my birthday approaches and I finish another lap around the sun, I gain a better understanding of the world and our place in it. Last year was my 21st birthday and I thought that that was the birthday that was going to officially mark my beginning of adulthood and peak introspection. However, it was not.

Instead, this year provided inexplicable hardship and loss that challenged me to evolve into a much healthier, honest person. In that way, my 21st birthday was my most special to date as it provided perspective on my own mortality and the sacredness of impact while we remain on Earth.

I would be remiss if I did not begin by extending gratitude to the people that both left my life and entered it. An important lesson 21 taught me is that the ending of a relationship and the loss of the importance of that person in your life, sometimes teaches us our most valuable lessons. I appreciate now more than ever the reality that because I know loss, I know value.

I hope that my reflection on my 22 years of life provide you with answers to questions you may have and acceptance to things you may resent.

In Every Way, Who You Are is Okay…

Self-love has been my most difficult battle. Along my journey through year 21 I slowly picked up on my internal misidentification. While I have always seen myself as reflective, often times I found myself a foreigner in my own domain.

So, then I thought, ‘maybe I just need to soul search and I will get myself more’. That took me down a path of a self-help book, podcast obsession — which slowly yielded a lot of baseless confidence. Unfortunately, the reality was that I knew myself all too well, but I did not accept myself and that was a limitation like no other.

21 taught me that running confuses things. Avoiding who you are — the good, the bad and the habitually unaccepted — will inevitably lead to a life that lacks purpose. The world is judgmental, whether we like it or not. And I have come to know, that the only people genuinely accepted are the ones that do not accept themselves at all. Essentially, by way of being who you are, you will absolutely rub someone… or multiple people the wrong way. And that is beautiful.

This year I learned that my insecurities are my beauty, regardless of who gets them. In fact, they are the only things in this entire world that I can call my own. The special part about life is that we all get to uncover who we are. We get complete jurisdiction over who we are to the world and how we operate in it. Of course, there is trauma, abuse, and other hardships that try to steer us away from our most honest identity. But I think that that is proof of the power and sacredness of who we are. The most beautiful, honest, and pure parts of life are torn down first. The same is true for our identity.

I am most grateful for internal acceptance and understanding. That is the start of all great things in the world. I hope that you are afforded the grace to be who you are. I hope that the sacredness of your soul’s identity is protected at all costs. Who we are is our greatest strength and our warmest comfort. I did not love myself at 21. But as I enter 22, I am clear about who I am and I am growing to love every bit of it.

Dreams are worth pursing…

This year I wondered what I was like when I exited the womb. Who was I before the world tainted my perception of things? 21 brought a lot of resentment into my life — towards myself and the people around me.

I resented myself because I looked in the mirror and around at my life and I had no idea who I had become or why I had become it. I resented the people around me because of the role they played in a world built on producing carbon copies of personalities. What I mean is, we come into the world so uniquely different and along the way we forge a collective identity. Much of it is survival, but it is annoying, nonetheless.

At 21 I was a square with a trend chasing personality disguised as confidence. I wanted to be different than I was but I had no idea who to be. I am thankful that this year has brought me closer to my dreams. I got out of my head and into my heart and the world became so much more enticing. Instead of existing to feed a capitalistic system that was neglecting me I took risks in service of what would make me happy.

It is worth noting that hustling and starving for you dreams is far more riveting than settling for a paycheck. Perhaps that is a privileged perspective, but if you have the chance to go for your dreams. Do it!

I firmly believe that the point of life is impact. And we are most impactful when we are filled up about what we are doing. It is not easy to take a risk and pursue something unpromising. But if you can do it anyway, it may pay off.

My grandma always told me “you can work for the man your whole life and never get rich, that’s how they keep you occupied”. She means that you become rich by investing in yourself and betting big on the cards you were dealt. Some will win, and some will lose. But you will never win if you cannot find the courage to play the game.

Not Everyone Can Come Along…

Attachment is a dangerous drug. In a way, attachment is inevitable until you recognize and acknowledge it. The problem with attachment is in the way it makes us blind to issues. Instead of having full clarity on non — negotiables, a habit of accepting mediocracy in service of hope for better becomes probable.

While I think people are redeemable, I know people are not malleable. Some people are not meant for your journey and that is okay. People are incredibly important in our lives, for the time in which they are meant to be there. Most of my relationships with families and friends that I no longer communicate with, hold my most fond memories.

This year, I parted ways with more people than I can count. Initially I thought that someone was at fault because of the lost relationship. Now, I know that to no fault of anyone, some relationships have an expiration date. Specific people come into your life at specific moments, to teach specific lessons.

The lessons I learned from the people no longer in my life, made me an adult. Challenge, struggle and loss force you to rise or fall. The best advice I can give to someone who is in an energy cleansing space is to rise in the face of loss. And to appreciate and focus on the moments you did have instead of the ones you may have lost.

Life Happens to You or For you…

“Life is short” is a cliché statement people make to encourage us to seize the moment. I think we all understand the time limitations we are constrained by, but the harder part is still maximizing that time.

I found myself merely existing at 21. I was moving without intention and that led to internal chaos. I have always been a hard worker, but by nature and not nurture. Working hard was routine more than it was productive. And that led to unhappiness. A lot of negativity enters your life when you do have a plan for your time and energy.

Life passes so many. These 22 years have flown by and thankfully, I have had fonder life changing experiences than many have in their whole life, for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, our younger half of our life is typically the most exciting because we literally have no responsibilities, in some cases.

As I got older, however, I realized that being a happy adult is hard. There is so much negativity, division, competition, and judgement around us and that overshadows the good in life too often. My life has been a privilege. But I hope that the routine of survival does not taint that in the future.

We should never lose our youth. Maturity should be a goal, but we should always allow our inner child a seat at the table. People tried to convince me that adulthood looks a certain way. That professionalism, investing and networking is all my adulthood could be, and that is such a sad perspective.

Subscribing to the status quo and norms of the adult world robs us of our life. I urge you to never let someone tell you what a “good” life is.

Tailor your life to what brings you peace and joy and you will remain in control.

Run your own race and create your own rules so that every birthday feels like a celebration. And every year feels better than the last.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou

Health, wellness, and spirituality enthusiast driven to make change through writing and advocating.

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