The 22 Most Important Lessons I Learned in 22 Years

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Happy November, friends! This year, I am unable to celebrate with all of my loved ones at once on my actual birthday, so I am throwing myself a birthday week. Today, I’d like to celebrate with all of you. While I am still young, my 21st year was my most turbulent yet: I have been adapting to a big life change and rediscovering who I am as a person. In hindsight, I would not change a single thing that happened because of the person I am today *insert some sappy-sounding violins*. As you might have noticed from the title, I will be sharing the 22 most important lessons I have learned this last year and have included some of my favorite pictures throughout. So with that, I wish you all a wonderful November and let’s get started:


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1. Love Fiercely. This past year I have been in situations where my love for other people and my reasons for loving them have been challenged. In these situations, I was given a choice between defending my feelings or allowing others to discount them entirely. While absurd sounding, this happened more times than I would’ve imagined. I feel and love deeply and this last year I realized I don’t need to apologize for that. Embrace how you feel, love with an open heart and, those who (whom?) you do you love, love them fiercely.

2. Stress Over Things that are Worth the Stress. Something that used to stress me out like you wouldn’t believe was doing the dishes. Every time I would wash a batch of dishes, there were two plates and a glass waiting for me out in the living room. As silly as this seems, the constant feeling of never being completely done with something was annoying and stressful. Finally, one day, Tucker suggested we actually use the dishwasher that came with the apartment. Boom – stress gone. Don’t sweat the small stuff, folks.

3. Break Down Stressors into Manageable Pieces. I love to cook. However, one of the things that is challenging about having a picky vegetarian boyfriend is just that: he’s picky. Earlier this year, I allowed myself to get so stressed out and fed up with eating the same 4 meals every week. When I decided that enough was enough, I started by making a list of the foods that I know Tuck enjoys eating and I made another this with food that I think he would be open to eating. This brings me to “the now.” Now when I meal plan, I still incorporate many household staples (i.e. pizza) while also incorporating new recipes (i.e. pierogis). Stress level: low.

4. Understand Your Strengths. For as long as I can remember, I have been a people-person. And for the longest time I thought nothing of it – I like to talk to people, hell, I could talk to a wall if I needed. It wasn’t until I came to college and started taking a variety of classes that I realized not all people felt the same way. Since understanding that one of my biggest strengths is communicating with people, I have become fascinated by it. How can I become a better communicator? How can I help others effectively communicate? Asking myself these questions has given me an extra nudge to continue to learn about communication and also about myself.

5. Treat Yourself. Life is too short not to. I’m not advocating for blowing your entire savings on a new pair of shoes. However, I am advocating treating yourself to take-out if you’ve had a long, exhausting day or a drink from Starbucks if you were up late studying the night before. It’s about balance: with your eating, with your work to play ratio, with your spending. Life is meant to be lived.

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6. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously. I am a very thoughtful person – literally, I am full of thoughts. While this can be a good thing (keep your brain sharp, you know?), it has become a bit of a hinderance at times. I can get so caught up in hypothetical situations that have a whole laundry list of caveats that I begin to feel anxious, can’t sleep and become very distracted. For example, I listened to a podcast the other day during which the hosts and their guests were sharing ghost stories. Whether or not you believe in ghosts is a topic of discussion for another day, I found the podcast very thought provoking. It wasn’t until 11:00 pm when I was laying in bed that it hit me like a brick wall. I became paranoid and frantic (I got up twice to double, triple check that the front door was locked – because a locked door can keep out ghosts, fyi). It must’ve been about one in the morning when I finally said enough was enough. I told myself that it was okay to be thinking about ghosts and those things and I reinforced that I was safe in my apartment. Chances are you won’t be pestered by ghosts over night and that you can still think about these things the next day without needing to lose sleep. Which brings me to…

7. I Still Really Hate Clowns. I have always hated and been afraid of clowns. You can bet that when I first read about the clowns who lived in the woods in a North Carolina town, you better believe that I was already running for the hills. I think my exact words were, “This is the end.” Stay safe and avoid clowns at all costs. This is not a drill.

8. A Lot Can be Done in a Day.  This semester, I picked up a second part time job. Between two jobs, school, maintaining a relationship and living life, there is a lot to do in a day. That being said, a lot can get done during the day. It’s a matter of schedule and prioritizing which brings me to…

9. It Does Not All Need to Happen at Once. I get in these moods where I feel like everything I want to do today, needs to happen NOW. This usually happens when I have a lot going on and everything feels like they share the same level of urgency and importance. A panic attack usually takes place and then I get it together. I make one insanely long list of everything that needs to get done and then I begin to prioritize. Once I have my list of priorities in front of me, I start hacking away at it. I also write in my planner when I need to start working on other assignments or projects.

10. Find a Hobby(ies) And Maintain it. I am so happy that I have this blog and that I am able to connect with all of you. I am so happy to be able to write freely in this space. I have a lot to say, pretty much all the time. I love that I can talk to you on my blog, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook and that we can have all kinds of conversations. I love that I have connected with women who I can reliably ask for face mask and makeup recommendations, that there is a community of twenty-somethings that can sympathize and offer advice to what I’m going through. In an effort to encourage me to continue to maintain and build this blog, I am making the switch to self-hosted WordPress come January. Get pumped!

