I recently turned 22. I’ll be honest. I never thought turning 22 was a big deal. Up until Taylor Swift made a song about the double-digit, turning 22 was hardly one of those years one should sing about. After recently celebrating my 22nd birthday I did what I’m sure a good number of nostalgics do and went through my old journals, going at least 6 years back. Between all the whining about one boy or the next, harsh criticism of my body, contemplation over girls I thought were my friends, and the overthinking of one problem or another; I realized that there were a few gems in there. At 22 I’m definitely another year wiser.
1. You Have to Get Uncomfortable if You Ever expect to Grow
This one was really hard for me. I like routine. I like to be consistent. Following a certain routine worked well for me. But, it was the times I broke from my routine that really worked out for me. I was offered opportunities I never thought I would qualify for and travelled to places I only ever dreamed of. There are many quotes from wise men and women that emphasize how important it is to get uncomfortable to achieve one’s greatest potential. Executing those words is sometimes a lot easier said than done. At 22, I can say with confidence that being uncomfortable made me a better version of myself.
2. Some Advice should be Treated with Skepticism
Lots of people have given me advice. Some people’s advice, like my mother and my favorite uncle’s, are valid. They have lived life and know me and better still, know and want what is best for me. The same can be said for my best friend, who is more like my sister, who is a year older and has done a little bit more living than I have. But there are also acquaintances I’ve had who I know meant well but their advice was truly the worst I have ever received. I have also received advice from people who I know meant to do me harm. I think I’ve only managed to do well by considering the source. At the end of the day, no matter what advice anyone gives me, I’m the one who has to live with my choices.
3. Sometimes, Emotional Reactions are Necessary
I’ve often been in situations where someone told me I shouldn’t get upset for one reason or another. What really irritated me was that I was made to feel like I shouldn’t have an emotional reaction to what happened. Sometimes, you really need to cry, scream, shout, hit something, or let it out. We are human and even if we don’t get the chance to release to someone in public, you can do whatever you want to let it out in private; within reason.
4. It’s Not Always About Me
Not everything that everyone does is about me; even if it directly affects me, it’s not always about me. This lesson came days before my 22nd birthday when I was dealing with the fallout of a group project gone wrong. People are motivated by a lot of different things. Sometimes, the result is that I’m affected. I’ve had a number of instances happen to me, particularly this year, where I became collateral in someone else’s bigger plan. It took a while, and a lot of journaling, for me to realize that those incidents weren’t about me. Those people would have used someone else if they hadn’t used me. When those kind of things happened, I just had to realize that their hang ups weren’t my problem.
5. When It Comes to Friends, Quality is Always Better than Quantity
I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson now, when I’m still young enough to forge meaningful relationships. There are a number of people who feel that they need to surround themselves with lots of individuals, as if the number of people you know determine your worth. I was aware of this rule of life before I left for the UK, but it really became true when I was in a foreign land. I thought I found a group of people who I clicked with, until I didn’t. The same when I came back from the UK. Now that I’m older, I realize how much easier it was to be with people who understood me and wanted me to succeed as much as I did them. My circle is small, but it’s strong and that’s all that matters.
6. People You Believe in Will Disappoint You
I’ve always been a firm believer in investing in others. When you see something in someone that resonates with you, naturally you want them to do well and push them to be the best. It is also disappointing when those people don’t live up to your expectations. If you work closely with someone and develop a bond, you’re still two different people. I’ve had this happen to me a lot within the last year. I’ve come together to either help someone or mentor them and they let me down. I’d like to think it’s because we had two different visions. It was another one of those things I had to realize wasn’t about me.
7. Trust Your Gut
I tend to ignore my gut a lot. I like to think that there’s something more or that everything will ultimately work out without any problems. There were plenty of times when I got a feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right. For the most part I didn’t listen to that feeling and I had to learn the hard way. It’s happened with relationships, school work, and even real work. I always ended up regretting the fact that I did not listen to my gut in the end. going into my 22nd year, I’m certainly going to pay more heed to my instincts.
8. Stay Curious and Keep Learning
We live in a world that is constantly evolving and for that reason, we should always strive to keep learning. Especially when I travelled to another country, that was a complete culture shock. I had to learn a completely different culture. Because I became a student of the environment that would serve as my teacher, I was able to acclimate. I was able to form bonds. I was able to find myself. I think we are only able to truly learn once we attempt to understand a perspective completely different from our own.
9. Accountability with take you Farther than Perfection
I think one of the dangers of growing up in this time is that we are obsessed with perfection, or at least looking like we have achieved perfection. It makes it very hard for us to say, “I screwed up”. I’ve become somewhat comfortable with admitting that I messed up. Messing up made me better. I learned a lesson so I don’t make that mistake again. I’ve found that a great number of the people I’ve done work for respect me more when I admit I royally screwed up; as opposed to trying to be perfect and trying to shirk my responsibility or my mistake on someone else. Once you admit you messed up, there’s nowhere to go but up.
10. People You Love Will Hurt You
It’s a hard pill I had to swallow, but it’s a sad reality. The people we care about the most, will hurt us every once in awhile. Friends and family alike are capable of wounding us more than anyone else simply because we love them. For that reason, it hurts more when they do or say something that offends us. Reconciliation is, of course the goal, and sometimes not a possibility. This lesson hit me hard recently. Hurt people, hurt people and so long as you tried your best to make it better, that’s all that matters.
