21 things I’ve learnt at 21 years of age

As I embrace my last few days of being 21 I thought I’d reflect on 21 things I’ve learnt in my official first year of being an adult. 21 was the biggest year of my life. I got married, bought an apartment, moved out of home, graduated from university and worked in a real 9-5 job for the first time.

But it was amidst all these big life changes that I learnt some smaller, yet pretty important things too…

DadnCait_instant1.       My parents advice is worth gold.

Hi Mum and Dad, I know you’re reading (thank you!), so listen up as it’s rare I admit this. Your advice is important, right 99% of the time and very valued.

If you haven’t learnt the art of asking your parents for advice on life’s grand issues, it’s about time you do. Even if you don’t admit they’re right at the time.. I can guarantee you when you’re lying in bed 12 hours later pondering life you’ll realise it’s their advice you need to take on board.

 2.       Adopt an attitude of gratitude.

It’s amazing how obvious thankfulness seems, but how difficult it is to really bring it into the every day. How can we live life of joy and purpose if we struggle to be thankful for something each day, whatever life throws at us? I wrote about this through December… why not adopt an attitude of gratitude by starting a “I am thankful for…” jar… I know I can’t wait to open mine!

 3.       Your friendship circle will get tighter, and that’s okay.

A friend gave me some great advice recently: make sure you have 5 friends you can discuss anything and everything with openly and honestly, and 10 friends you’d be comfortable having dinner with. Whilst it can be rewarding and fulfilling to have an abundant circle of friends with every living hour filled with social activities, true friends are rare and need effort. If that means minimising your friendship circle to make time for true friends… that’s okay!

4.       Your taste matures…start trying new things!plantain_instant

I am a pretty fussy eater. I don’t like staple foods like fish or eggs and I can’t handle spice in any shape or form no matter how hard I try (sorry Aaji, my Indian grandmother-in-law!) but I’ve realised my tastes are changing and being an adult is all about acquiring tastes to new foods. Fish isn’t as bad as I thought it was and mangoes are pretty good too 🙂 Now just to work my way up to caviar and Aaji’s curries.

5.       It’s about time to learn how to read the news, well.

I learnt this in my early years of a degree majoring in Journalism, but as a 21 year old I’ve learnt how important is to pick-up the slant of individual publications and read news properly. This also means that Facebook and Twitter aren’t definitive news sources, but neither are our national papers either. Devote yourself to reading broadly and critically, a skill that I hope will mature over my life.

6.       10 PM is an awesome bed time

I don’t care how much of a nanna I sound, but I never feel as good as when I’ve gone to bed at 10PM the night before. Sleep is so important and a day in thirds is a day well spent: 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours working and 8 hours playing 😉

navcait_instant7.       Relationships are hard, but that makes them more fulfilling.

I’m a pretty honest person so if you’ve asked me how marriage is going I would’ve said challenging but rewarding. Surprisingly, people were shocked and seemed to want to offer advice every time. Challenge isn’t a bad thing… in fact it’s through these times I’ve learnt the most, grown the most and come out loving even more on the other side. Relationships are hard because they’re about putting someone first other than yourself, revolutionary right? Maybe, but also totally fulfilling.

8.       Ask questions

This underlies most of the others points I’ve learnt this year but it’s something that is SO important to learn in everything: work, love, life, faith etc. It’s better to ask a question and get something right than be too proud to ask and end up failing. Embrace this in your workplace. (I’m looking at you fellow Gen Y’s!)

9.       Work out a budget and stick to it.

No I didn’t throw this in there to please my husband, the accountant and this is definitely one I haven’t nailed yet but learning to. Budgets are important, sticking to them even more so. Even if you’re only earning $200 week… work out where every one of those dollars is going and budget to save some. You’ll be thanking yourself in the long run.

10.   Set aside money to give to charity.Gita

When you’re forming that budget, make sure you include some to give to others. The average Australian family spends just $4.26 on charity a week yet $150 on entertainment. Make giving a pattern from your 20’s. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing your money can help people with greater need than you. Setting up regular contributions to your favourite not for profit is easy and worthwhile. If you can, even budget a little extra to give to friends participating in various campaigns.. I know there’s not a month that goes by when I’m asked to financially support a friend running or living on $2 a day and nothing says “good on you, I’m behind you” like donating to a friend. Need some inspiration? Start here.

11.   Texting is good, but next time call.

I have a serious phone phobia. I’m not quite sure when it started but it may have been when answering the phone with “Dear God” just as we were about to give grace at dinner as a seven-year old.. awkward. Emails are easy, texting even easier but nothing gets you an answer like picking up a phone and speaking directly. Again, Gen Y be warned… this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the workplace.

