(The visual description of me as a 23 year old. I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop while wearing a shirt advertising my favorite bar; i spent a lot of time at these places, and they were very much havens for a strange time in life.)
My birthday was three days ago, and I kind of feel a bit more peaceful than I have in a long time. That is probably a weird sensation to feel on your birthday of all days, but I’m feeling fine with it. I have never felt a particular way about getting older or any type of way concerning my birthday; excitement for presents was the only sort of feeling I got out of it. This year was definitely different; I wanted it to be over as fast as it began.
I knew my 23rd year would bring about change, as most years tend to do. I had no idea, however, that the change would just keep. coming. Everyone deals with change differently. I am the type of person who is hesitant over even the tiniest of changes, so I am definitely not okay when the changes happening are of the life-altering variety. I have taken much time to pour over the lessons I have learned this year, and I am pretty proud of my progress. I’m nowhere near “over” many of the changes that happened this year and I have a long way to go. I know for sure I am almost out of my “posting ominous Facebook statuses and song lyrics phase” because I am able to talk about these changes. Here are 23 lessons/changes/gripes/discoveries/and more I have learned from my 23rd year of life. I hope you will enjoy them, and maybe relate to them! They are not in order, although they probably *should* be.
- It DOES NOT (IT REALLY DOES NOT) MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES YOU TO ACCOMPLISH A GOAL, AS LONG AS YOU STICK WITH IT: I finished college this year after five years of frequent uncertainty I would complete it. I made the decision to move back home at the end of last semester, so I could have the motivation to finish school, because I was on the verge of burnout. I’ve struggled with that decision many times in hindsight because I loved my campus, friends, and my identity at the campus’ radio station gave me roots, which was pretty much the biggest thing I wanted out of life (more on that later.) While I was on campus, I was really upset about taking a bit longer to graduate than most of my friends, and I knew the irritation had the absolute power to consume me and alter my plan. Moving back home and doing my homework at my father’s desk, like I did from Kindergarten through high school, gave me the ability to concentrate on my end-goal, which was to move on to a new chapter in life.
2. Life has a way of altering your plans: I have no idea where I got to be this way, but I am one of those people who believes in making a plan and sticking with it and I have never let the idea that my plan might not perfectly work out ever cross my mind. I’m a stubborn person and I am especially stubborn when I am trying to hold on to an idea that may not work for me any longer. I am still working on realizing this and letting go. It is so important to keep an open mind and recognize the vast number of possibilities life has to offer.
3. It’s so important to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: I get way into my own head. Way into my own head. I have always been a firm believer in keeping a journal and I have done so since I was 10 years old. I think I learned how important it is to keep a journal for my mental health this year, because releasing your thoughts on paper in order to free some clutter in your brain is so much more important than doing it so your future self can react to your youthful mistakes. I lost a lot of sleep this year because I spent hours thinking at night. When I would write everything down, I noticed I was able to sleep soundly and process thoughts more clearly.
4. Goals are important, but make sure they are YOUR GOALS: I always struggled with the idea that you are pressured to make career decisions while you’re still having to raise your hand for permission to go to the bathroom. I still remember sitting in an English class when I was 18, and having to take a test to determine my future career. and to take these results seriously. I fell in love with radio when I came to college the following year, but it took me four years to realize there will be people who will try to steer you in directions you know are not for you. It’s good to try new things and expand your horizons, but always stand your ground when you know what you are meant to do.
5. Take time to heal through media: It took me until number five to mention my break up I went through this year. I tried to make plenty of sense out of it through journal writing and blogging, but the best healing I’ve experienced has been through reading for pleasure and listening to music that reflected what I was feeling. I am so thankful to have discovered Daniel Johnston’s music because his way of writing showed me everything I was going through was RELATABLE and it was okay to articulate your thoughts, no matter how simple they might come out. Daniel Johnston breaks my heart in more ways than one, but I don’t know where I would be without ever hearing “Love is Weird.”
