19 Lessons for 19 Years

On April 19, I turned 19. I’m usually optimistic about getting older and making every new year better than its predecessor. I don’t feel this way about 19. I accomplished so much at 18; I’m afraid 19 won’t be as prolific. As I prepare to graduate college, uncertainties lurk around every corner. I’m moving to New York City without a job and without a place to live. I can’t help but reflect on my past and wonder if my early graduation and hard work was worth the sacrifices, because I’m stepping into a world that values connections over resumes. However, in such a time of reflection, I cannot overlook the positive lessons I’ve learned in my 19 years of life. One for every year…

  1. I can’t always live for the future. If I spend all my time thinking about my next move and idealizing hypothetical scenarios, I inevitably overlook the opportunities right under my nose.
  2. I can’t always live in the past. When the present is taxing and the future seems bleak, I revert to past times with greater happiness. How am I supposed to make my present as happy if I refuse to be there and change it?
  3. The people who truly care about me make time for me no matter what. The easiest way to distinguish real friends from fake is by who show up in a time of crisis. The people who care about me would drop everything in a moment’s notice to talk me off a ledge.
  4. I should make time for the people who I care about. As well, I should return the favor. Caring about someone means I am there in times of crisis and calm. Coffee and conversation is a simple way to show I care.
  5. I can’t stay mad at myself for things I cannot change. I hold myself to standards too high to achieve. I’m never satisfied with my accomplishments, no matter how great. I cannot rewind time and change things I did or didn’t do.
  6. But I can always let my past motivate my present. In the absence of time travel, I can let my past actions influence my current decisions as to not make the same mistakes or have the same regrets.
  7. There’s no such thing as perfection. I’m allowed to make mistakes. I’m allowed to be wrong. I’m allowed to not be the best at everything.
  8. Don’t procrastinate. My busy schedule encourages burning out, losing motivation and pushing to-dos aside. When I have something to do, I need to do it. If not, my tasks will accumulate into a daunting pile of lists and sticky notes that look too menacing to confront. It’s better to spend an hour doing something now than hours stressing about it later.
  9. I should make myself a priority. My sanity is equally as important as deadlines and chores.
  10. The easiest way to solve a problem is with words. Talking about problematic people behind their backs is so high school. Nothing beats face-to-face communication.
  11. Stop refusing help from those who offer. As much as I think I can conquer every obstacle independently, I need to accept help from those willing. Asking for assistance doesn’t diminish my capabilities.
  12. When I have the means, help others. I cannot get so enthralled in my schedule that I dismiss others who need me. I always feel better about my character when I do nice things for other people.
  13. Budgeting is important, but sometimes Starbucks is too. I need to balance my budget between saving and spending. Every so often, if I have the money, it’s okay to treat myself to new clothes or soy lattes or lunch. As long as spending doesn’t turn frivolous, it’s equally as important to enjoy the now as it is to budget for the future
  14. Go to new places and talk to new people. My favorite experiences take me out of my comfort zone, whether that be my neighborhood or my introverted personality. Everyone everywhere is brimming with an untold story and looking for someone to let it out.
  15. Never assume an outcome. It’s easy to ruin a plan if I center my life upon one of many possibilities.
  16. Plans don’t always work out. I can have a plan, but I should have a backup plan and a backup backup plan. If all else fails, and as much as my type-A hands hate to type this, sometimes, I should go with the flow.
  17. Make use of loose connections. In my personal and professional life, I’ve found connections to big opportunities through the strangest places and the most unexpected people.
  18. Always stay true to yourself. People call me nerdy, awkward and a crazy cat lady. It’s true, but I’ve learned to take away the negative connotations and rock what I’ve got. I’m a genius, I’m quirky and I have the most amazing furry sons in the world.
  19. Life’s short, and it’s okay to have fun. Sure, applying for jobs, over-writing essays and getting straight A+s in school is important, but so surrounding myself with things that make me happy.