21 Lessons @ 21

“When a man is tired of life on his 21st birthday, it indicates that he is rather tired of something in himself.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Your girl made it to 21! I love birthdays but never would I have thought that I’d be seeing in my 21st year in Madrid, working as an intern and celebrating with a group of new friends that share my love for food, rooftop bars and Love Island.

This year has been tough – academically, mentally and spiritually – but I’ve come away with so many valuable lessons and memories. I wanted to share a few lessons that I’ve learnt over the past few years, as a way of reminding myself of how far I’ve come and maybe inspiring a few of you too:

1. Keep your faith as #1

The past year has seen a huge change in my life, where my faith in God has become central to any decision I’ve had to make. Whatever your faith or values are, the most important thing is to never lose sight of them. Personally, the past year has been a testimony in itself and I can only thank God for that.

2. You’re never too old for Mum and Dad

I love being away from home, travelling and doing things solo but the truth is that any time away from my parents, siblings and the rest of my family seems to drag and drag. At the end of the day, as difficult as it is to admit, Mum and Dad will always know best.

3. Check up on your people

My immediate circle is relatively small and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We might not speak everyday, and sometimes months go by between seeing each other because life is moving so fast and we’re all really busy. It doesn’t take a lot of effort though, to send a message once in a while and check up on how they’re doing.

4. Say “Yes”

This might seem obvious but this simple word has changed my year completely. There are so many things I’ve always been hesitant to do, but saying yes more has allowed me to try so many new experiences and discover a lot about my abilities – I’ve moved over to Madrid for 6 weeks knowing nearly no Spanish at all and it’s been amazing so far!

5. Progress over perfection

Growing up I was always a perfectionist, but over the past year I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s alright to settle for ‘good enough’ rather than ‘perfect’. It’s impossible to give absolutely everything in your life 100% because you’ll end up burning out. As long as you’re constantly moving forward and making progress, you’re doing better than most and perfection might just happen along the way.

6. Invest in yourself

Never stop learning and never stop growing. Always set aside time to do things that allow you to grow and become a better person. Over the past 12 months I’ve begun investing more (time, money) into the things that make me happy and allow me to improve aspects of myself that will eventually form the type of person I want to become.

7. Even when you lose, you win

This has been a year of growth but needless to say there have been a LOT of obstacles. Instead of dwelling on them, I’ve forced myself to start finding a blessing in every problem I face, even if I have to look really hard to find it. Most losses come with a lesson or highlight room for improvement so in the end, all you’ve really done is won.

8. Don’t hold grudges

The most time-consuming, energy draining thing you can do is hold a grudge against someone or speak on an issue that can easily be dismissed as water under the bridge. Your past is the past. Don’t dwell on it. Move on rather than sit in an environment of negativity that isn’t doing anything good for you. 

9. You’ll never know everything

No matter what qualification you hold or how old you are, everyone you meet will know something that you don’t. Accept that you don’t know everything and you never will, so take time out to talk to others and learn from them, it can be so worth it.

10. Live in the moment

As we’ve seen this year across the UK and in the city of London, the unexpected is becoming more and more common. I’ve always been a planner but I’ve begun to see the beauty in living in the moment and doing what I want (within reason) because worrying about tomorrow is a waste of time and no one really knows what the next day brings. Be thankful that you can live in the moment.

11. Friends can be temporary

Like everyone else, I’ve constantly had people come and go in my life. Friends grow apart, and no one is to blame, it’s just how things work. The friends we have now might not be the same ones we have later on in life, so what’s important is to appreciate them now, make great memories and accept when it’s time to move on.

12. Celebrate everything

With this one, I mean EVERYTHING. No matter how big or small, you achieved something. You graduated, you started your new business, you got shortlisted for a job you want, you got a 2:1 in an essay you were working on. Whatever it is, you did it! Your hard work proved worth it in the end and you have the right to celebrate.

13. Support your friends

Struggling with this personally has shed a lot of light on how real jealousy is in our generation. A lot of people choose not to support their friends at the start of a new project or venture, but will be quick to share their success and claim that they were there from the beginning. Don’t be that guy! Support your friends because you’re proud to see their progress and it’ll be you that they turn to when it’s time to celebrate.

14. The length of a friendship does not equal quality

You already know this one! I’m able to say that two of my best friends have been my best friends for nearly 10 years and although these friendships have seen ups and downs, they’ve lasted and I’m honestly blessed to have them in my life. Despite these two, I have friends that I’ve known for years and years that will never compare to some of the new friends that I’ve met in the past few years. The quality of a friendship and the times you share together are more important than how long you’ve known someone.

15. Admit your mistakes

We strive to appear as though we’re perfect so that we’re more liked. However, I’ve found that admitting mistakes and insecurities is what brings people together as it allows them to identify with one another. Often, admitting our mistakes allows us to put things into perspective and in some cases opens up the opportunity for someone to help us out. Hiding your mistakes doesn’t make you look better, it makes you difficult to relate to.

16. Set up your future NOW

I know I told you above to invest in what matters, but what matters more than yourself? Putting money aside so that you can one day buy a property, might seem like a really grown-up thing to do. But the time to adult is approaching so quickly and you’re going to be able to reap great rewards from the time you decided to think smart and set up the best future for yourself.

17. You can’t have everything

My friends and I realised this year that not everything is meant for us. Some of the jobs we applied for, positions we wanted or results we worked hard for didn’t come through and at first, we were disappointed. As we all know however, when one door closes, another one opens and it was great to see this happen in so many examples throughout the year. You can’t have everything, but what is meant for you will come to you.

18. Material things will never be better than memories

My Dad will tell you I go to too many concerts and spend too much money on going out with friends. My comeback, though, is that memories are way more valuable than material things and that the memories I’ve created and continue to create with my friends are ones that I will always appreciate.

19. It’s okay to say “No”

I know, the beginning of this post told you to start saying “Yes”. But the truth is, who has the time or energy to do everything? There is a skill involved in being able to turn offers down and put yourself ahead of the needs of others. It’s okay to be a little bit selfish sometimes because you really can’t please everyone.

20. Find your outlet and use it

Writing used to be a hobby of mine before it turned into what I can only describe as therapy sessions. For me, writing things down and offloading my ideas from my brain to paper has made a huge difference in my ability to keep a clear head and maintain productivity. Others use music or exercise for the same purpose. Whatever it is that keeps you mentally healthy and productive, prioritise it!

21. Keep going

The last lesson that I’ve had to remind myself of more times than I can count this year is just to keep going. It’s amazingly simple to give in and quit, whatever it is you might be doing, but there is nothing like being able to achieve things you didn’t think you could.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope there’s something you can take away from this post. Here’s to more years of success and blessings and I’m excited to see what Chapter 21 brings.

With love,

The Birthday Girl

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