6. Know when to unplug: On average I spend between fourteen and sixteen hours per day in front of a screen. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way, especially since January 20th. I have had moments where I have been anxious to leave Twitter alone for a few hours for fear that the world would implode because of 140 characters. After the inauguration, I dramatically deactivated my Facebook because I needed to get away from the constant storm of commentary. In a current climate where there are seemingly no boundaries left, I learned it was important to log out at the first sign of anxiety.
7. Be careful to not allow other people’s problems consume you: I will always be your friend that is willing to forego a night out for a night spent talking about anything and everything. My nature is to be the one to fix any sort of issue at hand, and advise you anything I possibly can to prevent you from feeling any further pain. This year I learned that it is nearly impossible to “fix”, nor is it really my place, to fix the problems of others. There have been way too many instances where I have allowed other people’s problems to completely consume me and do a number on my mental health. I will always love to offer any type of help that I am capable, but realizing there are limits to what I am able to give has been my biggest lesson of the year.
8. Doing things solo is good, and it sucks to miss something cool because you’ll be by yourself: When it is abundantly clear that you’re not going to be able to find a friend to go with you to that Cool Thing, it takes a lot less energy to go by yourself than it does to call that One Guy From High School whose phone number you still have, and ask him to go with you. Believe me, I have been that person who will scroll through her contacts multiple times because society has made me feel bad for going out alone. Sometimes it can be much more fun to go to a show by yourself; you can leave whenever you want! you can talk to whoever you want! You don’t have to talk to anyone at all! If you are able, please go do something alone.
9. Reevaluate how you think and talk about your body: I have struggled so much with my self-esteem issues and I know that I will never be completely at peace with my body. At age 23, something inside of me told me to say “you know, I’m going to be real about how I feel. I’m not always going to be completely okay with my physical appearance, but it takes the wind out of me to spend time criticizing my body. I was made how I was made, and only my opinion matters.” You are the one who spends the most time alone with yourself; your mind and body belong to you. You make the decision to change or not change any element about you. Personally, talking about my body negatively to anyone has never brought me any type of satisfaction. If someone gives me a compliment to try to shut down whatever negative remark I put out, I am hyper aware of this fact. Taking the time to remember everything my body has the capability to do, has been extremely helpful for me to gain a healthier outlook on it.
10. That Person might not be That Person for you… and nothing you can do will change this fact: !!!!!!!!!!!!- Taking care of all of the relationships in your life is very important, whatever type of relationship it may be. Having an understanding of the roles these people play in your life is equally important, and sometimes it is incredibly easy to lose sight of a particular person’s place in your life, or wish their role could be bigger. If someone is not able to provide the emotional stability you need in your life, but they are better at being the friend who is brilliant at keeping you laughing: this is the friend they should be. Mourning over someone’s inability to fulfill a certain role in my life has been the biggest barrier in my life this year. It is absolutely OKAY if someone fulfills your life in another type of way than you might secretly wish they could.
11. Social media is really sweet but it can really suck!: There’s a picture of me floating around Facebook where I edited the size of my chin because I really wanted someone to “love” react to the photo- they did, but god, it made me feel bad. There are countless ways that social media has negatively impacted my life this past year. I am no exception at hiding my imperfections in Facebook pictures or in the content I post. I have silently (and loudly) complained about how I haven’t felt up to par with the lives of my virtual friends, because I was in school for a longer period, or I haven’t (yet) achieved a career goal. I’ve known presentation is not always what it’s cracked up to be, but it’s been quite difficult to understand since I have been going through a difficult time. I’m still going through a complicated time with social media, but I’ve gotten better at managing my Facebook scrolling.
12. The past should stay in the past: It’s natural to reflect on nostalgic moments or to look back on some things you have done or said that now make you cringe. The fact of the matter is- YOU are the only one still cringing at these things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled through my Instagram feed lately, where I’ve thought to myself, “I wonder if she remembers that time that I_______” She doesn’t. I promise. Also, if it didn’t work for you in 2009, there’s a strong chance seven years will not make a difference.
