25 Things I've Learned at 25 Years Old

Maybe it's because I've been reading a lot of Thought Catalog lately; or maybe it's because I'm slightly obsessed with documenting things - quotes, books, nailpolishes - in numbered lists; or maybe it's because lists are easy to read (or skim). Whatever the cause, I've decided to compile some things I've been thinking about lately.

25 things I have learned at 25 years old

1. Math is important, but only some kinds of math: Oh the many nights I (and my dad) slaved over factoring and translations and graphing on the z-axis and y=mx+b! Torturous evenings, my friends, where I could never see the point. And I was right: I've never used this, and thinking about it still makes me feel inadequate and useless. BUT how I wish I had retained the simple but important math of fractions and decimals and percentages and addition. Let me tell you: there's nothing quite as embarrassing as handing in a tax form to your new employer that's several thousand dollars and some spare change off of the correct number because you didn't have a calculator and "thought it would be fun!" to see how much basic addition you remembered. Ugh. Learn the times tables.

2. People who read books are smart: I don't mean the just classics or poetry or philosophy. I mean people who like reading, who frequently engage with words in ways that require the mind to do all sorts of things - conjure images, recall moments from other books in the series, word association - are smart. Reading makes your mind work. When your mind works, you think more and absorb more. So you should be reading.

3. Just because a boy says you look pretty doesn't mean he wants to kiss you: Sometimes you've curled your hair and put on gold eyeshadow and bold red lips, and then a boy pays you that complement that makes every girl feel like a princess: "You look really pretty today." That is a nice thing to say. But it doesn't mean he likes you. It just means that, objectively speaking, you look pretty today.

4. Just because internet speech is funny online doesn't mean it's appropriate in real life: An example would include telling your prof to "get it together" and writing in an exam "go home, [theorist], you are drunk."

5. It is good to collect things, but it is possible to have too much nail polish: Sometimes I want to buy new colours and think: I have one almost exactly like this. And when I do that for every colour, I know I have to many. Sometimes I purge my collection, passing polish that have fallen out of my favour on to another home, so I can try new things. It's good to not get too sentimental about your collections. (This does not apply to books.)

6. You will never look like Kate Moss, so have that slice of pie: And some of those Kit-Kat minis while you're at it. People are happier when they're eating.

7. My parents were right (about some things): I spent a long time ignoring most of my parents' wisdom, because angsty teen/young adult Jillian believed firmly in yelling "YOU DON'T KNOW ME!!!!!" whenever possible. I thought I was a deep, wizened old soul. Right. Turns out that my parents were right about many things, like how being smart with money is important and the sorts of people I want in my life and to think before I speak. Who knew?

8. My parents were wrong (about other things): Like I should be an architect. And that I should be less opinionated. And that TV would rot my brain.

9. But it's ok: Because parents aren't perfect and everybody says and does the wrong thing at the wrong time some of the time, and the healthy way of dealing with that is saying "Whoops! Sorry 'bout that!" and responding "No probs! We're all human!" and then hugging. And possibly drinking hot chocolate.

10. Feeling guilty is 100% unproductive: Guilt is not an emotion we are supposed to feel. Guilt came with The Fall. So feeling guilty just makes you miserable for things that you cannot change. Confess; ask for forgiveness; burn that box of letters and renew your gym membership and sell all of your possessions. Do whatever you have to do to deal with your past, and move on. Forgive yourself, and stop feeling guilty.

11. Doing scary things is scary, but keep doing them: I don't mean like going to haunted houses or befriending known serial murders. I mean taking gigantic leaps forward in directions that seem beyond your reach. Moving to BC alone was the scariest thing I've ever done; I actually sometimes can't believe I did it. But I am more proud of taking that huge risk in my life than almost anything else I've ever done. It's rewarding saying or doing the things you find daunting, because you often find they aren't as frightening as you imagined.

12. Find (a) best friend(s): A person who makes you laugh. A person for whom listening to their crappy problems isn't a chore because they do the same for you. A person with whom you could drive across the country and you probably would still both be alive at the end. A person who doesn't think your weird hobbies are weird. A person who you'd trust to give a eulogy perfectly balanced between humour and sentiment at your funeral. A person with whom you've discussed this.

13. People don't fit into categories: No matter how perceptive you are, sometimes people just do things you don't expect them to. Sometimes these surprises are awful and you wish the person had never been born. Mostly, though, people do extraordinary things that are "so unlike them!" when you least expect it. Let these moments change your relationship.

