19 Things I Learned at 19

Today, twenty years ago, a baby was born, impassioned by Independence Day, bit by the horse bug, and destined to share her opinions. Through thick and thin, this girl lived her life the way she deemed proper, no matter what anyone else said. And when she finally discovered blogging, she knew she had found her place on the internet.
Surprise, surprise, that girl is me.

Today I turn twenty years old. Twenty!! Ew, gross, one year closer to having to be a real adult. It feels like just yesterday, I was in kindergarten and the world was so different. A 2001 world, where boys had cooties, my best friend lived four doors down, school security was lax, and some kid named P.J. got sent to the principal's office on the first day. Looking around at the post-9/11 world I live in now where schools have police officers, and my first best friend is in the National Guard, it feels like everything has changed! Well except the cooties thing. Whether they're boys or men, I'm pretty sure they all still have cooties.

This past year has been a a wild one for me. I've gone through so much, I don't know if 18-year-old me would even recognize 20-year-old me. Looking back, I have had some of my highest and lowest moments while being nineteen. And I have learned a LOT. Of everything I've learned, I managed to pull out the top nineteen lessons that I have learned while being nineteen, and compiled them here share with you, the adoring public. So here they are, in no particular order

1. Your First Love Doesn't Have to be Your Last
       After experiencing my first relationship this past summer, I learned what it's like to be in a relationship. He was in the military, and it really showed me the give and take as well as the sacrifices that you need to make in a relationship. It's really strange to have your happiness depend on the happiness of someone else. It was a weird thing to get used to, but it was really nice once I did.
       That being said, after falling pretty hard for this guy, I learned that break ups are hard. Like way harder than I thought. I was expecting a few days of heart ache, a box of tissues, and a pint of Americone Dream. It was not nearly that easy for me. The break up happened in October, and for a long time I still had the occasional moment over it.
       I was lucky though. He and I ended on pretty good terms, so there was really never any major issues with it. For a while, I was so sure that I would get him back, but in my own time (with lots of help from Elle Woods) I realized I didn't want or need him back, and I really grew from the experience.
      There is a lot of pressure from the love stories you hear where people married their first (insert milestone here), and it really hangs around in the back of your head. After I finally realized that my life isn't destined to be a spinster cat lady since I didn't end up with the first guy I dated, it was a real weight lifted off my chest.

2. It's Okay to Cut Your Friendship Losses
       This past year, I was very angry at old friends from high school. I was ignored when I was away, excluded when I was home, and I harbored a lot of anger at people for that. I spent so much time being angry at them, I didn't spend enough time in my life appreciating the friends who I did stay close with. Over Thanksgiving this past year, when spending time with my best friend from home, I realized that I didn't need to stay friends with people I really didn't like. In high school, you need your core group to be social with, they're all you have in a hometown. But now that I'm in DC for 70% of the year, I don't need their friendship anymore. So I have been slowly cutting ties with people, unfollowing on Snapchat and Instagram, unfriending on Facebook, and the likes. And it actually feels really good, to have that annoying pressure off of my mind.

3. He's Not the Sun. You Are
     I'd like to give a shout out to my spirit surgeon, Cristina Yang, for this one. It's not specifically directed at any guy in my life, but just a reminder. It's a reminder to myself that no one is more valuable, talented, beautiful, and all around amazing than I am. And it's a reminder to everyone reading that no one is more valuable, talented, beautiful, and all around amazing than you are. In your life, you are the only one who really matters. Just like Yang, I don't care how dreamy any one else is. As far as you care, you are the best damn thing on this earth since sliced bread. I learned that when I just cared to much for other people and put them before myself. I still do care immensely for others around me, but I have to remind myself every so often that I come first.

