23 Things I Learned about being 23 (My thoughts before I turn 24 on June 27th!)

  1. When you get to be this age, you will see a lot of marriage and birth announcements on Facebook. And while you may look forlornly at your statistics book (Peterson/Houghton Mifflin are probably happily married), remember that your path is just that YOUR path. With it’s own timeline. It’s own milestones. Plenty of joy. 
  2. Your hidden talents will be revealed when you or your friends approach these new life milestone. You might not have thought you were a great editor, say yes to the dress shopper, wedding decorator, or photographer…but say yes anyway and follow your instinct. It is humbling to be part of these celebrations.
  3. Being single means you don’t have to share! Enjoy drinking that glass of wine and popcorn sprawled across the couch as you channel Olivia Pope with all the fierceness you can muster on a Thursday evening after a long week. The lineup for the Fall looks fierce! 
  4. You may think you know who you are before you are 23, but something about being 23 will change that. As my good friend Beyonce would say, “I love the way I walk ’cause I walk with a vengeance.” Step into your space, girl. It is one only you can fill. 
  5. You will begin to identify with those celebrity icons you’ve always admired. You may frequently have dreams of getting a Chai Tea Latte with Oprah, writing a book with Robin Roberts, or dancing in your socks in the kitchen with Solange and Beyonce. 
  6. While Neopets and Gaia and the Sims used to be your favorite games, pinning on Pinterest will give you the same rush. That DIY floor pouf will have you doing the Nae Nae
  7. Gone are the days when $50 from babysitting was a huge influx of cash. You better budget because money has a terrible way of sneaking off. Just one pair of jeans…and one dress…and one shirt…can become half your paycheck >_<
  8. You certainly won’t have this life thing figured out, but you will have lived experiences that can be used to help others on this journey. Share your story and never be afraid to be vulnerable. Blog. Start a program. Reach out.
  9. Your siblings have aged at the same rate you have! Suddenly you may look at them across the dinner table and think, “Whoa, my brother is this amazing functioning adult” ..and you have to promise not to cry or lose your big sister cool. 
  10. Your parents may have the same thought process and it can lead to lots of hugs. They’re proud of you, boo! Look mama I made it! 
  11. A friend might come over and you may find yourself watching episode after episode of HGTV or Fix My Life shows – while throwing up praise hands and intermittent shouts. Cherish it! 
  12. This whole dating thing may still be confusing to you. Heather Lindsay wisely said, God will let you write your love story if you let him. So let him, you have enough on your plate anyway! 
  13. Planning your life, as you have done all your life, is great…but His plans are perfect. Jeremiah 29:11
  14. If you find yourself at a crossroads between your desires and His, choose His and never look back across the ocean.  
  15. There will be many points in your life when He will leave you speechless. And when it happens, you better thank Him as vehemently as you asked for it. 
  16. One day you will get published and google your name and your article will pop up. Nobody will judge you if you search it a couple times just for the rush. Your work is available online for someone to read, as you’ve been doing with others for years! AYEEEEE! 
  17. Impostor syndrome, the feeling like someone is going to pull back the curtain and say “HEY WHAT IS THIS GIRL DOING HERE? HOW DID WE LET HER IN” will come and go. Embrace the process as you come into your own as a researcher. There is not too much you can do – it is part of growing into your own space. Remind yourself that you deserve all the awards and positions you are given and that you have earned the right to speak in the room in which you reside – whether it be in a room of scientists with 10 page resumes or colleagues who secretly hoped you fell down the stairs accepting your award
  18. Apply to that reach job/position/school. You may find out that it wasn’t a reach at all. You’ve been growing!
  19. For some reason, Health class seemed to make me think that your body didn’t change after puberty. News flash: your body does change. You also change how you feel about your body – many times. Make sure you know your body. Perform routine breast exams. Knows the lumps and bumps. Cancer is best if it is caught early. 
  20. Speaking of cancer, with time you will face more hardships and times where you will end up sobbing on the floor. Life hurts. And it is so so scary. The monsters under your bed emerge as you may be faced with cancer, death, trauma, heartache, and other things that were made for Lifetime. While the Fault in Our Stars and The Notebook are touching movies, you won’t want a camera to capture those moments. The suffering won’t be as beautiful.
  21. But no matter what you face, you will be given the tools to cope and thrive. You are so much stronger than you know. Whenever you forget, find someone to remind you!
  22. Maya Angelou’s favorite song was Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance and I hope that you use it as a motto for living. 
  23. Whew. Being young, gifted, and black ain’t easy. You will go through all the stages of Nigrescence. There will be sorrow, anger, acceptance, frustration, pride…and a whole slew of emotions. I pray that you always look in the mirror and see your brown skin as a marker of strength. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Racism isn’t over and it may not be in our lifetime. The system won’t be set up in your favor, but there will be people who have climbed the social ladder and will reach back to lift you. When you feel alone, find solace in sisterhood and in literature (Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Sonia Sanchez, Patricia Hill Collins, Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Gloria Ladson-Billings…) Rise with them and bring others. Do not let the sorrows of this world render you hopeless. You, my love, are the change and the hope and the dream of our ancestors. We are all girls rising above circumstances to excel. Say it loud. Say it proud.  

Cheers!

-Lauren 

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23 Things I Learned about being 23 (My thoughts before I turn 24 on June 27th!)

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