23 Life Lessons I’ve Learned at 23

You can also find this article over at the Though Catalog: http://thoughtcatalog.com/abby-born/2016/09/23-ways-to-enhance-your-life-by-the-age-of-23/

By no means am I claiming to be a philosophical wizard full of wisdom, but I am a 23 year old whose found many joys while making a plethora of mistakes. We all learn by experience, right? Well, here are mine:

  1. Work the shitty jobs.

    Sweat your 16 year old summer away making pennies reffing youth soccer and making snow cones at the neighborhood snowball stand. It’ll teach you the value of money at a young age. Work the retail stock position or the Jimmy Johns delivery driver job. Work all positions in a restaurant. Be a customer support phone tech. It will show you a side of the hospitality industry everyone needs to see at one point…and will give you empathy…and patience. (And yes, I’ve worked all those jobs  haha.)

  2. Say YES to travel.

    Say yes to more trips. Say yes to exploring. The more you see the more you learn about yourself, others, and the world. It will open your eyes in more ways than you could ever imagine. The younger you are the easier this will be…  Go while you don’t have many responsibilities! Anyone can list a million reasons why it may not be the right time, but when is the right time? Book a ticket and GO!

  3. Say NO to over commitment.

    You know that feeling you get when you’re physically and mentally drained? Sometimes we are hit with the urgent realization that we ARE NOT super human. We burn out. Make time for the nights where you hide in your bedroom with good smelly candles and your favorite Pandora playlist or Netflix series. Never underestimate the power of a slow night. Ain’t nobody got time for a mental breakdown.

  4. Think before you speak.

    Everything sounds better in your head and some things are better left unsaid. It could be your boss, parents, sibling, friend, significant other -just remember words hurt…and they can’t be erased. One wrong thing could get your fired, grounded, hated, or broken up with. Sometimes your dog can be the best listener….It just isn’t worth it!

  5. Take care of your body.

    The way you treat your body now will effect you for the rest of your life. Not to mention the older you get the harder it is to bounce back from “a few pounds gained”. 5 extra lbs quickly turns into 10 and next thing you know it’s 20. Your mental health is best when you feel good about yourself. Nobody likes feeling self conscious. #GetFit

  6. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

    Ever have a complete stranger be an asshole for no apparent reason? I’m sure we all have! Maybe it was in the grocery store, at the gym, at school, at a restaurant. Before you give them a taste of their own medicine, stop and think…..
    What if they just had a terrible day? Maybe they just lost their job, had their significant other leave them, found out a family member was diagnosed with cancer, or even worse had a spouse or child pass away. You never know what someone might be battling inside. Always try to react in kindness – even when people may not deserve it.

  7. Commit to yourself and your goals.

    I have noticed people go through phases of extreme focus and utter disregard for themselves. Don’t allow jobs and relationships consume you so much that you forget what you want for yourself. A healthy work environment or romantic relationship shouldn’t deter you from personal growth. Personal growth takes specific time and effort set aside for YOU. Keep chasin’ those dreams!

  8. Be intentional.

    This is probably my number one favorite life motto. Nothing happens by chance. You have complete control over your own destiny. Set your intention and make things happen. So often we lose track of days, weeks, and months before we realize were not really living the way we want to. Living intentionally means you have to WORK to get the life you want. Make a list of what you want, set your intent and start taking steps to get there. I’m not talking material things, but life things. What do you wish you did more? What type of person do you want to be? Compare those desires with your current life and adjust accordingly!

  9. Ask for help when you need it.

    People can’t read minds. Sometimes our pride is too big to admit the reality of how we are feeling…..but guess what – nobody is invincible. There is going to come a time when you are lost, overwhelmed, scared, or lonely. We’re human! When this time comes, do yourself a favor and ask for help! Asking for it isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’re brave and honest enough to admit when your down. And maybe you don’t even need actual help, but need understanding or support. Friends, family and co-workers are much more likely to show empathy and assistance if you’re honest about whatever situation you’re in.

  10. Communicate your needs.

    You may ask “how is this any different than #11?” – but let me explain. Communicating your needs is best done prior to something being an issue. If you are up front about your desires, people don’t have to guess where you stand on things. I find this to be especially true in relationships. People will be able to fulfill your needs easier if know what they are… and if they don’t find your needs important they will likely walk away and save you from wasting your time.  #ByeFelicia

  11. You’re never too old to learn.

    Are you 29 and unable to cook anything other than grilled cheese? Are you 35 with a Masters Degree and a family? Are you 18 and on your way to Harvard? You may be 60 with grown children and grandkids….you’re never too old to learn. Around age 16 we all thought we knew everything, and I believe that attitude often never leaves people. Open a book. Learn a new skill. Connect with people who have different interests.  Don’t be naive, there is something to learn around every corner, from everyone you meet!

  12. Be a good person because…. Karma.

    What goes around comes around – I believe that statement in it’s highest form. If you treat people like crap, you will get crapped on. Simple as that. Be nice and do the right thing, because you never know who might be watching. It makes more of a difference than you’d think.

