I am trying to get used to this new jacket I was given today: the year of 23. It seems a little big and roomy and it is not one that I have quickly clung to like I did the year of 22. The year of 22 was a sparkly coat, fun and exciting with some swanky slacks to pair with it. Perhaps 22 was portrayed to be the “cool year” and Taylor Swift is to blame for it; my former 21 year old self quickly embraced the twin digit number with open arms. But 23? 23 seems grown up, serious, has all its ducks in a row. It is black and business like, has no room for nonsense. But here I am and my figurative ducks are not even all here and the few that are don’t quite know the importance of staying in line. Ready or not, life decided that today would be the day I don my year of 23 jacket so I must wear it. And with time, I will get used to it. At some point, replying with “23” when my age is asked will not feel weird as this number leaves my lips. And if I am lucky, maybe I will get over the strangeness of calling myself a woman when “girl” is just as awkward. Or maybe, I will find out that there is no “a-ha, I have arrived” moment in womanhood. Perhaps it is something that does not hit you until you have lived it for several years. I could continue blabbering on about this number 23. But before I get too carried away with my introspection on this past year, I figured this would be a great opportunity to share with you 23 lessons I learned in the past 23 years that stick out most to me.
1. Your value does not have to be recognized by someone else in order for it to be valid. If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, it does make a sound.
2. To my fellow immigrants of color in Western countries: some people will wonder why you have the audacity speak up against the injustice you face or witness. They will want you to shut up because “you’re lucky to even be here.” They think silence is gratitude. If you feel compelled to, speak up anyway.
3. Dancing alone is always a good time. Music is optional.
4. Try to write every day. In a journal. In a blog post. In a blog post draft that never sees the light of day. On a napkin. With a cat. In a hat. With green eggs and ham. Literally anywhere. It only matters that you write something.
5. Your wholeness does not begin at “I’m in love with you.” Society lied to you when it said “you complete me” is a thing. People can add to you, but can never complete you. You are wholly human all on your own.
6. Perfection is overrated. Once perfection is reached, it’s over. There is no journey. There is no room for growth. Just a wall to hit and a smile to go with it because you reached it.
7. Try, as much as you can, to build gates at the entrance of your emotions. You may lose its lock and key at times and someone who is not authorized to enter may find their way in. But try your best to keep it in your possession.
8. To all those who are currently bae-less: your singleness is not a disease. If Adele helps to make you feel deeply and makes you want to reflect on your relationship status, by all means let her. But after you have put her album on repeat and have sprinkled your bedroom floor with all of the tissues you bought from aisle 9, remember that your singleness does not make you a human being with an illness.
9. You do not owe anyone teachable moments. At all. Sure, there are some life experiences you have that others don’t and some people would like free lectures from you. If you are up for it, go ahead. If you would rather not, you are not obligated to. They are not entitled to have access to you.
10. Emotional intelligence is so incredibly underrated in adulthood. They lied to you when they said it is all about book smarts. If you are naturally in tune with others’ emotions without trying, you have a gift that cannot be appreciated enough. Cling to it.
11. One of the differences between undergrad and the post-graduate life is who writes the syllabi. In undergrad, it’s the professor. After you are done with school, it’s you.
12. You can hustle all you want but if there is no larger purpose that reverberates within your bones, it is a waste of time.
13. Not everyone is not going to understand your vision. And that is completely okay.
14. People say if you relentlessly chase what sets your heart on fire, your destiny will return the favor. But sometimes, your purpose will fall right into your lap unexpectedly. Either way, it will find its way to you.
15. Yes, women should be put in their place. I wholeheartedly believe this. After all, it is the woman herself that determines where that place is, not you.
16. Do not allow others’ unauthorized commentary doubt your gut. It has served you well for many, many years. No use questioning it now.
17. When in doubt, remember your why.
18. Your year does not have to end with a bang in order for it to be worth reflecting on.
19. There is an under-appreciated profoundness in clichés. For instance, “it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that count?” That is some truth, man.
20. Don’t fret about the people who have wronged you. They often make excellent writing material. 😉
21. Some people will mistake your self-preservation for weakness. Little do they know that you value being at peace over being right. They don’t realize that your wellness is more important than your ego.
22. Writing about injustice is an act of self-care. Not writing about injustice is an act of self-care. It is all about knowing when it is beneficial for you. The difference is in the timing.
23. Do not let the harshness of this cold world snuff out your fire. You contain the little light that is left on this planet. Treasure it. And from me to you, I am so glad that people like you are still here.