Writing by Haylee Penfold // Illustration by Ayelen Lujan // I guess I’ve matured a lot in these last two years, whether it be from trauma and loss or just my brain kicking into adult drive. Here are the few pearls of wisdom I want to share before my twentieth birthday rolls around:
Turning twenty is going to be both exciting and completely terrifying. It’s bizarre to think that only two years ago I was nervous about turning eighteen and being considered an adult—but two years later I still find it hard to label myself that way. I guess I’ve matured a lot in these last two years, whether it be from trauma and loss or just my brain kicking into adult drive. Here are the few pearls of wisdom I want to share before my twentieth birthday rolls around:
Life isn’t a race: the fact is, everyone faces obstacles at different times. Some people take a lifetime to discover their passion, while others know what they want to be at sixteen. I used to be so anxious at the thought of “falling behind” in life because all my friends started University a year before I did. But the truth is, that’s okay! Life goes on, whether you’re at the same position as your friends or not; it may feel like others are a hundred miles ahead of you when in reality, it’s only a few steps—and there is no use in stressing about a few steps!
Be kind to yourself: Nineteen made me realize how differently I treated myself in comparison to how I treated the people I loved. Throughout the year I learnt how to be kinder to myself; and when I was having a hard time, I’d think about what advice I’d give my friend if she was going through the same ordeal. This step truly began my progression into taking self-love and self-empowerment more seriously—and now, I cannot adequately express how important it is.
Never apologize for what you’ve been through: To deal with immense trauma before turning twenty was tough—because people often struggle to understand what I had been through, and it often felt impossible to explain an event that still affected me. I used to hide behind my trauma and let it speak for itself and not want to bother my family or friends with my struggles. But I’ve learnt that not only is that a bad decision for myself, but for my loved ones too. Being open about what I went through and how it affects me has helped me handle the trauma so much better, and has taught me that it’s okay to not be okay.
Life is short: As cliché as it sounds, I was shown in a brutal way that life can be so easily taken from us—one moment you could be healthy and in an instant, that can be stolen from you. Don’t take your health or life for granted: see the world, travel, and immerse yourself in every experience. Live each day to the fullest potential, remind yourself of all you have, and be spontaneous whenever you can—just because you’re growing up doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Moreover, remind the ones you care about how much you love them and how grateful you are to have them.
No one really cares: Something I’ve always struggled with was anxiety and paranoia of being judged. People’s opinions of me started to mean a lot to me, almost too much. I began noticing myself changing the way I’d act around certain people—just to feel more confident I’d be liked. But, the truth is—nobody cares. Most of the time, I’ve learnt, everyone else is so invested in their own minds and worries and struggles that they really don’t notice what is going on with anyone else.
Don’t focus on regret: A massive shift of mindset I’m grateful I had was to stop focusing on what I couldn’t change. Seeing mistakes and failures as opportunities for lessons and learning experiences was something significant for me. My new motto: progress over perfection!
Stand up for yourself: I’ve never been one for conflict—I hate drama and arguments. For most of my life, I’ve lacked the backbone to stand up for myself, and would rather be walked all over than say something that would upset someone. It was a critical lesson—because you can never be happy in a situation or expect someone to know you’re upset if you don’t speak up to change it. It’s crucial to make your needs and feeling known, and to not be apologetic if they differ from someone else’s!
Erase toxicity: This one will always be easier said than done. To cut ties with people you surrounded yourself with can’t be done overnight, but having the awareness and understanding of who isn’t a positive influence in your life is a huge first step. I myself made excuses for a lot of these people—I’d remind myself that they’d been in my life for years, some even my whole life, so eliminating them couldn’t be the answer, could it? But you’d be surprised how big of a change putting your foot down can make.
Social media is bullshit: In today’s day and age, it’s hard to not be heavily influenced by what we see on our screens—when everything is measured by likes and shares, and it can become impossible to not compare yourself to the people you see living ‘incredible’ lives on Instagram. It can be hard to accept the fact that the “perfect” model on your feed is only showing you a highlight reel of her life—what we’re not seeing are her breakouts and breakdowns. This leads to another destructive habit to break—don’t compare yourself to others; someone else’s success does not mean your failure!
Relationships are not like the movies: It turns out life isn’t a romantic comedy; that said, it can be just as cringe-worthy as a terribly-made one (take it from the girl who slid into her year 3 crush’s Instagram DMs). The movies don’t prepare you for the rollercoaster of emotions a relationship can create—including the fear of being completely vulnerable to someone, and giving them the power to crush you into a million pieces. But at the same time, they are worth the bad movies and love songs—because when you find that special someone, it’s worth the fear and stress.