25 Things I've Learned At 25

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As a newly 26-year-old, the official mark of my almost-30 and no-turning-back-now adulthood, I've come to learn that I've entered the years of my young adult life in which my priorities, responsibilities, and lessons are notably contrasting of those from my pre-quarter-century life. I've learned that from the time you've graduated college to 25, you are constantly struggling, not only to adjust to real world reality but also deeply confused as to who you really are in this great big world of true society. You've spent your entire life observing and absorbing the different appearances, roles, and thoughts you can acquire--all the information you need to formulate your unique character given the copious combinations of the three. And then all of a sudden, they ask you "So who are you?", "Tell me about yourself.", "What makes you, you?". But we've spent the entirety of our early years studying what to be in this world, not who to be. Then we're expected to graduate with a piece of paper that certifies we're qualified to exist in adulthood, while frantically finding a job that validates our education and passion, yet all while still figuring out how to answer who we are. 

25 was a beautiful a year of self-discovery. Of creating and identifying and loving all 25 mysterious years of myself despite all 25 years of not knowing who I was. It was the year where I analyzed every part of me—the good, the bad, the dark, the misunderstood, the glowing—to truly strip down to how I wanted to be defined. And not to society, but defined by my own terms and judgments. It was exhaustingly cumbersome to undo all the negative voices and taunting flaws gnawing at my inner thoughts. Even more so, it was perpetually draining to rewrite the definitions of "imperfect" and "weakness" and "inadequate" and "wrong", and all other discouraging language. I was constantly struggling to comprehend why these words were defined as such to make me feel like I could fit in its exemplars. I had to retrain my brain to understand that every black and white lesson taught in my life, is actually someone else's unfulfilled meaning of the word. We are simply living off from illusions of someone else's beliefs.  

The latter half of my quarter-century year became one prolonged moment of "aha". As though the light of epiphanies sliced through the clouds of naïveté and split agape entire planes of perspectives. All of sudden, what I used to hold absolute were now colored in foreign spectrums of new understandings. I learned to dive into this deep pit of shiny perceptions and recreate everything I wanted to judge as true and relevant to my life and myself. Imperfect? Yes, I am but that makes me all the more blossoming and growing. Weak? Sure, I can be but that means there are opportunities to create strength and become stronger. Inadequate? By whose terms and compared to what others? I feel confident in all that I do and love to do. Wrong? Then show me what your "right" is and maybe I can gain perspective. Besides, when was being right ever fun, anyways? And so I continued to do this backward thinking for everything I've come to know in order to strip bare of what I thought I knew so I can move forward with what I know within myself. Ultimately, I wanted to enter the last of my 20-something years with a clear mindset of who I truly am defined by me.

Throughout this self-identifying journey, I've adapted lessons that have awoken my premature mind and presented me with a refreshing outlook on what this adult life has taught me (and sometimes, even brutally). Alas, I'm openly sharing these lessons that have really hit close to home and have resulted from impactful moments within this past year as a 25-year-old:

1. I only know my own version of the story...which most of the time is the worst case scenario because it's much easier to blame it on my own perceived lack of self-worth than to believe that certain factors were simply not meant to be, sometimes.

2. I am my best self when I am kind to myself...but it takes a lot of work and tons of investment. It's a daily effort that requires full attention so yes, naturally, I tend to neglect this routine because I think this is too much work. But as soon as I started treating myself better and kinder, so many wonderful and beautiful things opened up to me.

3. Wholehearted living over happy living...thanks to Brene Brown and my recent read of hers, "The Gifts of Imperfection". Happiness is more fleeting than a full understanding of wholehearted living.

4. Letting go of who I think I'm supposed to be and who people expect me to be...and finally embracing who I really am. And man, is it a serious breath of fresh air long awaited to be exhaled.

Photography by    Steven Chen

Photography by Steven Chen

5. Nothing is absolute and permanent...because life is about change, flexibility, and dynamics. There is no such thing as linear growth or movement in the complex world of humanity. We are made up of millions of atoms, unlimited combinations of DNA, and other anatomy terms I disposed of à la AP Bio—the point is, if our internal anatomies can change, so can our growth.

6. Don't take things personally...because most of the time, people are making decisions and passing judgments based on themselves and what benefits their lives. 

7. Know my worth...and fight for it to be valued and understood by others. I know what I deserve and I’m allowed to speak its existence out loud without feeling guilty for asking.

8. My feelings are not linear…and there will be days when I won’t be at my best or I feel like I’ve backtracked in my self-progression, but one bad day does not define my overall growth.

9. I give life to what I give energy to…which is a quote that continuously reminds me of all the good in life I can lean into. When I emit positively radiant energy, that same energy responds back in forms of serendipitous events, loved ones, profound moments, and much, much more.

