Blogmas Day 22 | 22 Things I’ve Learned by 22

J.Crew top, J.Crew pants (old), J.Crew headband, Kate Spade bag, Cole Haan shoes

I’m 22! The past year of my life has been both extremely devastating and full of joy and I’m still trying to understand how each can coexist. I struggled through my first deep spell of depression in the spring, but saw the most rewarding volunteer work of my life in the summer. I found my voice in poetry and expressed the devastation I felt over every publicized case of police brutality and execution over the year. I’m still coming to terms with how I allow myself to feel happy during moments of anguish and how to care for myself mentally in those times. 21 was painful and exciting and heartbreaking and hopeful and I can only hope that my 22nd year brings even more growth and love. I learned a lot about myself through the loud and soft moments of 21, so I hope you enjoy reading each lesson.

  1. Children may not be the very worst. Okay so this is my most confusing epiphany of the year as I worked with elementary schoolers over the summer and with babies and toddlers during the fall. One of the main parts of my identity has always been my hostility/disgust toward tiny humans and now that I may like them, my mental state is in haywire. I’ve even stopped glaring at them in public spaces and sometimes I even smile or WAVE at their faces. Who have I become??? (The last time I went to my mom’s class, the children formed a hug circle around me and I didn’t even hate it. I am just lost.)
  2. Poetry is the first place I turn to for healing. My creative writing poetry class last semester was the best class I’ve ever taken in college. I began enjoying poetry during my senior year of high school but I never thought I could ever write in a similar way as my favorite poets. This year however, I truly found my voice and spoke poems into existence with ease. I’ve even thought of writing a chapbook someday, which I never thought I could do! I’m so grateful that poetry exists and I can’t wait to write more in the next year.
  3. Staying soft and compassionate and emotional is the best form of resistance. The past year of brutal news about unjust incarcerations, police brutality, executions, sexual assaults, the stripping of women’s rights, and violence toward innocent immigrants has forced me into a really dark space most days. I often want to harden my heart so maybe every tragedy wouldn’t affect me so much, but I realized that my empathy and my softness is my strength. Instead of becoming immune to other people’s suffering, I will use my anger to fuel my fight for awareness and justice.
  4. Treasure the family and friends who are there in every moment. I had many personal issues over the past year and my family and best friends were there for me every step of the way. Whether they were there to FaceTime me whenever I needed to talk or taking me out to lunch, I’m thankful that I have many groups of lifelong companions who care about me in every season of my life.
  5. Independence is beautiful. I ended a relationship that was present in my 21st year and I rediscovered the magic of being alone. I’m not saying that I never get lonely, but I had more time to spend doing what I love and not worrying about someone else. I wrote poems, went out more with my friends, took trips, and earned the best GPA of my college career after becoming single again and I treasured every minute of it.
  6. You can’t win every battle. After the Tr*mp election, I wanted so desperately for progressives (democratic socialists specifically) or Democrats to win every election down the ballot in the primaries and I was disappointed to see bigots like Ted Cruz, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Brian Kemp stay in political office. However, I had to learn to embrace the victories of my heroes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lucy McBath, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley instead of only focusing on other political candidates’ defeats.
  7. Don’t settle for anything less than Elio and Oliver love. Oh my god I’m still obsessed with Call Me By Your Name. I know, it’s been over a year now, but come on. The book and the movie tell the most romantic story I’ve ever read. I’ve vowed to never ever settle for love unless it’s of equal romance and respect and adoration as the connection Elio and Oliver shared. I would rather just be alone if I can’t have what they have!
  8. Take care of your body just as you would your mind. Because I am the fattest I’ve ever been, I bought a membership to Planet Fitness with my friend Rachel and we went to the gym around three times a week. Although I dread actually going to work out, when we’re lifting weights and running, I actually enjoy it! I’ve had to learn to prioritize my physical health as much as I do my mental health. Hopefully I can get rid of my cookie pouch and excess arm fat soon!
  9. Pursue your dreams even if they seem insurmountable. I recently decided that law school is my direction of choice so that I have a greater opportunity to directly help victims of police brutality and the criminal justice system. Even though my grades are definitely not fabulous and I’m not the best student, I believe that I will make it to law school at least before I’m 30!
