As of yesterday, I turned 25.
*cue quarter-life crisis*
I am feeling pretty good about how things are going so far in my life. While there are certain aspects which I wish that I could change, the general outlook is fairly positive, and it’s incredible just how much I’ve developed over these 25 years on Earth. However small this milestone might be compared to others who’ve lived past 30, 50, or even 100 years old, getting to this place in my life is, for me, quite the feat.
Having reflected these last few weeks (heck, months even) on where I am currently in life, I wanted to share a few lessons that I’ve learned over the years. Granted, I’m still learning (really, the common saying that our brains don’t fully matured until 25 is quite true), but I definitely feel like a different person compared to, say, my 18-year-old self (heck, even 22!). Here are the lessons I’ve learned in my 25 years, and I hope you can resonate with them, whether older or younger!
25 Lessons I Learned in 25 Years
1. You can’t please everyone. No one can– it’s impossible. You want people to like you, but really, there’s no way you can get along with every person you meet…and that’s okay. Instead of focusing on whom you can’t please, focus on those who do like you and make yourself happy with them– likewise, they’ll be happy with you!
2. Care less about what others think. This point is one which I continue to struggle with. It can be hard to stomach when people have opinions about you, but it’s a matter of not taking it to heart. I came across an article which said this: “the negative comments someone makes is about them, and not you.” Really, it’s never personal, and what people say or think is a reflection on them, not yourself.
3. Relationships can be toxic. Romantic or platonic, there will be rotten relationships you’ll have to deal with. You might not even know that you’re in a toxic relationship, and that makes it hard to get out. It takes a lot of reflecting and realizing to have the courage to cut these people out, but it’s for the best. Learning to move on can be painful, but knowing that you can *finally* be free is the most important thing you can acknowledge.
4. Regret is inevitable; it’s better to forgive. Mistakes are made, regrets follow. The thing is, there’s no point to stew over them. There’s no point: the decisions you made were based on the situation you were in, and you did the best that you could under it. What’s important is that you learn from the consequences and forgive yourself, so that you don’t make the same mistake next time.
5. Patience is an (incredible) virtue. I used to get easily pissed off over the tiniest things as a young adult, but having gotten older, my patience has improved tremendously. It’s a matter of accepting that things work at different paces everywhere, and there’s no way to speed it up for your sake. Telling yourself that things will work out is the best you can do, and soon enough, things will work out.
6. Not taking life so seriously. Predisposition-wise, I tend to be quite a serious person; I used to wonder why people could be so carefree. But I’ve learned that life isn’t always about the serious stuff, but also the lighthearted ones. Things are so much easier when you don’t sweat the small stuff– laughing it off makes things go much more smoothly, and you won’t feel so burdened all the time.
7. Self-honesty is the best medicine. …and the most natural. It’s a matter of checking in with yourself and discovering your capabilities, limits, and values. Denying them means lying to yourself and others, which is never fun. It’s when you accept your personal traits and flaws that you can really be happy and enjoy yourself.
8. Not taking shit from others. Bullies aren’t just reserved for grade-school: they also exist in the adult world as friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. People can be unreasonable or just plain assholes, and if what they say or do is upsetting you, call them out on it. Don’t take the blow– fight back.
9. Gratefulness for family. Even if they drive you nuts, your parents and siblings will always be there for you. Just as they have annoying traits, they also have just as many wonderful ones in return. You might not see them as much as you get older and get a new job or move away, so any opportunity to see or talk to them becomes gratifying. People were right when they said that “distance makes the heart grow fonder!”
10. Friendships come and go. You might think that your friends from high school or college will stick with you forever, but chances are, this will not be the case. Some will move away or find other friend groups, and that’s okay. Drifting away is natural due to the fact of adulthood, e.g. being busy with work, mortgage, taxes. But the ones who continue to stick around are the true “OGs” to keep.
11. Get healthy (before it’s too late). True, you can still *somewhat* get away with being unhealthy in your twenties, but you’ll start to see the consequences at the same time. From an extra wrinkle to a stomach pooch, you might regret your lifestyle choices and might want to reverse them. That said, starting and continuing healthy eating and exercise habits will help you stave off fast aging in the next few years.
12. Teenage years suck. I’ve never heard any person say that they enjoyed their teenage years…and for a good reason. Everything seemed like the end of the world, and we were utter assholes to our parents, teachers, and friends. However, those years were a real learning period, as we got to see that life won’t be so easy as an adult, and that eventually, we would have to grow up.
