When I started writing this down in my journal, I didn’t think I would also post it on my blog. I thought I’d just keep it private since some of these are super personal to me. But some of the things on this list are things I learned from friends or people I admire on social media. So, I thought maybe if just one person who read this post find it helpful, then I did the right thing by sharing this with all of you.
I turned 21 last week (crazy right?!) and as I get older, I have collected bits and pieces of valuable lessons from personal experiences, families, friends, and strangers. Another year older, another year wiser. At least that’s what they all say, right? I still have SO MUCH to learn but these are the 21 things I learned over the years that really stuck with me.
1. Fall in love with, take care, enjoy being by, and believe in yourself. The only person you can rely on at the end of the day, the only one who can get you back up, is yourself. You are your own best friend. Be comfortable with being alone.
I used to be terrified of the idea of doing things alone. Being an only child, you would think that I’d love to do things alone but ever since I was little, I always had someone with me. I was always around people. Until the beginning of this summer, I was beyond scared to go on a plane by myself. I’m not new to traveling, but doing it alone without a friend or a family member just gives me anxiety. Then at age 20, I discovered the beauty of doing things completely solo. I flew out to New York City as a lone wolf and I explored the big city all on my own. Let me tell you, it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was refreshing, liberating, and rewarding. I overcame my fear of doing things alone and learned the value of being confident. The best thing about traveling solo is that I did not have to depend on anyone. I had all these plans laid out in the morning and ended up only doing one of the things on the list. I changed my mind so many times and I didn’t have to ask anyone if they’re okay with it. I had all the freedom of doing anything I wanted.
“IF IT SCARES
YOU, IT MIGHT BE
A GOOD THING.“
2. Navigate major cities public transportation system.
This is incredibly useful when you’re traveling on a budget and it’s a great way to explore a city. When I lived in China, I had to take the public bus and subway to school. It was an hour ride each way so when my mom picked me up from school, we had a lot of time to kill. We randomly found this crêpe stand by the subway station that ended up being our lunch spot. We found a tourist market on one of the stops, a Muslim Chinese neighborhood where I spent most of my Saturdays studying the Quran, and an Indonesian/Korean restaurant on the other side of the city! Plus, you meet all kinds of interesting characters on public transportation, so don’t be afraid to go for it!
P.S. You could impress a boy with your awesome sense of direction and navigation 😉
3. “Nothing is wrong, everything is fine.” doesn’t always mean that everything is all fine.
If your gut tells you otherwise, listen to your gut. I’ve learned that 99% of the time, your instincts are always right.
4. Always choose happiness and joy.
For so many years, I thought that I need to have lots of friends and a boyfriend to shower me with love to be happy. A few months ago, a boy told me he didn’t love me anymore and he rode his motorcycle off into the sunset with another girl (too dramatic?). So, I got really sad and I stayed sad and unmotivated for a really long time. Then, my friend told me that I need to learn to let go and that happiness is something I need to work on internally. It took me a while to realize that because about six months after my boyfriend broke up with me, I woke up and decided, “That’s enough. I’m gonna be happy today, I’m done with feeling like crap and all the days after today, I’m going to choose happiness.” Now, I am the happiest I have ever been. It sounds a lot like a cliché but I’m not just saying that, I really am genuinely happy with myself. I learned that happiness isn’t a person or a thing. It is a mindset. You can not find happiness in other people.
You shouldn’t give up on believing that everything is going to be okay. There is still a lot of love and kindness in this world. Find something that’s gonna keep you going, something that motivates you; whether that’d be accomplishments in school, world peace, God, best friends, family, anything you want. Because if you don’t have anything, you will fall in the most random time.
5. The world is a unique place. Everyone speak different languages, they come from different backgrounds, have different stories, etc. Befriend as many people as you can because you never know where you’re going to find your true life long friends (or love) and you will find them in the most unlikely places.
I met most of my best friends through the most random encounters. From stealing a crayon set in kindergarten in Indonesia to literally getting hit in the face by a soccer ball from an elementary school crush in China to just sitting next to a stranger who eventually became one of your closest friends in college in America. I’m truly blessed to have found friends in different parts of the world. Life is wonderful with friends.
6. Not everyone’s going to like you. AND THAT IS OKAY.
At your absolute best, you still won’t be good enough for the wrong person. So just let it go. Move on. You still have people in your life, the most wonderful people who appreciate you, have your true best interest at heart, and genuinely care about your well being.
7. Possessiveness and jealousy do NOT equal love.
You are not anyone’s property. I’ve encountered way too many relationships these days where one person in the relationship has so much control over the other.
There is nothing romantic about a bouquet of black eyes. Don’t confuse his fists meeting your face for sparks flying or your body will bloom in bruises.
You don’t have to stay in a relationship because it’s comfortable and convenient. Go for crazy, mad love, and joy. Don’t settle for mediocre love. Do not settle for anything less. You deserve way more than just “comfortable.” If you’re anything but happy, get out of it.
