Know Thyself: 20 Lessons From My Early 20s For You And Me
"Tell yourself the truth and be earnest with the people you encounter in this life."
"Can I see your I.D.?"
I roll my eyes internally, and sometimes outwardly, when asked that question.
"I am 25 going on 26, can't you tell!"
But this post isn't about how young looking I am on the outside, and how young acting I can be on the inside. It's about the important lessons I've learned in my early 20s, many I am still working on as I head toward my late 20s.
Here are 20 important lessons I’ve learned in my early 20s:
1. Some lessons are bigger than a person or the people involved. Give yourself time to heal from what makes us all human, but remember, the Universe/God uses people and situations to guide you. It is not right to hate or hold on to interpersonal anger. It is also not wrong to distance yourself from points of stress. But, let go of hate and let go of anger, and work to understand things outside of bodily experiences.
2. Keep your childhood and/or college friends, they are love and moments you will never forget, but don't be afraid to form one or two quality adult friendships with people who share your value/moral scale and who make you a priority.
3. Live honestly. Tell yourself the truth and be earnest with the people you encounter in this life.
4. You will make mistakes, maybe even some big ones. Forgive yourself. The people around you will make mistakes, maybe even some big ones. Forgive them. Secondly, pay attention to how people in your life react and treat you when you do make mistakes. From there, decide how to proceed with them. There are people out there who will want to use your mistakes to write a negative narrative. There are people out there who will not forgive your mistakes. There are people out there who may never want to forgive you. Learn to be OK with that. Life is so much more than the mistakes we make, and that old saying about learning from them applies.
5. Set professional boundaries for yourself and don't let anyone guilt you for it. At this stage in life, you are probably working to fulfill someone else's dreams; you have dreams too — learn to leave work at work; log off your work email when you're home; come up with a way to decompress before you get home; demand better pay; speak up for yourself when you're treated like shit; bring down the patriarchy and white feminism!! — sorry, got carried away. Anyway, I'm not trying to get anyone fired out here, so do this responsibly.
6. Therapy! Growing up in a Haitian household, I learned that no one deserves to know my family's business. As much as I think discretion has a place, it's not to be used when sitting on someone's couch who you are paying to help you heal. Therapy can be expensive, and depending on your health plan, it might not be feasible. In that case, find someone who you trust to be honest with you to speak with on a regular basis. Maybe it's your favorite aunt who you call on the drive home from work. Maybe it's your mama. Maybe it's boyfriend number two who knows how to drop that philosophical knowledge.
7. Know thyself (Delphi Ruins). I'll share a short anecdote for this one. Someone once told me that I have no concept of privacy. It was a way for them to bully me in a conversation where that statement was unnecessary, but I wasn't hurt because I know myself. I hold very few things private, purposely. The things I keep private usually have to do with other people's business, but I generally feel comfortable openly sharing of myself. If I had not known myself enough to be comfortable with that truth, it could have made an already painful week in my life even more painful, but it did not because I know myself, and that is a part of myself that I am comfortable with. In knowing yourself, it is important to accept that not everyone will love all aspects of who you are. That's OK.
8. Choose love over loyalty. I learned this early in my 20s, and it's an easier lesson for me, because I am a natural critic. You will learn that human beings crave allegiance. We want loyalty, but loyalty can be dangerous. Hold close people who aren't here to blindly support you, but will be honest with you because they love you. Hold close people who will disagree with you, but lovingly. Hold close people who know your faults, but who will not belittle you.
9. Educate yourself. You don't know everything — no one does — so remain open to learning. I'm not only talking about classroom learning.
10. Have a financial plan. My cat is sitting on her perch laughing at me as I write this rule because she sees me stressing about finances at least twice a month when I do a version of budgeting that ain't really budgeting. In all seriousness, this lesson is my greatest challenge, but I am doing number 9 to help me get to a place where I have a solid financial plan.
11. Learn a few legal things. Not every contract or agreement put in front of you is legit. Know the difference, and if you don't, rely on friends who do to help guide you.
12. Don't settle for sub-par sex. Sex should be like eating ice cream. There are so many flavors, colors, tastes, cone sizes, textures — ice cream purists, don't debate me on this. I like my ice cream melting soft. It's a thing. This lesson is especially important for women because sex positivity is not encouraged in our culture. Anyway, you don't have to settle for a lame who don't know how to get in the mane. And a secondary lesson, it doesn't matter if the sex is heavenly if they treat you like crap. You are a freakin' gawd! Don't be out here with sub-humans who don't know how to return texts or calls. Thirdly, don't be a crazy person and out here sending six paragraph text messages cuz the ice cream put you in coma. You gon' be alright!
13. Some people are assholes; you don't have to be an asshole, so don't be an asshole. And if you ever are an asshole, own it and apologize.
14. You might not save the world, but you can change it. This TED talk says it all. (You better come back and finish reading this whole dag-on post!)
15. Failing does not make you a failure, it makes you a scientist! Not exactly, but failing is not the end. When you fail, you learn. Remember that time when the hip-pop, rapping group Girls Time didn't win that boring ass show? 25 or so years later, we got Beychella. I use this analogy because it's important to Beyoncé between the failures. Yes, I used Beyonce as a verb! Don't sit here and gloat when you fail, figure out what led to the failure and determine how you can be better then repeat as many times necessary.
16. Learn to be silent. I talk a lot so this is especially for the talkers: learn to be silent. You might not be right about everything you think you are right about, so be silent and observe every once in awhile. Of course, don't use this lesson at the expense of using your voice or if it makes you feel small to be silent.
17. Be. Be you,
the truest version of you
Filters are meant for Instagram,
not the sound of your beautiful heartbeat
You are a marching band,
when your feet hit the ground pavement waves
Find your rhythm,
through the smiles and tears there's a truth
It is you.
18. Support your friends and colleagues. It's great to love Beyoncé and attend every single show, but it's also great to support your friend with the budding poetry, art, music, interior design or travel career.
19. Take care of your health. Diabetes and high cholesterol run in my family, so I am taking better care of my health. As much as I would love to look like Teyana Taylor, I'm cool with my extra booty and stretch marks, as long as I am living a healthier life. Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself. For me, this meant picking up an informational booklet on diabetes and cooking foods that combat the onset. It also means walking or jogging a couple times a week and doing weird little blood flow exercises in my apartment. I use to be so hardcore with my insanity and extreme fitness exercises, so I constantly need to remind myself to not set crazy expectations because it's discouraging for me. Refer to number 7: know yourself enough to know what works for you.
20. Be love, be peace, be whatever the heck you want to be!