23 Lessons I've Learned in 23 Years of Living

life lessons for young women

Today I turn 23….however, all my close friend know I’m a total grandma at heart. I’ll be celebrating by eating some good food, having a glass of white wine, writing, and going to bed by 10pm. Today I reflected on what I’ve learned in my 23 years of life…it’s a lot. Here are 23 lessons I’ve learned! Thought I’d share because there are a few I wish I would have learned earlier rather than later….so maybe they’ll be beneficial to others.

1) Being creative is a blessing and a curse.

THIS is one I really wish I would have known earlier in life. I spent a lot of my life feeling misunderstood because I wasn’t exactly book-smart. I spent the entire eighteen years of school feeling trapped and frustrated. During some intense therapy in college I had a break through & finally realized I was creative. A blessing in the way that I see the world differently, but also a curse in the way that not everyone will understand. And a lot of creatives feel trapped for quite a while in school or working that 9-5 job. A lot of creatives are not designed to conform to the normal ways of the working world. And that’s okay. It’s a positive thing to pursue creativity. I’ve been able to find myself, embrace my creative spirit, and build a small business because of it.

anxiety blog

2)Anxiety is normal (kind of).

Lately I’ve REALLY been wondering why mental health isn’t taught to elementary & middle school children. If I would’ve been able to differentiate stress from anxiety & put a name to my constant draining emotions, I really think I would’ve been able to be more confident because I would’ve understood myself better. Anxiety controlled my life for quite a while simply because I didn’t know what it was and how to deal with it. BECAUSE ITS NEVER TALKED ABOUT specifically with children. What’s crazy is that four of my best friends from middle school-present ALL have anxiety….and we didn’t know each other had anxiety until we all left for college. When I first found this out I felt like a shitty friend. But none of us told each other because it’s stigmatized and not something we’re taught to deal with at a young age. All this to say….unfortunately nowadays anxiety is the norm. People all around you are struggling. They just might be really good at hiding it. So know that you’re not alone. And if you’re in a place you feel comfortable talking about it DO. You never know who it might help.

3) Self love helps all love.

Truly loving yourself takes a lot of time and something everyone is working on. But it is so important. Self love helps you identify what you want in relationships, realize what you’re worthy of, & encourages you to deeply love others. By truly knowing & loving yourself you’re able to love others in a more authentic manner.

4) Introversion is a good thing. Embrace it.

For years in high school and college I felt like a misfit because I was never interested in partying, loud scenes, or large crowds. TBH all these things can trigger my anxiety. AND I would so much rather have a glass of wine with a few close friends or Netflix and chill with my pets. But once I read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I started to understand myself better. I was able to put a name to the way I felt and identify with others. There’s nothing wrong with a craving alone time, being in your head, and observing. The world may be catered towards extroverts, but introversion is a good thing because the world needs both introverts & extroverts. So embrace it!

5) Learning to say no will change your life.

This is honestly something I’m still working on. I’m a lot better at it now, but I’m still not able to say no with 100% confidence. Learning to tell people no will help set boundaries. The introvert in me is constantly stuck in situations of feeling like I need to be social, but desperately wanting alone time. Learning to say no helps on all fronts….relationships with others, mental health, and self care.

6) Don’t be afraid to do your own thing.

This isn’t something I’ve really had a problem with…you can ask my parents. They have stories about me as a child playing by myself because I didn’t want to do what others were doing. And I think it’s a very valuable lesson. For a short time in high school I lost this sense of independence due to the desire to fit in. But the more I go through life and watch people try to please others….the more I LOVE doing my own thing. It makes me happier. 9-5 job? No, thanks I’d rather do my own thing and focus on social impact. The latest fashion trends? No thanks, I’d rather focus on ethical fashion that value people and the planet. Going out to bars? No thanks I’d rather stay on the couch with my cat.

7) Surround yourself with people who love and value you as much as you value them.

the influence of good friends

This is something I can’t stress enough. It’s something I’ve been pretty good about because I have a low tolerance for drama, surface level conversations, and fake people. Surrounding yourself with people who value you is incredibly important. I genuinely feel that it impacts your success and happiness. If somebody doesn’t see your value, doesn’t show you unconditional love, and stand by you during the rough times then I encourage you to find people who do. They’re out there trust me. And it’s worth taking the time to find the people who cherish you.

8) It’s okay to feel sad, mad, angry, anxious, and all the “negative” emotions.

Growing up I was taught to look on the bright side and focus on the positive which is good…to an extent. Unfortunately, this caused me to ignore some of my deeper “negative” emotions which led to a few mental breakdowns down the road. It wasn’t until college…two months into therapy that I discovered I’d been stuffing all my negative emotions in the closet and jamming the door shut. Once I was able to acknowledge this and learn how to cope with and embrace these negative emotions, I was able to live a fuller life. Everyone has these emotions and it’s part of being human. Embrace them. Feel them. Live them.

9) Some people aren’t worth it.

There are some people who are drama oriented and not worth your time. Surround yourself with authentic people who love and value you. Know when to walk away from drama centered relationships because they truly can be toxic and put you in a low place. However, I know this is easier said than done. Sometimes it takes being in a low place to realize just how toxic a person is. There have been a few people in my life that I kept close and adored. It wasn’t until I cut ties with them that I realized how toxic their presence was to my mental health, happiness, and overall well being. Spend your time with people who truly value you.

lessons from a dog

10) Puppy cuddles & kitten kisses work wonders on rough days.

