22 Things I’ve Learned In My 22 Years Of Living

I haven’t been on this planet for very long and have a lot more to learn, but in my short time I have learned some important things the hard way. That’s part of learning and part of growing: trial and error. I have made countless mistakes throughout these twenty-two years of living and for the most part have zero shame. Things happened for a reason and I was able to take the lessons out of them rather than dwelling on the mistake itself.

1. Pick and Choose Your Battles

Walking around Marietta Square at night.

This first rule has always been difficult for me to really grasp. It’s very difficult to learn when it’s time to stop and just let things roll off of you like water. Something that I have learned is that “losing” a battle can actually be winning. Arguing isn’t worth stress or losing a friendship. Know when to fight and how hard to fight and it will save you a lot of tears. If you’re stubborn like me, it could take you years to figure out the balance but as long as you are trying then you are making progress.

2. Always Be 100% Yourself

Laughing while exploring campus.

It’s easy to get caught up in what’s trendy and what’s expected of you but by conforming to what’s expected of you, you are doing yourself a disservice. Life isn’t that long, so why live in a way that makes you unhappy? You’ll be ultimately making yourself more upset by doing so and you’ll have friends that are attracted to the facade you are doing and will be far from genuine. Do what you want to do and do what makes you happy. (Except if what you want to do is illegal, then please don’t do that.)

3. Asking For Help Doesn’t Mean You’re Weak

A pink sunset.

As human beings, we were not created to be entirely alone. We are social creatures by habit and sometimes cannot do things alone. There is nothing wrong or shameful about admitting that you cannot do something alone and need help from someone. Stop overworking yourself just because you think or were taught that asking for help means you’re weak. If anything, asking for help makes you stronger than most because most people aren’t brave enough to speak up.

4. Take Self Accountability For Your Actions

Polaroids on twinkle lights.

If you hurt someone, apologize. If you get pulled over, be honest about your mistake. Stop making excuses for what you do and own up to it. Nine times out of ten, the person you are making up excuses to knows the truth and you are going to simply upset them by not taking self accountability. You are going to look like the boy who cried wolf, especially if you blame mental illnesses for why you treat people like garbage. Just own up to what you have done. I promise that most people will respect that and work it out with you.

5. Never Compare Yourself To Others

Gravel trail in the woods.

Being in your 20’s is especially weird, I have realized. There are some people that are already on their second child, some who have been married and divorced already, some who own a house, some who graduated college. It doesn’t matter what they are doing, it only matters what you are doing with your time on this earth. Everyone’s paths are completely different, so why are you forcing your path to be the same as someone else’s path? It will do nothing but upset you.

6. Getting Rid Of Negative People In Your Life Is Necessary

Butterfly on a flower.

Like I mentioned earlier, this life isn’t that long. Why would you keep around toxic, negative people in your life? It shouldn’t matter if they have been your friend since you were very young or if they’re family. If they treat you in a way that you do not want to be treated, get rid of them. It’s easier said than done, but it’s an amazing feeling when you get that dead weight off of you.

7. Love Yourself

Elk in a field.

How can you possibly expect to love someone else when you haven’t learned how to love yourself? You are so important and should be the priority in your life. Loving yourself means learning how to give love to others. There is no shame in loving yourself and having confidence.

8. Chances Are That Most People Are Not Thinking About You In A Bad Way

A cloudless sky at the beach.

We, as humans within a society, are so constantly worried that we’re “being judged” for something as insignificant as our clothing. The reality is that most people couldn’t care less about what you do and aren’t thinking of you in a bad way. The ones who do think about you most are the ones who love and cherish you, not the ones who hate you.

9. Trust Your Gut

Driving down a mostly empty road with rain clouds in the sky.

It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at the amount of people who do not listen to their guts. For example, I was in a bad car accident in February. My gut told me to tell my boyfriend, who was driving, to not make the turn he was about to make and just take the long way. I trusted in his ability to drive and moments later, we were t-boned by a woman not paying attention. You gut can be a powerful resource. Use it.

10. Always Forgive but Never Forget

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” – Gandhi

Forgiveness is key not just for the other person but for yourself. However, forgiving someone does not mean forget what they had done and allow it to happen a second time. It also does not mean to hold their mistake over them for years to come. It means forgiving them but staying alert. Learn to move past the incident but cautious for the future. Learn from these events and grow from them.

