Lessons For My 21-Year-Old Self

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Left: 21-year-old Val enjoying a cup of gelato in Rome. Right: 28-year-old Val at an MBA brunch.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through some of my older blog posts. For those of you who are new here, I actually joined the blogosphere in 2010 as a freshman at UCF, with my blog’s focus more heavily geared toward relationships and college advice. It has been fun to look back at my earlier posts and think about where I was at that particular stage in my life and what was important to me.

One of my favorite posts I came across was a list of lessons I wrote to my 16-year-old self, courtesy of my 21-year-old selfIt feels like a lifetime agoand yet, I can remember vividly who I was dating, which friends I spent the most time with, what my struggles were, and where I hoped I would be someday. A lot has changed in the past 7 years — I’ve graduated with my BA and my MBA, I’ve been working in community engagement for several years, I’ve gone from hosting theme parties in the dorms to hosting baby showers, and the list goes on. Because of all the changes that life inevitably brings, I’ve decided to revisit my old post with some lessons to my 21-year-old self from my now 28-year-old self.

  1. You won’t completely forget the one that got away, but you’ll look back on the relationship with fresh eyes.
    At 21, you knew that your high school crush was ancient history, but the guy you fell for in college? That’s another story. You’ll be heartbroken when the relationship inevitably ends, and rightfully so — he was your first real love. You’ll also find yourself in some not-so-sunny relationships in your twenties, and start to look back at that college relationship through rose-colored glasses. But with time comes perspective, and you’ll start to remember the cracks in the foundation: the arguments you had, the tattoos you hated, the fundamental differences that pulled you apart. And then, something miraculous will happen: you’ll realize that you were, in fact, the one that got away.
  2. Making friends as an adult is a lot harder than it is as a college student.
    Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends for life (or at least until age 28 — jury is out on what happens next!). However, as everyone parts ways for graduate school, career moves, and relationships all across the country, those friendships will require a lot more TLC. Be open to meeting new people and exploring new friendships, which will be harder as an “adult” but still important for maintaining your sanity and quality of life. Talk to people you meet at work functions, go to places and events that interest you, and continue to be authentically yourself.
  3. Social media will stick around longer than you think.
    You may now split your time between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the occasional Snapchat, but your pictures will survive online for a lot longer than you realized at 21. Now, you’ll not only laugh at what you wore or how you styled your hair, but even more so at what you posted and how you captioned it. Embrace this and be kind to your younger self — college was a weird time. 🙂
  4. You still don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up.
    Don’t pigeonhole yourself. There are jobs that exist that you aren’t even aware of right now, so it’s important to keep learning, be open, and build your relationships. You’ll grow into whatever you end up doing, so my best advice is to say yes to the things that interest you, challenge you, and scare you, as long as they fit within your values. Learn to say no when you need to, and set boundaries when the situation arises.
  5. You won’t fit every expectation you had for yourself at 16, at 21, or at 25.
    At 28, my life is not what I pictured in high school or college. It has evolved in ways I never expected, and that’s great! As a college student, I never imagined that I would be invited to public speaking engagements, attend blogger events, or do half of the cool things I get to do today. Life will always be full of surprises. Embrace the unpredictable and keep saying yes to the things you love.

What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

It’s crazy to believe that it has been a little more than half a year since I graduated from college! It feels like just yesterday I was ordering a cap and gown and finishing up my last few senior projects for the year. About a week before walking across the stage, I accepted a position in my dream job, and looked forward to beginning anew.

Six months later, I am finally adjusting to working full-time and living on a different end of town. As I settle into “adulthood,” I am still in love with my work and apartment, but I have also learned a lot since the day I turned my tassel and accepted my diploma.

This week, I will reflect on some of the lessons I have learned in the past six months. Feel free to add your own post-grad lessons in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

1. Not everyone will like you.
It’s harsh, but it’s true. No matter how sparkling your personality is, how hardworking you are or how well you match your accessories to your outfits, you won’t win the heart of every single person you encounter. As someone who cares admittedly too much about what others think, this was an especially difficult truth for me to accept. Sometimes this has to do with the other person — maybe he or she is jealous of you, or just bitter about something you can’t control. And sometimes this has to do with you — maybe you’re an acquired taste. Instead of trying to change those people, focus your energy on the things you can control.

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ElleWoods2. Take advantage of everything you can get your hands on.
“That’s not in my job description” isn’t necessarily a good reason to turn something down. Whether you have the opportunity to learn a new software program or head up a project in a different area than you’re used to, you can make yourself a much more valuable asset by saying “yes” and trying something new.

