Holy toledo Batman. I’m TWENTY-ONE!!!
I had a mini-crisis a few weeks ago when I thought about turning another year older, not because I think I’m old, but because I still don’t know what I want to do and am still figuring out who I want to be. It’s easy to be hard on myself and think of how far I still have to go instead of praising God for all the blessings of the now and how far He has already brought me. So I thought one of the best ways for me to genuinely celebrate this day for myself was to think about 21 of the biggest lessons I’ve learned (or let’s be real, lessons I am still learning) over these past 21 years and to see for myself both how far I’ve come, how far I still have to go, and how life really is one never ending learning experience, no matter how old you are. This is honestly more for my sake than anything, but I hope that in it you’ll perhaps find a nugget of wisdom or a smile to brighten your day too. So here goes. 21 lessons!!
1. Change is inevitable and oftentimes challenging, but God is forever unchanging.
This month alone I’ve faced many changes that are hard for me. I’ve wanted to move back to Denver for a year (I started looking at apartments back in February!). But God had plans for me to stay here in Colorado Springs at least for a while longer; my plans fell through two different times. And He also had plans to move my boyfriend and two of my closest friends to live in Denver this past weekend (a huge change which was both born and fulfilled within a matter of two weeks). That’s just one example of a hard and fast change for me; having my own hopes and plans fall through, and very suddenly being physically distanced from three of the closest people in my life. It’s not the end of the world by any means, and I know God has plans for all of us where we are at, but it was very much a challenge for me, and still is. Yet my hope, my constant in life, is that even though plans change and people leave and things change, God never changes, His love always comes through, and He is always right here. Always.
2. God’s best for you is right now.
Another lesson I’m still definitely learning. We tend to idealize the future, saying “someday when I’m married,” or “someday when I’m out of school,” or “someday when I’m not living here or working here anymore,” and while it’s important to dream and have goals to work towards, it’s also infinitely important to be present where we are today and recognize that God’s plans for us in the now are His best for us. Someday doesn’t exist. Today is God’s best. We need to embrace that and invest in exactly where we are right here, right now.
3. Have grace for yourself.
Oh man. How important this is!! I screw up. I make mistakes. I’ve tried things and failed. I’ve had goals I didn’t reach when I wanted to. And I easily beat myself up for those things. But instead we should have grace for ourselves in these moments, and recognize that the fact we are messing up at least means we’re trying. And it’s better to try and fail than never to try at all. How else would we grow? So have some mercy on yourself!
4. Coffee + Power Naps = A beautiful combination
I’m a barista. Oftentimes, that means very early mornings and a very sleepy Jasmine. And when I’m sleepy, sometimes I become on edge (shocker, I know). I’ve learned that the magical combo to stay focused and in a good mood for the rest of the day is to take a quick 30 minute nap and drink a big cup of coffee right when I wake up. It’s like a fast energy refill that saved me during my freshman year of college and is saving me once more as a junior in college and a barista.
5. DRINK ALL THE WATER
This sounds so silly, but boy is it true. Two years ago I started carrying either a Nalgene or a 26oz Starbucks cup with me almost everywhere I went, and I am constantly filling and refilling it with water. You’re supposed to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, I weigh about 130 lbs, so I try to drink at least 65 oz of water a day, but often times drink more like 80 oz. Staying hydrated keeps your immune system strong, keeps your hands from cracking and bleeding (shoutout to that dry Colorado climate), and keeps you energized. As my friends say, HYDRATE TO DOMINATE.
6. Don’t underestimate the power of a schedule and the power of habit.
We all have goals (or at least, I hope most of us do!). I quickly realized when I started college a few years ago that unless I intentionally scheduled out each day with time to work towards each of those goals, then soon my time would be filled with more random and less productive things like Netflix or long naps or Facebook (nothing wrong with any of those things unless they become excessive and hinder you from where you want to be!). So I started keeping a pretty rigid schedule, filled with going on runs right after waking up, showering and a thirty minute devotional time after that, class, time for lunch and a power nap here and there, and then piano practice and some social time or work after that. Keeping a schedule from day to day helps develop habits, and good habits help get you where you want to go. Don’t just leave your time (your most valuable asset) or which habits you form to chance!
7. Keep a gratitude list.
One of the best ways I’ve found to keep my heart full of joy and my attitude positive and thankful is to keep a list in my journal of all that I’m grateful for. Life is hard sometimes. It’s a battle. And staying grateful and remembering what God’s done for you is a great way to fight that and fight for joy.
8. Self-talk matters. A lot.
This goes hand in hand with a lot of the things I’ve already listed, but how you talk to yourself is a pretty good gage of where you’re headed. It’s easy to be hard on yourself, and sometimes you need that. But more often than not, you need to be your own biggest cheerleader. I started setting alarms on my phone to go off every hour with an affirmation, and on the back of my door in my room I have all my goals, favorite Bible verses, and affirmations taped up. How you talk to yourself matters.
