Hey everyone! Since it was my 25th birthday yesterday, I figured today I'd share twenty-five of the most important lessons I've learned from my life so far.
1) It's okay to not be okay. This is the top thing that I would want to tell my younger self. I spent so much of my life so far feeling guilty about my own emotions, but it's okay to not be happy. It's okay to struggle.
2) Don't be afraid of "wasted time"--you're always learning something. When I was at my sickest, I was distraught at the thought that I wasn't learning or growing or developing as a person. But afterwards I realized that I'd actually matured quite a bit, even though all I "did" was sit in bed and watch TV. You don't have to always be accomplishing things in order to learn.
3) The world is both a horrible and a beautiful place. That's what comes of imperfection. It's important to see the beautiful, but ignoring the horrible is not the way to live either. Some people will try to do that anyway. You cannot force them to recognize reality.
4) You don't have to save the world by yourself. One of the beautiful things about humanity is that we live together. We are interdependent creatures who use the mechanism of society to protect each other. That means individuals don't have to make up for all the horrible things in the world by themselves (and indeed, we can't--the burden is too great, and everyone needs help at some time or another). It's groups of people together who will make change. Even Jesus Himself didn't fix the world. He created a way for there to be both justice and mercy in the eternities, but God, and everyone out there who is suffering, needs us to work together to make things better in the now.
5) You don't have to "save" a boy--or anyone else--to be worth loving. My OCD made me believe there was something wrong with me for the longest time, something that I needed to fix in order to be a worthy human being like everyone else. I thought the way I could fix it was by saving or fixing or otherwise supporting a guy. But girls don't need guys to make them good people. I don't have to support a "hero," I can be the heroine of my own story.
6) Society disparages traditionally "feminine" things, but that doesn't mean they're bad. Being emotionally expressive in non-violent ways is not bad. Interdependence is not bad. Loving romance and family is not bad. Liking dresses and flowers and kittens is not bad. None of those things make you weak or stupid.
7) Don't miss out on fun stuff on the merit of its popularity. I have a habit of slipping into the "popularity sucks" complex, where I resist popular things (or things that are recommended to me) just because I want to be subversive or contrary. But half of the things I tried to resist I ended up loving later!
8) The worth of a person, including yourself, cannot be measured in an empirical way. I've often diminished my own worth by trying to calculate it monetarily or through some kind of moral consequentialism. It's just not that simple. We are living, breathing, thinking human beings with immortal souls, and that means we all have infinite worth just by nature. You would never think of someone you loved in this way. (And capitalism tries to make you think this way, so be wary.)
9) Any career is a long game, including being a novelist. I wouldn't want to burst younger me's bubble, but the fact is I didn't get published before high school, before college, or before graduation. Setting arbitrary goals like that over things you can't entirely control isn't going to work. If you want to make a life out of something, you have to be prepared for it to take a long time and for there to be many twists and turns along the way. You have to keep a steady pace, as much as you can.
10) Life rarely goes the way you plan. Classic advice, always true. It doesn't mean I'm ever gonna stop trying to plan things, haha, but it does make you realize all those anxiety-provoking "what ifs" are unhelpful. You just don't know what's going to happen, and you can't prepare for everything. Learn to be flexible and adaptive.
11) Rules only have as much value as the principles behind them. Rules aren't valuable in and of themselves. If the reason for a rule isn't a good one, the rule won't be good either. You still might have to deal with them, and that's why it's important to learn how to work around the system and jump through the hoops. But where there's a bad rule, you should do your best to change it. (See lesson #4 again.)
12) Your body does so many things every millisecond, which means there are so many ways that it can go wrong. Unfortunately, this means you will not realize the value of being able to eat tomatoes until it is too late.
13) Bullies almost never have a good reason for treating you the way they do. It's not because there's something wrong with you. It's almost always because there's something wrong with them. If you remember that, it's a lot easier to keep it from getting to you. And ignoring your bullies will often lead to them stopping--though not always. That brings us to the next lesson...