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3. Tragedy doesn’t care about timing.
In other words, life isn’t always fair. I learned this lesson the hard way when I experienced two great losses in my life within four days of one another. Although I knew that both were coming, they still hurt, and it was difficult to cope with one while coping with the other. Sometimes, you’ll experience several hardships in a short time, but you still have to pick up the pieces, show up at work the next day and function as a normal human being. Remind yourself that things will eventually turn up, and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

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graduation4. Timing is, however, important.
Never underestimate the significance of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I would have begun networking earlier in college if I had known how helpful it would be in the time that followed. From job prospects to relationships, timing can make all the difference in how successful you are. Work hard, but be patient.

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5. Learn to laugh about the bad experiences and mistakes you have made. After all, you can write about them in your memoir someday!
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Whether you just endured a difficult breakup or struggled through an important interview, the way you handle your hardships will define you. You won’t be able to find humor in everything, but try to learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them forever. When I look back on some of the things I worried about in college, I can’t help but laugh and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” Nowadays, I think a little reflection and a few laughs are just signs that you’re growing up.

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What are some of the things you learned when you first graduated?

The Weekend Five: Lessons in Grammar, Part II

grammarTwo years ago, I wrote one of my most popular posts, discussing some of the common grammar mistakes we tend to make. As a marketing professional with some experience in the editing world, I have definitely seen my share of grammatical errors, and have even been guilty of a few myself!

This week, I wanted to share a few more of my grammar pet peeves and some of the lessons I have learned throughout the years. Feel free to include some of your own in the comments below!

The Weekend Five: Lessons in Grammar, Part II

1. Know the difference between “less” and “fewer.”
While both “less” and “fewer” seem to mean the same thing, they are used in different ways. “Less” is used in relation to quality, while “fewer” is used in relation to quantity. I am less satiated than you are, because I have eaten fewer candy bars than you have. I do not have less candy bars.

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grammar22. You are not “suppose to” do anything. (Tweet this!)
I notice that a lot of people will drop the “d” in “supposed to,” and not just as a typo. Use “suppose” as a verb to mean to presume or to expect, but if you “have to” do something, then you are “supposed to” do that thing.

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3. “Conversate” is not a word.
This fake word comes up in a lot of songs, but the verb version of conversation is “converse,” not “conversate.” When in doubt, use “discuss” instead.

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teacher-english-grammar-appreciation-ecards-someecards_large4. If you’re “apart of” something, you’re not really a part of it.
“Apart” implies that two things are not together, so when people say “apart of” when they are describing group membership (ie: “I am apart of the school band.”), they are actually removing themselves from that group. You are “a part of” a group. If you’re removing yourself from that group, you may be “apart from” it.

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5. “Who?” or “Whom?” That is the question.
The easiest way to know if you should be using “who” or “whom” is to replace those words in a sentence with “he” or “him,” respectively. For example, if you want to say “Daniel was a boy (who/whom) loved sports,” you can determine that the correct word is who, because “he loved sports,” not “him loved sports.” Meanwhile, in the case of “I don’t know (who/whom) to ask,” would you ask he or him? Because “him” is the word that fits best, you would want to say “whom.”

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What are some of your grammar pet peeves?

Link Love Wednesday: Ashton Kutcher and Rejection

ashton kutcherThe past few weeks at work have been completely packed, as we gear up for the fall semester. From a football kickoff luncheon to several all-day tabling events, I’m loving my job but completely ready to unwind with some Link Love. What are some of the fabulous articles and blog posts you’ve been reading lately?

The Friday Five: Lessons For My 16-Year-Old Self


Author Note: I apologize for my lack of posts in the last month or so! Between studying for finals, trekking all across town on interviews and traveling overseas for the best 10 days of my life, there hasn’t been a lot of time for writing. I hope to change that in the new year to come!


 

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Once upon a time, we were all sixteen and crazy. As high school sophomores and juniors, we worried about all the wrong things and made the wrong decisions, all in the hopes that our lives would turn out to be just another glamorous episode of some teen soap opera on the CW. Of course, our lives were not nearly as dramatic and romantic as we hoped, but we didn’t learn that until well after we graduated.

If I could go back and talk to my 16-year-old self, I would definitely have a few suggestions for how to be less of an angst-ridden cliche and how to be more awesome.

The Friday Five: Lessons For My 16-Year-Old Self

1. You will forget “the one that got away.”
You know that guy you’ve been crushing on since last summer, the one who didn’t end up asking you to junior prom despite the fact that you’re clearly perfect for each other? Well, in five years, he’ll be no more than a story you tell your college friends about the days when you liked guys with skinny jeans and awkward haircuts. Sure, the two of you might still keep in touch on Facebook, but only so you can laugh at the ridiculous statuses he posts and remind yourself of how you really dodged a bullet all those years ago. You’ll forget the sadness you felt when things didn’t work out, and the void he left will be filled by plenty of new relationships in the years to come.