13. …at the same time, cherish that teenage body. From personal experience, you’re at your physical peak between the ages of 14 and 17. That’s a really short time period, but all the same, it gives you the excuse to embrace it– even after a McDonald’s run at 3 am, you still have that flat stomach line. Don’t ever take your teenage body for granted, and enjoy it while you can.
14. Degrees don’t matter. Life skills do. As students, we anguished over grades and tests. While it’s true that college is pretty much necessary these days, it’s not the academics which make us successful: it’s the life lessons we learn outside of it. Sure, you might know how to perform titrations in the lab, but do you know how to pay bills? It’s by learning and being responsible for your everyday living that you can really master this thing called “life.”
15. Ten hours of sleep is necessary. I don’t know how some people survive off of five hours of sleep and not be cranky. While studies have shown that we need less sleep as we age, I disagree with that– if I don’t get at least ten hours in, I’m exhausted the next day. Having a regular sleeping schedule makes you feel so much better— more alert, more productive, and less cantankerous.
16. It’s okay to wallow sometimes. Being strong doesn’t mean repressing feelings; it’s about releasing them. Doesn’t necessary have to be nights of crying or tearing things up in anger, but rather admitting to yourself that you’re not okay, and that you need to take care of yourself. Wallowing or complaining can let off steam, and as long as it makes you feel better instead of even crappier, then you’ll be fine.
17. Daydreaming is completely acceptable. Of course, not when you’re at work…but letting your mind wander off to “what-if” land can be therapeutic at times. Even fantasies are legit– they’re completely harmless, and it can be fun to envision alternate situations to your liking. From daydreaming about your next trip to Iceland or fantasizing about an unrequited crush, go ahead and get creative in your head!
18. Save, save, save. This doesn’t mean being dirt cheap– after all, that can do more harm than good when it comes to finances (or your health). But it’s always good to have a budget in place, especially if you want to save for something nice or retirement. There’s a reason why sales and discount coupons exist, so why not take advantage of them? Plus, it helps you realize what you really need and what you don’t really need in life.
19. Never buy the cheapest wine. From the previous point, I can say that buying and drinking that 1€ wine will NEVER taste good. If it’s just a way for you to get drunk, then more power to you– however, at some point, you’d probably want something that you actually enjoy, and spending a bit more will make a huge difference. At least in France, I’ve gotten pretty good wine for 4€, which is much better than 1€ ones.
20. Go beyond your comfort zone. Playing it safe can protect you from danger or making risky decisions, but too much of it doesn’t help you grow. It’s a matter of trying new things and discovering your abilities and limits in them. My decision to travel solo for the past three years has challenged, but also rewarded me with self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and appreciation for cultural differences around the world.
21. Don’t have expectations. After all, you’re not a food judge on a prestigious cooking show, so what’s the point in having expectations? It’s a sort of judging, in a way, which just spreads negativity and disappointment and it’s just not necessary. True, go in hoping for the best, but don’t expect that it’ll always turn out for the best.
22. Too much of anything is bad. From alcohol to even broccoli, anything in excess can be unhealthy. For me, I used to believe in the motto, “go hard, or go home,” as I would eat tons of sugary foods and exercise intensely with few breaks in between. It wasn’t until I saw the consequences that I’ve since traded that motto for “moderation is key,” and now I try to be more mindful of what I do to or put into my body.
23. Clean habits are underrated. …but so important. I’m fortunate to be a clean person, but it shocks me that so many people out there are far from it. I’ve lived with roommates who were messy like no other, as well as had friends who ate (with their hands) after touching their phones…it’s no wonder they got sick so often. While you don’t have to be a neat freak, keeping things generally-clean goes to show that you can be orderly and responsible for yourself.
24. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself. Maybe you’re not so spendy with money, or perhaps you don’t take the time to do something nice for yourself. Splurging all the time isn’t the answer, but choosing to treat yourself every once in a while can provide a psychological boost to make you happy. Things like watching Netflix or paying for that fancy dinner out in town are temporary gratifications, but they can end up making you more relaxed and motivated to continue with aspects like work or school.
25. Be kind. This isn’t to say that you are a pushover– in fact, that’s the opposite of being kind, as you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself by letting people walk all over you. Instead, it’s a matter of being polite and respectful to others and knowing how to be tactful. It’s about being supportive instead of bitter, and trying to make other’s feel good about themselves without jeopardizing your own happiness. No one can truly master being kind, but making the effort and getting close to it is what should be striven for.
Any case, that’s about it! Here’s to a good 25th year, filled with more learning, more growth, and more happiness. Thanks for reading!