Twenty things to know when you turn twenty years old

Today, at 12:20pm, I turn twenty years old. In my twentieth year of life, I rented my own home for the first time, got a full-time job and my own healthcare for the first time, and then left it, after considering the idea of joining the military for all of one hour. I also learned quite a lot, and I’m going to write some things down here that I feel are important, so that someday, I can look back, and remember how it felt to be nineteen, about to be twenty.

  1. Uncertainty is okay. It doesn’t feel great, and some anxiety will usually arise from it, but it is okay to sit with uncertainty.
  2. Even when we feel overcome by uncertainty, there are truths within ourselves and truths within the Universe that we may find refuge in.
  3. At the end of the day, the thing that matters most is what you think of yourself, and what you believe G-d thinks of you. Do not let the perceptions of others become a major influence on important decisions. If you are too caught up with what everyone’s thinking and saying, you may not even be able to decipher what you feel in your own soul, or hear the quiet voice of G-d in everyday moments.
  4. When you truly believe in something, you must stand up for yourself and for your beliefs, as often as it is safe and possible, even if it may cost you some amount of comfort in the moment, or prove to be quite scary.
  5. If a group of people consistently lacks the understanding and empathy to see you as a human being and respect you for who you are, you do not owe them any amount of time or energy, even if they are your family.
  6. Family and friends change. The truths in the Universe and within yourself do not.
  7. Someday, you may regret the things you did today, but you will still understand why you did them, and you will not hold it against yourself.
  8. You feel better after a short run or a long walk.
  9. It is okay to watch The Office on repeat because almost nothing else makes you feel at home with yourself the way The Office does.
  10. You spent today travelling, and now, you are all alone, on your birthday. This is okay. You will be so glad that you made the decision you did. This is worth it.
  11. Sometimes, you spend a lot of time on something, and you never finish it, and you feel like you wasted your time. And while it is true that, in many ways, you did waste your time, you also didn’t, because every moment of life changes us and forms us into who we are, and we can never quite tell who we’d be if we did not go through the exact experiences we have gone through.
  12. The narrative of the underdog, no matter how inaccurate or misleading, is enough to convince millions to defend a person, and support them despite all odds, even if that person is the racist, woman-abusing, lying old man we know as our President, Donald J. “I would like you to do us a favor, though [or I won’t send aid that wasn’t mine to grant or deny in the first place]” Trump. Even then, the narrative is enough. Even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. And yes, as we know, even if he bragged about forcing women to kiss him and seeing young women naked in pageant dressing rooms. Even if he said we should “take out” the families of terrorists! Even if he ignored a virus despite intelligence reports and stood by, waiting for a “miracle,” as it claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans, a number that will only grow with the resurgence of the virus in the next six months. Nothing beats the narrative. Once a person has bought it, they are stuck in defensive mode. (Thoughts expressed are my own opinions.)
  13. Buying books might make you more likely to read. But you know what will really make you more likely to read? Setting aside time for it, starving yourself of more dopamine-rich entertainment, and tying it in with things you already do on a daily basis.
  14. One of these days, you will need to learn to eat healthier things.
  15. Prayer and meditation are two things that you often only do if you know that you need to in the moment. The more you make these things habits, and not just remedies you only reach for when something is wrong, the happier and more at peace you will be.
  16. No matter where you are in the country or in the world, most of the things that you enjoy the most will still be with you. You will still have friends, books, places to walk, things to write, Netflix, the ability to FaceTime people you love, and the company of G-d.
  17. Melatonin works.
  18. When it comes to a long-term partner or spouse, you deserve a person who recognizes you for who you are and respects you. Commonalities are vital and some key concepts of how the Universe works must be the same, but before any healthy place can be reached, that person must recognize the person you are and respect you.
  19. There’s no need to get ahead of yourself. In about four years, you’ll get out of the military, or you’ll stay, depending on economic conditions and other factors, but at the end of the day, you know what you need to do today. To quote the person who birthed the Universe, “don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”
  20. It is a rare event that you will regret not spending money. It is also an unlikely event that you will wish you had more boxes of stuff when you find yourself moving for the tenth time in four years.