So, this month I turn 25 and it definitely feels weird to think that I’ve been alive for that long. The last 25 years have also been arguably the most progressive this world has been, at least technologically and socially. I, one of those stupid millennials, do remember a simpler time when pay phones were necessary and Blockbuster was the place to be! Oh, and no, my generation will not let go of the past. (Like, seriously, why is our generation so obsessed with the 90s? Most of us were in early elementary and were probably watching reruns of most of those cartoons.) BUT, the 90s were my childhood and always reminisce.
I decided for the 25th anniversary of me entering this world, I would make a list of the 25 things I have learned in the 25 years I have been alive.
- Learn to love yourself – It took me a long time to love myself. The idea of self care and self worth were not something that came easy for me. I grew up constantly being told I was worthless and not important. Both my parents were gone by the time I was 15 and that year, almost ten years ago, was when I sort of snapped out of this almost comatose-like trance. I had become so numb to all the bullshit around me that it seemed normal. At that time, I had become suicidal and was constantly thinking about killing myself. It hurts to write that, but it’s true. I didn’t want to live in a world where I was miserable and alone and didn’t think I was worthy of living in. But I had this feeling that that way of thinking was not normal. It wasn’t the way I was going to live my life and I started changing. I started caring about how I looked in the sense that I took showers and combed my hair. College started to seem like something that I could do and it became obvious to me that I wanted to be a writer. At the same time, I am 25 years old and I have never been in a relationship. I have never even come close to being in a relationship. I knew from a young age that I did not want to depend on anyone. I had seen so many people in my family have the worst relationship problems (like domestic violence, drug use) and I did not find being with a man to be appealing. Of course, like many people may know, I came out as bisexual, and that opened up this whole other world I am still learning about. All of the good that has come out of life, whether it is the friends I have made or the degree I am still paying for, it all stemmed from me loving myself. I have held myself back from doing so many things because I didn’t think I was worthy of them. Remember: You are worthy. You are loved and you are cared about by the people you love. I tell myself this everyday and I will continue to until I believe it.
(me at 15)
2. No one is popular – This is about high school. High school was like the island the people in the original Jurassic Park movies land on when they’re trying to rescue that stupid kid. (I think it was the third one?) I was the kid. I had just been through this horrible traumatic experience (aka junior high) and I was forced to fend on my own. Maybe I am being dramatic, but school was something that came easy to me, but the social part of it might have literally given me anxiety.
But I know now that none of that social shit mattered. I mean sure, it was cool to go to dances and pretend like I knew what I was doing because I had an ass and tits, but would I have had this horrible high school experience if I hadn’t gone? No. The only people who mattered to me when I was in school were my friends and the few people that were kind of cool with me. If I could sit in class and can talk to you in class and outside of class, then we were cool. I had a few experiences of me waving at someone outside of class and them no waving back. Or pretending not to see me. Was I some big weirdo who people were ashamed to know? It made me feel like shit. I was going through WAAAAAY too much stuff in my personal life to care that what’s her face from math class didn’t acknowledge my existence. It was always amazing to me how big-headed some people were in school. No one is popular. Maybe within our own circles that can happen, but with a school of 2,000 students, no one cares. NO ONE CARES. I want to run through high school halls singing some sort of “It doesn’t matter when you’re 25” song.
3. It’s OK to fail – One of my greatest inspirations and favorite author J.K. Rowling said during a Harvard commencement speech, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” The important thing to know about failing is that you’re learning from your mistakes. Instead of beating myself up over things, whether it involved my schoolwork or a job, I remind myself that now I know what not to do. Failing basically means that are so much closer to succeeding.
4. Question everything, be open-minded – Even if I find myself surrounded by people who are questioning my own beliefs and things I care about, I can appreciate the fact that they at least want to learn something. Of course, once it turns abusive or I feel bombarded, I tend to lash out and get defensive. I mean, who wouldn’t right? This subject usually involves ideas about feminism, racism and politics: three subjects that tend to be brought up around me. I grew up Catholic and though our religious practice wasn’t enforced, the ideas and beliefs were. In high school, I started reading about evolution and I slowly began thinking that I wasn’t so crazy. I had felt this extreme shame not believing in God. I think at that point, I just didn’t care and the fact that I found out other people (meaning Atheists/non-believers) existed, I realized that I
5. Not everyone is going to like you – I’m a six-foot tall, 300+ pound black, bisexual woman who likes to talk about race, feminism, and politics. I know damn well there is someone (or a few someones) out there who I have as a Facebook friend frowning and rolling their eyes at the many posts I share on my wall. And that’s OK. I personally make an effort to be nice to people and to get along with everyone. But, that gets old after a while and I felt like I was being fake.