4. If You Don't Like Something About Yourself, Change It
       No one runs your life. So when you don't like something in it, the responsibility falls to you. Whether it's your personality, your clothes, or your body, making the change is on you. While in school, I would work out occasionally, but not enough to make a difference. I ate poorly and at all hours. I was depressed and anxious. I struggled a lot. I wanted my life to be better, but I wasn't willing to put in the work I needed to. After my freshman year, I hated the way my body looked, how I did in school, and how I felt about myself and my life. And now, a little over a year later, I love myself so much more. I didn't workout and eat healthy to fit anyone else's molds but my own. I wanted to feel good and I wanted to look good. I wanted to be more confident in myself. I oput the work in and I ma fixing my academics. I am getting my goal body. I am consistently fighting depression and anxiety. I wanted to be happy with who I am. I turned nineteen very unhappy with my life. And now, I am much more positive and much happier. I still have some flaws, but no one is perfect, and I am a work in progress. 

5. Failure is an Opportunity to Grow
       Anyone who has been reading over the past year knows that I ran into a lot of failure this year. Especially academically. I was forced to reevaluate my plans for college, graduation, finances, and just life in general. Addressing my failure and mistakes was hard. Really hard. It was not something I was used to or had dealt with in this magnitude before. It blew my mind when I realized the depravity of my situation. Thanks to the people who have supported me, I have been able to come back stronger than ever. Pride still stinging, I learned a lot of lessons from this. But most of all perseverance. I didn't give up in the face of adversity and my failures allowed me to see the world in a new way. I experienced life the hard way. I got knocked on my ass, and I had to fight tooth and nail to get to where I am now. I am still fighting to go beyond my situation. But in a way I am proud of my failure. It showed me that even when you are at your worst, you can still get better, do better, be better. I grew mentally and physically stronger and more resilient. And I am proud of who I have become as of now. 

6. You Only Get One Body
       The past couple of years my family has gone through a lot with health issues, big and small, coming from all sides. It really made me think about the way I took care of my body. Or I should say didn't take care of myself. I stayed up late, ate at irregular times, and when I did eat, it was a lot of junk food. Beyond that, I didn't take good care of myself mentally either. I would retreat into myself on bad days, and there came times when I wouldn't leave my room for days on end. I'd stay in bed, not eat, not sleep, just fade in and out of sleep. I procrastinated and skipped assignments and stressed over classes and grades. I knew it wasn't good for myself, but I was in such a slump, I felt like I couldn't reset while at school. Over the summer, I had the time and opportunity to finally force myself to do that reset.

7. Don't Be Afraid to Be Alone
       I struggled a lot when it came to this one. I knew what I wanted to say, I just had a hard time actually putting it into the right words. I think I've finally got it down this time. In college, you so often see everyone with their friends all of the time. And maybe for some people that's really easy. But for me, not so much. I've always struggled making friends, I don't know why, but I used to let that bother me a lot. Right after high school, I learned to value my real friends and not let the rest bother me. Now, two years through college, being away from my best friends for most of the year has taught me to live on my own without being totally dependent on them to live my life. I tried to replace them or at least find fillers. Then I realized I didn't want to do that. This past year I've become more independent from friend groups. Not to say I'm the weird loner, but I don't have a problem sitting alone to work outside or going out through the city alone. It's hard to get used to, but it's really great once you have. As for dining alone? Well let's leave that one to twenty.

8. If Someone Matters to You, Tell Them!
     Some of you probably remember the Relationship Fiasco earlier this year. While that applies here, that's not exactly what I mean. This past fall, I really came to terms with some pretty heavy stuff that happened in my past. When I did, I realized how much I had taken certain people in my life for granted. That day, I reached out to them, sort of apologized for things, and told them how much I value them and their friendship in my life. Since then, I've made an effort to be a better friend. Not just to them, but especially towards them. I'm not sure if any of the three of them know what they did. One day I'll tell them or they'll figure it out. Right now though, I'm going to focus on the now. Since I can't keep them near to me physically (One's up north, one's out west, and one's out to sea!), I'm going to keep them as close to my heart as I can.

