Today is my 24th birthday. I feel strange.
How on earth am I 24???
I still eat dino nuggies and have the emotional stability of a high schooler.
I found myself looking back on my year as a 23-year-old, and I wonder if I checked off all the boxes on the list of unwritten life rules. I wonder if I did enough so far. I slightly wish I would have done things differently, tried new things, and taken more chances. I had to remind myself that I am where I’m supposed to be.
Not to be dramatic, there have been times when I said being 23 was comparable to a quarter-life crisis for me. Some of you probably think I’m joking, but that’s seriously how I felt. I didn’t felt like myself, more like a lost person, living like a machine. I lost my passion for everything, especially the things I love most in life. It sucked the fun out of everything I loved; dancing, friendships, cooking, and being creative.
So, without further ado, here’s 24 things I’ve learned in 24 years.
- Start somewhere.
Starting can be the most challenging part (I am still figuring this out now), but how will you know what may have gotten done if you don’t start?
- You need community,
No man is an island, and you need people to be by your side, to celebrate, cry, and help you.
- Be kind.
There is so much craziness going on around the world. You never know how your kind words or gesture can impact someone! It’s sharing happiness.
- Feeling ashamed about your wants and interests is a waste.
I used to qualify my interests with “I’m a dork, though” or “It’s a guilty pleasure.” But if I’ve learned anything from being on TikTok and reconnecting to things I loved at 13, it’s that we all like the same stuff anyway.
- Support yourself!
Everyone won’t support you. And sometimes we can get so caught up in motivating others that we don’t take our own advice; I am guilty of this. It can often be easier to love others so much and forget that we need that same care.
- Everyone has baggage.
I’m not a teenager anymore. I have a past full of exes, trauma, and failed attempts. But guess what? So does everybody else. We all have baggage – and I refuse to be ashamed of mine. I’ve learned you have to deal with it. You have to turn that negative stuff and make it positive. It is hard, but it’s worth it. Because at the end of the day, your emotional baggage doesn’t give you a write-off to be a douche.
- I don’t owe anything to my younger self.
My dreams, perspectives, even my beliefs have changed over time. I no longer want to be a teacher or go to college for an early childhood education degree, and that’s okay. It’s a little sad because I worked towards it, but I’m not the same Eryn I was when I wanted those things. I’ve accepted I’m allowed to change. I’ve learned to make the person I am today happy – not the person I was five years ago. That person has moved on, and I’m tired of clinging to a specific goal because an old, expired version of myself wanted it.
- Be authentic.
I’ve worn so many faces and personas to get the jobs and friends I thought I was supposed to want to have. It’s a terrible habit because eventually, I lose energy to maintain this character I’ve made in my head. I’d prefer to have a small number of friends and a job I enjoy instead of being physically exhausted pretending to be someone else.
- Seek out the people who make you feel good when you’re with them.
Don’t spend time with people who make you feel bad about yourself. I wish I could go back in time and shake myself for trying to be friends with “cool” people. Cool kids in high school don’t exist. It doesn’t matter in adulthood who was cool and who wasn’t. Now the cool people are the people who care without hesitation and remain the same without constant communication. Notice who makes you feel good when you spend time with them and go with that—even if they’re giant nerd balls.
- Don’t waste any time comparing yourself to others or even yourself.
A long time ago, we looked at magazines to compare ourselves to celebrities or compare ourselves to random people we saw walking down the street. Now, all we have to do is open Instagram or look at a memory on Facebook. Looks don’t matter. I weigh more now than I ever have in my entire life, and I’m also happier now. I don’t care if I’m no longer a size two like I was seven years ago or if I don’t look like an instamodel. Accept yourself as you are or improve yourself because you want to, but not because you think you’re not as good as other people.
- Take more photos!
I was trying to put together a scrapbook for valentine’s day, and it was impossible. In all the time I’ve been with my boyfriend we’ve taken five pictures together. There’s literally all this technology available to get as many images as possible. Yet, my parents, with their camcorder, disposable cameras, and literally paying some kid at the mall, have more pictures than I can imagine. Capture as many memories as possible. I love photos because you capture a moment in time, allowing you to look back in years to come and give thanks for that memory.
- Tell your loved ones that you love them.
As we learned last year, Separation and death are eventualities; nothing can stop these. Our loved ones will not be around forever, do not wait until it is too late to express your love and appreciation for them. Instead of waiting for special occasions to make a grand gesture of love or gratitude to them, it is more meaningful to do little things for your loved ones daily and never take them for granted.
- Do not criticize yourself for things you did in the past – it will only drive you crazy.
I have a terrible habit of overthinking. I think about that one comment I said that I should have kept to myself. I think about why I turned right instead of left. I think about the time I had a violin recital and played the wrong note. My parents said they didn’t even notice. That recital was 12 years ago, by the way. And what has this accomplished, all this thinking and self-criticism? Nothing. Nothing at all. All I have now is constant self-doubt. Nothing can change the past. I try not to think of the past unless I’m thinking of the good times. Reminisce about the good times, yes, but realize that there will be more good times ahead (even better times, in fact).
- Respect boundaries and Don’t be a privacy invader.
When I meet people, I’m curious about them, so I always ask many questions. Sometimes personal questions. I learned that my curiosity does mean I have a right to know. I learned that asking too many personal questions sounds like I’m prying into their life or I’m judging them. I’ve had to stop myself and learn to not take it personally if someone decides they’ve had enough. There could be some past trauma there that I don’t know about, and it will likely break our connection if I’m not considerate of their feelings.