6. Friendships are just as hard as relationships – When I was in fourth grade, I made friends with a girl who had many of the same interests as me. We got along great, until we reached junior high. One day she told me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and I was devastated. Of course, that was over ten years ago and I am over it. But, it was the first time I had lost a friend for reasons I’m not even sure were legitimate. Friends grow apart. This is especially true when there isn’t much effort being made to maintain the friendship. But, it’s OK because maybe, like relationships, it wasn’t meant to last. I’ve learned over the years that if someone was meant to be your friend, they were always going to be there for you. It’s OK to let people go, especially if they’re not making your life pleasant. It’s not that friends are there for your pleasure, but you’re choosing to spend your free time with them and that matters. Deep down you know when someone is worth having in your life. Even if they moved all the way across the country or even if you lost touch for a few years. The best friendships are the ones that feel like you just saw them yesterday, no matter how much time has passed.
7. Drinking is overrated – The first time I got drunk, I was 21 years old
(ok, I was really 19, but shhhhh!). It was with tequila and yes, I did end up throwing up. The reason I think drinking is overrated is because when you’re under 21, drinking was so much better. It was illegal and you feel like a badass doing it. I didn’t do anything stupid and I was lucky to have not gotten in trouble. Now that I’m WAAAAAY over 21, I realize that alcohol not only doesn’t taste that great, but it’s expensive as hell and hangovers are not worth 8 shots of any kind of liquor. Of course, I do enjoy an occasional drink and I’m a big fan of cider. But, I also know many people who are recovering alcoholics. I know people who got drunk everyday for years. Overtime, liver problems can start to creep up. But what 20-year-old is thinking about the liver problems they might have when they’re 50? It’s OK to drink, just be responsible and realize that you don’t always need to drink to have fun.
8. Take care of your health – I have spent the whole summer going back and forth to UCSF’s dental clinic for a root canal I needed. I also need a crown for the tooth, so my trips to San Francisco are not over yet. I also need to make an appointment to see an optometrist for new glasses and dermatologist because my skin has decided to break out in acne for no reason. On top of that, I have been working on losing weight and I get my blood checked regularly to make sure I don’t have diabetes. My doctor at Kaiser told me that a lot of people my age don’t get regular check ups. She told me that it was good that I’m taking initiative to take care of my health because a lot of the time, ailments could be avoided or treated sooner if people kept up with their health. Of course, we live in America where people fight against universal healthcare and a lot of people don’t have good insurance or don’t have any insurance at all. A few things you can do is know your body inside and out. From your head to your feet, especially your genitals. Yes, genitals. And for those who have them, breasts. The more you know your body, the more likely you can catch something that seems off with it. Explore your options and also: FLOSS AND BRUSH YOUR DAMN TEETH. Dental bills are not the business.
9. Bush did 9/11
10. Feminism is not a bad word – I have spent many thousands of minutes of my life explaining to people: feminism has nothing to do with hating men and that men have also benefitted for feminist ideas. In her book, “Feminism is for Everybody,” bell hooks writes, “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” She emphasizes that feminism is about addressing the sexism that woman have faced for centuries and understanding that in order for things to change, we have to change the way we view women as a society. The feminism I follow is a new wave of feminism that understands that women are multi-dimensional. There is no one way to be a woman. “As long as women are using class or race power to dominate other women, feminist sisterhood cannot be fully realized,” hook says. I also think that it is important for men especially do understand that when women says they’re feminists, they are not trying to overthrow men. It’s understanding that women do not have as much power in our society. We are Americans and we need to stop comparing our situations to other countries that oppress women in different (and often harsher ways). Women have been fighting for their rights and will continue to for as long as it takes. And to the men who call themselves feminists, spread the knowledge of what you believe. Do not speak for women, but advocate for them. As President Barack Obama said, “We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacle to their achievements and no remaining ceilings to shatter.”
11. It’s OK to cry – This is for both men and women, but mostly the little boys who get told to man up and stop crying. Crying is so healthy for you. It relieves stress and helps you cope with things that are upsetting. In one of my favorite journalism related movies, “Broadcast News,” the main character would go to an isolated place just to cry. It was a tool she used to relieve the stress from her tough job. There’s this quote I always remember, one of those anonymous kind of quotes. It says, “Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you’ve been strong for too long.” Crying is a sign that you are alive and your exist. So, cry away.
