23 things I’ve learned in my 23rd year

Because my 24th birthday’s coming up in a week and a few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve grown this past year. This was, without a doubt, the most difficult year I’ve faced yet, but it was also the best. I made a big move, I got engaged and married, I started (and left) a new job, and started this website with my husband and some friends.

Here are 23 things I’ve learned during this whirlwind of a year:

1. You should not only step outside your comfort zone; you should be spontaneous while you’re there.

Pretty much right after I blew out my 23 birthday candles, I said goodbye to my friends and family in New Mexico. I packed up my little car with some clothes, my guitar, and my Labrador and drove across the country to my new life in upstate New York. It was the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done.

2. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

I spent over $2,000 on multiple trips to the mechanic this past year. The third time my car broke down, so did I. That’s when I learned it’s just how life goes sometimes, whether I think I “deserve” life’s curveballs or not.

3. Making friends as an adult is hard, you guys.

I’ve lived here for a year and I’ve still only met a handful of solid friends.

4. Maintaining friendships is also pretty difficult.

As a teenager, you saw friends at school or on the weekends. Same thing in college. As a real-life adult, your friends start getting married and having babies, and it becomes more difficult to see them on a regular basis. (Moving across the country doesn’t make that any easier.)

5. My favorite movie is The Royal Tenenbaums.

This Wes Anderson film not only tugs at my heartstrings (I cry every time), it’s also full of lessons on love, growing older, and the importance of family. A close runner-up is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

6. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

Depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads shortly after my big move to NY, but thankfully a great support system comprising my husband, my family, good friends and a couple of therapists got me through the dark times. Along with that same vein, having a mental illness does not make you weak.

7. Saying “yes” all the time is soul-sucking.

Pleasing everyone all the time for the sake of admiration is emotionally draining, so it’s best to properly balance helping yourself and helping others.

8. Scream-singing songs while driving is one of the best remedies for the melancholies I’ve found so far.

These also work: long showers, short naps, hugs, walking the dog, and vegan ice cream.

9. All dressed chips are the best chips in the world.

Seriously, it’s like barbecue chips and salt and vinegar chips had a beautiful, delicious baby. Because it’s a Canadian thing, only northern states are lucky enough to try these delicacies.

10. There is never a “right” time to do anything.

Travel, switch careers, start your own business, etc. when you want to, and don’t wait. The perfect opportunity will most likely never present itself unless you make the first move.

11. It snows a lot in upstate New York.

Multiple feet of snow on the ground for weeks at a time is something this New Mexican may never get used to.

12. Your biggest critic is yourself.

Most people are usually too occupied with fretting over their own lives to notice your visible toe cleavage in your new shoes, or to care when you’ve spilled coffee all over yourself. In reality, most people will have a neutral or positive opinion about you.

13. Travelling brings happiness.

I visited 11 states this year — five of them were states I hadn’t been to previously. I also saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, and what a breathtakingly beautiful sight that was.

14. Sometimes good people do bad things.

After all, they’re people, too.

15. Patience is a virtue.

Especially when it comes to teaching your dog that electrical cords are not food.

16. Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

Although my mom taught me this quip when I was still in the single digits, I’ve only recently started to understand what it means. People shouldn’t be described as “normal” or “abnormal” — none of us are one or the other.

17. Call your mom.

Surprise — she actually knew what she was talking about all along. But maybe it’s just my mom who offers good advice, tells lame mom jokes to make me laugh, and offers good Netflix suggestions I may have missed.

18. Live in the present.

Too often, I’d find myself worrying about what the next day at work would bring me, or reliving regrettable moments from the past. Now, I make it my goal to be grateful for each moment.

19. Meditating is good for the soul.

My husband first got me into meditating, and while I’m no meditation expert, I know that it’s been helping me significantly.

20. Be silly.

My husband and I are the poster children for silliness. Let loose, make funny noises and faces, sing made-up songs, and laugh more.

21. Fake it until you make it.

Okay, so that’s a cliche one, but I’ve learned this year that if you look confident, you can make people believe you know what the hell you’re doing. Here’s a secret: everyone is faking it and no one knows what they’re doing more than half of the time.

22. Ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you can.

It is really hard to ask for help, whether it’s requesting financial assistance or asking someone to jump your dead car on the side of the road. People are usually happy to provide aid, but make sure to help others out when you can in return.

23. Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school.

If this post is any indication, learning is a lifelong journey.

Cheers to turning 24 — may I learn at least as many lessons in the coming year.


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