8. Go down memory lane, but don’t stay there.
It’s definitely the Cancer in me, but I’m nostalgic about a lot of things.. okay everything. I get overly attached and super emotional about a lot of things. You all know I take pictures but I take pictures of literally everything and I like to keep them forever. When I want to remember something, I want to remember that exact moment and feelings and keep it in my memory forever. I would find pictures from years ago and I’d break down and cry (sometimes they’re happy tears). I would replay that captured moment over and over again even though it made me sad. I hated the fact that something that made me happy then can make me sad now. But, I’ve grown to embrace it. Because certain things will never go back to how they used to be and that is okay. It is okay to feel sad and nostalgic about it. Your feelings are always valid, you’re allowed to feel them. You’re allowed to go back sometimes.
I still keep pictures from adventures with old friends who I’m not even in contact anymore, pictures of happy moments with ex boyfriends, pictures of a day that I want to relive over and over again. Now, I just keep those pictures in a box hoping that one day when I look at them again, I can think back to that moment and smile.
9. Talk to yourself in the same way you talk to someone you love.
I hear too many of my friends say these about themselves – “Ugh I’m so ugly,” “I look really bad today,” “I hate my stomach flab,” “I’m such an idiot,” etc… I used to be one of those people that would say these things about myself.
But, one day a friend asked me, “would you tell someone you love that they’re ugly? A piece of crap? Can’t do anything right?”
I said no, that wouldn’t be right.
Then she replied, “why do you say these things about yourself then? you need to be nicer to yourself.“
And you know what, she’s so right. I’m done being so unhappy about myself. It’s not good for your self esteem and you’re never gonna have respect for yourself if you’re so pessimistic and unhappy. Focusing on the negative of something destroys the positive. So, I started this thing where I pull out my journal everyday and write down five things I’m grateful for. It has helped me so so much.
10. Knowledge is power.
Your knowledge is the one thing no one can ever take away from you. It is the most powerful gift in doing anything you want to do in this world. Education is the most empowering thing and there have been way too many females who have sacrificed for you not to go and get it. So stay in school and get your education.
11. Listen to your mom.
She’ll know what she’s talking about regarding anything about boys, life, and being a girl. Yes, she may be crazy and annoying but she’s almost always right. Your mom is the best person in your life. Well, at least mine is..
12. Listen to your dad.
He’ll know what he’s talking about when it comes to finances, boys, school, politics. Because he’s a smart dude.
13. Spend as much time as you can with your grandma.
Because she’s not going to be around forever. Take all of her wisdom (and recipes) because she has seen so much more than you have.
14. Don’t define yourself by numbers.
The money in your bank account, the amount of likes or followers you have. They don’t matter. No one’s going to care. Your self worth is something you determine for yourself.
15. If you have free time, call your family and friends.
Never forget where you came from. Call home whenever you can.
16. Don’t stop pursuing your dreams because the boy you like has a different plan. He’s not worth it and it’s not going to last.
Relationships are far from easy. You may fit together and know each other so well but that’s not always enough. I realized that you need to be sharing the same dreams and wanting the same things.
17. Failing is okay. As long as you learn from your mistakes.
You’re human, you’re not perfect. You’re going to make mistakes, it’s inevitable. It’s okay to screw up but also know when to learn from it so you don’t make the same mistake twice (or three times)
18. Exercise and eat healthy.
I became a vegetarian about 5 years ago during my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t really have a logical reason except that one of my best friends was doing it so I copied her. Until last summer when I had to watch the documentary “Cowspiracy” for a class when I found out that not eating animal products is actually the best thing you can do for the earth (and body). So, I challenged myself to go all plant based the next day. It was really hard at first because dairy ice cream is literally the best thing in the world and I couldn’t find any delicious alternatives. Since I stopped consuming animal products and byproducts, I noticed that I’ve been feeling the healthiest I’ve been in years. I rarely feel tired and my skin honestly feels freaking great! And it’s true what they say – good food makes you feel sexy inside and outside.
19. Be selfish once in a while.
Buy those expensive shoes. Go to a five star restaurant. Go on a spa day. Cancel all your plans and tell your friends you just need some “me” time. As Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle would say – TREAT YO’ SELF.
20. It’s okay to show vulnerability.
As humans, we tend to hide our emotions because we were taught that it shows weakness. So we fake it by saying that we don’t care. Well, you know what I say to that? “SCREW IT!” I’ve seen so many people these days quote the phrase, “catch flights not feelings,” or somewhere along the lines that feelings are a bad thing. Why is feeling something such a bad thing? We run and hide when something gets to our emotions. You are not weak for showing your vulnerabilities and struggles. You are not weak for showing emotions. Cry your eyes out, tell that person you’ve been crushing on that you like them, tell your boyfriend/girlfriend that you appreciate them, get really upset because you’ve been holding on to that feeling for too long. It’s what makes us humans, you have feelings, you are strong. Embrace it. Talk about pain once in a while. Openly or just write it down in your journal. Just be honest with yourself. It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel to just let it all out.
21. Know exactly what you want and don’t stop until you get it.
Don’t wait to act on something. If an opportunity doesn’t exist, create it. If an idea doesn’t exist, create it. Find your motivation and hold on to it forever. Because that is the thing that will get you to where you want to go in life.