Sunday, 20 November 2016

(Not quite 21) Things I've learned in my 21 years.

This week I celebrated my 21st birthday. It was a day filled with friends, cake, Disney movies and all the things I love. My best friends visited me thisweekend and it was just what I needed after the horrible, anxiety-ridden days I had endured the week before (due to the US presidential election). As I feel like a lot of people do on their big birthdays, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over these years and reflecting on my experiences and I thought I would try to get some of them down in a post. So, here goes.

It’s okay to be single. Really.
I am 21 years old and I have never been in a relationship. Ever. I don’t think I’ve even had so much as a ‘thing’ with anyone. Which for a long time I felt weird about, because when you’re a teenager so much of the media aimed at you involves first love and relationships. But I’ve come to realise recently that it really doesn’t matter. I am perfectly content and happy on my own. This isn’t to say that relationships aren’t great and sure, if the right person comes along I’d be more than happy to enter into one but I’m not worried about whether that happens or not. I’ve got me, and that’s enough.

Things that don’t go according to plan can sometimes surprise you.
I never intended to go to the sixth form I wanted, but it’s what I got stuck with. And yet, I met some amazing people there who I still consider to be my closest friends today. I didn’t want to drop out of University when I was 18, but in the end it gave me the time to deal with my grief and become a far more open and relaxed person. Even the University I’m currently attending wasn’t my first choice, but I’ve ended up really settling in and enjoying life here.

Everyone is problematic.
I, like many people I think, often put certain people (usually celebrities) on pedestals as a child and teenager, thinking they could do no wrong and then was outraged when they said anything that didn’t fit with this perfect image I had of them. Turns out, even the most educated and best intentioned of us will still get it wrong or say something inappropriate sometimes. We’re all human and we make mistakes. It’s how we respond to criticism and calling out that really matters.

Everyone has “stuff” going on in their life.
And you most likely don’t know about it. That doesn’t always excuse shitty behaviour, but it’s something I try and keep in mind when someone is acting a particular way. And people often will be sympathetic to your own situation as well.

It’s okay to cry.
I didn’t cry much as a child at all. I mean, I cried when I got hurt but that’s mostly because it was a knee-jerk reaction. But I never cried at movies or tv shows, or what was happening in my personal life. I’m not sure whether I’ve just become more emotional and empathetic as I’ve gotten older or it’s something else, but I cry a lot more now and it’s good. Instead of keeping all of my emotions reined in until I’m fit to burst, I let myself feel what I’m feeling, and I feel so much better for it.

Sometimes, you’ve got to put yourself first.
This is something I’ve struggled with for YEARS. I’ve spent a lot of my life putting people before me and it could have awful effects on my mental health. I was so scared of being thought of as ‘selfish’ that I would put friends, who were often toxic for me anyway before my own interests. But putting yourself first is NOT selfish – sometimes you just have to take a step back and take care of yourself before anyone else.

There’s a lot more, but those are just some things I’ve observed and come to realise, particularly in the last few years. And even I find putting some of these into practice difficult, especially when society tells us to do the opposite. Most importantly though, I’ve learned we are all growing and changing and learning. And that’s okay.


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No judgment, no hate, because it is already tough enough being a girl.