- Accept a compliment.
This was such a hard thing for me to learn because compliments made me uncomfortable for a while. I thought I wasn’t worthy of admiration. I didn’t realize that when I was dismissing the praise, I was also dismissing the person who gave me the compliment. My therapist told me, “When you dismiss the comment, you dismiss their efforts and their opinions.” I’m still working on my self-esteem and my self-love. My therapist taught me to pause, smile, say “thank you,” and remember the comment to write down later. If I remember the words, I have to write it down and write my reasoning next to it of why it doesn’t make sense to me, but in doing that, it just makes me understand the compliment. Accept a compliment when you receive one – don’t shrug it off!
- Pain Is Not the End.
Trust me, I’ve hit rock bottom, and whatever is lower than rock bottom. I’ve experienced a lot of emotional distress in the last few years, and I couldn’t see the end at the time. I had lost all of my friends. My ex isolated me from my friends and family. At some points, family members disowned me. While the situations I put myself into were terrible, my mind was worse. I would overthink and stress and have panic attacks. I had to learn to quiet my mind before I could even dream of thinking things could get better. But for so long, I felt that pain was normal at one point and that I’d always feel this way. I was wrong. It got so much better, and I learned to heal myself, others and become a stronger person. We get wrapped up in our own minds that we don’t see solutions around us. The emotional abuse still affects me. I say sorry all the time, but I don’t look in the mirror and hate myself anymore.
- Real Love Does Exist.
I’ve struggled to find genuine love for many years. I’ve experienced so much fake love; how would I be able to tell what was real? I’m not just talking about love from a man, but my friends, my family. I found it everywhere. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen real love, which makes me feel supported, fulfilled, and I even found unconditional love towards a few of them. It is out there, and you can find it. Just believe, and the rest will follow.
- Take a risk.
I believe you can’t grow in life if you’re not learning and the only way to learn is to try something new. Yet, I’m also a creature of habit who is scared of taking a risk. I know, I’m a walking contradiction. So I created my “Live My Best Life Checklist.” It’s a bucket list meets a to-do list meets something else kinda thing. I don’t know how to explain it. Once I put something on the list, I’m telling myself there’s no more overthinking, and it is a just do it thing. It helps me control the risk I take and helps me overcome the fear. So do yourself a favor and take one small step toward your goal despite your apprehensions and gut-wrenching fear.
- Contentment over happiness.
A lot of people spend their lives hoping and searching for happiness. Instead of doing that, I’ve started recognizing and acknowledging the little details in my everyday life that brings me contentment. To me, being content has to do with the relationship you have with yourself and potentially even a higher power/nature. If these are strong enough, you will find some good in each situation Happiness is like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. We create happiness in ourselves when we achieve objectives. And when I don’t do those things, it leaves me unhappy. Suppose I have food, water, shelter, and perhaps a family member or two or a friend who cares, and some way to occupy ourselves. In that case, it’s possible to be content. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought of true happiness to be unattainable. I have yet to meet a “happy and bubbly” person who isn’t a depressed mess inside.
- Be with someone who makes and inspires you to be the best, most organic, most loving version of yourself.
And be that person right back to them. I’ve seen relationships where one person isn’t moving as quickly as they want, and it seems like everything is falling in their partner’s lap. Instead of motivating and cheering them on, that success is seen as competition. I’ve been in a relationship where I tried to help my partner better themselves. I thought a better wardrobe and a face cleaning regimen were helpful and was told I was trying to control and change them. My relationship now is the opposite. When one of us moves forward, we see it as a step ahead for both of us.
- My success will come from hard work.
Success is a combination of consistency, preparation, and opportunity. No one else can give you want, and no one can take it away from you. Showing up and practicing is the most challenging thing. You get tired of waiting, but life is a marathon; you have to keep working towards it by being dependable and innovative. Nothing enables greater career success than working harder and caring more. At the end of the day, you can only hold yourself accountable.
- It’s not cringing to talk about things to do with depression and anxiety.
I talk about my depression and going to therapy and taking antidepressants openly because, to me, it isn’t taboo. It’s something I feel needs to be discussed. As a society, we need to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. Open dialogue about mental health can help everyone heal. Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and ultimately how you act. We must express these emotions with others daily. You would go crazy not being able to talk about how you’re a stranger to yourself. Yet, I know so many people who don’t want to discuss their mental state because they are scared. By talking about mental health openly, more people may be encouraged to seek professional help.
- That Friends Come And Go.
They say in life you can count your true friends on the one hand, which is certainly true for me. When I went through my awakening, the number of friends I shed was merely painful. I went through so much pain and drama when these people exited my life, and honestly, looking back, I don’t miss one of those people. They’re not for me, and I’m not for them. Some people are meant to be in our lives for a moment, a year, or even a lifetime. Let them do their job and release anyone who doesn’t add any value to your life.
- Shop local more.
It’s usually better quality, and you’re making someone’s dream come true, and you can’t put a price on that!
I’m alive, I’m happy, and I’m surrounded by incredible people who make my life genuinely unique; I’m grateful for all of my journey so far. I can’t wait to share even more memories with you over the coming years. I want to say thank you to you all for coming along on this journey with me. Happy 24th birthday to me!