22 Things I’ve Learned by 22

As of now, it is currently 12:52 in Paris, France. Thus, it’s officially my birthday and I’ve been feeling incredibly reflective these last few months. Being in Paris has made me come to terms with a lot of things, and thus I’ve been able to break down how much I’ve learned about myself and what I’ve experienced.

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  1. It’s important to be okay with learning. Instead of dropping difficulties and staying in my comfort zone, I should try to learn so that I eventually can know.
  2. You have to be independent. Being in Paris has made me realize that I’m far more resilient than I initially believed. The first two weeks that I was here, I was navigating a foreign country completely on my own, with very little knowledge of the language. With time I managed to assimilate and learn how to navigate the city by myself.
  3. A good education is a privilege. It’s unfortunate that receiving an education is a right, but it’s not necessarily equal in quality across the board. I found that I’m really lucky to have been able to attend the schools I have, and that I have two parents willing to push me to better myself, academically.
  4. Letting go is important. Letting go doesn’t mean absolving someone of the wrong they’ve done. Rather, it allows your own spirit to heal.
  5. Change is hard.  Struggling to accept the change doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is weak. It just means they need more time to adjust.
  6. Growing up isn’t always fun. Okay, yeah, I’m old enough to go to rated-R movies alone, and I can go to bars whenever I want without a fake ID. But I would give all of that up for afternoon naps, coloring for homework, and trips to the zoo. Gross men don’t beg you to let them buy you drinks in the butterfly house.
  7. She isn’t my competition. I’ve learned recently that the girls I envied for appearing to be perfect really didn’t feel perfect at all. Her success and beauty doesn’t mean that I’m any less successful or beautiful. Rather, we are two different women with two different types of success and beauty.
  8. Friends that stop you from being yourself aren’t your friends. I once had a friend in middle school who used to tell me that I spoke like a white girl. She also wrote a fake love letter and put it in my locker. We don’t talk anymore.
  9. Coming to terms with your sexuality is a constant thing. There are moments when I doubt myself and my sexuality, because I’m not always necessarily adhering to the textbook definition of bisexuality. Then I remember that it’s fluid.
  10. Divorce sucks. After your parents have been separated for over half of your lifetime, you see so many other people with happily married parents, and a part of you feels a bit bitter. You also wonder what life would’ve been like had your parents still been together into your adulthood.
  11. Seeing your parents date other people also sucks. According to my father, I was always highly suspicious of every woman he dated. I’ve learned over time that it’s a common thing for children of divorced parents to see every potential new girlfriend or boyfriend as undeserving. Eventually I learned to let that go. But I’m not sorry.
  12. Putting on a front is draining and not worth it. In seventh grade, I went through a phase where I would wear nothing but “urban fashion” (i.e. Baby Phat, Rocawear, Southpole, etc.).  I’d pretend to like rap music, and I’d pretend to know certain slang. It was my attempt to try and bond with my black peers more, because I felt like my real personality wasn’t black enough. That phase was quickly dropped, because I really, REALLY didn’t like Lil Wayne. Pretending to was unhealthy for me.
  13. Middle School Sucks. Pre-teens are assholes. It was possibly the most teasing I’d faced my entire life…though I was relatively lucky in the grand scheme of things.
  14. Just because someone seems nice doesn’t mean that they are. “I wouldn’t hurt a fly” is code for “I want you to believe that I’m a good person and not a shit head.”
  15. Depression is real, and it’s scary. Running on autopilot and not being able to remember blocks of time is a scary experience, and something that I never want to experience again. Managing my depression is imperative for my health and well-being.
  16. It’s important to ask for help. People aren’t always going to sense that something is wrong, so it’s important to speak up when you really need to. Independence is important, but not everything can be handled alone.
  17. “Being on track” is a myth. On College Signing Day, I was one of the only people among my group of friends that hadn’t been formally accepted to any colleges. I felt awful, like I’d fallen behind. I learned that my pace won’t always match everyone else’s and that’s okay.
  18. I need to accept when I’ve screwed up, and also NOT do it again. During my Freshman year of college, I screwed up really badly and ended up falling behind a full year behind all of my friends. It was due to my own laziness and inability to take things seriously.  I was lucky enough to receive a second chance to make things right, though most people probably wouldn’t have.
  19. The energy you put out is the energy you receive. If you act like you hate everyone and don’t want to be talked to, people won’t talk to you. It seems like common sense, but I often forget that my desire for solitude often comes off as aloof and cold. I also believe that I can be aloof and cold as a person.
  20. Black womanhood is a beautiful thing. The love and support that I received from other black women and being surrounded by women who faced the same struggles were main contributions to me learning to love myself. I’m proud to say that the black women in my life are the strongest people I know. Even though we have so many barriers in our path, I’m so proud to be a black woman.
  21. Love isn’t cinematic. When I finally realized that I loved someone, it didn’t really hit me the way I thought it would. I was thinking that it’d be a moment of realization with fireworks (mentally, of course) and fanfare. I thought it’d be a whirlwind thing that Rom-Com meet-cutes were made of. Instead it was very quiet. It sneaked up on me, and kind of just sat in my lap as if to say, “Hey…here I am.” And I knew it was love, because he was more than just someone I wanted romance with, he was also my best friend. If all was said and done, and we were just best friends, I think I would’ve been content. I knew it was love because we had absolutely nothing in common, but I was excited to actually try experiencing something I never would’ve (in this case obscure horror, for instance), simply because he seemed so enthusiastic about it. I know it was love, because if I ever experience something similar to what I did before, I think I’ll be very lucky.
  22. I am a complex person. I am multi-faceted and multi-layered. I’m more than my mental illness, my body, my sexuality, my brain, my talent. I’m more than what I can give to others and how I make others feel. I’m worthy of love, I’m worthy of joy. Every year I’m given will never stop being a blessing to me, and there are so many things that I’m so excited to experience.

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