14. No matter how much you think you want that Starbucks cookie, you won't when you've eaten it: They're never as good as you remember. Save the $1.95.

15. Counselling can liberate you: Telling someone who doesn't know anything about you your intimate thoughts is terrifying because you are weird and speaking what goes on inside your brain out loud might result in weird looks and quick scribbles and a call to the authorities. But we are all weird and having someone to hear what you're saying and observe how you're saying it might just offer some relief from yourself. Counselling, with the right person, can begin the path to healing - to happiness.

16. Your past matters, but not as much as you think it does: We are the sum of our past experiences. But if I've learned anything - especially in the past few months - it's the importance of owning your story, processing whatever parts make you miserable or guilty or prideful, and then leaving them alone. Do not let the scars of your past ugly your present. You are not beholden to who you were; it matters who you are.

17. Don't do things you don't want to for fear of "missing out": If you don't want to go somewhere because you're tired or you don't want to get the bus or because you have 2 episodes left of Downton Abbey and you just want to find out what happens with Mary and Matthew: don't go. There will always be other opportunities.

18. If you don't want to spend money, don't go to the $5 movie bin: You will always find that elusive Matt Damon movie that you don't yet have in your collection.

19. Not everyone who likes makeup is vain: I used to think makeup was evil and scary. The girls who wore it were vain, manipulative, and shallow. This is insane, and also not true. Many people who wear makeup are vain. Many are not. There are also a fair collection of women who don't wear makeup who could use bringing down a notch or two. Cosmetics are fun, and that's it.

20. Honesty and bluntness are rare: Because I am frequently these things, I didn't realize until quite recently that many people are not. It was an unnerving realization that not everyone tells you what they're thinking all the time, and it explains why people are shocked when I am. But I am often told that people appreciate my honesty, and so I won't stop. For those who hate it; sorry (sort of. You can just tell me to stop).

21. Jeans shouldn't be the only pants in your wardrobe: Sometimes they are not appropriate. Sometimes you need to suck up your hatred of trying things on and go on the hunt for a pair of dress pants. And shoes that are not TOMS.

22. The New Covenant is liberating: When I finally came to understand the New Covenant as the New Testament outlines (as best as I can; I mean, there's always more to learn), I felt liberated: "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23). Life in Jesus is not about obeying rules of a church or of your friends or of your parents. Because there are none. There is nothing we can do to earn God's love, because he loves us already. There's nothing we can do to make him stop. There are no rules that ensure us a gold star at the end of our lives. But this kind of freedom demands that we live in a way that is honourable and pleasing to Him. And this is the absolute most liberating truth I have ever come to know. (I recommend listening to this series on The Truth About Freedom from The Rock of York podcast)

23. Get excited about stuff you like, even if other people think it's weird: Because life is so much more satisfying if you enjoy the stuff that makes you giddy, regardless of how others see you.

24. Strangers on the internet aren't scary: I used to think that everyone online who wasn't me was a serial killer. However, in the past year I've met some incredible people through the Internet; people who would be my friends in real life, people who have inspired me and motivated me and who have made me laugh. Not everyone on the other side of the screen is a weirdo.

25. What you wanted to be when you were 7 years old is what you should be doing as an adult: When I first learned how to read in kindergarden, I immediately began writing. I wrote stories and poems. My teachers made booklets of white paper for me to write stories when I was done my work. When we got a computer, I spent hours writing novels that I never finished. When I went to junior high and throughout high school and university, I tried to find something else that I was supposed to "be." Nothing stuck, and I was miserable. It took me until I was 25 to realize that the only thing I want to do is read and write. Turns out that the child me, yet uncorrupted by the need for money and status, knew the desires of my heart far more intimately than I did as an adult. I'm glad I'm finally in tune again.

Number of books read in 2012: 25
Current TV series: American Horror Story
Current nail colour: OPI's "Tomorrow Never Dies"


Unknown said…
I love you and miss you and this is 100% true and amazing.
I really enjoyed your post Jillian! I am double your age and still remind myself of some of these things.
Anonymous said…
Jillian - it's good to read your thoughts, especially when you admit that your parents were right a lot of the times! :)

I should have followed my seven year old instincts as well and became a teacher. I would have been retired by now. :)

So proud of you. I can't wait until December 19th.

Unknown said…
Pretty sure each one of your points struck a chord with me! Well said!
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