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2. Don’t let relationships become your only focus.
Once you really enter the dating world, you will find that at times you’ll want to be in a relationship, but at other times you’ll want to be single, and that’s okay. You’re young, and you still have plenty of time before people in your family will start guilting you into “settling down,” so when you *are* single, take that time to focus on yourself. In fact, by the time you turn twenty, you will probably have sworn off dating at least once in favor of “focusing on your career” or undergoing some form of makeover. Being with someone can be great when the timing is right, but there is much more to life and growing up than checking off “In a Relationship” on Facebook.

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3. In five years, you will laugh at whatever you wore in those photos.
No matter how cool you thought you looked, any fashions or trendy hairstyles you try to replicate will look ridiculous when you flip through old pictures in the years to come. So smile big, have a sense of humor and remind yourself that one day your kids will think you’re just as lame as you think your parents are now.

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4. Few of your friends will stick by you past graduation, and that’s okay.
Enjoy the moments you have together, but realize that in a few years you will probably hang out with an entirely new crowd, save for your best friend from high school and a few people who went to your university. The high school drama will end with high school, and you’ll have another four years to form new relationships with people you have much more in common with.

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5. You don’t need to know what you want to be when you grow up.
It doesn’t matter that at sixteen, you have no idea what you want to study in college or whether or not you’ll go to grad school. In five years, after a lot of soul searching, college coursework and trips to your adviser, you might still not know what you want to do with your life, but chances are you will be a lot closer to realizing what you want to do and what will make you happy. In the meantime, learn how to learn, and open your mind to new experiences and interests. Take up some hobbies, read books in your spare time and recognize that what you might want now could easily change when you’re older.

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What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

The Friday Five: Lessons Learned at 20

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Every year, our experiences shape us into the grown-up person we will someday become. Although I just began my junior year of college, I still can’t believe that society already considers me somewhat an adult. However, yesterday I turned 21, and here I am — a little older and a little wiser than I was last year.

For this week’s Friday Five, I will share just a few of the lessons I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) since my 20th birthday. Feel free to comment with some of the lessons you learned at 20. 🙂

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The Friday Five: Lessons Learned at 20

1. True friends are irreplaceable. Don’t trust in others too quickly, but be sure to give others a chance.

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2. Sometimes, what you always wanted isn’t what it was cracked up to be. Set new goals when the old ones aren’t working out.

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3. Dish soap does not go in the dishwasher, unless you want your apartment to be filled with bubbles.

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4. The people closest to you have your best interests in mind. If your friends hate your significant other and you feel the need to hide the relationship, then that raises a red flag.

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5. Being positive and upbeat generally attracts positive and upbeat opportunities and situations.

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(Author’s Note: Sorry for such a lack of writing in the past couple of weeks– my life has been busy beyond belief!)

The Friday Five: Lessons in Grammar

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As someone who spends a good majority of her time writing, I am not ashamed to call myself a grammar snob. Although I still have a long way to go before I can really consider myself fluent in all things English, I believe it is important to learn as much as you can about the language you speak. Therefore, the English minor in me would like to share with you some of my grammatical/writing pet peeves and teach you a little bit of what I learned in editing seminars.

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The Friday Five: Lessons in Grammar

1. Know the difference between contractions and possessives.
For example, if you tell me “your dumb,” I will only be inclined to ask “my dumb what?” In this case, your is in the possessive, which implies that you own something. “You’re” is short for “you are,” so if you make the mistake of “you’re dog” to describe someone’s pet, you are actually saying “you are dog.”

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2. “Due” should only be used to refer to deadlines and babies.
Exhibit A happens because of Exhibit B, not due to Exhibit B. My Literature assignment is due.

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3. You and Me or You and I?
Harry baked cookies for Julie and me, because if you take out “Julie,” you get “Harry baked cookies for me.” You wouldn’t say “Harry baked cookies for I.” However, “Harry and I are going to the store,” not “Harry and me are going to the store.” When in doubt, just drop the other name and see what grammatically fits.

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4. Literally does not always mean literally.
People tend to misuse the word “literally” a lot in order to hyperbolize, but if you go by the dictionary definition of “literal,” you get true to fact; not exaggerated. Therefore, if you say “he was literally as big as a house,” you are saying that this person was truly that size. Be very careful with your usage of that word; unless you are making an attempt at humor, you might want to steer clear.

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5. Since does not replace because.
Since describes time, as in “ever since I got married.” Because describes reasons, such as “I can’t go out because I have homework.” You would not say “I can’t go out since I have homework.”

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What are some of your grammar pet peeves?