22 lessons learned

I consider myself to be a very introspective person, and I'm constantly thinking about time and how weird it is. I'm weirdly and wildly aware of where I was a month ago, a year ago, and many years ago, and I think a lot about where life could take me.

If nothing else, a birthday puts an even deeper sense of reflection in my heart. I woke up this morning and thought about this for a long time.

Today, I turn 22.

It's nothing spectacular, really. One thing I told myself is that a birthday is just another day. And while the surprises, the well-wishes, and the occasional gifts and parties are fun to have and take part in, the day comes and goes and I'm still the same person. Turning an age doesn't make you smarter in a day, but when you reflect a year later, you can see the growth and change.

So on this 22nd birthday of mine, I would like to share 22 things that I have learned and reflected about myself and the world around me from my 21st birthday to today.

Happy birthday to me! Photo from Wix.

My life is so busy! That can be a good thing, I suppose. I always jokingly say that the reason why I keep busy is because I'm trying to stay out of trouble. And I think there is a kernel of truth behind it. My entire life has been spent looking for ways to fill things: fill space, fill voids, fill silence. I hate being alone, mostly because I know what my mind can do when I'm by myself. So I fill it with company, stimulate it with stress - anything to keep moving. But the constant busy-ness, while fulfilling, can also burn me out. And it has. So it comes back to who or what is this all for.

Silence and space is good. As much as I love it, I don't need to be out all the time. Being okay with my space and silence is important. Through months of counselling, I've grown to be more content with myself and just being around me. As such, I started going out more alone. I'll read in shops, work on my (never-ending) manuscript, and people-watch. It's not weird anymore.

Counselling is not a sign of weakness. Counselling was something that I had stopped for almost a year before I found myself signing yet another intake form. I reiterate that it's not and never has been a sign of weakness. And going again - even if it is the third time - doesn't mean that I'm worthless.

A lot of my insecurity comes from a perceived lack of affirmation. I tell myself that I don't need it, and I will blush at the sound of it because I really don't see myself as deserving of it. It's a weird paradox, right? To say that this is my insecurity, but brushing it off. I guess that's what an insecurity is. I learned that people really take the time to say nice things, and it comes from the heart. Whatever the intention or place it comes from, it still takes an effort. As such, I will make the effort to accept graciously. So thank you, dear reader, for your affirmations. I appreciate every single one of them.

It really is okay to say no. When I take on too much, it does everyone a disservice.

My passions can, and are free to, change. This was a hard one for me to accept. For a long time, I had my passion rooted in something particular, to the point where it became my identity. And it wasn't inaccurate. But as I grew and felt myself move from that passion, I was worried about what people would say, and worse, what that would mean for my identity. Just the same as we grow, so too do our passions and likes and loves. They grow with us and flourish with the change. And that's okay.

As with the above and passions, our perceptions of different things also changes. One of the greatest shifts in thinking for me was towards school. While I had gone through years of school with relatively few problems, when I started at SFU I thought that I would be in and out in 4 years. Pretty soon, I started preaching the 5 1/2 year degree, even though part of me really didn't think that it would take me that long. But I was wrong. Putting a deadline of that magnitude on myself was definitely stressful and it came at the expense of my family life, relationships, and mental health. This time last year, I laughed off the potential to do an honours thesis. I loved SFU, but I also wanted to get on with my life. I haven't gotten into the program yet, but I would be lying if I said that I was ready to graduate next June.

Family life is important. Nothing else matters more to me. But I know that I haven't been the most present due to school, work, and going out (see item #1). There will come a time where I will be out of the house and have a household of my own, but until then, my family's home is where I belong and where I need to spend time in. I'm working towards greater balance.

Me, on my 21st birthday!

I spend way too much time on my phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media, and watching Netflix. For all the beautiful things that I go out to do, whether it be spending time with friends and going out into nature, I match that with time spent on the Internet. Just like a habit doesn't kick itself and it takes time to get rid of it completely, here's to spending more time in the real world.

Finances are hard, but I should get on that. My dad reminds me every year that I need to learn how to file my taxes, and beyond that, I really need to budget better. I'm an okay budgeter and pretty responsible. But if kept a spreadsheet over two months taught me anything, it's that I need to do a better job. As in, more coffee at home.

So this is weird for me to write, but I spent approximately two and a half months on a dating app. It's WEIRD. But it taught me that it's actually not - it's actually quite normal. I had plenty of misconceptions around it, with the number one misconception being that those that used dating apps were desperate or only looking for hookups. And maybe there may be some truth to those, the reality is that there are some decent people around. It's like meeting people in real life: you never really know who you will meet until you take the time to get to know them.

Having said all this, I deleted it after my time. I probably won't be going back, but not because of the misconceptions I had previously. What the world of online dating has reinforced for me was that you need to have a strong foundation and know what you want. People will say anything to make you feel good and try to get something out of you. But knowing your own boundaries are important. The experience helped me to reflect on what I valued in a potential partner, and while no one worked out here, it's brought about really valuable lessons.

Interpersonal issues need to be worked out one-on-one. There is nothing more to it, and I'm sorry for all those moments that came out of me getting upset in public. Private issues are private issues - end of story.

Dating is so weird in this day and age. It's important to have clear conversations, lay things out on the table, and not pretend. It totally goes against this norm that seems to have come about in our culture today of seeming like we don't care. We wait hours to message back, we don't tag them in our posts, we send vague texts. We hold people at arm's length even though we crave their intimacy. We need to set clear expectations. If the person doesn't reciprocate, then it's up to us to decide if we're okay with continuing to be friends or if it just ends right then and there. But the moment that there's a weird grey area is when things will fall apart.

When things end, it's okay. It's not a reflection of who I am or my (in)ability to love. At one point, people can be in your life to help you learn and grow in ways that you might not have been able to on your own. Take a breath, and move on.

What you don't want to do is spend time wallowing in how that person did you wrong, even if they did. I've been told a number of times about the whole "forgiveness is a gift you give yourself". And I'm starting to see it: a grudge is heavy to carry. I don't need to do that, but the reason why I do is because it's the only way to maintain some power over it. But really, the grudge has a power over me; that is, until I set it free.

When the time is right, the right person will come along.

Enough said.

Photo by Elijah Bautista.

Everyone and their path is different! I can't possibly compare myself to other people because of how different we are. How, then, can I be jealous? Where I currently am in my stage of life is uniquely my own, and I couldn't have it any other way. I'm thankful for where I've gotten, and the journey continues!

Jumping back to item #2, this would also apply to relationships. It's okay to be single, because it helps you to grow, learn more about yourself, and enjoy life in a different way.

Things will work themselves out, even if you don't feel like it at the time. It's difficult to trust the process sometimes, just because the end outcome seems so far away. But with trust, I promise that life will happen in the way that it is supposed to.

There's no point in worrying. This is coming from the ultimate worrier and a person who stresses out over things that haven't even happened yet. But when I spend time getting stressed out about the future, I lose sight of what is in front of me, and I miss out on a lot of great things that are happening right now. Things will work out in the way that they need to. Planning is good, but so is having some spontaneity and allowing life to work itself out. As long as I put in the hard work, the rest will fall into place eventually.

A 'no' is never simply a no to me. It might be a no to the cause, or a no because that person has too much going on (remember? It's a good thing to say no sometimes, as per item #5). But don't take it personally! Take it and roll with it. Keep on going on don't give up just because someone said no.

Don't settle. Don't ever settle.

Thank you to everyone for their birthday wishes! I really appreciate it and I'm thankful for the friendship and love that I've received in the years of my existence.

To many more years and many more words to write!