12.   “Travelling” is possible without setting foot on a plane

I have a great love affair with travelling. It started in little bits and pieces throughout high school, but once I hit university I could barely keep my feet in Australia for longer than three months at a time. Some of my greatest lessons have come through travelling, but I’ve learnt this year that travelling is a luxury, yet that doesn’t mean I can’t keep learning about the world. Pick up a book, watch a documentary or surf the web… immerse yourself in culture without stepping foot on a plane. I reviewed some great books that will transport you to Africa and Afghanistan, check them out!

jamies_instant13.   Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore… make it fun!

After I got over the initial excitement of moving out of home and cooking for myself.. cooking quickly became a chore. But I’ve learnt that cooking can and should be fun. Learn how to cook an exotic and slightly tricky meal and master it. Invite people over to try it, and even theme a night around the origin of you food. Cooking is fun when it’s all about bringing together a group of friends. Start with Jamie’s 15 minute meals. They make take anyone that’s not Jamie just under an hour, but they at least bring some magic into the kitchen!

14.   Mentors are one of the most important relationships you’ll keep.. get one!

One of my goals for the year was to find a mentor and I’ve been really blessed in this relationship throughout the year. Whilst my parents advice is always good (lesson 1).. agreeing with it is another challenges. Having an older, wiser person that isn’t related to you give advice somehow makes it easier to put into practice. Seek someone who you can be open with, but someone who will be honest with you, no matter how hard their advice may be to listen to at first. When you’ve got great parents giving advice, coupled with a mentor who ensures you follow it through you’ve really got a winning combination.

15.   Don’t complain about the stereotype, redefine it.

There’s been numerous times this year when I’ve been placed with the awful condescending brand “Oh.. that’s right, you’re 21.. Generation Y..” and felt frustrated and even discouraged. But don’t let our stereotype define you and waste away your talent. If you’re not happy with how our generation is perceived, redefine it. Spend the time you could’ve spent complaining on proving we’re not lazy, arrogant kidults (adults still living as kids) who are living off hand-outs. (Maybe get some ideas from my earlier blog about redefining #YOLO too!)

16.   Keep building your vocabulary.

Whether it means burying your head in a dictionary or using the sneaky ‘right click, synonym’ function, don’t limit yourself to the 6,000 words you’ll know by the time you graduate (average!)… Shakespeare used 60,000 words. Challenge accepted!

17.   I don’t have to achieve everything just yet.

Ah comparison. It limits us, causes us to give up and makes us feel unworthy. I find myself constantly comparing myself to everyone in my life… particularly in my professional life. Sometimes I need to step back and realise, hey, the reason why she’s achieved a, b or c is because she’s THIRTY. Pending I don’t get hit by a bus tomorrow, I hopefully have years ahead of me. Set your own potential, not one measured by what others (much older than you!) have achieved.

18.   Alone time is importantSCPM_instant

 I’m a bit of a Sanguine so I feel best when I’m surrounded by people but this year I’ve been particularly reminded just how important it is to reserve time for being alone. Whether it be resting, just enjoying peace and quiet or spending time with God, I’ve learnt that I’ll never truly feel refreshed and reenergized until I have some time to myself. Schedule it in your calendar, just 15 minutes a day is worth it!

19.   Set goals and regularly review them

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that goals are important, but how regularly do you review yours? A few years ago my ultimate career goal was to work in a communications team for a not for profit. In February I landed this dream job and almost felt ready to thrown in the towel. My goal was achieved, I could sit comfortable and complacently for the rest of my life if I really wanted to. But what good does that do for anyone? Revaluating your goals is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt.. whether it’s making them more achievable or setting the bar hire always have a clear idea of where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

20.   I cannot reverse park to save my life

A silly one that perhaps counts as a warning to you all. I cannot reverse park. I got by for four years after my L’s test without doing a single reverse park but this year I’m finding myself in positions of needing the nifty reverse park more and more and I suck. It’s always accompanied with a lot of squealing, fretting and bumpy breaking so I think it’s time to ‘fess up about this. Anyone game to teach me?

22_instant21.   I’m really ready to turn 22

 21 was undoubtedly the greatest and most challenging year of my life and I can’t feel anything but blessed for everything I’ve learnt and for the people who’ve been in my life this year. Here’s to an even bigger and better year ahead. Bring on Sunday, I’m ready for you 22!

Are you approaching 21, comfortably sitting on 21 or well past it? What things did you learn or are yet to learn? Is there anything cruical I’ve missed off the list? Comment below 🙂


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