Lessons I Hope to (Finally) Learn This Year

Earlier this week, I turned 23.

While rarely noted among the great birthdays of one’s life, I anticipated this age change for much of my twenty-second year, which proved to be a period of uncomfortable adjustments and, at times, loneliness.

23 is meant to be my breath of fresh air, begun with a summer of writing and travel and concluded with graduate school graduation and entry into the “real” world. But, after a few days spent worrying over the staying power of this clean slate, I decided to map out a bit of what I hope to see happen over the course of these four seasons, in order to better hold myself accountable to a vision of achievement and self-acceptance.

Morning should begin before 10 a.m.

Bold start, I know, but I think I am ready to say goodbye to the snooze button in favor of morning writing sessions next to a big cup of coffee. Actually, it isn’t even the production of poems or blog posts that my morning hours yearn for, but really just meaningful time spent engaging with world news or works of fiction. I want to start my day with great writing, instead of a rushed shower and last-minute reading assignments.

Your own free time is your own business.

It is embarrassing for me to admit to the amount of time I spend on People.com or perusing inspirational quotes with the help of Pinterest, but I hope to use this year to tackle the self-criticism that plagues these moments of indulgence. The Ivy League environment can make it seem as if we are all supposed to be debating St. Augustine or learning Latin on our free afternoons, but I need to stand up for the part of myself that rejoices in Laguna Beach marathons.

No one regrets becoming a good cook.

In the midst of the seemingly endless criticism leveled against American eating habits, not one voice decries the benefits of knowing your way around the kitchen. I have made huge strides this past year, but I think the owner of Panera himself would blush at the bill I rang up over finals week. I am continually amazed by how much can be accomplished simply by following a recipe. Farmer’s Market here I come!

(Similarly) Time spent exercising is never wasted

I have been battling the laziness bug within myself for most of my 23 years, but I hope to use my incredibly flexible summer schedule to go forth into the world to climb things, run circles around my neighborhood and show that upper-arm flab who’s boss. Exercise keeps the mind sharp, the body fit and the whole self feeling like a bad ass.

Real living is not a performance art.

While I would defend Facebook and Twitter any day, I will admit that constantly sharing my adventures in the social media world has had harmful effects. The Internet is one big highlight reel of other people’s greatest accomplishments, and I often find myself struggling to realistically cope with personal moments of failure. We are all much more than the sum of our “About Me” sections, and I hope that this year I continue to understand how utterly okay it is to be confused about the path of my own life.

Remember the lengths to which others have gone to show their love for you and believe that you deserve it.

The most frustrating aspect of this past year was how easy it was to get out of sorts with myself. In the midst of academic stress and homesickness, I lost track of the self-love that carried me successfully through four years at Iowa. What I most want for myself in these next 51 weeks is to remember the grandparents, the mom, the dad, the brother and the countless friends who have sustained me for over two decades and believed in me far more than I have ever believed in myself. It is never a matter of deserving when it comes to love, but of accepting and living into.

Be YOU on a big scale.

In this mess that psychologists call “emerging adulthood,” I need to accept the uncertain nature of the next 5 to 7 years. If I were to illustrate my inner voice over the past twelve months, it would be a person walking on tiptoe so as not to disturb the lives co-mingling with her own. I want to start stomping. I want to demand of myself the kind of living befitting all the blessings that I receive each day. I want 23 to be my year of boldness.

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One comment

  1. […] been six months since I laid out plans for my twenty-third year. 182 days have brought me closer to a place of peace than I thought […]

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