11. Not Everyone Wants Help

Fountain surrounded by dorm buildings.

It’s perfectly fine to offer to help people, but don’t force yourself onto them. You cannot fix people who do not want to be fixed. Stop forcing your help or beliefs onto people who do not welcome it. If you continue to force the issue, you may wind up getting hurt yourself.

12. Life Doesn’t Get Easier As You Get Older

Atlanta architecture.

Life changes as you get older and problems begin to change. That difficult homework assignment morphs into that difficult task at work. Friendships fade due to long work hours and being constantly busy. However, in time, new friends and new opportunities will pop up. Just because it doesn’t get easier doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun and exciting.

13. Don’t Be Dependent On Anyone

Graffiti wall.

Like I mentioned, friendships come and go so never be dependent on anyone in any way, shape or form. This especially goes for romantic relationships. I made that mistake when I was a teenager and it destroyed me when it ended because I had no idea how to function independently. Plus, it’s unfair to the other person to completely and fully depend on them for everything. In fact, it’s borderline toxic. Be independent.

14. You Can Learn Something From Every Job

Atlanta.

I know working in food and retail work can truly be the lowest pits of hell but there can be some value from working there. Your empathy for fast food workers can grow and hopefully you won’t be disrespectful to the cashier who has no control over what items are in stock or curse at the waitress for your food not being cooked properly when she didn’t even cook it. Hopefully your empathy will actually brighten a workers day as your day was brightened when someone was nice to you while working there.

15. Existing and Living Are Completely Different

Mountains.

It doesn’t matter if you’re broke or disabled, you can live and not just exist. Existing is just surviving through the day and falling asleep and repeating. Living is engaging in your passions, exploring, meeting new friends, spending time with old friends, and constantly pushing yourself to be better and better. Don’t just exist throughout each day, go do what makes you feel fulfilled.

16. Relationships Take Work

Tiny spider in its web.

I’m not even talking just about romantic relationships, but of course the same logic can be applied there. All types of relationships, romantic and platonic, require some work. You can’t have a friendship where neither of you ever talk or engaged in the others’ life or spend some semblance of time together. Relationships of all kinds have problems, but you don’t throw the house away just because a light bulb is out. You work to fix it and keep it running. The same applies to relationships. Put effort into the people you love.

17. There’s No Point In Complaining; Fix The Issue Instead

A book covered in Christmas lights.

What do you truly think complaining is going to do for you? If you have a problem with something, go out and fix it. Chances are that no one else is going to solve the issue for you or be able to solve it alone. Not only that, but complaining is ultimately going to hurt you and possibly other people.

18. Life Isn’t A Competition To See Who Has It Better Or Worse

A creek and a lot of greenery.

I mentioned this earlier but we all have our own paths. Someone is always going to have it better than us in some way, shape or form and someone will also always have it worse than us. However, that shouldn’t matter. In fact, it shouldn’t matter how complete strangers are doing at all. You are your priority. Do what you need to do to achieve your goals and to be happy. That is all that should matter.

19. Travel More

Rainy, foggy mountains.

Much like working with food or in retail, traveling will make you a more empathetic person. It will open your eyes to the ways other people live. I’m not saying to put yourself in debt to fly halfway across the world. If you live in the city, take a day trip to a smaller town or the countryside. Any traveling is traveling.

20. Stop Hoarding Junk

Standing in leaves.

I have to be honest, I’m still struggling with this one. However, if you don’t use or wear it, get rid of it. If you don’t plan on using something in the next several months, get rid of it. There’s no point to holding onto things that no longer bring you happiness or serve a purpose for you.

21. It Is Never Too Late To Achieve Your Dreams

Sparkler.

There is no real set time frame for most things. No one said you have to be a home owner by the time you’re 25. No one said you had to go straight to college once you got out of high school. Do things at your pace and never feel like you’ve missed your window to achieve the things you want to achieve.

22. Never Stop Learning

Snowy trees.

There is no shame in acknowledging when you don’t know something or don’t know what to do. Take your time, do research and expand your mind on what you know. Life is short but can sometimes feel long, use every day to learn something new. The future you will be thankful.

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