Lessons I Learned At 21 Years Old (Besides My Drinking Limit)

Turning 21 years old was what I called my golden year—it was the year I turned 21 on the 21st of January. It meant I could walk into a bar and, despite what my baby face may make the bouncers think, I could officially drink in the big leagues. Learning proper drinking etiquette was the only expectation I really had for this point in my life, which to be honest, I haven’t completely mastered just yet.

But let me tell you: Turning 21 was much more than the realization that whiskey is a frenemy.

I realized that despite being a part of what might be the most connected generation yet, I wasn’t allowing myself to connect with anyone at all.

One time I admitted to someone that I felt like all I could ever be with a guy is their side-chick, hook-up girl. I was convinced that’s all a guy would ever want from me, based off of my only dating experiences. (If you can even consider that dating.) I confided to this person about how I could not even imagine having a stable and consistent guy in my life besides my father. Since I’m accustomed to expecting nothing more out of the male population, taking care of myself became second nature to me.

In a way, I thought that my independence was something to be proud of. But the response I received in return was anything but something to take pride in. I was advised that I’m too scared to give any guy a fighting chance to really be with me and by admitting I couldn’t imagine a genuine relationship with a guy in my life, I was allowing that to be my fate.

I was scared of rejection.

Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to disconnect myself from such a connected generation. Somehow I have more than 2,000 Facebook friends and I can share the articles I publish online without a worry in the world, but to tell someone how I feel out loud was a concept I kept mute.

“No” was a word I didn’t know how to say or hear. I became so scared of the word because being the control freak I am, the idea of being caught off-guard in a moment of weakness was something I tried everything in my power to avoid. But if and when I would find myself in a candid moment, I handled it by not handling it at all. But the thing is, even the option of not handling a situation is still handling it, just in the worst way possible, which ironically was the one thing I thought I was preventing all along.

But I’m starting to learn that if we just did and said what we wanted, we might actually get what we want after all.

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I know that’s a seemingly obvious statement, but this might be the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my 21st year. I can apply this concept to everything from the reasons why I have family problems, to my pathetic excuse of a love life, to even the reason why I still haven’t gained the courage to sit down and write a single cover letter already.

It’s hard to put yourself out there when you do not know what may be reciprocated on the other side. Especially knowing nothing is guaranteed to us and no one owes us anything. But the one thing we can guarantee to ourselves is that we owe ourselves the world. Meanwhile, I was too busy hiding from it.

Until recently, I wholeheartedly believed I was putting myself out there, but there’s a major difference being present versus actually going out there and living your life.

Instead of searching and waiting for red flags in life, it’s time to grow up and live candidly. Yes that’s something that’s a little nerve-racking for me, but nothing good in life is ever handed to us, right?

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