Essays

22 lessons I learned as a 22-year-old

I don’t know about you, but I’m no longer feeling 22. That’s right folks, yesterday I turned 23 and the Taylor Swift song no longer applies. I’m a whole year older – and yeah, I actually do think I’m a bit wiser.

I’ve been through a lot of change since my 22nd birthday. First permanent job, first adult flat, first time paying rent, first time grieving. I see things so much more clearly now – not just because I had laser eye surgery, but also because I’ve learned more life lessons as a 22-year-old – like, the actual important stuff – than I did in the whole of high school.

I’ve gained this wisdom from the inspiring people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, the mistakes I’ve made, but also – in the words of Kylie Jenner – this year I just realised things.

And seeing as I’m now a wise old owl, I’m sharing the advice I’ve picked up along the way in the hopes that you might learn things and realise stuff too.

  1. People respond surprisingly well when you show that you’ve considered their feelings. Even if you don’t understand why you’re in the wrong, just say sorry for hurting them in the first place. Really, that’s all anyone’s after – people just want to feel acknowledged and listened to.
  2. Apply concealer before your foundation. Once you’ve covered any blemishes, you’ll put far less foundation on, and your skin will really thank you for it.
  3. Stop thinking every small failure or mistake is the end of the world. Whenever something like that happens, think to yourself ‘will this matter a year from now’? Generally, the answer is no, absolutely not.
  4. Cooking really isn’t that hard. All you need is a fully-stocked cupboard of dried herbs and spices, and you can make almost anything delicious and interesting. And, once you’ve mastered a few recipes, you can adapt them in different ways and realise you actually have LOADS you’re good at making. The best ingredients I discovered this year are parsley and paprika (to coat chicken or potatoes), chicken stock cubes (to dissolve in rice to make it more flavoursome), tinned tomatoes (to make easy baked risottos), garlic granules (to coat veggies with and basically chuck on everything, sometimes alongside fresh garlic too). You’ll be Nigella in no time.
  5. You can make any short skirt look reasonably acceptable with black tights, boots and a roll-neck. And buy the tights and roll-necks from Primark – you’d honestly never know the difference.
  6. Never wait for life to hand things to you – if you want them, go out and grab them. Luck and timing are all well and good, but when you talk to successful people you’ll find that they created that success with so much intention. They made conscious moves to get to where they are – so be prepared to stand up and make those moves.
  7. See the romance in your friendships – invest in them, put the effort in, nurture them. Treat them with as much care and attention as you would a boyfriend, because realistically, they’re more likely to be there in 10 years time.
  8. If you love someone, film them all the time, even if it seems weird. When my Grandma died, I kept replaying two videos of her I had on my phone. One is of her excitedly buying plants in her local garden centre, excitedly exclaiming ‘I’m living life on the edge!!’ Although I know I have so many more memories to choose from when I want to think of her, I wish I had more footage because it’s so comforting to hear her voice.
  9. Remember that life is a journey, and even though you’re itching to get to your destination, you’ve got to relax and enjoy the ride otherwise you’ll drive yourself completely insane. It’s fine to have goals, but allow yourself to have fun and enjoy life before you get there.
  10. Living with your partner isn’t easy. They’ll annoy you in all sorts of ways they never did before – like the way they yawn SO loudly in the morning, or the fact they never ever wipe behind the toaster when it’s their turn to clean the kitchen. But remember that everyone is flawed – you are too. Heck, you probably drive them round the bend when you leave your tupperware lunches for days before washing them up. Just remember that household habits aren’t the key to love, and you can get past them with a little patience and a lot of kisses.
  11. Never kick a snoring man. It might seem like a good idea at the time when you’re fed up and want to sleep, but initiating a 1am argument is wholly counterproductive.
  12. Don’t get bogged down by all the healthy eating trends – your body will tell you what it needs. If you feel groggy, gross or you want to lose weight, that’s your body telling you to eat more salad and veggies. Don’t let people pressure you to eat pizza if it makes you feel stodgy – listen to what your body needs. Similarly, if you’re hungover and you’re really craving a bacon sandwich, do that too. Everyone’s idea of ‘healthy’ is different, and as long as you feel good, there’s no need to feel guilty about it.
  13. Networking doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. It’s basically just being friendly, and connecting to someone on a human level, which may or may not end up boosting your career.
  14. Be a champion of other women, and they will be champions of you. Bitchyness is a vicious cycle perpetuated by a culture that pits women against each other – if someone’s bitchy to you, you will be bitchy right back, and probably to someone else too. But it’s surprisingly easy to break. Tell a woman you love her skirt, or the article she wrote, or tell her you’re proud of her, and guaranteed that warm fuzzy feeling of support will bounce right back to you. The sisterhood is pretty great, so make the most of it.
  15. If something goes wrong when building an IKEA flatpack, never blame the instructions – it’s always you. There’s nothing like building an IKEA wardrobe to take an arrogant man down a few pegs.
  16. Vitamins are no lie. We put so many toxins in our body – alcohol, pollution, drugs – so we need to give our livers a little helping hand to flush all that bad stuff out. Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Magnesium are really important.
  17. Don’t expect too much from people. They will bail on you, tell you white lies and occasionally let you down. That doesn’t mean they’re fundamentally bad people, though – people are allowed to be flawed and mess up. That said, if someone is constantly letting you down, have the courage to let them go.
  18. It’s really okay to not be in the loop all the time – whether that’s the news, or what your friends are up to on Instagram – if it makes you feel better. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss (but maybe set up BBC News alerts so if something really big happens, you’ll know).
  19. Medicating headaches too frequently actually does make them worse. I always imagine that the headache is simply someone knocking me on the head to say ‘helloooo, you need something’. Maybe it’s a nap, some sugar or perhaps some me-time to destress, rather than a paracetamol. Again, it’s all about listening to your body – we really don’t do it enough.
  20. Change your bedsheets fortnightly. Any more frequently will feel like your life is an endless cycle of laundry, and any less will make the whole room smell. Believe me, it’s not worth it.
  21. Don’t use wipes to take your makeup off. All it does is cover your face with more chemicals, and you have to rub your face so aggressively that it stings. Investing in a good face wash will make all the difference, but if you’re really drunk and just want to crawl into bed, some micellar water on a cotton pad will do.
  22. When you’re worrying that you’re not good enough or that you’re lagging behind, imagine telling your 14-year-old self about your life now. If they could see all the cool parties you go to, the amazing friends you have and the trips you take, they’d probably think you’re the absolute best. It really helps to put everything into perspective.

4 thoughts on “22 lessons I learned as a 22-year-old

  1. So many good points here! Could not be more true with the Primark comment, you can never go wrong with getting extra tops from there haha. Your last one is my favourite, if everyone actually thought about how their younger selves would look at their lives now they would hopefully be a lot easier on themselves! xxx

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  2. L O V E this. so much. it’s full of things every 22 year old needs to constantly hear (myself included). please go check out my most recent blog post, it’s very similar in nature and i think you’d enjoy it. 🙂

    Like

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