14) Do the minimum that you have to in order to get someone out of another person's space. You don't have any irrevocable right to another person's time or attention or anything else. If they don't want you in their space, you get out of their space. Not only is that what's moral, but it's what's necessary for a functional society. If someone is ignoring that and is harming or otherwise infringing on the space of another person (yourself included), that is the only time it is okay to step into their space without permission. Do what it takes to get that person back where they need to be--but only as much as it takes. Violence should be a last resort. Don't infringe any longer or any more than you have to.
15) Different people can have surprisingly different symptoms despite having the same mental illnesses. Don't assume that because you know the stereotype or the textbook information or even how a mental illness is for you that you can tell whether someone has it or not. Some people with anxiety cry a lot (aka me). Some people get angry. Some people shut down. That's how it is for all mental illnesses. Leave it to the experts to decide if someone has a condition--and even then, don't be afraid to get second opinions if it's your own care you're talking about.
16) If you like to talk more than people like to listen, try writing instead. Especially if it's in a journal. Hey, it worked for my childhood self pretty well!
17) Anyone can be redeemed, but not everyone chooses to be. See my analysis of Star Wars: The Last Jedi for more on that.
18) One of the most important things for you to be aware of is how little you know. There's an infinity of knowledge out there, more than even the human race collectively could imagine. So never think that you know it all. Never think that someone else's perspective doesn't have value.
19) Learn your limits and then stay at the very edge of them. This advice originally came from my Mayo Clinic trip, but I think it applies to a lot of things in my life. It's important that you challenge yourself so that you can learn and grow and expand your limits, but if you go over the edge, you will make yourself sick and have a set-back rather than the growth you wanted. Be careful with striking that balance!
20) If you're unhappy, don't be afraid to make a change. I learned this the most during college, when I realized that I could resolve some of my unhappiness by making changes, such as changing classes, changing majors, or even changing schools. You don't have to stay on the path you're already on. Your choices aren't a one-and-done. Now, with all that said...
21) There are some problems you can't run away from. Sometimes, you can make a few changes, and your situation will improve. But when the problem is deeper, you can't escape it by developing a new lifestyle or making new friends or moving to a new place. This is the case for things like mental illness, chronic illness, or even family troubles. You need to face those kinds of problems head-on and work your way through them. Otherwise, you may escape for a short time, but they will come back around to get you again.
22) Sometimes friendships end, and that's okay. I've had many times in my life where I was terrified of losing my friends. In the end, I did lose many of them--but that's okay. I'm sure friendships can end badly or prematurely, but in my experience, friendships end naturally, when they are meant to. And the fact that they end doesn't diminish their value. The same goes for many other things, like hobbies or trunking a novel.
23) The human mind is more terrifying than anything else out there. I think I "lost my innocence" around fourth grade, when I had an intense, months-long episode of melissophobia. Afterwards, I was sobered by the fact that my mind could create such darkness. I'd never imagined that kind of twisted fearfulness could exist inside me. It took me a while to start trusting myself again. Mental illnesses like that are just one example of the awe-inspiring power of the human mind.
24) You can endure more than you could ever imagine. Whatever the darkness you find inside yourself, whatever the trials you face, know that human beings are capable of incredible resilience. Humans have endured unimaginable suffering all around the world, all throughout history. That fact isn't a happy one, but it does offer some hope. When you hit your darkest moments, as in the two times in my life when I became suicidal, remember that you have more strength than you know. You have the power to make the best of your circumstances, whatever that may mean.
25) You deserve to be treated with respect. Everyone does. If someone is mistreating you, you don't have to put up with it. It doesn't matter if they're "a good person" or really popular or well-liked. It doesn't matter if you like them. You deserve better.
So there we have it! Twenty-five important life lessons from my twenty-five years of life. What life lessons have you learned? Leave them in the comments, and I'll be back Saturday with our spring humor roundup!
Some notes from Camp NaNoWriMo: I had a false start on #SnowQueenStory (see Problem #4 on this post), but I'm starting over and I think I know what it needs to be now. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up!
Image via darkworkx-1664300 on Pixabay.
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