11. The first time you do something kind for someone who cannot repay you is the first time you realize that giving love will bring you infinitely more joy than trying to receive love. You can still be generous even when you have little.
12. Peer pressure is no joke and doesn’t end after high school. If you feel in your heart something is not right, don’t do it. No one REALLY cares what you do… just look out for yourself.
13. Continue to take pictures. Cover your walls with them. Your future self will thank you for it. I once heard that you photograph the things you are most afraid to lose. Remember that. Every photo you take means something to you in one way or another.
14. There are 24 hours in a day… Dedicate one of them to exercising. Learn to move and love your body every single day. Running will change your life. It will become your therapy and safety net… Your one constant during a time where most things are uncertain.
15. Stand up for yourself and set boundaries even though confrontation is not your thing. Do not let people walk all over you. It’s okay to distance yourself from people who don’t treat you well. Teach others how to treat you.
16. Life experiences will teach you far more than any class/school will. I spent the four years of my college career at three wildly different schools. From the deep south in Mississippi, the corn fields that carpet the state of Iowa, all the way back to the bustling city of Chicago… each experience provided me with a heavy backpack full of wisdom and a backbone that I wouldn’t have grown otherwise. I can’t remember one ounce of Spanish from freshman year, but I can tell you about living in a frat house in Iowa City, witnessing the KKK ride in-costume and all, upon leaving English class at Ole Miss, being a “new girl,” aka: Cinderella, in a popular sorority, how to manage and live through football Saturday in The Grove and how to be your own best friend when home seems to be worlds away.
17. Put your damn phone down. Don’t be that girl that walks into a light post because you were too busy looking at your phone to see where you are going. Yes, I have witnessed this. Look up– it’s refreshing to catch a stranger’s eye, maybe even exchange a smile every once in a while. I dare you!
18. Date yourself. That movie you are dying to see, that restaurant you walk by every day—take yourself! Don’t wait around for anyone else. Get yourself a large popcorn on a Friday night and go make yourself comfortable, damnit. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy doing this.
19. Money does not buy happiness. Count your blessings, not the number in your bank account. Some of my favorite moments happened when I couldn’t afford to go out.
20. With that said, be careful with credit cards. Fear them. Do not buy anything with a credit card that you cannot afford with what’s in your bank account. You won’t realize you are in a financial hole until you are stuck (and panicking) watching those numbers climb every month because you are unable to pay them off.
21. It is so important to say “no” every once in a while. Give yourself a break– pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on a movie and order pizza to your bed. Chances are, people don’t really care if you go to the party or not.
22. No one really knows what the hell they’re doing. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized life isn’t linear. There isn’t a step-by-step instruction guide on how to reach a certain goal or be at a certain stage in which society claims to be appropriate for your age. We’re all on different timelines, shoveling our way through life to reach different goals. Define “success” in your own terms. Those who matter in your life will love you for you—not because of your paycheck or where you spend your days.