Turning 20: Five Lessons From Two Decades of Life

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Birthdays come with parties and presents, but they also prompt self reflection.

I don’t know what it is about birthdays, but secretly, mine was always a day I dreaded. I was always so fixated on who would remember to wish me a happy birthday and who would forget that I wasn’t able to appreciate the people who cared about me. But this year, things are different. I’m turning 20. I’m no longer a teenager, and I feel as if I’m really entering adulthood. Rather than feeling a sense of panic or disbelief, I’m excited. I’m entering a new phase of my life with a fresh perspective, using what I’ve learned about myself to make the most out of life.

1. Your energy is everything

It can be easy to get beaten down by the day, look at everything negatively and just feel straight up horrible. It’s normal, but what’s important is how you deal with bad situations. For the longest time, when something went wrong in my life, I’d feel my energy plummet and would approach new situations with a negative vibe. This could be something big, like a relationship (“It didn’t work out with this boy, so why would it with this one?”), or something small, like a quiz (“I didn’t really study so I know I’ll do bad”). But, I’ve learned to recognize these patterns and to remind myself that while it’s safe to feel negative emotions, it can be helpful to try a different perspective. 

2. Look at situations with love, rather than fear

On the topic of shifting perspectives, I’ve learned that I should approach situations with love rather than fear. This was something I learned from author Gabrielle Bernstein. Using the relationship example, rather than looking at a failed relationship with the fear of being alone or unloved, you can instead view it as a lesson meant to help you grow and learn about loving yourself and others. 

3. Anger stems from love

When we go through something difficult, anger is often the first way we react, taking out our frustration on ourselves and others. I now understand that anger is a reflection of your subconscious, which understands that you don’t deserve to be mistreated or in pain. In this way, allowing yourself to feel anger is a form of self-love. 

4. Focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t

As humans, we always want what we don’t or can’t have. As a classic example, people with curly hair often want straight hair, and vice versa. We don’t pause to look in the mirror and see that our own hair is actually beautiful and unique. We may look at our bank account and think, “This isn’t enough money,” rather than, “I’m so grateful to be blessed with money, my possessions and a roof over my head.” For lack of a better expression, taking the time to count your blessings will change your perspective on life. 

5. Obstacles are detours in the right direction

This quote is another lesson learned from Gabrielle Bernstein that helped me to completely shift my perspective on difficult moments in my life. Yes, it sucks when something you were excited about doesn’t turn out well, but as a result, a whole new door may open up for you. A personal example was when I went into a job interview thinking I was interviewing for a tour guide position, but instead, it was for an information guide position, which meant I’d be at the Union front desks. At first, I was disappointed, since I’ve always wanted to be a tour guide. But after interviewing and getting the job, I realized that this is the perfect job for me. I’ve met so many great people and have time during my shifts to complete my school work. 

Writing this conclusion after my birthday, I can say that it was one of the best ones I’ve had. I was surrounded by people who truly loved me, and since I wasn’t fixated on who would wish me a happy birthday, I was able to spend the day feeling extremely grateful and loved. I went to bed truly fulfilled, knowing that I view life through a lens of love and compassion, rather than fear and judgment. Of course, I’m not 100% happy all of the time, but I’ve been able to deal with difficult situations in a healthier way. I can’t wait to see where life takes me. 



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