Last week was my 23rd birthday, and it was strange.
Not because of the events that took place (it was quite uneventful), but because of something else: the fact that I never really thought I’d ever turn 23. I remember freaking out at the thought of turning 16, 17, 18… Now I’m 23 and I’m an adult (or so they say). It’s strange, it’s uncomfortable, and it is fucking frightening.
I’m now in that phase of complete confusion and never-ending, and seemingly unanswerable, questions. My life is in disarray, and it looks like this phase is gonna be a long one.
There’s a lot of things I wish I knew growing up, a lot of things I’d change, but going back in time isn’t really an option (I don’t own a DeLorean, you see). Even if it is, though, would I do it? This might sound cheesy, and it kinda is, but what’s the point of life if you’re just going to erase every lesson you’ve learned along the way? And if that’s a decision you’re going to make, wouldn’t you then leave this world being the exact same person you were when you first arrived?
I sound like a smartass (I kinda am), and I sound like I’m trying to come off as ever so wise (Ravenclaw here), but it is what it is.
23 things I learned in my 23 years:
- Don’t be a prick. This might sound simple enough, but it really isn’t. You can be a prick without even realizing it. You can be a prick that hurts the closest people to them for no reason whatsoever. Don’t wait until it’s the norm that you don’t even realize you’re a prick. When someone close to you tells you how they feel about you (you should be so lucky), listen. They’re telling you, opening up to you, because they don’t want to lose you. Don’t wait until change seems impossible, and even if it seems that way, it isn’t.
- Be kind. I’m not trying to sound like Gandhi, but kindness is good for you. It can brighten your day. It could even save your life, or someone else’s. If someone needs help, help. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on, offer yours. If you can spare a jacket or a drink of water, do it. Be kind even to those who don’t deserve it, be kind to those who don’t think they deserve it. Don’t fake kindness and expect anything in return. Just do it.
- The world doesn’t revolve around you. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Your life is falling apart. You feel like nothing is good anymore. I get it. I really do. But don’t allow yourself to be so consumed by this that you forget yours is not the only beating heart in the world. The only world that revolves around you is yours.
- Take care of yourself. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re hungry, eat. If you want to stay in, stay in. If you feel like stuffing your face with junk and watching your favorite show all day, what’s stopping you? If someone you loved wanted to do all these things, you wouldn’t call them selfish, or a loser. So why are they worthy and you’re not? No one’s going to take better care of you than yourself.
- Speak up. If you see something wrong, do something and don’t wait around for someone else to come along and save the day. Don’t wait for it to stop on its own, because it’s not going to. Speak up against all the assholes in the world. Whether those assholes are industries, corporations, governments, or just random people on the street. Others out there don’t have a voice, but you do. Use it.
- Help is a moral obligation and responsibility. Yes. If you are in a position to help someone, you are obligated to do so. If that someone is a child or an animal, it is your responsibility to help. If that person is a man or a woman or someone in between, and if you’re in a position to help them, you should do so. Even if the number of lives you’re trying to better are more than you can count, you ought to at least try.
- Reading is important. Not only is it important, it’s also one of the very few true joys left nowadays. It takes you away from whatever negativity that might be surrounding you. It delicately forces you to use your imagination. It stimulates the mind. It improves your memory, expands your vocabulary, and even fills you up with new bits of knowledge. Honestly. Reading is important!
- Respect matters. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s disrespect. There are times when the amount of disrespect coming from someone is so large that I’m left speechless, and I’m almost never speechless. Call me old-fashioned, but what happened to respecting your elders? I’m not saying all old people deserve respect, nor am I saying that old people should be respected even if they clearly prove they don’t deserve it. But that’s not the point of respect I’m talking about. I’m talking about normal, day-to-day situations. When did it become cool to be rude? Not just to older people, but to everyone. Say please, say thank you. Ask before you borrow. Don’t interrupt. If someone enjoys something, don’t make fun of them. If someone wants to be addressed as *insert name here*, do it. If someone wants to use they/them pronouns, or he/him or she/her, respect their feelings and wishes. Don’t be rude. Be respectful.
