Today marks a week since I said goodbye to being 23. Am I a little emotional over it? Maybe. Am I nostalgic about it? You bet your ass I am!
Just to give you a little bit of context, I stopped being excited about turning a year older ever since I blew my 17 candles. Nothing seemed that exciting to me about being one step deeper into adulthood. All I ever saw was responsibility I didn’t want being thrown at me, and time slipping through my fingers.
This time around, it was different. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about becoming older, but I was content. I feel like I’m ready to embrace this new year and make it mine. And that is only because my mindset changed a lot whilst I was 23. One could say I went through quite a transformation, even. And that is why this post is relevant – because I’m sharing with you who I was and who I became at 23.
After this, we can move on. SO LET’S GO!
ORIGIN STORY: A WHOLE LOT OF DENIAL
As every hero has her own origin story, so does yours truly. And just like every origin story out there, mine started with my life being A Mess (with a capital M for emphasis). This seems like your regular sarcastic answer – and it kind of is -, but it also isn’t. You see, I didn’t really know I was a mess, back in my early 23’s, I just knew I wasn’t doing that great. 5 out of 10, maybe? Could do way better.
Money was a huge issue back then. I was counting every penny I had and depending on my parents a lot, which in itself gave me anxiety about being an Adult and not being able to take care of my own grown up self. I was also in denial about being lonely, and… basically every aspect of my life was dancing on a tightrope. But I hadn’t fallen off of it yet, so I thought I was just fine.
“Are you okay?”
(I’m really not)
The way things were, I could’ve been given nothing but denial gift cards wrapped in a cute red bun as presents when I turned 23. Maybe that’s what happened because honestly, I used them all. They lasted me about 6 months – up until the end of last year. That was when my denial about how shitty life was getting got so bad, the truth got fed up with it, slapped me across the face with a brick and said: “Alright, you lazy child, you either start facing me or you will fall off that tightrope of yours and break all of your bones.”
I still tried to fight back a little with a scared “Do I really have to?”. All that got me was another slap, and I finally uttered out a reluctant okay.
THE TURNING POINT: BECOMING THE SHERLOCK HOLMES OF FEELINGS
Sigh. That was quite a heavy start. The good news is, my grim origin story ends there. Which doesn’t mean that after those 6 initial months I suddenly became a beautiful butterfly spreading happiness all around me (although I like to believe I am like that some days). It just means that by deciding to change, I no longer was spiraling down. I started to climb my way up, slowly, losing my footing more often than not, but still climbing up.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED
Denying the existence of problems and/or feelings doesn’t actually make them go away. On the contrary, it feeds them, which means they grow and become stronger. Eventually they become stronger than you.
So I started to exercise the opposite – I gave my feelings some time to just be. If I’m sad, I’ll allow myself to feel it for a while, and whilst I do that I try to think rationally about what it is that is causing me sadness.
“Why am I sad?”
“Because x, y, z happened.”
“What is it about x, y, z that saddens me?”
I do my best to understand what is causing my feelings to come to the surface, and then come up with ways to resolve whatever the inciting conflict is.
(This technique works wonders, albeit not the easiest thing to do. It is guaranteed to take ages off of your face! Better than a facelift! 10/10 would recommend.)
One could say, were he/she enough of a nerd, that I became the Sherlock Holmes of feelings. And not just of my own, funny enough! Because by understanding how my brain works, I became all the more inclined to understand what triggered certain behaviors in others as well.
And you know what? I’m kinda really good at it now!
THE HERO’S TEST: PEOPLE
It might be a surprise to absolutely no one that I suck at people. I know, that whole sentence was an amazing display of eloquence, but what matters is that it gets my point across just right.
I always thought I was quite averagely talented at many things but if there is one thing that I have never displayed any talent for that has to be socializing. And it’s not for lack of interest, because I do want to know how to properly interact with people and build valuable relationships in my life – it’s just that people scare me like nothing else really does.
Before you start imagining horrible scenarios in which people are being murdered, let me explain. It’s not that I think everyone out there is trying physically hurt me, it’s just that I think everyone will hurt me emotionally, sooner or later.
What I am trying to say here is that, despite all of this, my 23 year old self finally started to get a grip on the reins of her social life, and is now consciously attempting to pass all her classes from her degree in People Skills.
If before I thought I was fine on my own, now I know that being surrounded by the right people is what allows us to have happy moments in our lives. I know that being alone and enjoying time with myself is important, but so is relating to others, and letting them into my life.
THE REWARD: A LITTLE HEDONISM NEVER HURT NO ONE
I might be stretching the meaning of hedonism a little bit here. Regardless, I have started to allow myself to enjoy the little (and the big) pleasures in life. It’s not all about being productive all the time anymore. It’s also about resting, having fun, and taking good care of myself.
The key aspect here is that I no longer settle for what life throws at me, but rather I seek out that which I want. In simpler words, I got tired of “living for the weekend”, working and watching tv and going out once in a blue moon. I got tired of saving all my money for a rainy day.
I don’t need to live every day on the edge. That’s not it at all. Sometimes all I need is to take 10 minutes off my day to enjoy the sunset over the river instead of rushing to catch the bus and go home. Reading amazing books that inspire me, eating my favorite food, having conversations with my favorite people. Whatever it is that brings me joy.
THE SEQUEL: MY YOUNG (FOOLISH) DREAMS
Young-ish me dreams of nice things in her future. I want to start enjoying the good parts of being an adult (because, yes, those exist after all!).
- living in my own apartment that’s filled with plants I can actually take care of, in a pink building, in Lisbon
- having a kind and adorable puppy
- holding hands with someone I really really like (and who happens to have the softest hands, just saying)
Most of all, my 23 going into 24 year old self wants her independence! It’s time! That and to be surrounded by people who want what’s best for me, whilst continuously growing into someone more confident and wise.
END CREDITS: NOW, AT 24
I know it’s lame to say this but I am indeed wiser. Still dumb and with flaws to spare, but wiser. Flowers are now my official favorite thing. I love my friends and my family. I’m proud of who I am but madly in love with the prospect of learning more and more about how to live my life just how I want it.
At 24, I have stopped passively watching life pass me by. Instead I’ve started to have an active role in what happens to me. And, now, nothing seems that impossible anymore.
Have a great year, me. You got this.