9. Elle Woods was Right
       Context, Elle Woods is always right. But specifically when she said that exercise give you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don't kill their husbands. Not that I have any experiences about husband killing, but exercise really does make you happier. You know that annoying friend who is constantly chattering about their new mile time and playlist combos and how sore they are? Yeah. That's me now. But I really don't care that it's annoying to people. I've become much more active this past year and it's made me so much happier at my core. Well, both cores, the emotional one and the abdominal one. I just want to share that happy feeling with those around me! PS no, I don't do crossfit.. yet.

10. Travel Without Your Parents
       It doesn't even have to be far! I went to New York with my best friend instead of my family, like I usually do, and it was amazing! We wandered around a ton (11.3 miles!) and discovered some really great places to eat and had a ton of laughs. It was great because there was no familial power dynamic or dead set plans, we were just two really lost girls with really sore feet. It was very low key, and really fun. Traveling without your parents is a great way to really test your real world independence and survival skills. It sounds super fancy when I put it like that, but really, just get away from your family sometimes. This way you can just be yourself with the people who know you best without the stress. See? It even rhymes!

11. Drink More Water
       I know, I sound like your mother now. But I was one of those people who drank maybe two bottles a day. Maybe two and a half on a good day. Not anywhere near the amount you're supposed to drink in a day. Wanting to be healthier, I tried the gallon a day challenge. Jumping up that quickly was not my brightest plan, I had a killer stomach ache and got up to pee like six times that night. Yeah, not fun. Instead, I just try to drink more water through the day. I don't do enough of anything in a day to require a while gallon, but I try to fill up on water when I can. My skin is so much clearer, drinking more has actually made a noticeable difference in that aspect. And maybe it's a cheat trick, but drinking a cup before meals fills you up a little bit, tricking yourself into being a little more full.

12. Hard Work Pays Off
       In June of 2015 I was not in a good place. I had failed out of college, I was depressed, I was very overweight, and I was just generally miserable. I'm being honest here when I tell you that I worked incredibly hard at every facet of my life in order to improve it. I recognized that if I didn't put in the work to improve myself and my life, no one was. I spent most of the fall in the library and with my academic advisor. I spent most of the spring in my dorm working and exploring my world. I spent the whole year squeezing in workouts and runs and yoga and stretching. Blood, sweat, and a lot of tears went into this past year. And I don't regret a single bit of that.

13. Use Your Network
       Alternatively: Ask for help if you need it. Pride goeth before a fall. And when it does, that fall hurts like hell. During my Year of Hard Work, I really learned how to build and rely on the network of people to keep me motivated and moving at all times. And when I had a hard time with something, I knew I had people to fall back on and talk to who would help me get back up to where I needed to be. I only created that network this past year. Why? Because I had never needed it before. I never realized what an asset having that network could be or would become. Having my people backing, ones who cared about me and wanted me to succeed, made that Year of Hard Work feel a lot easier than it would have been if I were on my own.

14. Always Forgive, Never Forget
        This may not be the best advice for life, but I wholeheartedly believe in it. I'll admit I first learned this about five years ago, but similar situations were rehashed this year, and definitely brought it to light again. Its a concept that has taken me years to begin to comprehend. It really hit me the day I graduated high school (a story for another time), but like I said, it's become relevant again with the turn events. What I'm saying with this point is that when someone wrongs you, 90% of the time you ought to forgive them. Just for the sake of maturity and adult behavior. You don't have to be their best friends, just friendly enough to exist in the same room together. But unlike the idiom says, you should never forget. Forgetting, in my experience, makes people treat you like a doormat. Now I don't mean that you ought to through it around or use it as blackmail, this isn't an episode of Gossip Girl. I just mean you should remember how they treated you before and how they made you feel. And when it comes time for a third or fourth or whatever chance, take that into serious consideration and be wary. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

