20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

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Despite being highly against having to grow old (I relate to Peter Pan on an emotional level), I’m excited to have hit my second decade of being alive and I’m thankful for all my friends and family who helped me celebrate.

Clearly along the way, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me get to where I am today. So here are 20 lessons I have learned in the last 20 years (in no particular order).

1. Be spontaneous

I was at Kroger buying snacks with my friends when I suddenly thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go jump off the bridge into Lake Monroe right now?”

No second thoughts on the fact that it was 8 o’clock on a Tuesday night and we didn’t have bathing suits or towels. Oh, and the fact that it was a jump off a bridge.

But we did it and it had to be one of my favorite moments of the semester so far.

I don’t know what it is about doing spontaneous things, but for me, it’s made life so much better. Life can get so predictable, so boring, especially when you’re stuck in the same town for 9 months.

Spontaneity doesn’t have to be something big either (like bridge jumping). It can be as small as tossing out your comfortable routines to see where life takes you. Set plans can be great and all but sometimes, you need that unpredictability to remind you that you’re here and that you’re alive. 

2. Go to as many concerts as possible

The atmosphere, interaction with the artists and so much more; concerts are good for the soul and are definitely my definition of happiness.

And it basically goes without saying that experiencing your favorite music live is 1000 times better than just hearing it through your headphones.

3. Believe in yourself

This is actually very important to me because I have so many friends who constantly get down on themselves for no good reason. If you aren’t able to believe in yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to?

If you want to get things done, if you want to achieve your goals, faith in yourself and your abilities is crucial. Because without it, the odds of achieving anything is so slim. Besides, you are capable of way more than you realize.

4. Don’t let the bastards grind you down

There are so many negative, hateful people in the world. There are people who feel joy from bringing others down, making them feel worthless and that they don’t matter.

These people are IRRELEVANT. What they think, what they say, doesn’t matter. All that is important at the end of the day is how you view yourself because honestly, yours should be the only opinion that matters.

5. Positivity is key

I used to be the most negative person in the world. From freshman to junior year of high school, I felt like the unluckiest, unhappiest person. Nothing seemed to work out for me and that was all I ever focused on. I would ask, why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Eventually, I realized that though negativity is SO much easier to give into, positivity is how you keep yourself afloat.

Of course if you focus on the bad things, you’re going to be unhappy. But despite the bad things that happen to you, there will always be some good. And when you focus on those good things, life gets better and opens up more room for other good things to happen to you.

Because even if you think it won’t, things always get better. Always.

6. Count your blessings

There are so many things I am thankful for. Friends who can make me laugh for hours and support me when I’m not feeling like myself; family who will do anything for me and make sure I feel loved; going to a school like Indiana University and meeting all the new people I didn’t know my life was missing; a roof over my head; food on my table; the amazing opportunities I’ve had to travel abroad.

I could probably go on and on with all the things I feel fortunate about but I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ve learned you have to appreciate what you’ve been given and not take your life granted because things could always be a lot worse.

7. Shit happens

Like I said previously, I used to get so upset when I was in high school because I felt like the universe was personally targeting me. Every day felt like the world was ending and didn’t understand why.

Looking back, I realize now that, to put it simply, shit just happens. Not just to me, but to everyone.

Whether it’s accidentally rear ending a car because you were trying to eat a salad and drive at the same time (guilty) or finding out the guy you thought you were exclusive with has been talking to several other girls at the same time (also, guilty)—it sucks but that’s just life.

It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, it can make you feel sad or mad but life is full of its ups and downs. The important thing to remember is that these things happen in order to help us grow as people. If everything worked out the way you wanted to, life would be so boring.

8. Grudges are a waste of time

Holding grudges is exhausting. That fight you had with your friend might have seemed like the biggest deal in the entire world, but at the end of the day, it probably won’t be something you remember in a year.

Holding grudges is just holding on to negative energy. It’s a waste of time and effort.

9. 20 seconds of insane courage

If you have not seen, “We Bought a Zoo,” I urge you to exit out of this post, go watch it and then come back.

Whenever I want to go after something or do something but feel a slight lack of confidence, I repeat this quote in my head and then…just go for it.

For some, it is easier said then done but I truly believe that everyone has the capability to be brave for at least 20 seconds. So many people don’t go after the things they want out of fear: fear of rejection or the unknown. I think I just got tired of that; of missing out on things because I was afraid. I would much rather trick myself into being brave for 20 seconds than possibly miss out on something that could change my life for the better.

10. Your body is a blessing

So much time is wasted on hating the way you look. In my opinion, life is too short for that. If you can walk, talk, see, and hear, you should feel incredibly blessed since there are so many people out there who are sadly, not as fortunate in those categories.

Our bodies do so much for us, allowing us to wake up each day and go out into the world to live our lives.