- Enjoy the little things. A lot of us like to experience the finer things in life every once in a while. It’s normal and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I enjoy sitting and doing absolutely nothing while unaccompanied at the beach, but I also enjoy wearing those amazing and ridiculously expensive boots I bought the other day. You might enjoy hiking every Sunday morning, and you might also like the taste of pricey champagne. It’s fine. The thing is, sometimes we’re so consumed by, well, consuming, that we forget the little things. The little things like the way the air smells during fall, how it feels to plug in your earphones and forget how hellish the day has been, those strangely delicious biscuits you recently discovered at a kiosk nearby, or, my personal favorite, watching your animal companion do pretty much anything. Don’t be so caught up in life that you forget to take notice of these little yet massive things.
- Don’t be mean to kids. I hate kids. I do. I can’t stand their company, their noisy toys, their lame jokes, and everything they do. But when a child hands you a toy phone, you best act like there’s someone on the other line. If a kid tells you a joke, no matter how lame it is, laugh. If they want to share something with you, something oh-so-fucking-boring, act like you enjoy it, and make it believable. Don’t give them dirty looks just because they’re there and don’t ever refer to a child as stupid or silly. It hurts. You might be an adult now, but you were once the spawn of Satan as well.
- Family matters. I wish I had believed this one sooner. I wish I believed it when I made so much time for friends and little to no time for family. The truth is, no matter how many times you swear you won’t talk to a family member, you’ll still talk to them in a few days, or months even. Either way, it’ll happen. You can hate your parents (everyone knows they make it so easy), and you can wish a piano falls on and flattens your siblings, but unless your family is truly horrible and abusive, keep them around. They’ll stick by you.
- Don’t bully yourself. I’ve heard so many people I love speak terribly of themselves. It’s heartbreaking, and what’s worse is it’s not easy for them to stop. They don’t abuse themselves because they want to. They abuse themselves because they actually believe they deserve it, and they don’t. A lot of people will come into your life and they will hurt you. They’ll bully you just because they can, and they will abuse you just because they feel like it. It’s up to you to put a stop to this and to kick all these toxic shitheads out of your life, but them being gone doesn’t matter if you’re still abusing yourself. That’s the worst kind of abuse. Bullies disgust all of us, so why are we bullies to ourselves? It’s not easy (I’m still struggling with it too), but stop.
- Smoking is not cool. When I first started at 16, I started out with slims (cigarettes so thin they don’t even count) and I promised myself and everyone else that it would never escalate to proper cigarettes, but it did. The longer it went on, the heavier my choice of cigarette became. After a long battle, I quit for 4 months. I remember I was agitated and almost always thinking about cigarettes, and I eventually caved. It’s no way to live, and it’s genuinely one of my biggest regrets. Now I can’t jog without getting sharp chest pains, and a small flight of stairs seems like a daunting task. If that doesn’t put you off, you’re also hurting animals and the environment. Seriously, just don’t fucking put that shit in your mouth.
- Put your phone down. You just saw something really cool or you’re at a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you pull your phone out for a picture. That’s fine. We all want a picture or two to keep. The problem starts when one picture becomes fifteen, when one half-assed video must be on Snapchat that same instant, or when you just have to upload that picture to Instagram or Twitter. There’s so much time for that later. Why would you tire yourself at a concert by sticking your damn arm up the entire time, when you can tire yourself by dancing your ass off? Why would you deny yourself face-to-face conversations? And for the love of all that is holy, when you’re with just one person alone, put your damn phone down. If they’re that boring, just leave.
