21 years, 21 lessons

Tomorrow I turn twenty-two, and my grandpa said when you turn twenty-two, life starts to go by a lot faster. I don’t know how true that is, but to savor my last hour of living a “slower” life, I wanted to share twenty-one lessons I’ve learned this past year. (You’ll probably notice a common theme of friendship).

1.I put more energy into other people’s birthdays because mine is constantly forgotten. Because I know what it feels like to be forgotten, going beyond my birthday, I make an effort to remember other people’s special days. Though I know the people in my life have other people in their lives, it still fills me with a bit of joy knowing at least one person didn’t forget their birthday. Does that make sense?

2. Everyone was right: give it a month before seeing what it’s truly like to live with someone. How you view the friendship is completely altered. This is a tough pill I’m still swallowing. Is this kind of shady? Yes, but I don’t care. The next time I sign a 14-month lease, it’ll be when I am living by myself.

3. It’s easy to get permanent markings for temporary pain. My friend sent me a Tiktok about people who are hurting constantly get tattoos and piercings, and I completely resonated with it. However, I am still very cautious about what I put on my body and where. Do I have the next three tattoos planned? Yes, but I also know tattoos are hella expensive. Plus, with the way my ear keeps bleeding, I think my time with piercings is up.

4. Not everyone needs to know about your successes and opportunities. If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s that I share too much with too many people, and I need to learn to suppress my excitement. When great opportunities arise or I show immense interest in a new guy, I get so excited that I constantly share the news with the wrong people. Slowly, I am getting better about keeping it inside.

5. Believe what you want to believe about the world around you; tune out the opinions and voices of complete strangers. During 2020, people became obnoxious with sharing their opinions and theories with everything that can breathe, it seems. While working in customer service, a countless amount of strangers felt the need to express themselves about COVID, mask mandates, Black Lives Matter, even my natural afro. It’s annoying and unnecessary. I’ve really gotten good at tuning people out.

6. Best way to figure out who your true friends are: leave a job or school. I’ve truly learned the definition of “work friends” and “school friends.” There are several people I had to cut out of my life because they weren’t genuinely my friend, and I was putting in more effort than they were.

7. It’s better to be paid less and happy than paid more and miserable. Simple. Sanity and taking care of your mental well-being is waaaayyy better than money. Shout out to my fave gas station for teaching me that.

8. Using people often gets confused with the term friendship. This was a hard pill to swallow this past year. Dreams of a happy, social future died when I realized people were using me for their own advancements.

9. C.Y.A. Cover your ass. Document everything in case something happens where you have to defend yourself. This was the best thing I learned from my time in college, and it’s constantly going through my mind when people have my name in their mouths (or when it’s time for a confrontation).

10. Traveling means new realizations. For example, going out of town with a friend doesn’t solidify that friendship, and I used to think that was the case. How stupid of me. If anything, sometimes I get a wager of where I stand with my relationships when I travel. Often times, the realizations go beyond relationships and are simply about finding things within myself that need work.

11. I am a very sad person with deep-seeded hurt. *Enter The Great Flood of Christmas Eve 2020*

12. Never be desperate to have friends. If you’re unhappy in a friendship or feel like you’re being dragged around, SAY SOMETHING! Though I hate constantly feeling alone, I would rather be lonely than in the presence of people who don’t genuinely have my best interest at heart. It’s weird. As someone with major trust issues, I was so quick to put my trust in new “friends,” and I think it’s simply because I didn’t want to be alone. I’ve always dreamed of a life where I’m constantly out and about with friends, going dancing or spontaneously meeting in the park during a lunch break. However, I’ve learned not to be desperate for that life, and if it’s meant to be mine, it will be.

13. Letting people pressure you into things you don’t want to do could be the end of you. A switch flipped in my brain where I realized I was put into situations because I was being pressured by people who were so incredibly insignificant in my life. Again, I was too trusting too quickly.

14. Don’t be scared of the feeling you start developing for someone. Risk it for the biscuit sis. Even if you don’t tell him how you feel, let yourself feel. It seems I have a crush on a new guy every three months, and though it sucks investing energy in guys that I like, knowing I can’t see them as my life partner, I continue to let myself feel for them. As someone who suppresses her emotions, it’s a beautiful thing when I let some sort of my true feelings show, so I let myself feel for guys I will quickly get over.

15. People flaking via text is a big pet peeve of mine. Is this me being shady again? Yes, but I still don’t care. If you live with someone and have important news or want to cancel something or whatever the case may be, you talk about in person, never over text. I’m still like WTF…

16. Behind every great friendship is an introvert and an extrovert. A close friend of mine helped me realize this, and after doing quite a bit of research and slight soul searching, I realized she was one-hundred percent correct. It’s beautiful.

17. Age is literally just a number. I didn’t believe this and understand the importance of it until this past year.

18. Stop trying to have sober conversations with intoxicated people. Oof. Let that sink in. I was nursing a mimosa when this hit my spirit, and these are words I will forever hold in my brain. When people with immediate bad vibes enter my presence, these words pass through, and I become the one-word response version of myself.

19. Invest in yourself. This is something else I am slowly learning and working every week to get better at. Buying things for myself is nice, but simply sitting in my bed with a pen and paper is equally as nice. Either way, I am learning what taking care of Jamilah looks like, and I’m enjoying it.

20. Never say you’ll never do anything because you always do the things you say you’ll never do. Literally, everything I said I would never do, I’ve done. Everything I said I would never own, I own. Everything I said I would never accomplish, I’ve accomplished. In the great words of that one song by Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith, NEVER SAY NEVER.

21. Turning twenty-one is the last exciting birthday I’ll experience, and I did it in the middle of a pandemic. When there wasn’t a candle to blow out on my birthday last year, I realized the excitement surrounding birthdays was beginning to dissipate. As a child, there’s so much energy and excitement and planning that surrounds turning a year older. I entered true adulthood during a pandemic and did nothing to celebrate making it to twenty-one.

Well, now I’m celebrating making it to twenty-two.

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