I’m not going to say I don’t have insecurities, because I do. But I’m not going to let it stop me from going out in public in a bathing suit or eating the pizza I really want. Life is too short, so be grateful for all your body does for you.

11. Compliments go a long way

It doesn’t take much effort to tell someone they look pretty or that they have a great personality or cool shoes or whatever but it can impact their day in ways you will never know. Giving compliments is a small gesture with a huge positive impact.

12. Watch less TV

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that TV was literally destroying my life. That probably will shock a lot of people since I think in the last 20 years I’ve probably watched more movies and TV than everyone I know combined.

To get a clearer picture of my addiction to television, I’ll tell you the brief story of the time my friend told me I need to “stop watching so much TV.” And my response, (being the dramatic person I am), replied, “Would you tell a fish to stop swimming?!”

I have great one liners obviously.

I’ve never been one to understand those who don’t watch much TV. I was the person who watched Netflix during each of my classes in high school and who has probably seen every single show and movie to ever exist on Netflix, Hulu and HBO.

It took me awhile to realize that, by constantly watching TV, I was wasting a lot of my life. I was jealous of all the adventurous lives I watched on the screen and instead of going out to lead my own, I just day dreamed that I existed within the realms of Lost or Game of Thrones or whatever I was watching at the time.

It’s a no brainer, but life is a lot more meaningful when you go out and make your own adventures instead of wishing to have someone else’s.

14. Embrace your fears

Fears are a funny thing. Though I like to think that I really don’t have too many of them, there are still some moments where I feel hesitant because I’m afraid of the possible outcome.

So now whenever I feel afraid of something, I acknowledge the fear and force myself to do whatever scares me anyways. I know sometimes it isn’t that easy but fear is just a product of our imagination and with a little work, is something that can be overcome.

There is no greater or more rewarding feeling than conquering a fear.

14. You’re not alone

I can’t even tell you the amount of times I would sit in my room in high school and feel so alone. I’d sit there so unbelievably sad because I felt like no one else knew what I was going through, knew how I felt.

But I wasn’t alone. Thousands of people go through depression, thousands of people have days where they feel like no one is there for them and thousands of people feel that no one will ever be able to relate to what they’re going through.

You’re never alone; it took me awhile to figure it out but there is always someone out there who is willing to help.

15. Get in the car and go

I’m a big fan of road trips and I’m a big fan of exploring. I think I’m just incapable of sitting still so when I’m bored, I’ll get in the car and just drive to the middle of nowhere and see if I can find my way back home by memory, FOR FUN.

I’m sure that seems like a weird thing to do for fun and I realize that might not be a lot of people’s style and that’s okay. But I think at this age, you should embrace road trips as often as you can. Driving somewhere completely random with some of your favorite people is a unique experience that isn’t as easy to accomplish once you get older.

16. Be friends with everyone

There are so many great people out there in the world with so many different things to offer so why not be friends with everyone?

There isn’t anything wrong with sticking with the people you’ve grown up with or the people who you have hundreds of things in common with but to miss out on so many great people because you’re afraid of branching out or of getting to know those who are different than you, is a sad waste.

17. One foot in front of the other

Things happen and sometimes its things you aren’t proud of or regret. But as you are well aware, the past is the past and nothing will change that. Dwelling on things that happened to you can be more harmful than helpful.

So the best thing you can do, is put one foot in front of the other and move on. If your head is stuck in the past, you’ll never be able to move forward with your life.

18. Be open minded

It’s great to have your own opinions but there is nothing worse than someone who is so full of themselves, they refuse to listen to anyone else’s point of view.

We all have different experiences but that doesn’t mean yours is any more important than someone else’s. You don’t have to agree with what other people believe but at least respect it and be open to hearing what they have to say.

19. Don’t be eye candy, be soul food

I’ve realized lately how important it is to be a good person. There are so many bad people in the world, so many people I’ve encountered within the last year of college that made me, not to be dramatic, want to rip my hair out because of how rude and self-centered they were.

Its so cheesy but inner beauty counts a lot more than outer. And like that saying goes, “the world is full of nice people. If you cant find one, be one.”

20. Live every day like its your last

It wasn’t until a friend of mine passed away this past spring that I realized I wasn’t satisfied with the way I was living life.

There were so many things I wanted to do but instead I would just waste my days watching TV or sleeping or dreaming of places I wanted to go but couldn’t.

After Madie died, I realized that anything can happen to you at any time. I want to live until I’m 90+ but to put it bluntly, who’s to say I will?

And even if I make it to that old age, I don’t want to look back and think of all the things I regret not doing when I was younger.

Dissatisfaction with life is frightening concept. So that’s why I go out as much as I can, that’s why I randomly road trip to different places, that’s why I jump off bridges and why I don’t focus on the small, silly, negative things in life.

I’ve probably said it at least 50 times already, but LIFE IS TOO SHORT. We all have to make the best of the time we’ve got.