  10. Do not allow other people to make you feel small. Because of my new career direction, I’ve had strange reactions every time I tell someone what I want to do with my life. People don’t understand why I care so much for incarcerated people and those on death row because they don’t see them the way I do. Most of the time when someone asks me what I want to do and I explain my path, they react with confusion or tell me that I should do something else, which has made me uncomfortable and stop explaining my passions. I’ve recently learned that my heart and my passions matter and I should never let anyone make me feel otherwise.
  11. You don’t have to find middle ground with people who don’t see your humanity. Since Tr*mp was put in the White House, people all over the country have argued for seeing “the other side” and remaining close to people who have different political beliefs. I do not agree with this argument. I don’t believe that I, and people like me, should ever have to fight for people to see us as human beings. I don’t believe that LGBTQ+ people should befriend homophobic people. I don’t believe that Black and Brown people should have to find “peace” with people who want to kill them. I don’t believe that immigrants should have to seek a middle ground with people who refer to them as “ill*gals” and refuse to empathize with their struggle to get to America. I don’t believe that women should embrace men (or other women) who try to keep us from bodily autonomy. You don’t have to do anything for people who don’t accept or love or respect you for exactly who you are.
  12. Embrace every ‘last’ in college. My time at Baylor has flown by and although I haven’t loved every moment of college, I’m trying to attend every event, game, and take advantage of every opportunity that Baylor has to offer.
  13. Ending toxic relationships or friendships is beneficial to mental health. Learning that I don’t have to keep people in my life who are bad for me completely changed the direction of my year. Just because someone has been a friend of mine for a while doesn’t mean that their presence is necessary for my growth.
  14. Stand up for yourself (even if you cry during!). At the beginning of the school year, I had to talk with an authority figure about concerns and frustrations that had built up over the past few years. I didn’t want to discuss any of my issues with him because I knew I would cry and I was afraid that he wouldn’t take me seriously if I showed an ounce of emotion. However, I decided to have the talk (and I cried obviously) and I felt wonderful after because I knew that even if nothing changed, at least I stood up for myself and what I believed in.
  15. Cooking meals at home saves a TON of money. I spent way too much money last year on Chick-fil-A, Mama Fu’s, and other delicious ready made meals, so I made it a priority to cook my own dinners as much as possible this year. I made about four large meals a week and saved at least $75 a month from cooking at home! That’s not to say that I don’t eat out anymore, but I would rather save my money for a rare meal outside of the house so I can actually appreciate it more!
  16. Don’t party/drink/club if you don’t want to. I made the mistake of going to clubs with my friends twice over the summer and I hated it both times! My social anxiety peaks when I’m surrounded by strangers and annoying music, so I just need to stay home the next time they ask me to go with them. I would much rather be lying in bed or going to dinner with a friend than out in environments that make me uncomfortable.
  17. Make memories even if it means staying out late. Sometimes I said no to times with my friends because I wanted to get more sleep at night or take a nap, but I’ve found that sleep isn’t worth the memories I would have made otherwise.
  18. Forming close relationships with professors is important. I became incredibly close with two of my professors over the past year and I know their feedback for my work will be beneficial in the long run. I love going to their office hours and discussing both my classwork and my future plans because I know they’ll support me along the way.
  19. Make a home of where you are. I didn’t start decorating my apartment the way I wanted to until the beginning of this year after I added lights, picture frames, and furniture that matched my personality. I always viewed my apartment as a place I live, but not necessarily my home and now that I’ve focused on making it warm and inviting, I love being there as much as I can.
  20. Not every conflict is worthy of a fight. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to pick and choose my battles (my mom’s favorite saying!). Just because I have a disagreement with someone doesn’t mean that I have to go all in with my cat claws and planned arguments and factual evidence. Sometimes it’s okay to let the conflict subside and not let it drag me down as much as it could.
  21. Don’t forget about the cases that affected you. I’ve written too many posts about Black and Brown men and women whose lives were taken this year by either police or states through execution practices. These cases emotionally wrecked me when I researched and wrote about them and because they continue to pile up and time moves on, I’ve felt guilty for not always remembering the names and faces that were lost. I’m trying to remember that each person was loved and treasured and deserved more than what was done to them. I don’t ever want to let their legacies dissolve so I will continue fighting myself for their permanent spots in my heart.
  22. Forgiveness brings restoration. Forgiveness is one of the hardest gifts to give and it’s almost always undeserved. However, once you give that grace and mercy away, your heart can open to more love and compassion.