I'm a firm believer in tough love. When it comes to figuring things out, I take the "sink or swim" approach, and even if it seems a bit harsh at the time, in the long run it usually means people come out better and stronger for it. There are some valuable life lessons to be learned that are easier pills to swallow than others — here are some brutally honest ones.
1. Life's tough. Get a helmet.
Relationships fail, people can be jerks, you can't always get what you want, and at some point in your life, you will have to stand outside in the pouring rain without an umbrella. Accept the fact that life isn't always easy, but draw strength from the knowledge that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and the hard stuff makes you appreciate the good things even more.
2. If you want to play hard, you really do have to work hard.
It's a trade-off, so deal with it. If it's any consolation, it's usually worth it.
3. If you f*ck up, it's your responsibility to fix it.
You're not a kid anymore, and no one is going to run behind you with a broom sweeping up your messes — nor should they. If you make a mistake, it's your obligation to rectify the mistake. As long as you're willing to admit it and embrace the consequences as yours and yours alone, then it's totally within your capabilities to make things right, too.
4. Your driver's license photo will never, ever be flattering.
Unwritten law of the universe: Any remotely attractive photo taken of a person getting their license will be secretly and immediately destroyed. The picture will be retaken until the end result is nothing short of cringe-worthy.
5. Sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Some people don't even always deserve it. And it's never easy to do. And sometimes you give someone the benefit of the doubt, and it ends up blowing up in your face. But the best thing ever is when you give someone a chance, reserve your judgement, and realise there's a damn good reason for the way they are. You will definitely learn something more about them in the process, and you will probably figure some stuff out about yourself too.
6. You have control over your life.
Scary, right? The control you have over what happens to you can be both liberating and utterly terrifying. Do with it what you will — but you are the puppet master of your own play, so make it interesting, make it good, and make it something you can be proud of.
7. Making compromises is a good thing. Compromising yourself is NOT.
There's a fine line between changing your mind and changing who you are. Toe it with caution, and remember that nothing is worth compromising your core beliefs, even if it may seem like it will make your life easier at the time.
8. Success is just about perception.
You (and only you) can determine what success really means, because it differs from person to person. Maybe some days success is just making it out bed, maybe other days it's parachuting out of plane. You get to decide.
9. Some people are just big assholes.
And there's nothing you can do about it, so don't try. The good news is that the world is also full of really amazing people, too. So hang on to the good ones really tightly, and forget about the rest.
10. School doesn't come close to teaching you everything you need to know.
About life, that is. It's obviously valuable for countless logical reasons — getting a degree, broadening your horizons, teaching you how to fill in a tiny circle by the letters "A, B, C, or D," etc., etc. Still, it's just a tip of the iceberg and once you've left your 20s behind, it's easier to place your education in the box where it belongs and continue checking off other ones that aren't yet complete.
11. Love isn't just a feeling, it's a choice you make.
The older you get, the more complicated your relationships become. It's easy to fall in love, but it isn't always easy to stay in the same place you fell. Love is a choice you make every day, to love or not to love, to try or not to try, to work at it or not to work at it.
12. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped.
Sometimes you are fighting a losing battle with a person, and the best thing you can is bow out of the situation. As you get older, you get better at knowing when to recognise this and at making the (difficult) choice of just letting go.
13. Money won't solve your problems.
Money isn't magical. It can help with some of the more immediate problems, true, but you have to work through the real sh*t to be happy in life, and those things, more often than not, aren't money-related.
14. You are not the centre of the universe.
Your problems are real, but they are not the only problems. Everyone lives in their own worlds, but it's essential to understand and acknowledge all the other worlds around you. It helps keeps things in perspective.
15. Things are rarely as cool as they seem.
No matter how big people talk, things rarely live up to the hype. But sometimes you have to weed through the mediocre to get to the really good stuff, so never shy away from a new opportunity. Approach new experiences with the expectations of a realist, but the hopes of an idealist.
16. You can't make everybody happy.
You can't make everybody happy, so don't even try. The harder you to try to please people, the more you forget to focus on your own happiness — and your happiness matters! Be kind, be considerate, but know that not everyone is going to like what you do or say, or even who you are, and that's totally OK.
17. Sometimes you have to put yourself first.
Thinking of yourself first isn't necessarily synonymous with being selfish. Sometimes your immediate needs or wants take precedence over someone else's — and there's nothing wrong with that. The key is knowing how to recognise when and where to exercise this luxury.
18. Jealousy is a huge waste of time.
Someone is always going to have something you want, and you're always going to have something someone else wants. See the conundrum here? The grass isn't always greener, and worrying about what could be will drive you insane.
19. Change is good. Sometimes.
All change is not bad change, even if it's ridiculously hard at first. Still, don't feel bad if you hate it, because it's not always right, and change for the sake of change is not always a good enough reason to make big moves.
20. You're not getting any younger.
You're not getting any younger, and your bucket list isn't getting any shorter. Start crossing sh*t off, like, now.
21. Sometimes you just don't have the answers.
You don't always know if what you're doing is right. We're all just winging it most of the time anyway, so at the very least, it should be a comfort knowing that even if you're clueless, you're not alone.
22. It's never too late to change.
Though your 20s are arguably the decade you grow and change the most, it doesn't mean that you are done becoming who you ultimately want to be when you leave them. Nobody's perfect, and we should all be open to change. If there's something you don't like, there's always time to do what you need to do to get to a place where you really love yourself.
23. Even if you have "more important" things to do, you NEED to get a good night's sleep.
Don't be a hero. You can't always be that 20-year-old college student cramming for a test, and pulling an all-nighter will probably do more harm than good in the long run. Sleep. The world will not end if you do.
24. You can't have it all.
You can have A LOT! You can have amazing things, you can do almost anything, and your life can be what you make it. But you can't have it ALL — no one can. So aim high, but not so high that you make yourself miserable trying to live up to unattainable expectations.
25. The only time you should look back is to see just how far you've come.
You're probably doing better than you think you are. When you see analyse things microscopically, you'll probably find a lot more wrong than if you take a step back, look at the big picture, and see all you've accomplished.