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11. There is Nothing Quite Like the Unconditional Love of a Dog. Even though I wrote an entire post about this little guy, I have to mention him in this post. Some days when I would come home from school or work, I would be so fed up with people. Jacey is, thankfully, not a person. His doggie-sense would go off and he would just come snuggle up to me and/or want to play. Days when I was sad, he would come and give me doggie-kisses on my nose and let me watch whatever stupid show I wanted. He just understood. I can’t wait to see this little guy again soon and I am counting down the days until this pooch gets to come home to Tuck and I.

12. Organized Chaos is A-Okay. I’ve never been a neat-freak nor have I ever been a complete slob. I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle, my mom likes to call it ‘organized chaos.’ Chaos might be a bit of an overstatement, but I think it gets the point across. As long as I know where everything is, I’m not overly particular about my stuff looking neat and tidy. I’m especially not so strung out over this because of how often Tuck and I have moved. I’m almost positive that once we move into a more permanent space, we will be more concerned about the organization of our space. For now, organized chaos will do!

13. Amazon is a Large Contributor to My Sanity. This is the second year I have been an Amazon Prime member and it has been worth every damn penny. Textbooks: cheaper and usually delivered within two days. Birthday Gifts: delivered to my doorstep. I’m not paid by Amazon to say this (although wouldn’t that be the dream), I genuinely would be much crankier without Amazon Prime.

14. Some Battles Are Not Worth Fighting. In every relationship and even in interactions with strangers, there may be times when someone tries to get a rise out of you. Sometimes it will be worth engaging in these situations, defending your beliefs, loved ones, etc., and most of the time, they won’t be. Be prudent in how you address and engage in conflict – most of the time, it’s not worth letting your emotions get the best of you.

15. Meal Planning is Your (& Your Wallet’s) Best Friend. I’ve been consistently meal planning for a few months and my wallet is seriously thanking me. I wrote a whole post detailing exactly how I meal plan and have been making small improvements as time has gone on. The biggest benefit I’ve seen: hardly any wasted food.

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16. Don’t Be Afraid to Put Yourself Out There. The worst thing that could happen is that someone could say ‘no.’ Blogging has taught me that. Ask questions,  make connections, put yourself out there. I forget exactly where I read this saying, but it resonated with me and I feel like it applies very well to this: there is so much more to gain, than there is to lose.

17. You Are Much More Than Your Give Yourself Credit For. When my mom came to visit a few weeks ago, we went to one of my favorite bars and, of course, chatted the night away. I began to tell her about some friendships I no longer made a priority to maintain. As I spoke of how I was made to feel, how I felt like we were all in different places in our lives, I surprised myself. I was surprised at how calm I was remaining, at how articulate I was and how I looked at these friendships with a realist’s lens. I truly felt like an adult. Not because I was discussing friendships that I once had, rather I was doing so objectively. I was able to defend my choices and feel confident that I made the right ones.

18. Don’t Try to Fix What Ain’t Broken. I am specifically talking about the greatest show ever: Friends. Tuck and I have been looking for a new show to watch together and have been having the hardest time agreeing on one. We decided to rewatch White Collar (great show), but my heart still wants to only watch Friends. So I do, all the time. And I love it.

19. You Have One Body, Treat it Well. This year I definitely paid more attention to my body. Not only what I ate or how much exercise I get during the week, I also began to pay a closer attention to the products I used as part of my skincare and body care regimes. I have begun to make more conscious choices in the types of products I use and their ingredients and I feel like my body has noticed and is subtly thanking me.

20. Taking a Day Off is Good. Once I accepted my second job at the beginning of this semester, my dad told me that I needed to make sure that I had a day off. At first, I thought “WHO HAS THE TIME?” After my first 5 days of classes, I decided that I needed to make the time to take a day off. My brain has thanked me immensely. I have been taking Saturdays “off” and I have really loved every moment of it. Of course, if I’m working an event on a Saturday then I rework my schedule so I am able to take a different day off that week.

21. Ask For Help. This is something I still struggle with. As I’ve gotten older and arguably more hard headed, I have come to realize, slowly but surely, that I cannot do everything always every day. It’s exhausting and impossible and sucks the fun out of everything. From little things like picking up around the house to getting graphic design help, I am learning how to ask for help. Not freaking out about how there aren’t enough hours in the day has freed up a lot of my time and has kept me more energized, if you can believe that.

22. Care About Something. There is a lot to care about, a lot. Whether you care about people, animals, the planet, choose something other than yourself to care about. Something that I learned this year is that everyone can help someone, something else. No matter how big or small of a financial contribution, five hours of your time or half an hour of your time, there is something we can all do to pay it forward in some way.

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Alright, y’all! Those are the most important 22 lessons I have learned in these last 22 years. As I reflect on this last year with My Little Box of Tricks, I wanted to showcase some of my most popular posts.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?

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28 thoughts on “The 22 Most Important Lessons I Learned in 22 Years

  1. Betsy Feifs says:

    Kristine-

    Happy Birthday! We have always been so touched by your strong faith and dedication to your Latvian heritage and friends. I hope these are those bonds continue to flourish alongside of new relationships!

    love, Uncle Helmuts and Aunt Betsy

  2. bequietkate says:

    I absolutely love this! 17, 19, and 20 are my favorites – 20 especially. Juggling a full-time job and my master’s degree is no joke, but if I don’t take time to take care of myself, I’ll go nowhere. I’ve always believed in the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

    Happy birthday!

  3. Ashley says:

    Happy birthday! These are 22 lessons that I’ve definitely learned, I’m impressed you came up with 22! Here’s to another great year and many more to come!
    xoxo

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