I thinkin?”. Or if you’re me, maybe you’re thinking, “Man, I was so thin!”. Regardless of which reaction you get, chances are you look better now than ever. Your style smartened up, the awkward shapes are gone, and maybe you are actually more fit than you were before! There are not many people I know from high school who look worse off now. Even if you have that extra 10-20, ok maybe even 30, pounds of weight, there is something different in the way you carry yourself, in the way you own your style. Nothing is more attractive that your sincere smile as you walk about and say with your body language “this is me, and I love it!”
- Find and Keep Quality Friends
When we are thrusted out of high school, we are forced to make new friends, to expand our circles, especially if you start university or new job. You won’t always find good friends wherever you go, you might even have to make an effort and do some searching. But when you do find these friends, keep in touch and don’t let it starve, just like in any relationship.
If you are one of those fortunate people who have a life-long friend, that’s wonderful! I moved around way too much to have a childhood friend. Just be careful to not hang on to friends who, maybe, you were really tight with, but now things have changed, you both have changed, and you don’t have the closeness anymore. It happens. A lot. Don’t hurt yourself and push to be in your friend’s priorities if you’re not. You never know what friends will come and go and how long they all will last, but enjoy it while it lasts.
- Spend on Experience Not Stuff
When you start making your own money, it feels amazing. Empowering. It is very easy, however, to fall for ALL the marketing around you to spend, spend, spend. We are living in the tech gadget age, and even 2 year olds know how to use an iPad better than most people. The more money you make, the larger the temptation to buy something really cool, yet unnecessary. Before you are tempted to give in to this kind of impulse purchase, think about your goals, your budget and how you have been able to live the last 20 some years without that particular invention. Then take the money you would have spent on it, and put it towards an “Experience” jar. This can be taking your girlfriend for an incredible birthday dinner. Maybe a road-trip with some friends. An online accounting course. Or even a backpacking trip through South America. The memories you will make from investing in these experiences will bring you far greater joy than a pair of Bose headphones.
- Fitness Matters
If you are a young teen reading this and you are capable of eating a hippo with nothing to show for it…I have to tell you it won’t last. And if you are a young adult or older and you can still eat a hippo with nothing to show for it (*coughJeffLarsencough*) well then, I hate you. Seriously though, regardless of how you look, fitness and health is really about how you feel. Do you feel energetic? Do you get good sleep? Do you feel swift like a coursing river? Or have you the strength of a raging fire? Do you feel like you have the force of a great typhoon? (Hollar in the comments if you know what the heck I’m talking about). They say nothing tastes as good a skinny feels. I say, nothing tastes as good as wow-I-feel-so-strong-I-could-take-on-a-Hun-army feels! Finding joy in fitness makes it all the better! So head to they gym, go for a run, take up dance lessons, discover hiking trails, whatever it is, do it, and feel the change affect your from the inside out.
- Be Humble
This isn’t a message we hear much these days. With the exception of Ashton Kutcher’s Teen choice award acceptance speech in which he says “I never had a job that I was better than”, we are usually taught to think highly of ourselves. This is usually to battle low-self esteem, but I think the way this message is approached is twisted. It’s not that we should think highly of ourselves, because then we think lowly of others. Being humble is simply to adopt a “What can I do for YOU” mentality, versus “What can I GET out of this?”. Embrace the fact that you make mistakes, you have weaknesses, and therefore are on the same playing field as others. Who likes stuck-up pricks? No one. And who likes people who treats everyone kindly? Everyone. Unless you’re the stuck-up prick. Don’t be a stuck-up prick.
“Humility is the root…of all virtue.” – John Chrysostom
- Break Your Comfort Zone
Try something new. If you told me 5 years ago that I would love fishing, I would have laughed in your face and roll my eyes. But guess what? I tried it a couple years ago, and now I love going out to the lake to do some fishing! It’s not a hobby, really, but I do enjoy doing it once or twice a year every time we go to the cabin with our friends. When you are out of high school and into your early twenties, it is very easy to think you now “know yourself”, and you can kind of still have this “box type” mentality about yourself. Maybe you left high school as a nerd, and you feel comfortable with that label. So you say to yourself, “I am a nerd, therefore I don’t like this, this and that and wouldn’t enjoy this“. The truth is, you do not fit into ANY box. That box doesn’t exist. What does exist, is that circle of comfort and familiarity that you probably told yourself you are satisfied with. To hell with that mentality. Push your circle, make it bigger, and as you do, more things can fit inside it!
