What I’ve Learned in 21 Years

15 April 2021

By Lauren E. White

In case the headline isn’t clear, let’s just say it: I’m 21 today. That’s 7,665 days, or 183,960 hours, alive on this random planet in the Milky Way. When you put it like that, 21 years seemingly doesn’t equate to much at all. But, as every person who has lived to this point will testify: 21 years is actually a lot, especially in terms of learning. That’s why I’ve decided to write today, actually: to share everything important I’ve learned in my 21 years.

Obviously learning to read and write have been pretty useful, but I am talking today about the life lessons I have learned so far. Sharing them might make some readers, when they turn 21, recall this article and realise it did have a point, they just didn’t realise at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – and that’s a lesson in itself, actually.

Nobody cares about how you look


Shocker: as a teenage girl in the age of social media, I was so concerned about how I looked.

Once you get older and leave GCSEs behind, you realise that nobody’s looking at you when you walk into a room. Nobody’s bothered about whether you put eyeliner on, or whether your skin is a bit too oily.

Generally, people are so concerned about how they look that they haven’t got a minute to spare thinking about how you look. So, you do you. Dress how you want, do your hair how you want, the lot.

Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose


I am a sceptic by nature but I think this serves you well in life when it comes to trust. Unfortunately, that trust is something easily lost is a lesson we learn the hard way, but we learn nonetheless. You can spend months – years, even – building up trust with someone, but it can be shattered in a matter of seconds.

It’s a sad fact of life, really, but the best thing you can do is to understand this fact and always try to honour the trust others place in you. It doesn’t mean you have to be everything to someone, but a basic bit of respect and loyalty can never go amiss.

This too shall pass


One of the favourite lessons I have learned in these 21 years of existence is that everything passes. This includes the good, but it also – and very importantly – includes the bad. The first time something terrible happens to you is when you begin to wonder if you’ll ever survive it. Spoiler alert: you do, and you’ll continue to make it through whatever else life throws in your way.

After a few terrible things (yeah, they happen multiple times), you realise that you just have to go through the motions. Let your feelings wash over you like you’re just sand on a beach. Feel them, observe them, and then start making progress. Everything passes with time and reflection.

Hold on to your friends


Sometimes you think that you’ve made great new friends and everything’s hunky dory. But you come to realise that, often, those who have been there from the start are the rarest diamonds.

Those friends who make you feel good about yourself, who hold you when you’re crying on the bathroom floor, who sing at the top of their voices with you, and who you love unconditionally? Hold on to them.

Friends are some of the most meaningful parts of life, and you should never forget that. People will come and go (even if you think they won’t), but true friends will last a lifetime.

You can’t be right all the time


Admitting this is still a hard pill to swallow, let me tell you. So, I’ll admit it: I haven’t always been right in the past 21 years. Turns out we all make mistakes. We all misjudge situations, each other, and actions. But it is not the mistakes that define us as people – it’s how we respond to them; how we learn from them, that truly matters.

Fortunately, just as I can’t be right all the time, neither can anyone else. Life, up to the age of 21, has been all about figuring out who you are, what you want, where you want to be. How can everyone be expected to act completely perfectly at all times? They can’t. So, act with a bit of compassion for those who have good intentions but who, along the way, made some regrettable judgements. We are all human.

Recommended Reading: The Important Lesson I Learned This Year

Be yourself – always and unapologetically


People pleasing is a disease and we have all been infected with it at some point. Lesson learned is to always be yourself. You’ll know when you’re not being true to who you are because you will feel uncomfortable, and one day you’ll look back and wonder what you were actually doing before realising it did not serve you in any way.

Like what you like, love who you love, be who you are, and think your own thoughts. Life is far too short to be wasted on trying to fit into other people’s hopes for who you are and what you can be.

All you can truly be is yourself, and people will both like and dislike that in equal measure. The most important thing is that you like who you are, and are proud of the life you lead.

Like this article? Please share!