14 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 21
Happy Birthday to me… Happy Birthday to me….. Happy Birthday to meeeee….
Actually that was yesterday. I was lucky enough to spend the day with my amazing family, celebrating my 28th birthday and continuing to deny the fact that I am actually getting closer to turning 30. Which got me thinking… I have changed so much in my 20’s, I have come so far and achieved more than I ever thought possible. I wondered what, if given the opportunity, I would tell my 21 year old self. What are some of the things I wish I knew when I was 21? Here’s a few that crossed my mind:
1 – You don’t need to know what you want in life right now.
Towards the end of school we were always told that we had to prepare for the rest of our lives. We needed to know what we wanted out of life and chase it. I finished school when I was 16 years old. Would you trust a 16 year old making life decisions? Uh… no. The thing is, what we want in life changes all the time. What I wanted when I was 16 is very different to what I wanted in life when I was 21 and what I want out of life now. There’s times when I don’t even know what I want. When I’m just coasting through because I don’t have clear direction. That’s okay! You don’t need to know what you want out of life every single minute – just make sure you are doing positive things and moving forwards. Direction will come to you.
2 – You can change your career anytime you want.
For some reason we seem to get caught up in the notion that when you have decided on your career then that is it… that’s your career until you retire. The way things are at the moment, retirement age for me won’t be until I’m 75. Will I still be a Paramedic then? Probably not. Will I still be a blogger? Who knows. Careers are not set in stone. This means two big things – if you’re stuck in a career that you don’t like then you can change it. And… if you’re after a career but never had the chance to get there then there’s always time to do it. Take my mum for example – she wanted to be a teacher from when she was in primary school herself. Because of life circumstances she never had the opportunity to study and become a teacher. When she was in her 30’s (sorry mum) she went to university and studied her butt off to get her degree. Now she has the career she has always wanted.
3 – Debt is not a ‘normal’ part of life.
Now – don’t get me wrong here. There’s necessary debt such as a mortgage, there’s not many people in the world that can go out and buy their home outright. I’m talking about unnecessary debt – credit cards and personal loans. If I had set myself up better financially when I was 21 I would be in a much better place now. Educate yourself about money, debt and finances.
4 – Make big goals and chase them.
I read a quote somewhere that said ‘if your goals don’t scare you then they aren’t big enough.’ Goals are not a place where we need to be conservative. I absolutely love Melissa’s take on goals with what she refers to as a BHAG over at Blog Clarity. It doesn’t have to apply to blogging – it’s for anything you’re chasing in life.
5 – Family is everything – they are the ones who will be there no matter what.
I’ve had both friendships and relationships come and go in my life and the one constant has always been my family. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, my family has stood by me through the good times and the bad. They are the ones who will always be there – treat them like they are the greatest people on earth because they really are.
6 – Don’t give up on your friends for a relationship.
As above, I have been through a few relationships in my time and sadly a few of them have been quite controlling and manipulative. Jealously managed to rear its ugly head and the person I was dating at the time forced their way between myself and friends. At the time you feel like you’re in love and that your relationship is the most important thing but anyone who loves you, truly loves you, will accept you for who you are and will accept your friends. They don’t have to like them, but they will accept them.
7 – Know what you want in a partner and don’t settle for anything less.
I had always thought that love was enough to get my relationships through anything. I would date a guy and think that the little things they did to annoy the crap out of me didn’t matter. Those little things become big things. There were certain traits I wanted in a man – someone who looked after their health, someone who was strong and masculine, someone who had the same or similar family values as me, someone who was a positive and happy person, someone who treated my family well, someone who enjoyed being spontaneous – getting outside and doing things but could also appreciate a day at home, someone educated and intelligent and more than anything else, someone who loved me for me. None of my relationships met this criteria – until I met Steve. And I have never been happier.
8 – Manners are essential.
One of the things that irks me more than anything else is poor manners. A simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will get you so much further in life. This extends to taking the time to thank people for things they have done for you or for helping you. A simple Thank You card in the mail will absolutely make someone’s day.
9 – Kindness and sincerity will get you much further than hostility and deceit.
In keeping with the theme of the previous point – kindness and sincerity will accelerate you through life with a smile on your face. Being hostile and deceitful will only put massive blockades in your way and will stop people from wanting to help you.
10 – Learn to enjoy time to yourself.
This little gem took a holiday to Thailand for me to realise. Time alone helps you to understand who you are and helps you to place value in yourself. You need to learn who you are, be happy with who you are and know that time alone is not a bad thing.
11 – Take your health seriously.
Back in my early 20’s my metabolism worked like a charm, I had little understanding of what ‘health’ actually meant and figured it was all about dieting and exercise. Now I know that there’s so much more to it than that. Understanding the basics of how the body works is essential in understanding health. It’s not all about rabbit food and treadmills. Holistic health involves nourishment for your mind and body and is the key to being truly healthy.
12 – There is more to life than work.
I know so many people who slave away for their jobs – I was one of them!! While I completely understand that your job is important and it may very well be your passion, it should never come before your family. I’ve worked for companies that have taken everything they could from me, I worked 70 hour weeks and was only paid for 40 hours, I gave up days off, weekends, time with family and friends to help them out. And what happened when I needed a favour returned? You guessed it. There is an art to balancing life and work and sometimes we mess it up but as long as we remember that family comes first no matter what then all works out in the end.
13 – Sometimes you just need to take 5 for yourself.
When was the last time you did something for yourself? In my early 20’s I was always busy doing things for others, for my job, for friends, for family… I never really understood the value of taking time to myself, or doing something that was just for me. Now I do. Just 5 minutes is all it takes to see things in a different way, create a new mindset and to just stop and appreciate a few minutes alone.
14 – At the end of the day, be happy.
I mean this literally – do not go to bed cranky. You will not wake up feeling better in the morning. Do whatever you need to do to get those negative thoughts out of your mind and focus on something happy to end your day. For me it’s writing – I write down anything that is clouding my mind in order to clear it. Then I talk to Steve about positive things before going to bed. It can be as simple as talking about the funny things Alexander has been doing or something that’s coming up that we are both looking forward to. You need to make sure that at the end of each day, you are happy.
So there’s a lot I’ve learned and discovered about myself, about life and about relationships in general during my 20’s and hey… they aren’t over yet. It makes me wonder what lies ahead for me. What lessons have I yet to learn?