20 Lessons in 20 Years

Today is my birthday. A day of celebrating the fact that I've survived teen pregnancy, not getting into any (serious ;-)) trouble, but most importantly, celebrating the fact that I made it to 20 years old. Five years ago, I had barely enough energy to blow out the candle on my low calorie birthday cupcakes. Five years ago, this was me.

I remember this moment like it was yesterday. A forced smile in effort to try and cover up the anxiety that was eating me alive due to the lit cupcake in front of me. I tried to hide my trembling hands in my sweatshirt. When I first saw this photo after it was taken, I immediately was disgusted. 

"Look how fat my face looks. I shouldn't have ate that stupid fricken cupcake. It went straight to my face." said my dysmorphic, eating disorder consumed mind.

I look at this picture today, and my eyes swell with tears. How could I have ever possibly thought that this girl needed to lose weight? That she wasn't thin enough, not good enough. I hated her then. I woke up on the morning of my 15th birthday, and dreaded the day to come. I didn't want to celebrate my life, because I just wanted it to be over. I was exhausted, and another birthday just meant another year wasted, and another year to be a prisoner to my eating disorder. Little did I know, that another year wasn't supposed to be in the books for me. It was a miracle I made it to my 15th birthday. I was supposed to be a statistic. But today, I have proven every single person who told me I was going to be beneath the ground by 16 wrong. It's a blessing I made it to my 20th. I have fought for this. I have suffered for this. I have overcome the toughest obstacles for this. I made it. 

I often feel like I do not fit in with people my age. I feel as if my maturity is on a different level than most individuals my age. Within my 20 years, I've gone through more things that most people won't go through in a lifetime. Those 20 years have taught me many important lessons, but I've narrowed it down to a top 20 list. So here it goes. 20 things I've learned in my 20 years of life.

1.) It's okay to not have your entire life figured out. Society puts this immense amount of pressure on us, even in middle school, to have a set plan of what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Screw it. Change your mind mid-direction. Be spontaneous. Live. Screw society's standards. 

2.) People actually don't give a flying fladoodle if you have a flat stomach. For the longest time, I thought that everyone was always looking to see if I had a flat stomach. NO ONE goes around grabbing your abs. But the right people will go around grabbing your ass. ;-) Totally kidding. A little. 

3.) Do what you're afraid of. Go outside your comfort zone. Stepping outside my "safe" spots has only brought me the best things in my life. I've learned that by doing what I'm afraid of, I end up achieving what I've always wanted. 

4.) Your gut feeling is ALWAYS right. No matter what the situation is. Whether you're gut is trying to tell you to pick creamy peanut butter over chunky, or is telling you not to sleep over at dude's house, always listen to your gut, and not your head. 

5.) You won't be friends with the same people for your whole life. Honestly, I graduated only one year ago from high school and I don't associate with anyone from my class anymore. Friends come and go, and that's okay. 

6.) It doesn't matter whether or not you have name brand clothes. No one goes around checking your tags. And if they do, you don't need that kind of person in your life. 

7.) Procrastination gets you no where. I learned this the hard way during my 1st semester of college. Just do it, don't wait. It'll come back to bite you in the ass later. 

8.) Learn when to say no. I've also learned this the hard way. I've always been "too nice", and have a ridiculously hard time saying no. But by not saying no, I've gotten myself in some pretty sticky situations. You can't please everyone. Be selfish. 

9.) Drinking/partying is overrated. I'd much rather spend a Friday night eating cookies than getting shit faced. I'd rather spend my Thursday nights at a bar(bell). ;-) Sure, getting a good buzz on is fun, but isn't always worth the aftermath. 

10.) Take chances. You never know if you're going to like something unless you try, so live fearlessly. You might end up loving something you'd originally pre-judged as something that was going to suck. 

11.) Bring out your inner child once in a while. Sometimes, the best cure for a bad day is curling up in bed with your favorite childhood cartoon, and that's perfectly okay. Scooby Doo is the greatest cartoon of all time, and that is not to be argued with. 

12.) Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy. EveryBODY is different, and you are you. Comparing yourself to unrealistic standards is going to do nothing for your confidence.

13.) Don’t be so hard on yourself. We are all our own worst critic. The truth is, we are all doing a way better job than we think we are, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.  

14.) Everything happens for a reason. There has been times within my twenty years on this planet where I simply did not see God’s logic for something occurring, but he has never failed to show me why later down the road. Trust that there is a purpose when something happens that you don’t quite understand (yet).

15.) Love yourself. Obviously, this is way easier said than done. Speaking from first hand experience, loving myself is something I struggle with every single day. But every single day, I try a little harder. Self acceptance truly is the key to happiness.

16.) Crying is okay. I used to think crying was a sign of weakness, when really, crying is just your soul’s way of speaking when your mouth can’t find words to say.  

17.) Save half of all the money you ever make. I started saving half of my paychecks when I started my first job as a lil’ cashier at a local Piggly Wiggly store. Without doing that, I probably wouldn't have  much to show for a savings account. 

18.) Treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be something you buy either. Whether it’s a bubble bath, painting your nails, treating yourself to an extra scoop of ice cream, don’t forget to be nice to yourself every once in a while. You deserve it. 

19.) Wake up early. The older we get, the faster time goes. The earlier we wake up, the more life we get to experience. 

20.) Never give up.  I’ve almost pulled the plug so many times on my life throughout my twenty years, but I kept fighting. I pushed past the pain. I swerved the negativity. I decided to not be a victim. Giving up gets you no where. 

Of course I have learned so much more than just twenty things throughout these last 7,300 days. I’ve learned that I am worthy. I deserve everything beautiful this life has to offer. I deserve to fall in love. I deserve every single spoonful of peanut butter. I deserve every powerlifting record I WILL set. I deserve to be alive. Today I’m going to be nice to myself.

Today I get to spend my birthday with the people who have been there for me all along, and the people I am so blessed to love and be loved by. From my oh so supportive family, to my incredible boyfriend, to my amazing friends, I am one lucky girl. 

So here’s to me. Happy Birthday, Lauryn. You made it.