12. Your parents won’t be alive forever – As I have stated before, both my parents died by the time I was fifteen. My mom died when I was five and my dad, who I only met once or twice when I was four years old, right before my sophomore year in high school. I got a letter from the county stating that they had stopped the child support investigation because they found out he had died. I read that letter over and over again. I felt numb. I had always had this fantasy that he would come and rescue me from where I was living. I always thought maybe he would get his act together and had been searching for me for years. I wanted it so bad but now my opportunity had passed and I was really, truly an orphan. Of course, I have had a few people in my life that had been kind of like parents, but none have cared for me like real parents should. I see the way my friends parents are with them and I know that I will never have that experience. But I also know that I am the person I am today because of them. The best thing I can tell people is to love their parents while they are still alive. It sucks to think about, I know, but it is going to eventually happen. Not everyone has parents and not everyone has good parents. But if you are one of those lucky people, cherish them. OK? I know that if I end up having a kid or adopting a kid, I’m going to be the best parent I could possibly be.
13. Be selfish sometimes – I don’t mean selfish in the dictionary kind of way, but rather in the way that benefits you and doesn’t harm anyone. Say no to things you obviously don’t want to do. If someone is obviously bringing negativity into your life, don’t let them get away with it. Remove yourself from those types of situations, even if it makes people mad. Often times, people are afraid of confrontation and starting arguments. I realized that I should have to feel bad just because someone else doesn’t like what I have to say. I tend to be truthful about situations and shitty people. If someone is shitty, why should I have to put up with them? Figure out your own life and stop letting people walk all over you. I know I have for too long.
14. Appreciate art – Whether it is paintings, photography, graphic design, music, or writing, art tends to get the short hand of a lot of things. In school, art programs are being cut. There is this lack of appreciation for art, even though it surrounds us everyday. Artists spend months and even years on their art, yet I have heard many people demean it. I’m sure many artists can relate to this too. Someone complains about the price of some painting or a photograph. Someone tries to lowball you when they ask to take pictures for them. People that study art are often given the side-eye because of how little it tends to make. But, art is important to us as humans. Picasso and Beethoven. Frida Kahlo and Chuck Berry. Ava Duvernay and CharGaux. Art has always been around, in many different forms, and it will only keep growing.
15. Food is amazing – My relationship with food got complicated when I was in junior high. It was the first time the idea of “I’m fat and people hate me because of it” came into my mind. I ate for comfort and I ate because honestly, I was hungry. Sure, now, I am aware that you need to eat healthier foods that nourish your body, but enjoying pizza or a slice of cake once in a while isn’t going to kill you.
16. It’s OK to have sex – And it’s OK to not have sex. I am 25 years old and I have never had sex with anyone. ANYONE. See, this life choice isn’t because I am a woman of God and he’s the only man in my life. (Remember, I’m atheist) I choice not to have sex with anyone because I knew I was not emotionally ready for it. The past ten years, I have been dealing with my depression, getting a degree, working a full-time job, helping my family, trying to get healthy – I don’t have time to go on dates and have someone else in my life. But, it’s my own choice. Stop telling girls that their worth is based on whether a dick has been in them or not. Stop telling girls their sluts because they have sex. And if you are sexually active, be safe. Use condoms and get on birth control. Men, be responsible and understand what the fuck consent is. Women, be safe and protect yourself. Sexually transmitted infections are still a thing people!
17. Everyone is awkward. Everyone is weird. – We’re all just weird and awkward in our own ways. I’d be able to pay off my damn student loans if I had a dollar for every time someone was awkward with me. I’ve realized that some people might find me intimidating because I’m tall or whatever, but I’m probably the least intimidating person on this earth (but try hard enough and you’ll see a not so nice side of me). The point I’m probably failing at making here is that we all get those “butterfly in the stomach” moments. We’ve all stammered out words to people we have crushes on. Many of can’t even pick up the phone when it rings because we’re afraid of what? The other person on the line is going to think we’re stupid? How many times have you been in an elevator and smiled at someone and they look at you like you’re crazy? Who among us has farted in the bathroom a little too loud? Be awkward. Stay weird. It makes this place a little more interesting. (Of course if you have like crippling anxiety, you can get help for it.)
