20 Things I’ve Learnt by 20 Years of Age

20 Things I’ve Learnt by 20 Years of Age

Greetings! As I’m sure the title indicates, I recently turned 20 years old. Which means that I have had the absolute pleasure of existing for two whole decades.

This means that I’ve lived long enough to survive the early 2000’s low rise jean trend and 2010 skinny jeans. And then the 2016 return of mom jeans, the 2019 resurgence of bell-bottom jeans, and indeed, the growing cluster of low rise jeans re-gaining popularity.

In no particular order, I also happened to survive Trump’s presidency, a global pandemic, a somewhat questionable childhood, catholic high school, jumping out of a plane and getting hit by a truck. Oh, and 5 gruelling years of customer service.

In this time, I have learnt a thing or two… or 20, to be precise. 20 lessons were learnt. Storage ran out shortly afterwards, but luckily I’ve assembled all of my knowledge into this handy little document.

This post has been sitting in my drafts since I was 18, but I hadn’t gotten the blog back up and going yet, so the last two points were added when I turned 19 and 20. Apologies in advance if some of the cultural references are outdated now. Trump is out of office and banned from Twitter, TikTok exists, and COVID happened. But I’m not rewriting too much in the name of youth and authenticity.

So, without further ado… I present 20 things I’ve learned in 20 years.

What other people think of you is none of your business.

People are allowed to not like you. Most of the time, it actually has very little to do with you. Don’t take it personally, because it’s not.

Announce it when you feel embarrassed or awkward.

So, I used to blush a lot. I probably still do, but it doesn’t particularly bother me anymore. It was a bit worse when I was a little 14-year-old in the early years of high school who was ashamed of her wonky teeth and general inelegance. I’d go red, and then I’d be embarrassed about it, which would make me blush harder.

And then one fine day in year 8 geography, I was talking to my friend about it. She looked up solutions, and Wikihow said, “call attention to the awkwardness”.

So that’s what I did. And it works. It works in so many situations.

So many of the awkward situations we find ourselves in are such everyday things that we’ve just been taught we should be ashamed of. If you point out the uncomfortable thing and laugh it off, people nearly always laugh along with you. You mispronounce a word or trip over your own feet, you have a laugh, make a friend, and sometimes get a good story out of it! It’s the best way to relate to people because every one of us has made mistakes or been embarrassed about something small.

Unless someone just spat while they were talking, don’t point that out… they know. You know. The government knows. Just leave it alone.

Take control of the information you take in.

Say what you will about how technology is making us less communicative. Sure, feel free to tell me AGAIN how social media is making all the kids depressed, and video games are making them violent. I get it; the first world took a huge turn with the rise of technology. Shocker.

But I love technology. I love the internet. I love social media. I think the things it allows us to achieve every day are incredible. Obviously, though, not everyone feels that way.

Maybe you’re being cyber-bullied. Perhaps the models on Instagram make you hate your body. Maybe that one person’s Facebook statuses really do ruin your day. Maybe Tyneesha keeps trying to get you to read her blog, and sure, perhaps it keeps you up at night.

But here’s the thing, right… if someone you don’t want to talk to keeps messaging you, block them. If someone’s posts upset you, unfollow them. If you can’t stop comparing yourself to the girls on Instagram, unfollow them too. If watching the news in the morning makes you depressed, don’t watch it.

Deliberate, tactical, protective and purposeful ignorance truly is bliss. Especially in an age where the constant stream of bad news we are bombarded with can make us all feel like the world is on our shoulders.

If it makes you feel better, Follow pages with cute dogs and self-care tips instead of the Kardashians. Follow meme pages instead of Donald Trump’s Twitter (even though at this point, they’re the same thing anyway).

The best thing about social media is that you can quite literally tailor it to suit you. So stop blaming screens for making you sad. Take ownership. 

Same goes in real life. Don’t ask questions if you’re not sure you want to know the answer.

Body neutrality is the healthiest way to think of yourself.