- Facebook sucks. You might need it to keep up with friends or family, or you might use it for networking, great, but don’t be on it 24/7. No one is willing to share their lives in full on the internet. They only share the exciting moments and the interesting experiences, and you end up feeling like you’re missing out and your life is as mundane as ever. So why spend so much time making yourself feel like shit? Instead of wasting all that time scrolling down that endless, shit-filled timeline, why don’t you invest your time in something that interests you? A personal favorite is StumbleUpon.com. If I’m feeling a bit bored, I just log on and stumble all through the world wide web, and it’s time well spent. #FuckFacebook2k15
- You’re worth more than your productivity. You got nothing done today? Cool. You didn’t go out? Cool. You didn’t do the laundry and there’s a pile of dirty dishes in the sink? Cool. It’s 1PM and you’re in bed? I hope you’re cozy. I’m so sick of this “Your worth solely depends on how high your productivity levels are” bullshit. When people, and especially kids, are constantly bombarded with so much stress and pressure that it starts to affect their well-being, fuck productivity. You do you, at your own pace.
- Argue calmly. A couple of years ago, someone posted on Facebook asking if you had a one night stand with someone who is trans, do you think they are obligated to tell you. My response, without any previous thought, was yes. When asked why, the only answer I could think of was “I’d just want to know.” Even though I somewhat realized at the time that maybe what I was saying was without merit (I’d just want to know? Really?), I still didn’t think I was saying anything wrong and I certainly didn’t think it was hurtful in any way, and the way other people were reacting didn’t help, at all. I was called transphobic (which hurt, but not more than anyone trans reading my stupid comments) and I was called a lot of other names, and all that did was pin my twisted opinion further in my mind. It wasn’t until someone, I wish I remember who, explained why my comment was transphobic and problematic. That’s it. They just explained it, without calling me names or “yelling”. That was the last time I ever said anything without really considering it first. That was the last time I ever had a thought that wasn’t followed by “but why?” It was a moment in my life that I’d never forget, and that’s when I learned that, even though you might not mean something, you still said it. That’s the beauty of proper arguments and debates. Keep your cool and if the other person is willing to listen, your point will come across. Yell and all is lost.
- Know your place as an ally. I may not be lucky that I’m part of a generation that has been entirely fucked by our parents and grandparents, but I am lucky that my generation is finally saying enough is enough and we’re just not taking this anymore. I love that we’re more accepting and tolerant, and we’re braver just by being ourselves and standing up for each other. Every social justice cause needs its allies. If you think the way PoC are treated is wrong, you can be an ally. If you think the way the LGBT community is treated is terrible, you can be an ally. Same thing with animals, and even the environment. But just because you’re an ally doesn’t mean you can take liberties. You may not, under any circumstances, use someone’s plight to highlight your own. Don’t point to someone’s struggle and try to shift the attention to yourself. Most importantly, don’t be so butthurt when someone points this out to you, because the very people you’re supposed to be supporting are the ones dealing with the shit you’re protesting against, and they’re well within their rights to call you out.
- Animals are heavenly. This one doesn’t need explaining.
- Alone time is crucial. Don’t forget to make some time for yourself. Whether it’s in the morning or at night. Sit by yourself and get comfortable. Have a cup of tea, read a book, or dance to your favorite pop song. Do whatever. Just do it alone. Get reacquainted with yourself. After all, you’re the person you spend the most time with.
- Do what you love. If you don’t have the luxury of doing what you love for a living, it’s okay. A small amount of people get to be so lucky anyway, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop doing what you love altogether. Paint, write, dance, act. Just do it. Money takes so much from us and our lives already, but don’t let it take away the few select things you truly enjoy.
- Make others laugh. I’m a joker and one of my favorite activities in the world is just being silly. I enjoy silliness if it’s lighthearted. Silliness, not stupidity. I’m the kind of person that will lock themselves in a room for a bit, then come out with a mustache and a ridiculous costume to match it. I’ll take the time to dress and act like Charlie Chaplin, because why the fuck not? And if it doesn’t arouse much laughter from others, I still made myself laugh, and that’s a job well done.
- Be yourself. Life’s boring if you’re not.