  13. Respect yourself enough to walk away.

    Actions speak louder than words and if someone treats you bad it makes them a shitty person. Don’t give it months or years – walk away. Someone who loves and respects you will do everything in their power to make sure you are happy every.damn.day. So if you hide the realities of your relationship from people you care about or find yourself making excuses for someones behavior…. it’s time. Know your worth – and if you don’t know it, let me remind you: You are perfect the way you are and there is someone out there that will love the shit out of you for just that. They won’t hurt your feelings daily, make you feel belittled or unwanted. You will believe them when they say “I love you” and their words and actions will be in sync. Your efforts will be appreciated and reciprocated. They will choose you every.single.day. Anything less than this is something that you are better off without. KNOW YOUR WORTH!

  14. Not all debt is bad.

    ……if you have control. A credit card is the only reason I was able to fund a 6 month backpacking trip to Southeast Asia/Australia. It was the best debt I had and once I returned home I didn’t swipe the card again until it was all paid off. I didn’t mind working extra hours to pay off the best experience my of my life. Bad debt is the kind that keeps accumulating for no reason. Ex – unnecessary shopping trips for things you don’t need. Credit cards can also be used to build credit or accumulate free flights and rewards. You can work the system to your advantage, but don’t let yourself get in over your head.

  15. Create meaningful relationships.

    …And don’t settle for mediocre ones. Surround yourself with good people and put in the effort to be a good friend. I watched a Ted Talk once that referenced a study that proved people with bountiful (quality) friendships, healthy marriages, and productive interactions lived significantly longer than those who stayed in unhealthy marriages and abusive relationships. People with the less desirable relationship connections had worse health and were unhappier people in general. We were created to smile, laugh, and interact. Be the friend that goes above and beyond. Be the spouse you would want to have. Good relationships = longer, happier lives.

  16. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

    I think we all get to a point where our bitterness gets the best of us and we consider guarding our heart, but I encourage you to stay open. Don’t close yourself off to people and deep connections. Don’t turn into the crotchety person who is “incapable of feelings”, it will only make you feel worse about yourself. Stay vulnerable. Vulnerability shows bravery and courage. It shows authenticity and depth. It shows potential and promise. Don’t let this world and people make you closed off. We were meant to love and be loved. Let yourself do both.

  17. The world is bigger than you.

    As we come into adulthood, it’s tough to not get caught up in “self”. Yes, our twenties are our “selfish years”, and they should be – but I’m referring to something bigger. What do you think is after this earthly life? I encourage you (if you haven’t already) to explore your spirituality or work to be stronger in your faith. I encourage you to be open and willing to try new things. If there is a little curiosity in your heart, its not an accident or by chance. It was placed there – very strategically for a specific reason. Everything becomes a little sweeter when you follow those curiosities and find where your heart truly belongs. Believing and trusting in something bigger helps us to not take this life so seriously. Let go of ego and explore.

  18. Care about your family. You only have one. 

    You were put on this earth with one family. It doesn’t matter if they’re blood, adopted, added or makeshift – a family is a connected group of individuals centered around love, acceptance, support and (I’ll say it again) LOVE. So be a good sibling, a good parent, a good relative and don’t screw your family over! These people should know you would do anything for them. Family drama is more common than anyone would like to admit, but it’s usually never worth it. Apologize when you’re wrong, forgive if you’re holding a grudge, and make amends when needed. Give them tough love if you have to, but always remember love can conquer all if you let it.

  19. You aren’t perfect. Apologize when you screw up. 

    Life is a constant learning curve and there will be a point (and likely many points) when you hurt someone. When that time comes, acknowledge it and admit your fault. Give a genuine apology. There is nothing worse than a half-ass apology where someone feels just as crappy as they did when you hurt them. There is honor in honesty and growth in admitting you screwed up. Say sorry and mean it.

  20. Don’t grow up too fast.

    Everyone has a different life pace, but enjoy your youth. Definition of “Youth”: the period between childhood and adult age. And what the hell is “adult age” now-a-days? Thats up to you (just try to get your crap together in a timely manner). Your years are limited and as cliche as it may sound – you never know what day might be your last. So try not to get too caught up in adulthood and life. Make time for fun. Keep being silly. Make the most of your freedom until you’re ready to settle down. Travel far. Make mistakes and learn from them. Grow up, but always stay young at heart.

  21. Take leaps of faith.

    The fruit is always sweeter on the limb… or something like that. Take chances. Be okay with accidental failure. Try new things. Be spontaneous and change your mind. Start journeys where you don’t know the outcome. They will all teach you things about yourself PLUS you never know what might be on the other side. There is nothing more boring than a life that only knows safe boundaries. Mix it up and go for it.

  22. Success isn’t the same for everyone.

    Some people measure it in money. Some people measure it in fame. Some people measure it with experience and memories. Some people measure it with family. Some people measure it by the amount of Instagram followers they have. Everyone’s idea of success is personal to them and that is okay – but I hope you measure it in terms of what means the most. What does success mean to you? What are the things that are going to mean the most as you take your last breaths?  Because those are the things you should focus on.

  23. Be yourself.

    I read a quote by Steve Jobs once that explains this better than I ever could:

    “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Hey!

    I’m loving your blog.

    Please, keep sharing your story!

    I would also like to invite you to submit a short piece to my own. I think your perspective and style of writing would be a perfect piece for my project.

    It’d also be a great way to get your blog/writing out there.

    Please feel free to email me (jennifer@youngandtwenty) with more questions, or take a look at the ‘BEING Young & Twenty’ page on my blog.

    I hope I’ll hear from you 🙂

    Jennifer

    youngandtwenty.com

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