“Life begins with one foot outside your comfort circle.” – Shannon L. Alder
- Your Best Years Are Ahead
One of my biggest fears is not dying or public speaking. It’s probably sharks, and followed closely behind is: aging. The idea of growing old scares me. I can’t help it. Now that I am 25, though, and I see how things are going for me, I am super excited for this next phase in life. Sure, I miss how simply life was when I was just a student, or how mobile and independent I was when I was single. But no one should actually want to go back in time to relive a certain part of their life over (except for nostalgic reasons). There is always something new coming around the corner that you never experienced before, that you couldn’t possibly have experienced in an earlier chapter of life, and that is what makes life exciting.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
8. Know What You Want
There are millions of choices out there for just about everything you can think of. And there are times when you must make a choice within a short amount of time, but it can really catch you off guard. Hopefully, you have been spending enough time pondering, thinking, and self-reflecting that you know what choice best suits you. Don’t let overbearing or dominant people make decisions for you. Also, don’t wander aimlessly through life with no set of goals or steps towards something. Living life being aloof does not just affect you, but those around you as well. It’s ok to not know for a while, but when the time comes, you do need to know what you want, whether in life, relationships, your school path, or career.
To function as a healthy adult, you need not just be respectful but not resentful. Forgive those who have hurt you. You will get hurt. You will get offended. Some may apologize, some will not. Even if they do, it may not be done with the right heart. When we do something wrong, we desperately hope to be forgiven, but when something wrong is done to us, we are not quick to forgive. Learning to forgive is an exercise in kindness and grace that makes you a stronger and better person.
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway…” – Mother Teresa
- Be Patient With Life
There is an incredible pressure on 18-24 year olds to somehow figure it out all out in those short years and be a success by the end of it, meaning you should have a car, a house, a dog, a great job and financial freedom by the time you turn 25. Of course, if you are already 25 or close, you probably figured out by now that that is nearly impossible and not practical. So, what do I mean about being patient with life? I mean the big boulders our lives are built on, whether that is Education, Marriage, Relationship, Family or Finances. If you are extremely eager and excited about things, it can be easy to rush into a poorly thought-out decision. How do you know if you are rushing things? When you feel like you are driven more by a checklist, greed or timetable than by the nature of the situation, such as love, financial investment, or fulfilling career. I’m not saying put things off, just be patient when making quick or big decisions, and don’t force everything to happen at once. Just because everyone else around you is getting married, or having babies, or travelling the world, doesn’t mean you have to. We all have our own distinct lives to live, and things will happen at the right time if you are mindful of them, instead of forceful.
- Don’t Fear Failure
Looks can be deceiving. On the outside we may see someone who is an instant success, but that success is never, ever instant. Even instant coffee is not actually instant. Think about it. A farmer has to plant it, harvest it, then it was sent to some kind of refinery, later packaged and delivered then bought before you go to your mug. Success is much like that. There is a lot of work behind the scene, and a lot of it looks like failure. J.K. Rowling, the richest woman in England, had dozens of rejection letters until she found a publisher who saw her value as a writer.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
- Be Bold
One of my favourite lessons, but one I struggled with. I am an outgoing introvert, which means my base is introvert orientated. But most people wouldn’t consider me shy. I can be, however, terrified of certain social interactions. Perhaps my biggest struggle is asking for help, or saying how I actually feel about something, which usually leads me to struggle one way or another. That is no way to live. Fortunately, by watching others, I learned that I had to be brave to get what I want or need. This lesson has been particularly helpful in the job sector of life. Speak up when you need to, because your boss, your professor, no one, can read your mind!
- You Are Capable of More
Everyone has even a little talent in just about any area. Trust me, as a teacher, I see this over and over again. Kids, at a much too young of an age, think they can only do one thing and not another, and won’t even try. But I’m their teacher, so I push them to try and every time, the student shows they are capable of more than they thought. So don’t think now that you’re a Chemistry major university student that you won’t be any good at Spanish. If you listened to rap and hip hop all your life, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy a symphony orchestral performance. Don’t say you can’t do it, until you try it, especially if it somehow limits your relationships, opportunities or just general life experiences.
- Everything is Temporary
This is both liberating and sobering. Everything in this life is temporary. That car you have may last 2 years or 12 years. This university phase will last several years. That bad haircut will last a few weeks. That boyfriend might be prince charming, but may not be the hubby. That night job won’t last forever. Keeping in mind that life is fleeting and there is always change helps to keep a perspective on things. It reminds us to cherish the good times and to not lose hope through the bad times.
1.God is Good
I am a Christian. I believe in the God of Israel, the God who sent Jesus Christ as my saviour and redeemer. I don’t pretend to be a great model or even a very good Christian. Yet, through all my ups and downs, through my fears and joys, through tough times and great times, I know God has always been near me, never forsaking me and is always there for me to depend on and to lean on. There are days I break down in overwhelming joy when I realize how good God is, when I am so, so unworthy of his goodness. His love is the driving force for me to strive for better, higher things, and to pursue life to the fullest.
I have never written a blog post this long in my life, and I don’t know if I will do it again! Either way, I hope you enjoyed reading. What do you think about these life lessons? Are there some you really connect with? Is there a lesson you have to share? Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? Do you cringe at numbers? Let me know in the comments below!
Photography (c) Neffi Bergen