11. Hurt won’t heal Hurt
This lesson came to me right before I left for London. I was in a Waffle House when a girl, who claimed to be my friend, told me that I would have been a better person if my father hadn’t died. My first response was to cry into my hash brown. After plenty of advice, I realized that she was hurting and wanted to hurt me. Period. In the end, everything worked out. As long as I know I’m a good person and strive to always be so, I’m alright. Hurting her may or may or may not have given me the response I wanted. I’ll never know.
12. You Have To Let Some People Go
I started learning this lesson quite some time ago. As I made my way through undergrad, I realized that I had less and less in common with people I was friends with. Sometimes it would be something simple like simply not having time because we were pursuing different interests. Other times, it was something more extreme, like a massive argument with no resolution. Each time, one or more people left my life. It was all for a greater good I think. We’re all walking our own paths and not everyone can come with you as you go on yours.
13. I Am The Best Thing I Can Invest In
A large part of this was understanding my self-worth. When I realized that I was the key to my own success and that I deserved any and everything this world had to offer, the rest came easy. I’ve taken classes, in things I wouldn’t normally have been interested in and learned skills I didn’t think I’d need. I’m better for them. Things like travel, certain clothing items, and even certain experiences. All of these things have helped to make me a more improved version of myself, and I intend to continue to invest in the woman I intend to become.
14. Don’t Settle…Do Compromise
There is a huge difference between settling and compromising. Both mean different things and both can be good and bad depending on the context. Settling , in this instance, has everything to do with relinquishing any and all standards and expectations. It means to give up essentially. Compromising has to do with collaboration in order to find a middle ground. The point is to find a new, and sometimes better, solution. This is something I had to understand, especially when it came to my own goals. Sometimes, I’ll be presented with the opportunity to settle. Those instances were never going to be the key to my happiness or success. However, finding a middle-ground proved to be very beneficial, and even eye-opening.
15. At Some Point in Your Life, You’ll Have to be a Politician
I am about as cautious with politicians as the next person, especially now. The months leading up to me turning 22 taught me that at some point in my life, I will have to be a politician if I want to get what I want in life. This doesn’t mean pandering or being insincere, it means finding a way to successfully navigate new scenarios. It means networking effectively to build genuine and authentic bonds. It means pushing, just enough, in the right direction. Most of all, it means doing important and impactful work and utilizing my position to do so.
16. Travel, Period.
I’ve written a great deal about my time in the U.K., and for good reason. This was the first time I travelled alone and was therefore able to truly explore and discover and be impacted with little influence. I’ve been traveling out of the country since I was about nine and have done everything in my power to continue to do so as I have gotten older. Travel, is one of the best ways in which you can invest in yourself.
17. A Little Competition is Healthy
This goofy pic was from a wedding I went to where I caught the bouquet. That was what I call healthy competition; it’s fun and free of any animosity. As a general rule, I don’t think we’re are taught healthy competition. We’re only now, as a society, starting to realize this. I was always taught that my former self is the only person I should be in competition with. Good competition makes for good experience and helps make you a better person. That’s all.
18. A Little Self-Promotion Is a Good Thing
Most of the time, I’m told it’s not good to brag, and for the most part it isn’t. But there are some time when a little bragging can be a good thing. I just started grad school and whenever we do introductions, we’re asked to state one fact about ourselves. I’m getting more comfortable with saying, “I went abroad” and, “I brought a digital publication to my campus”. Those are kind of big deals. My classmates have that knowledge and I’m finding that it’s given them permission to ask me about things I know about. Long story short, be proud of what you done because it may open doors for you in the end.
19. Some Things are Exactly as They Appear to Be
I have a tendency to overthink things and try and find some other angle when there isn’t. I think it’s the nature of the profession I’ve chosen. I want to always see the good in everything, when sometimes, I’ve learned, things are just straight up bad and that some people are inherently good. That’s the nature of life. You have to take things as they are and just hope for the best sometimes.
20. Some Things Are Nothing Like What You Would Expect
My realization of this has more to do with people than things. I was placed in a development program with a group of my Spelman sisters, some I knew and others not-so-much. One night, we all came together and I got to know these young women in a way I never thought I would. It completely changed the way I knew them and interacted with them. I’m so thankful that I did because, at least I hope, I’ve formed some lasting relationships. The bottom line is, I already had an idea of who these young women were based on minimum, interaction. Once I allowed myself to be open to an experience with them, all of that changed for the better.
21. Make Yourself A Priority
I am most certainly a workaholic and a have been guilty of putting many projects and people before myself and my happiness. It wasn’t until right before my 22nd birthday when I finally had enough. Stress will happen in life, but it’s how you respond to it that will make all the difference. My new best friend is my Harry Potter coloring book. I just delve into shading in those magical creatures and the rest of the world melts away. It’s a small way for me to take care of myself. I’m glad for it because I was going crazy without an outlet. People have been telling me this since I was old enough to understand what stress was. Even though I like to work for perfection, I know that if I’m doing well, nothing I produce will. I make time to color every day, but that’s how I take care of myself.
22. Live Well
At the end of the day, You’re only living one life. I learned that and I’m considering that in everything I do. I’m working hard, but I’m also pursuing my passions. I have a vision for my life, but I’m also enjoying each and every day. It’s about balance. When something seems like it”s going to interrupt that balance, I reevaluate and sometimes eliminate.