10. Trust the universe and its timing…because some things are just meant to be, and when you know you’ve given something your all, then the world will respond in a grander way than you expected. Most of the time, it ends up working out for the better.

11. Not everyone can be helped how I expect them to be and I can’t fix everyone…but I can provide support. We all need to live our own experiences in order to grow for ourselves. As much as I want to protect my loved ones from making the same mistakes as I have, I can’t force them down a path that isn’t meant for them. What I can do is be there for them as a constant support and sometimes, that’s more than enough.

12. I want okay, and that’s okay…because striving for perfection has only given me more stress and self-doubt than motivation. I just want to be, even if that means just being okay with each day at a time. It’s about the baby steps towards a better me.

13. They may have broken me, but I pieced myself back together again…even if it took so much, mentally and emotionally, out of me. I still came out of the dark wanting to change myself for the better and made that initial step to seek help. That’s the biggest step in the right direction for a bountiful journey of self-loving growth.

14. With #13 being said, being alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely…which wasn’t always the thought in my mind when I first experienced single life. I was so afraid of being alone because I associated it with feelings of darkened loneliness. But the more I spent time alone, even forced myself to do things alone at times, the more I learned being alone and being lonely are not one in the same. I can be alone and be okay. In fact, I’ve learned to love being alone a lot because it was in those times that I learned to treat myself as my own best friend and appreciate my own company. I’ve also learned, a lot of people enjoy it just the same, which makes the entire feeling a lot less lonesome, right?

15. I can ask for help, and it doesn’t mean I’m weak…it means I’m strong enough to hold out my hand. I have built up a wonderful support system of friends and family who will always be there for me, no matter how deep I spiral down. It’s a sign of strength to be openly vulnerable and ask for help on bettering myself.

16. No more apologizing for who I am…but instead learning to love my flaws as works in progress. And if I do apologize (out of habit), I’m saying sorry for growing differently and in my own way. Maybe even thanking the lessons learned in the process.

17. Making decisions with my well-being in mind first…because there have been too many times where I’ve decided things based off others’ feelings or wants, but left me sacrificing things along the way. It shouldn’t have to be like that—the world will move on regardless, but my well-being will suffer in the long-run if I don’t acknowledge my own health first.

18. Every person, experience, and place is a lesson, or a “meant to be”, in the bigger picture of my life…which makes my life that much more beautiful and wonderful to live through. In the process of loving and learning myself new each day, I’m beginning to notice the little nuances the world sends my way. And so far, every moment in my life has shown its true reason for entering my world, making it brighter and bolder. Once you lean into these little moments more, you begin to embrace the life you lead that much more.

19. I can say no and that won’t harm my relationship with my friends…because that is what adulting is. I’ve come to a point in my life where I know and trust who my friends are, and vice versa. So when I say I can’t make it to things and can’t fulfill certain favors, then it’s okay—I won’t lose them as friends or they won’t view me as any less of a good friend. We’re all doing our best, and sometimes, it just doesn’t align with each other’s, but the real ones are the ones that understand and won’t hold it against you.

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20. I’ll have “fuck-ups” but life moves on and so do others…so there’s no point in beating myself up for past mistakes. And most of the time, it’s not even that bad of a “mistake” but I exaggerate it in my mind because I am just so hard on myself. I’m allowed to regret certain things and grow from these moments, and it won’t change who I am as a person or how others view me. In fact, people will end up forgetting my little mishaps because everyone’s also consumed with learning for themselves, too.

21. I’m allowed to panic and cry as my first reaction to things…as long as I can calmly collect myself afterwards. Because this is just who I am. I panic. I cry. But that doesn’t make me any weaker or inadequate as a woman of strength. This is just how I initially respond in moments of stress, but then I can get back up again and power through without feeling like I retracted from my current growth.

22. I don’t have to be internally consistent all the time…because that’s just not realistically human. We’re meant to feel anything and everything, as inconsistent and noncommital as it may seem, it’s all part of our continual growth and change.

23. With #22 said, my anxiety and depression are just as a part of me as my happiness and my energy…so why fight or hide that side of me if it’s who I am? I’m learning to fully accept my entire landscape, muddy ditches and all.

24. There will be critics but I can’t win them all…which is so hard for someone who is such a people-pleaser. But that’s how the world works and I can’t please everyone. What I can do is learn from what I can from these people but my life is not shaped by the few who don’t agree with who I am and what I believe—I can choose to listen or not.

25. Being empowered by my own life…and absolutely loving it. This is actually quoted from a friend during a conversation about loving our single lives and embracing our inner selves. It was so inspiring to hear that other people were also taking the time to invest in themselves and learn of all the ways we’re working on ourselves. It makes the journey a beautiful hand-holding experience of full support.

 
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