15. Sometimes You Don't Just Get Better
       If you've been reading for a while, you know that over this past year, I've really tried to confront anxiety and depression and issues regarding my mental health. It was much harder than I originally thought, and I definitely learned a lot over the past few months. The hardest lesson I learned was this past spring. I started this semester pretty well. Everything was looking up and I was doing pretty well. Right after spring break, I fell into a slump. Struggling to focus, couldn't get work done, stopped working out, the whole nine yards. I didn't notice it until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks, depression had snuck back into my mind. I was so convinced that I had beaten it, I didn't realize that it was possible that it could come back. I finally realized that depression and anxiety aren't chicken pox. You can't just fight it off once, and be fine for the rest of your life. Mental health can't be quick fixed, its something you have to keep on top of every day. Managing it can be easy if you're careful and smart about it., but you can't just take a pill and snap, you're fine. It's going to be an ongoing process, because sometimes you don't just get better.

16. Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
       What can I say, I'm a one basket kind of girl and I tend to put all my eggs in all at once and far too early. And I never learn. I know A is shaking her head now, knowing that she tells me every time, but I never believe her until afterwards. I mean, learn by doing, right? I think after what can only be described as an interesting year, maybe after this birthday, finally entering my twenties, I'll learn to go one egg at a time, and make "at a time" a little bit longer.

17. Don't Be Rude
       I know I sound like your mother, but it's true. I'm generally not a rude person, I smile at people, I say please and thank you, I hold doors for people. But this past year I come to notice that my manners have slipped a little bit I think. Not so much that I've turned into a bad person, but just enough where I've come to notice it. We live in a world with lots of not-so-nice people and I don't want to be one of them. I'm here to work hard to be a better human. Or at least a net-decent one. Don't be rude to people, it's unnecessary 99.9% of the time. You never know who you'll meet later in life, things have a habit of coming full circle!

18. Life is Short. Have Fun.
       I've believed in this this for many years, but I was remind of this just recently. Sometimes I forget that I still am young. I get so caught up in college, financials, work, etc., etc., and I just forget to stop and enjoy the damn moment for a second. I might be twenty years old, but I still have probably another 50-ish years to go. I have time to stop and have a little fun along the way.  And so do you.

19. Don't Regret.
       We've finally come to the end of our list! Looking back, I think I've been reminded of this quite a lot. I regretted a lot of things in my life. Failures, mistakes, accidents, and falling outs. I carried the weight of all of these things with me. And when you have that much guilt, that much you feel you owe to the world, it really does seem to break your spirit a little bit. And it hurts. Life isn't relaxing and enjoyable, it feels like a chore, dragging on and on. As I wrote this post the past few months, I realized that much of what I wrote about, were actually things I regretted. As I fine-tuned each point, wrote the paragraphs, thought about the experiences that lead me to where I am, that's when I really began to accept the things that happened, and from that, learn. If I could leave you with one resounding piece of advice it would be this; don't regret a second of your life. Time spent regretting things is time lost. Focus on the good in these experiences, and learn from them.

Now that I've finally finished this massively massive post, I have to thank certain people for making this year and these lessons what they have become. Most of these people don't even know this blog exists, so it makes this easier.
To J: What a crazy damn year. I'm glad we're still good friends through all of it.
To the Island: You're an amazingly supportive group of people, thank you for all being there for me when I needed you most. And I do apologize for the ridiculous griping.
To A: Girl you're my best friend and I swear on all that is holy in this world, I will get out there to see you soon! Your immeasurable patience with my less intelligent decisions is a godsend and I don't know how you deal with me.
And of course, to all of my, like, three readers: Thanks for sticking around. I have big plans for myself, my life, and my blog, and your readership is what pushes me to succeed.

But all that aside, I am glad to have been able to share this milestone in my life with all of you as well as the pieces of knowledge that I have gained over the past three hundred sixty five days of my life. Thank you all for your support, dedication, and most of all, patience. Here's to another year of my internet babbling!

Until next time, from M, Personally


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