I think that birthdays are weird yet exciting. I love celebrating my birthday and becoming one year older. But at the same time, it’s still weird to think back on how much has changed since your last birthday. This time last year, I was a college student, living with my best friends, in Virginia. Now I live at home in Massachusetts where things are totally different. I am by no means a master of advice. I constantly learn new things every day from the people around me. I’m far from perfect, and I’ve accepted that I am still very much a work in progress. This year, I decided to make a list of twenty-two things I have learned and accepted into my life in my twenty-two years.

  1. Always indulge in your guilty pleasure // If you like to dance when no one’s watching, binge watch something nerdy, eat cake… anything that makes you happy, just do it. A lot of stress can be released by having a private dance party, and if living out your dreams of being Beyoncé’s back up dancer makes you happy, then I say go for it.
  2. It’s okay to break up with a friend // Sometimes you can grow out of a friendship similar to how you can grow out of a significant other. It happens and sometimes you need to accept the reality that there is no room in your life for a friend who you have no similar interest with or someone who doesn’t give you the respect you deserve. Although it can be sad, it can be the right step to take. Wishing them the best and moving on is all you can do when you want to break up with a friend.
  3. Life is not black and white // Sometimes my boyfriend tells me that I think in absolutes and I eventually started to think he was right. I also realized that there are no absolutes because I never know what may happen and stressing over the chance of something happening isn’t healthy. I don’t know wrong and right in every situation because 9 times out of 10 there is something in the middle. A different turn can be taken and the end game changes from what you’d expect. So as much as I hate to admit my boyfriend is right, he’s taught me a valuable lesson with this one.
  4. Don’t waste your time and energy hating someone // Taking time out of your day to fill your mind with hateful thoughts about another person is quite honestly not worth it. In a situation where you say you hate someone (which shouldn’t be often) it’s best to be the bigger person. Smile and make small talk; no one says you have to be their best friend.
  5. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your mind about anything // If one day your favorite color is blue and the next day its pink, that’s okay. It’s also okay to change your dreams, goals, outfit, career…anything. As I said before nothing is black and white so there is no right or wrong. It’s okay to change your mind and experience everything that your heart desires. I changed my major 3 times in college and despite some doubt from others, I think I made the right choice for me.
  6. You don’t always get out what you put in // In college, a lot of people would say to me “you get out what you put in”. I personally have not found this to be true. You could be a star athlete, an amazing friend, a scholar or a leader, and it can still, unfortunately, go un-noticed. Although I have found this to be true I am still a strong believer that you should always give it your best. If you are being the best version of yourself in every situation than it shouldn’t matter whether or not the behavior or acknowledgment is reciprocated.
  7. Say yes whenever given the chance, but don’t be afraid to say no // As I said in my Open Letter to College Seniors, always say yes. While I do believe that, I also believe that if you don’t want to do something then say no. I have been known to say yes when I really wanted to say no and then it’s awkward for everyone involved. Sometimes you just need to say no to someone and that’s totally an okay thing to do.
  8. Mentors are important, but you don’t need to be a copy of them // I find in a lot of people who have a mentor or someone that they idolize, they think they have to be a copy of that person. Having somebody that you look up to or aspire to be similar to is a normal part of life. Actually aspiring to turn into someone is not so normal. Take their best qualities and aspire to be a great person like your mentor, but still keep your individuality and let yourself shine, too.
  9. Not everything is meant to be permanent // Friendships, relationships, jobs, haircuts; a list of things that are ever-changing. If some are permanent then that’s great, but not everything is meant to be perfect (see back to lesson number 2).
  10. You really are your own worst critic // When we look at ourselves in the mirror we see everything we think is wrong with ourselves. When other people look at us they probably don’t notice all the tiny flaws we spend hours looking at. This is also relevant in our professional lives when we doubt ourselves or criticize a project harsher than anyone else would. Be kind to yourself and try to see yourself through someone else’s eyes because chances are they see someone who is beautiful inside and out.
  11. A little bit of kindness goes a long way // Asking someone how their day was, smiling, holding a door open, or paying it forward are all ways that we can be kind to others. You never know what somebody else is going through and small acts of kindness can seriously impact someone in a positive way.
  12. Stop apologizing for doing your own thing // I’ve noticed that I said sorry a lot especially in situations when I don’t need to. I apologized a lot when someone disliked my choice or I did something completely correct… basically, I just said sorry a lot. There’s no need to apologize for doing/saying/feeling/thinking anything that doesn’t bring harm to others. By cutting ‘sorry’ out of my daily conversations, I feel a lot more confident in what I’m doing.
  13. Life is limitless but it’s up to you to take the leap // We are capable of amazing things but if we don’t go for it we’ll never get where we want to be. No one can do things for you, your future is 100% up to you. Take the leap and follow your dreams.
  14. Your likes and dislikes shouldn’t be up for debate // If you like something don’t let people tell you that you’re wrong. Everyone likes and dislikes different things which is part of what makes someone unique. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle.
  15. Don’t judge a book by its cover // In today’s society people are full of judgment but everyone is full of surprises. I personally am judged a lot when people look at my resume because I was in a sorority. I was in one job interview where I was antagonized by rhetorical questions about being Greek rather than focusing on the fact I was more than qualified for the job. People are judged for where they’re from, skin color, religion, interests… However, a unique cover doesn’t make for a bad book.
  16. The investment you want to make is probably worth it // Cheap things don’t last, it’s as simple as that. Investing in nice clothes, accessories or makeup is all worth it in the long run.
  17. Don’t bottle up your feelings // Bottling up your feelings or thoughts can be toxic. Sharing with someone close to you or even just writing in a journal can release a lot of stress from your mind.
  18. Your body is yours, only yours // What you choose to do with your own body is your choice. No one can tell you what you can and cannot do. Just remember that.
  19. Don’t take things for granted // If you are fortunate enough to have great friends, a great family, your health, a home or any of the above, don’t take it for granted. Things change quickly and you should cherish all that you have.
  20. Strangers can quickly turn into family // Before starting college I knew no one at my school. I then joined a sorority and gained so many wonderful sisters and friends. I can’t imagine my life without them even though 4 years ago I didn’t even know they existed. They’ve turned from strangers to friends to family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  21. Don’t be afraid to stand out // This kind of combines many lessons I have learned during the years. Since I was younger I’ve always been outgoing and stood out from a crowd. As I said before, everyone is unique and you shouldn’t be afraid to go against the norm to be yourself.
  22. Twenty-Two years isn’t a long time // I have been joking around lately saying that I’m old, which to me I am getting old but realistically I have yet to really experience life. I spent the first twenty-one years of my life in school and transitioned straight into working. I have so much more life ahead of me and by no means is my life in order. Being so young is a blessing because I have so much to see, learn, and experience.

twenty two

Emily Riane