(me at 1)
18. Millennials are not lazy and entitled – Dear older generation, please stop it with the articles about how millennials are staying at home longer and how many are not getting married. And especially stop writing them as if it’s a bad thing and their alleged laziness and incompetence is going to be the end of humanity. When you look at the big picture, baby boomers are way more entitled than millennials. Who decided on separating the population into different generations? Sure, most people who are born around the same time share some similar characteristics. We are all exposed to the same things the media shows us, so of course we’re going to have some things in common. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials make less money, have more debt and are more unemployed than previous generations. We were told that going to college would help us live better lives, but all it’s done is create a mountain of debt that will take years to pay off. How can I move out and start a family if I can’t even afford rent? Sure, there are some of us that have had support, but what about those who don’t have anything to fall back on? If I could, I would take a risk and move half way around the world to pursue some job or internship. I would do it in a heart beat. But how can I when I’m not financially stable? This is the exact reason I hate unpaid internships. Does it make sense that I must have years of experience in order to get an entry-level job that doesn’t pay well? Millennials came to age during a time when our country was in a recession. We need time in order to fix all the crap we have inherited from those who came before us.
19. Be careful what you tell people – This is mostly from what I see on social media. I see so many people posting about their family or relationship drama. Don’t do it. Also, be careful who you tell your secrets too. It’s good to know you can trust people, but be cautious. We’re living in a time where we went from leaked nudes being a scandal to barely blinking an eye about them because they happen for often.
20. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – It might be a strange thing to think about, but how many of us have issues with asking for help? This is another thing I talked to my counselor about. I had spent so many years thinking that my needs were not important, so I learned to do things on my own. Even if I’m stressed, I had to be on the verge of a panic attack before I even think about asking for help. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
21. Take risks, take chances – I know I wrote early that it can be hard to take risks when you’re not financially stable. But, that doesn’t mean you can take risks at all. I wouldn’t be where I am at right now if it wasn’t for me taking chances. I took a chance going to college and I ended up with degree. Sometimes, we need to get ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to succeed. Realizing that idea can be life changing because from what I’ve noticed, a lot of people hold themselves back because they’re afraid to try something new. I know a handful of people who are older and I know they regret some of the life choices they made. But, it’s never too late to try.
(Me at 18)
22. Chocolate is life
23. Take care of this planet – If there’s one thing I have learned about being a human, it’s that we suck. Humans are destroying this planet by sucking the life right out of it. I learned to be aware of this. I learned to understand the science. It baffles my mind that there are people out there who don’t believe in global warming. It’s not about believing, it’s about facts.
24. Forgive for yourself – For a long time, I have held a lot of resentment toward the man who was supposed to be my father. A lot of people know my story about abuse, but it began controlling how I felt about the world. I thought the world had nothing to offer me because what I had been offered was horrible. But, I’m learning to forgive for my own sanity. Forgive so that I am able to move on and do better with my life. I’m tired of feeling to hard, empty pressure on my mind. It’s exhausting and I’m over it. Forgive, don’t forget, but forgive so you can live.
25. Things will get better – My last year in college, I was seeing a counselor regularly. I had seen other counselors before, but I really told her a lot of deep-rooted issues and she helped me realize a lot of things I need to come to terms with about myself. I was overly critical and didn’t know how to accept praise for anything. I undervalued myself and that was why I didn’t think I was worthy of being loved (yah, she fuckin took me there). One particular thing she told me toward the end of my last semester as an undergrad really stuck to me. She asked me to think about where I was ten years ago; I was a freshman in high school. I got lost my first day of school and I wore huge, baggy clothes because I was so self-conscious of my body. She then asked where I thought I was be when I was that age. I said I didn’t know. At that point in my life, I wasn’t thinking about the future. She told me when ten years from now, I’d be looking back on my life; remembering all the doubt I had in my head. Doubt that I wouldn’t be success and that I had wasted time and money on a degree that was pointless. But, I realized that I had come so far. I am young and have so much ahead of me.
I recently spoke with a professor I had at San Jose City College about my experience with school. She’s writing a book about college students in community college. She told me, as her own advice, that where I am at right now is so amazing. She told me not to worry about where I was going to end up or what I was going to end up doing. She made my realize that I was putting all this pressure on myself to be so successful. I graduated over a year ago with a degree in journalism and although it has helped me land two tech jobs in the Silicon Valley, I have not been able to find a job in journalism. Though, I admit, my search hasn’t been as hard as it should, but there aren’t many jobs locally out there. I’m 25-years-old. And I’m on a path that is actually pretty fuckin amazing. I’m pretty amazing. (and amazingly pretty? 🤓) In the 25 years I have been alive, the biggest lesson I have learned is to never doubt myself. Time and time again I have provided myself wrong by my abilities.
So, here’s to 25 more years. Hopefully more than that though.