It’s about a week after my 22nd birthday as I write this. I can hear Boston’s subdued but ever-present pulse through my open window and I’m nice and cozy in my bathrobe and slippers. A string of calm moments have invited me to reflect on things I’ve learned during my 22 years, and I wanted to share them here:
1. Being busy with things you’re passionate about makes all the difference.
Juggling classes, work, clubs, a social life and internships in college is inevitable. I’ve found that I’m more energized and time flies when I love what I do. Being an RA and the president of a student organization each take up a colossal amount of time, but they’re things I care a lot about! Being strategic about opportunities can make work feel like it’s not work at all, even if the combination of all of them sometimes gets overwhelming.
2. The key to maintaining friendships through major life transitions is adjusting boundaries.
In high school, friends have endless time to sit and vent about things. As you branch off on new paths, build new routines and face new obstacles, though, it’s important to communicate with old friends to develop healthy expectations (not demanding 24/7 contact, understanding each other’s schedules and knowing how much a person can take on emotionally). Teenage friendships can be toxic and energy-sucking, but the right people will grow with you into more mature seasons of friendship.
3. Social media isn’t the only way to show that you care about someone.
Speaking of boundaries, I feel like in high school everyone felt obligated to post things for their friends’ birthdays, document every plan and comment on every picture. While I love these gestures, they shouldn’t carry more weight than phone calls, letters and quality time. Not posting about people in your life isn’t synonymous to not caring about them. A big part of growing up is learning that everyone uses and values social media in different ways, no one being more right or wrong than another.
4. You’re not obligated to follow everyone you know / everyone who follows you on social media.
I used to follow back anyone who followed me that had mutual followers. Eventually, it took me forever to scroll through my feed and I followed people that I didn’t particularly like or know or whose content didn’t resonate with me. Some are people I had met only a few times years ago. Don’t feel guilty about hitting “unfollow” for these people!
5. Sometimes it’s best to do small tasks the second they come to mind.
I find reaching out to a friend when something reminds me of them, putting something in my planner right when I know about it and putting a new roll of toilet paper in my bathroom right after finishing the previous one have made future Victoria’s life a s*** ton easier.
6. The greatest act of love you can show an institution is constructive criticism.
I consider myself Catholic, but I don’t think this identity should mean putting on blinders to the hypocrisy and abuse that’s been going on in the church. Also, #prochoice until the end. The best thing you can do for the institutions you love is advocate for people suffering under their current setup and vocalizing changes that would improve them. These systems should be constantly under revision to keep striving for their full potential of goodness.
7. Give petty drama a “two year” rule.
Between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, there were so many falling-outs that I thought had given me lifelong enemies. It’s now almost four years later and I can tell you that within two years I was back on civil terms with 99% of these people, able to hold conversations with them and genuinely move past whatever happened. These people rarely cross my mind anymore, and I hope the best for each of them.
8. In a lot of circumstances, doing what you can is better than doing nothing at all.
This is especially true with sustainability. Having a weekly meatless day if you can’t go full vegetarian or using a reusable cup for your iced coffee makes a way bigger impact than doing nothing at all, especially if a lot of people commit to these small changes.
9. If you ever use Instagram business tools, make sure your phone number isn’t connected to your contact information (unless you want it to be).
This is how I once woke up to disturbing texts from an elderly man in Nebraska.
10. Don’t jump into relationships.
It can be tempting to jump into the warm, secure-looking arms of a relationship in a matter of days or weeks, but after this going wrong for me so many times, I have committed to going on dates with people for a couple months before deciding if I want to consider making a commitment.
11. Everyone has more they can learn about being an ally to others.
Going to school in Boston, receiving student leader trainings and interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds has been a privilege that expanded my perspective and awareness of social issues so much. It’s a priority of mine to have interactions that make others feel welcome, heard and safe. That being said, becoming more inclusive is always a work-in-progress. I still make mistakes and have things I am ignorant of, but the most important thing is to be open to learning, able to check you privilege and mindful of how your words and actions impact others.
12. Authenticity is a better goal to aspire to than depth.
I personally think doing things for the sole purpose of looking deep is as stupid as people who do things for the sole purpose of looking cool. Enjoy the things you like.
13. If you don’t remove negative people from you life, the Universe will for you.
There have been toxic relationships in my life that I should have dropped way earlier than I did. I’m stubborn, but the Universe/God/whatever you want to call it has always done it for me the hard way when I refused to take action myself.
14. Another Universe tip! It will always reveal to you what you need to know when you need to know it.
I’ve driven myself crazy trying to find out information about people, their true character or if they’ve lied to me. Getting consumed with anxiety, taking online quizzes and using interrogation tactics have never lead to any success. Instead, they just made me feel worse and usually my suspicions were over nothing. The times I have found out bad information, it always fell into my lap when I was calmly going about my life and minding my own business. If you need to find something out, the Universe will make sure you do at the right time.
15. Add weights to your gym routine.
I can’t believe how long I thought cardio and a couple of crunches would cut it with working out.
16. Pinterest can be used for ANYTHING!
Mood boards? RA decorations? VSCO edit recipes? Inspirational quotes? Halloween costumes? I could go on and on.
17. Everything happens for a reason.
I always struggle to believe this in the moment, but I have never looked back at a person or opportunity that passed me by a long time ago and wished it went differently. I’ve been rejected for internships just to find better-suited ones. I’ve went through breakups that opened up more time and energy for me to make the most of my college experience. I failed a class and changed my major to something I enjoy a lot more!
18. Secondhand clothes are everything.
Plato’s Closet, Garment District student days, any kind of thrift store… they’re all amazing.
19. Self-awareness and personal accountability are the best life skills you can learn.
My dad always tried to drill this into me as a kid and I used to think it was irrelevant. Now, my own growth and seeing how others act has shown me these skills truly are among the best ones you can have.
20. No matter what you do, you’re going to suffer (not as depressing as it sounds).
Last summer, I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** and it was life-changing. The biggest takeaway for me was the idea that no matter what choice we make we will suffer, but we have the power to choose what suffering best aligns with our values and priorities. For example, if you want to be healthier you can either fulfill your goal and suffer with having to exercise and eat healthy or you can eat what you want and not work out but suffer by not being healthier. I try to apply this to every decision I make and the advice I give.
21. Inspiration can be found anywhere.
Through blogging, Her Campus, classes and internships, I have been writing more content than ever this year. I have felt very inspired by my fellow classmates, things I like to do, pop culture, current events and places I am visiting. I think this is because I finally realized that the best writing topics are often every day things that are right in front of me.
22. Miracles and signs are real!
This past summer, my grandfather passed away. We didn’t share many of the same interests, but I have always loved him and respected his work ethic. I spent a lot of time wondering if he could see me and if I could get a sign from him. A couple weeks ago, one of my cousins posted on Facebook about one of my grandfather’s favorite country singers that he listened to a lot during his final days. A few days later, I went line dancing on my birthday. As my friends and I moved our things to the only open booth, I looked over and there was a poster in the booth of the same country singer. I guess it depends on who you ask, but to me, I felt a sense of warmth and confirmation that my grandfather was keeping an eye on me and wanted me to know that he was there.
Thank you as always for reading, and here’s to many more blog posts throughout 22!