Last week, I celebrated my 24th birthday! I have spent a lot of time over the past few days reflecting on the past year. At this time last year, I was having a difficult time accepting myself. Going back to school didn't go as I had planned, I was 20 pounds heavier, it was the first birthday being single since I was in high school, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. I dreaded going to local stores and restaurants because I was afraid I would run into someone I knew from the past, and I wouldn't know what to say if they asked what I've been up to. I'm glad that I stayed hopeful, because 23 ended up being the most exciting and transforming year of my life. It was the year that I took the most chances, and learned the most about myself and the world around me.
Here are the 8 most important lessons I learned as a 23-year-old:
(Warning: Some of these are extremely cliché but still very true.)
1. I would much rather be single than be in the wrong relationship.
I used to base my confidence on my relationship status or the amount of dates I go on. I realize now that I need to be true to myself, and I will find the right man at the right time.
2. Someone's occupation, degree, or certification doesn't necessarily reflect who they are as a person.
Whether you are a doctor, waitress, educator, maintenance person, police officer, truck driver, or cashier, how you treat others is how I determine your character.
3. Drink more water and less Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.
I've made major dietary changes this year, and the difference in my energy and confidence has been incredible.
4. No amount of guilt can change the past.
Don't dwell on your mistakes, learn from them.
5. Everyone has a story and a struggle that most people know nothing about.
I learned this through the TMI Project. Hearing peoples' stories made me more understanding and open-minded. The person you think is rude might have social anxiety, or the girl you think is perfect might have had a traumatic childhood. Be kind, you never know what someone is going through.
6. Go for it.
The successes I've had this year have come from pushing myself. From taking on an internship to publically reading my writing to submitting an article to MTV to traveling to Buffalo, I was terrified. I thought I would be judged or make a mistake. I'm so happy I found the courage to reach for my dreams.
7. Speak up for yourself, even if your voice shakes.
I was the girl who would confront professors about a grade I was given or state my opinion on lowering the drinking age, even if I was the only one in the class who opposed it (true story). Since I developed my psychiatric disorder, I became afraid to stand up for myself or others when I knew something wasn't fair. I'm finally starting to "feel the fire again" and I'm not going to let anxiety keep me from doing what's right.
8. I am strong, I am smart, I am beautiful, and I am powerful.
Bring it on, 24.