Having cuddley animals has been so good for my mental health. It’s so nice to come home to two little love bugs at the end of the day. No matter how crazy of a day they’re always so happy to see me. They have taught me a lot about living life to the fullest. Learn what they’ve taught me here.

11) Sometimes Letting go & letting life Is what you need to do.

For a long time I have been a planner, but over the years I’ve learned that sometimes letting go and following wherever life/God takes you can be just what you need. Owning an online shop? Monetizing a blog? Moving to Seattle? None of that was in my plans, but it’s where life took me and I honestly couldn’t be happier with these three things!

12) Therapy works wonders.

I was against therapy for SO long. I started therapy at a young age and the therapist I was seeing at that point in time was not a good match for me. Through out high school and college I had an on & off relationship with therapy. After a few negative therapist experiences, I was against the idea of sharing my problems with a stranger, but when I finally found that one therapist, she honest to God changed my life. She helped me understand why I am the way I am and it has influenced how I go forward in life.

life lessons for young women

13) You are worthy

You are worthy of love. You are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of kindness. You are worthy of genuine people who see this value in you and support your wildest dreams.

14) Just because you’re not A star student, doesn’t mean you’re dumb.

Ugh, don’t get my wrong I’m grateful for my education, but I resent school so much. School did terrible things to my self-esteem and mental health. And I see it continuously doing the same to others. Unfortunately the school system doesn’t focus on helping kids identify their skill sets & passion to empower them. School is focused on math, reading, history, and the other by the book lessons. It’s unfortunate for a lot of kids because the school system just doesn’t work for them. Tests, grades, limited subjects, by the book teaching….some kids learn differently. I learn so much better outside of the classroom. I learn by doing. And by following my creative ideas. Just because you’re not school smart, doesn’t mean you’re dumb so if you’re struggling with this know you’re not alone. And refer to this post.

15)Don’t be afraid of who you truly are.

I’m a mess. An anxious shit-show. And it’s okay. For years (in high school) I tried to not talk about those parts of my life and fit in. Embracing who you truly are, messiness and all, is freeing. Really and truly ever since I started embracing all parts of my life I’ve been able live a more authentic lifestyle and be happier.

16)Consumer Less, Be More

It’s crazy to think I wasn’t a conscious consumer until college. Focus on who you want to be and how your consumer habits can reflect this. Younger Emily would have no idea what this means, so for further explanation check out this post.

17) Take the time to figure out who you are and what you want in life.

Life is crazy and I think here in America it’s obnoxiously scheduled. You’re supposed to go to school….then you’re supposed to go to college…then you’re supposed to work forever. It’s okay to slow down and take your time. In fact I wish I would have taken a gap year because I went into college with the completely wrong major. I had no clue what I wanted to do. But I’d been told repeatedly that college is the next step, so I picked music business, something I was semi-interested in. Literally within the first month of class I knew it was the wrong choice. I was lucky to figure out after a social entrepreneurship class that I wanted to positively impact the lives of others, but not everyone is that lucky. Some of my college graduate friends are unhappy in their jobs right now because they were not as fortunate as I was to find myself so quickly and figure out what I want to do with my life (I swear therapy helps with this too). Pause and figure yourself out. It’s worth it to take the time at a young age because it will truly impact your happiness going forward.

18) Ya, your mom was probably right….and ya you’ll probably turn into her.

I’m just going to leave these here…..

lessons for young women

19) Spend less time counting your blessings & More time Checking your privilege

Honestly I went through quite a few of years of my life unaware of my privilege. But after working for a non-profit and taking some classes on race & class, I strive to be conscious of my privilege. Gratitude is great, but in todays America we need to start checking our privilege. I encourage you to think beyond your blessings and take a look at your privilege. Start by questioning what your have and what could contribute to you having that. Your gender? Skin color? Education? Class? Where you grew up? Support Network? Family dynamic? Access to resources? Keep reading about my experience checking my privilege here.

20) Forgive, but don’t forget.

Don’t be afraid to forgive people. It’s okay not to forget though. Unfaithful and disrespectful people can be toxic in your life and happiness. So don’t waste your energy holding grudges, but be careful who you let back in.

21)Self care is messy.

The retail industry makes us feel like self care is bubble baths, wine, and chocolate. But that’s not at all the reality. Self care is a process of constantly taking care of yourself and digging deep to understand the tough emotions. Self care isn’t always glamorous and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s not moving off your couch the entire weekend. Sometimes it’s balling your eyes out in therapy. It looks different for everyone and my journey with self care is far from the luxurious spa experience.

traveling woman at 23

22) There is so much to see in this amazing world. Make time to explore.

Traveling was never really in the plans for me, but thanks to Jake’s job and some other generous opportunities I’ve been able to go places. Really cool places and it made me realize just how important it is to get out there and see things. You grow and learn so much from traveling. Observing different cultures and seeing the beautiful sights will blow your mind. I encourage you to put more emphasis on travel and less emphasis on material things.

23) Don’t let yourself get in the way of living your fullest life.

I’m fighting my anxiety everyday. It’s become really important to me to not let my anxiety control me. I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone (in small doses) and have been able to teach myself ways to push through daily anxieties to be able to do things such as travel, drive on the highway, talk to strangers on the phone, and it may sound silly, but anxiety has the ability to prevent you from living your fullest life. I think YOU have to be intentional about doing what you can to control your anxiety before it controls you. Disclaimer I’m not fully in control of my anxiety, but I’ve learned how to control certain parts of it that have really made a difference in my daily life.