13. Spend as much time with your family as possible. Your parents are COOL?!: I lived away from home during college and when I moved back home only six months ago, I would be shocked to know how much time I’ve spent hanging out with my family. Listening to advice from my mother and grandmother has helped me through some really difficult situations. I know it seems weird, but I never fully understood why my aunt would write “listen to the words of the people who came before you” in my birthday cards when I was growing up. It’s inevitable in some cases that you may disagree with some of their advice, but learning to approach those disagreements with understanding has been extremely helpful for me.
14. Do it. Good God, Taylor, just do it!: Back in January, I was strangely very optimistic for the new year. I was writing all of this stuff in my journal about clean slates and obstacles, and I proclaimed “obstacles don’t really exist. You just do stuff.” Seven months later, I don’t really agree with my slacker/cool beans way of putting this into words. I grew to really understand how I define the word “obstacle” in the last few months. Yes, there are factors that can get in the way of whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish, but if the goal really means a lot to you, you will do everything possible to achieve your goal. By far, one of my biggest obstacles this year has been over thinking DOING simple tasks; I am finishing this post almost a week after I started it, for example. I’ve been thinking too much about how I have been lacking in ideas. Knowing how important it is for me to finish this post and share these “lessons” with you, is much bigger of a reward.
15. CHAIN RESTAURANTS MAKE ME HAPPY. THERE I SAID IT: Fixating on how “uncool” it is to have a burning love for Applebees is much worse than some of the fried glory I happily consume. Living in Nashville again has made me feel unnecessarily queasy about my Applebees fixation because I’m living in the new cultural capital for COOL; hanging out with my best friends at Applebees has made me delay embracing the COOL BRUNCH GO-ER identity I sometimes long to have deep down.
16. Making lists can keep you sane!: In high school, I was known as the girl who loved High Fidelity because my identity was deeply rooted as the girl who loves and cares about nothing but music. The film popularized the art of making a list. Your Top Five Anything can be incredibly crucial to your identity and help you understand who you are. I think making lists just keeps me feeling a little less bonkers. My collection of lists on my phone range from the practical (important contacts) to the Taylor Swift (scattered lyrics about a guy). Organization isn’t my strongest suit, and I am confidant in understanding that making progress with my organizational skills could be a life long endeavor, so writing lists makes me feel like I’ve made some headway.
17. Start new projects. Sometimes it’s okay not to finish them, because they’re clearly lame: I’m not a musician by any means. At all. I wish I were. Good god, I’m convinced I would be the happiest version of myself if I could find the patience to learn some chords on that guitar I bought when I was thirteen. During the Spring, I was really sad and bored while finishing school, and I was in the middle of my first crush since high school, and I. JUST. NEEDED. AN. OUTLET. TO. MAKE. SENSE. OF. IT. So, I wrote an album’s worth of songs about the guy. The album was going to be called “songs about _____” and I told the guy what I was doing. I’m not too deep into blessing people, but god bless this guy, really. He laughed. I laughed about it while singing into my phone in the bathroom. I didn’t finish the album because it slowly evolved into an album of Madonna covers. I’m proud of myself for trying new creative outlets in an attempt to explore my capabilities. No, I’m not going to post the finished tracks on Soundcloud, Ford.
18. Memes are healing.
19. It’s PERFECTLY FINE TO NOT ENJOY THE IDEA OF DATING: Hey Taylor (and you. Hey, you): Just because other people think you “should” be dating right now because others believe it’s been “enough” time to branch out, it might not always be the right thing to do. Honestly assessing whether you are READY to get in there is so much more important than trying to meet society’s expectations about the amount of time you “should” be taking the time to heal in the wake of a break up.
20. Take advantage of everything possible on your campus!: While finishing school at home, I realized how much I really missed being able to have Chic-Fil-A whenever I wanted to. On a more serious note, I really wish I had volunteered for the school newspaper or the TV station, instead of being married to one organization. Acquiring a variety of skills and understanding your definition of being “well-rounded” is something I feel like I lack.
21. Don’t cut your hair a certain way because a guy “hearted” the idea on Facebook.
22. Augusten Burroughs’ books rule.
23. It’s going to be okay. Really.