Ok, so, full support and admiration to the body positivity movement. It’s really great if you love your body! If that’s important to you, yay! I know it was a tremendous journey for many people, and I’m proud of the growth you underwent; full power to you!

But, for some, the “love yourself” narrative doesn’t feel achievable or helpful. A few years ago, I learned about body neutrality from Jameela Jamil’s Twitter account.

You don’t have to love your body. It doesn’t have to matter. You certainly do not have to love it in terms of aesthetic. What you are taught is beautiful is a lie. Everyone is attracted to different things, and most of those things aren’t even looks-based. Attraction is 98% chemical. Everyone is beautiful, and also, no one is.

Moreover, you aren’t born just to attract someone else. You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe anyone pretty. You can choose not to care. Or you can choose not to measure beauty by the shape of your hips or the colour of your eyes, or the clearness of your skin, but by your complexity, your humour, your drive and your capacity to love. You can decide that you’re beautiful because you own 13 houseplants. Someone made up the beauty standard we’re all taught to subscribe to. Make your own.

Your body keeps you alive… it has an actual purpose. You live and breathe and laugh and run and smile and hug and cry. If anything, love your body because it keeps you alive and lets you do the things you love.

Treat YOURSELF the way you want to be treated. 

First of all, I’m pretty sure Jesus said we gotta treat people how we want to be treated, and I’m sorry, homie, but that’s not good advice.

Treat people how THEY would like to be treated. And tell people how to treat YOU.

The easiest way to do this is to learn about love languages and literally tell people how you feel most loved and how you tend to show love.

But secondly, and more importantly, people won’t always treat you how you’d like to be treated. So you have to learn to give yourself what you want from someone else. You have to wipe your own tears and pat your own back and perform your own love language, and you 100% completely definitely HAVE to say nice things to yourself.

Something is not ONLY better than nothing; something is enough.

Full disclosure, I learned this during the HSC. So maybe this is just me trying to validate my laziness. Still, as the poster boy for procrastination, I can confirm that it is good advice to remember that things don’t have to be perfect. They don’t even have to be finished to have value and be helpful. Progress over perfection.

It is a complete capitalist scum of a lie that you have to push yourself to the absolute limit to be worthy of whatever you want. You don’t get extra points for going faster in life, and most of us would just crash and burn if we tried it.

Also, in terms of procrastination, it’s a lot easier to just sit down and type SOMETHING without pressuring yourself to do the whole thing and to do it perfectly.

Remember how completely insignificant you actually are.

When things are overwhelming, I find it’s calming to think: “I am ONE person in this room, ONE little person in this town, in this state, in this country, on this planet, in this galaxy, in the universe”. Literally, imagine a big zoom-out from where you are. You can think “nothing I do even matters…” OR you can think “NOTHING I DO EVEN MATTERS!!!”.

Pride is a disease.

Society has this weird idea that there is ‘honour’ in stubbornness. Except they call it ‘integrity’. Please listen to me when I say that the phrases ‘I was wrong’ or ‘I changed my mind’ DO NOT HOLD SHAME.

“I was wrong” is closer to “I learned and grew” than it is to “I’m stupid and weak”. Your pride needs to be kept in check because if you’re too proud to see and admit your shortcomings, you can’t grow from them.

Also, life is just a lot more rewarding when you stop letting stupid reasons prevent you from doing whatever you want. And not doing something because you’re scared of looking stupid is a silly reason. Lie down on the road to get that photo. Dance with your friends at parties even though you’re bad at it. And don’t ever let anyone shit on you for changing your mind or doing what makes you happy.

You really do only need to muster up 5 seconds of courage at a time.

I’m pretty scared of making phone calls, but I know that I only have to get the guts up to press the call button. I’m pretty scared to tell people how I feel, but I know I only have to get the courage up to say, “hey, I was thinking…”. I’m pretty scared of heights, but I know I only have to get the guts to jump out of the plane. After that, I can go back to being scared. Be scared, but do it anyway.

Drink more water.

No matter how much you already drink, drink more.

Find something that brings you peace and do it every day.

