Today is my 23rd birthday, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to look back over the year, because it has been a particularly interesting one. I started with TFD three weeks before my 22nd birthday, and that itself was a game-changer in my life. But a lot of other things went into getting me to the place I am today, and I have to say, that place is pretty damn good. I have never felt more secure and comfortable in the universe than I do today, and that’s rare for me to say, because there is usually a thick layer of fear and confusion beneath the surface of whatever happy image I’ve decided to portray on a given day. I think that’s just what it feels like to be in your early 20’s. And I’m by no means enlightened, or removed from that feeling — but I have learned a lot, and I wanted to share the 23 most important things I needed to learn about life before I woke up this morning to eat strawberry-frosted donuts in bed and begin to celebrate my 23rd birthday.
1. Literally no one is looking at your bad skin. They’re most likely too busy worrying about theirs.
2. Completing school work to the best of your ability is the most important thing you could have done for your future. You messed up a bit in the beginning, but you’ll do better from now until the day you die at putting 100% into every piece of work handed to you.
3. Don’t date the man who pours out your lemonade because “sugary beverages are unhealthy.” You don’t need his damn negativity — you need your lemonade.
4. Don’t do something that sucks just because someone told you it was healthy. Like, you understand that water and apples are pretty effective at giving you energy in the morning, but Reese’s Puffs and coffee make you way happier, so don’t feel like you need to follow whatever dumb Dr. Oz advice you read in a magazine on an airplane that one time.
5. Women are your friends. Women are on your team. It is okay to look up to someone, but stop trying to beat them out or show them up. It stings when someone gets something you want, but don’t let it make you hate them — maybe ask them how they got there, then work toward it yourself. Idolize the women in your life, and don’t try to compete with them.
6. Idolize yourself a little bit too. If you looked up to yourself the way you look up to other people, I bet you could accomplish a lot more. You wouldn’t want to let yourself down, would you?
7. Don’t let people convince you that it is antifeminist to be proud of your boyfriend. He is your partner, your team mate, and your best friend. You can shout it from the rooftops, talk about him all you want, tell people how proud you are. It doesn’t diminish your power to love him and be proud of him.
8. Stop putting back-up outfits in your school bag, because you probably look great, and even bringing the extra outfit is giving in to your insecurities.
9. Don’t ask “am I fat?” as if fat is the worst possible thing you could be. Also, if someone who is overweight asks “do I look fat?” don’t tell them “omg no you’re so not fat” as if fat is the worst possible thing they could be.
10. Do your laundry separately because you’re literally going to ruin everything you love and cost yourself a fortune trying to replace white stuff that you turned pink.
11. Let yourself have a balanced relationship with name-brand things. That is, allow yourself to love designers, follow fashion, and covet $3,000 bags. Don’t let anyone make you feel shallow for thinking beautiful shit is beautiful. But on the other hand, don’t ever let yourself feel like you need those items as status symbols, or that you are not worthy for not being able to afford them. They’re things — pretty things, yes — but just things.
12. Watch Fox News sometimes without scoffing and shutting it off, because you’re liberal as shit, but it’s important to know what the other side is watching (no matter how bad it might be). If nothing else, you’ll be able to more effectively argue your points with the knowledge of how the opposition is thinking.
13. You are lucky to have the best best friend ever, so find time to nurture the hell out of that relationship. “I’m soOoOoOo busy!” isn’t a good excuse — everyone is busy, but you’re not too busy for her. Squeeze in as much quality best friend time with her as you can. You’ll need fodder for your maid of honor speech one day anyway.
14. Don’t bring your laptop to class. You’ll try to convince yourself it helps you take notes quicker, but you’ll inevitably end up online shopping. Also, stop online shopping.
15. Get really good at apologizing when you’ve done wrong. You hate it so much, but it will make your life a lot easier to just accept the yucky, guilty feeling of being wrong for five minutes, and then move on.
16. “I can spend money frivolously now because I’m living with my parents still!” is not the right mindset. Like, I’m glad you enjoyed life, College-Mary, but you should have been saving a little bit more.
17. You can have it all, but you have to be a little more fucking patient.
18. You will genuinely always regret not spending more time with your grandparents, so even if you feel like you don’t have time, make some more time..
19. Same goes for your parents. But you already knew that — keep being best friends with your parents and your brother. They are your forever-squad, and they have been since the second you were born.
20. Stop letting people try to convince you that polite is the best thing you can be. Like, don’t be an asshole for the sake of being an asshole, but you don’t need to avoid speaking your mind just so people don’t think you’re rude.
21. Try not to let the fact that you’re a woman make you hyperaware of what others think about what you are doing. Do all the things that you really want and know will make you happy. If you want to go for a high-powered career, don’t do it because you want to prove people wrong — do it because the job appeals to you. If you want to have a family, don’t do it because of or in spite of the fact that it is expected of you — do it because you feel like having a family. If you want to do both, do it because you want to, and because you know the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and because you know you’re capable.
22. Lower your personal-maintenance routine a little bit. Not because makeup and hair products and cute outfits are bad in any way, but because it makes you personally a much more anxious person when you try so hard to achieve a certain look every day.
23. Try to worry about money a little less. Maybe this isn’t good advice for everyone. Maybe this isn’t even good advice for almost anyone. But for you, it is important. You are too worried. You work hard and squirrel it away and still get hives when Drew suggests you buy dinner one night instead of make it. You do need to think about the future, you do need to save, you do need to keep contributing to your retirement account and emergency fund and the savings account where you put money aside to buy a house someday. But you can also buy a fucking donut on a Sunday without having a panic attack. Chill out. You need to enjoy life a little. You have a lot to learn about balance, but I think 23 will be a good year for figuring that part out.
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