9. You can find more at thrift stores than you think.
I used to work at Old Navy. I love fashion and shopping, but that’s an expensive hobby if you do it too much. So I started looking at Goodwill now and again before going to more expensive stores. Sometimes you find nothing, other times you hit the jackpot and head out with six new pieces of clothing that you love and only spent $20 on. Thrift shopping is no joke (just wash them before you wear them please!!).
10. A personal budget is a lifesaver, no matter your age.
I think it’s easy for lots of us twenty-somethings to just say we don’t have much money, accept that as truth, and spend the money we have anyway, because we don’t have a lot of it so what’s the point. Especially if you’re in a place where you don’t have many bills other than gas yet, it’s easy to not have a budget. But a plan for where your money goes is key to responsible, God-glorifying living. It looks different for everyone, but it’s important. For me, my first 10-15% of each deposit goes towards tithe, the next 20-30% goes to savings, the next 10% or so goes to paying off my loan, and the rest is for living (car payment, gas, spending money, the occasional grocery store visit or dentist appointment, etc.). My bills are minimal right now, and I’ve recently started trying to take advantage of that before most of my money is going toward the expenses of daily living. A budget is KEY.
11. Social media is a tool, not a standard.
Social media is a great tool for marketing, staying in touch, and killing a few minutes here and there. But it’s too easy to start using it as a standard by which we compare ourselves to others, and that’s both dangerous and foolish. Use it as a tool, not as the personal bar you set for yourself.
12. Exploring your city is important.
There’s probably more to do where you live than you think there is. And there’s probably more cool people and more cool places than you think. Exploring and knowing your city is one great way to not only fall in love with where you live, but also to learn how to love the people there. Each city has unique needs- learn how you can be a small piece of helping to meet those needs.
13. Travel as much as you can, wherever you can, as often as you can.
This looks different for everyone. But as someone who’s been lucky enough to get to go to seven different countries so far, and many different cities throughout the US, I can say confidently that travel and immersing yourself with new cultures and new people not only grows you as a human, but also deepens your connection and love for the world God created and the people he put in it. God has a heart for the nations, and I think we should too. It changes you for the better. And it’s FUN.
14. Solitude and loneliness are not the same thing.
This is a big one I’m still learning. I’m little miss extrovert, always around people, always trying to make new friends and converse with others, and rather uncomfortable being by myself. But I was reminded earlier this week that loneliness and solitude are not the same thing; solitude is godly and gives you a chance to grow and learn more about yourself and about the God who created you. So I don’t need to be afraid of hours or even days sometimes where I’m completely alone. Instead I should learn to embrace them.
15. Sometimes what feels most true is actually the furthest thing from the truth.
For example, sometimes I feel like a burden. I feel like I’m overwhelming those around me, or like I’m not worthy of their time. It feels very real. But my head knows those things are the furthest thing from the truth, and those things are actually the lies of the enemy loudly ringing in my head and heart. What feels real is sometimes just an illusion, a lie. And the best way to discern the truth from the lies is to immerse yourself in God’s word. Know His voice best to know what’s actually true.
16. Being in love is one of God’s greatest gifts, but it’s not everything.
I’ve been lucky enough to be dating one of my very best friends for almost 14 months now. He’s an incredible, Jesus-loving, funny, fun, strong, gentle, adventurous spirit who I am so lucky to be in relationship with. He is one of the greatest blessings in my life. But even so, he doesn’t completely fulfill me. No person can ever fulfill me. That’s for God and God alone to do. And when we start putting that expectation on a person, it just screws things up, because no person is capable of filling you. Treat relationships like the icing on the cake, like a gift, a bonus, and recognize that the cake itself is the love God has for you, which never fails or leaves.
17. Be honest.
This sounds simple and obvious, but it’s true. Be honest with yourself and honest with God and honest with others about where you are and what you’re feeling and how you’re doing. There’s no point in putting on a mask, because that only exhausts and isolates you. Be honest- God can handle you, and those who truly love you will stand by you no matter what. Authenticity is valuable.
18. Journal more.
Write about things you’re thankful for, things you struggle with, hopes, plans, thoughts, and life in general. It helps you process, and it helps you write your testimony down over time.
19. Watch less TV and spend less time on social media.
At the end of the day, you won’t regret not watching more Netflix or seeing one more status update; you’ll regret not talking more with the people around you, not going on more hikes, not reading more books or giving more hugs or taking more risks. What really matters to you? Do that, even if it isn’t as easy or accessible as TV or Instagram.
20. Encouraging someone is easier than you think.
It could be as easy as telling them you think their eyes are pretty, or you admire their good attitude. It could be as simple or as deep as a note left for them, a meal taken to them, or a hug and quiet presence in hard times. Encouraging each other is vital as God’s kids, and it’s usually a lot easier than we think it is.
21. Each day is a new start.
God’s mercies are new each morning. And that means I’m never too far gone, and neither are you. Each day is a clean slate, an unwritten story, a new chapter. Be encouraged by that.
So I guess that’s it. 21 of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and am learning after 21 years of life on this earth. Cheers to another year and all the ups and downs and lessons it too will bring!
Maybe now I’ll get to enjoy a glass of wine with my mom now and again.