It doesn’t have to be some big grand project. You don’t even have to be good at it. It can literally be as simple as sitting outside for 10 mins. Listening to music. Writing, painting, playing music, talking or breathing or running or photography. Whatever. We all have something. Maybe some people need more than others, but you need quiet in your soul. Don’t go a day without it, it’s important.

Growing up consists of learning, and learning and learning and learning and then UNLEARNING

Honestly, have yourself a few minor existential crises and realise that so much of your reality is dictated by social construct. And that you are very much able to choose which of those you want to prescribe to and which ones you don’t.

In slightly less cringey words, that is, question the things you have been taught. Find the difference between how you have been taught you ‘should’ feel and how you really DO feel.

If you are not happy, change.

Someone said this to me once after I’d been complaining about something insignificant when I was 14. Hence, it’s not that deep, but I remember it stinging at the time, and it stuck with me. By all means, be gentle with yourself. If you need to stay in bed and cry for three days, do that. But at some point, you’re going to have to put your own foot down on yourself and get up and feel better. As Barney from How I Met Your Mother said, different is always better.

Trust your gut.

Your subconscious picks up on so many little things, so much information that your conscious mind just can’t process through it all. So when you feel your body is telling you something, listen to it.

Don’t hang out with people that you don’t like. Don’t do things that you don’t want to do.

I’ve heard that we are all a combination of the 5 people closest to us. Make sure you surround yourself with people that you like, or you make it hard to like yourself.

Don’t do things that you hate doing, either. If you’re 18, but you hate the feeling of being drunk, you don’t have to go drinking with your friends. You’re not missing out on anything if participating means you have to have a shitty time.

Also, when you don’t want to hang out, don’t make up excuses as to why not. Tell your friends when you’re feeling socially drained and want to stay home. Tell your friends why you don’t like being in particular places with particular people doing specific things. If your friends are cool, they’ll try to take those feelings into account. If you continually make excuses, they’ll probably just assume that you don’t want to spend time with them. And if you actually don’t want to spend time with your friends… get new friends.

Learn to stand up for yourself.

Learn to say, “don’t speak to me like that”. At the end of the day, no one is going to hate you forever for simply asking that they treat you with respect. And if they do, in fact, hate you for that, then they suck, and you don’t need them anyway.

Forgive people for your own sake, not necessarily theirs.

You don’t have to respond to ‘sorry’ with ‘it’s ok’. Because sometimes, it’s not ok. However, anger can be a weighty emotion to carry, and grudges are hard to hold. After a little while, your emotional arms will get really sore. If you don’t choose to drop them, you are only hurting yourself.

Let yourself feel whatever you feel.

Just LET yourself cry. LET yourself be angry. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s healthy, and it’s freeing, and I highly recommend it.

Intention matters.

You know how they say, “actions speak louder than words”… I don’t buy that. I think your intention matters more than your action in most circumstances. So as long as you’re honest and kind in your intentions, you’re living a good life.

Anger is not a bad emotion.

This is the most recent thing that I think fundamentally changed the way I look at life. I grew up very fearful of anger. To me, it seemed dangerous, ugly, unkind and pointless. Obviously, no emotion is a bad one. Still, for the vast majority of my life, I simply did not let myself feel angry. 

Over the last year, this has changed. My anger has held people accountable for the ways they’ve let me down or mistreated me. Put simply, If you’re angry, it’s because you know that you deserved better. In most cases, anger is a reflection of self-worth. Do no harm, take no shit, but don’t ignore your anger. You’re allowed to feel that way.

That brings us to the end of my knowledge. I hope some of it was helpful because, as I said, I’ve run out of storage. I will attempt to learn more this year, but no guarantees. Thank you to everyone who helped me grow into the person I am today, regardless of whether or not you’re still in my life. So far, it’s been an interesting life. I won’t say it’s been an easy one, but I wouldn’t trade it for someone else’s.

That said, if you take any of the advice given in this list and it works out poorly – I do not take responsibility. Please do not sue me.