Hi readers, as you recently noticed, I turned 22! Not going to lie, I've been waiting to turn 22 for a long time. The reason is that when I was 21, I had a really tumultuous year. I had a lot of life experiences, some good, others bad - first love, heartbreak, betrayal, grandmother's passing, friend's death... Just a bunch of things that made me reflect upon life in a more mature perspective. So here are some lessons I learned last year that I want to share with you.
1. What you see is not what you get
Humans are judgmental. We think "oh, he goes to church” “he prays 5 times a day” “he does community service", and we assume that he is good. We take stereotypes, and we use that as a meter stick. Sometimes, we have to remember we can't box people into categories. People are unique, and the world is not black & white. Remember that under the right circumstances, kind people can be mean, and vice versa.
2. Who you hang out with influences you
If we look at social psychology studies, humans have the tendency to conform to peers. For us, the feeling of belonging is important, so we tend to follow the behaviors of our friends. For example: If your friends consume drugs, you probably will think of the behavior as normal, because it’s a social norm. But say, you go to another group of people, they’ll probably think of it as a deviant behavior. That's why you have to choose the right kind of friends!
3. Just because someone calls you ugly/hoe/stupid/fat doesn't mean that's true
Never let others define who you are. People can say a lot of mean things about you, and trust me, it hurts. But you need to believe in yourself... You are far more beautiful, talented, dignified than anyone tells you. At one point, after receiving tons of insults, I thought I was worthless. But in reality, I've accomplished a lot of things that others haven't. Sometimes, people say mean things because 1) you threaten them in one way or another (and let’s face it, we can’t help but radiate awesomeness), or 2) they want to feel more superior than you. So, it’s up to you to know what is true about yourself.
4. Don't be scared to do what's right
What is wrong generally is easy. What is right is usually hard. You're going to get a lot of backfire. You're going to feel like an outsider. You're going to suffer. But it's worth it, trust me! Doing the right thing is hard, but it will make you stronger in the long run. If you have to break up, do it. If you have to report a friend to the authority, do it. If you have to say the terrible truth, do it. The most important thing is you have to have the right intention to make things better, and you’ve thought through all the consequences that your actions will make.
5. Don't be afraid to look for help
Suffering in silence sucks. You're going to need help, be it from professional or family or friends. I was first afraid of stigma, because I didn't want to look weak. But I realized that I'm at that position where I'm too weak to help myself. That's when you start looking for help. I actually went to a counselor at Penn, and she gave me a completely new perspective on how to deal with my problems. Because a sick person can’t cure a sick person, right? A hairdresser can’t cut his own hair, right? (okay, fine, they have a mirror, but that’s still super hard to do)
6. Stop blaming yourself
Give yourself a break. You've worked so hard to get to where you are, and if something doesn't work out, it isn't your fault. You are not responsible for the action of others. You are not responsible for external circumstances. You can't prevent people you love from making the wrong decisions. You can't prevent people from not choosing you in a job/promotion/contest. You can’t help to feel grief, if someone you know dies. So, give yourself some self-love, and stop blaming yourself.
7. Let yourself feel grief, sad, and all those negative emotions
The tendency for our society is to pretend that we are happy, no matter how tough things are. That tendency tends to be more harmful than helpful. Negative emotions that are not expressed tends to do harm to your body through stress. The thing is, we need to find positive ways to express them. So, for me, to deal with my anger, I do kickboxing to release some negative energy, or I watch sappy Korean dramas when I feel sad so that I have an excuse to cry (no shame, I am now a big fan of the K-Drama It’s Okay, That’s Love). Whichever way you choose, make sure that you take care of yourself and can finally feel better at the end of the day.
8. Happiness and health is more important than work
Sometimes, when we’re working super hard, we tend to forget to take care of ourselves. We forget to sleep enough (7-8 hours is the daily recommendation, by the way), meet our family & friends, have a bit of me-time, exercise, and eat healthy. We think that we can’t lose, we have to be successful; we’re young, so we have to work hard now. But what is the point of working hard, if you can’t enjoy the results? When you are sick and depressed, no matter how successful you are, you’ll still feel hollow and empty. And face it, the money you’re making today is probably going to be spent on future hospital costs. Better take care of yourself today to prevent future sickness or emotional breakdown.
9. Do what you love and make it work for you
A lot of the time, we tend to adhere to society’s standards for success. If you’re in Wharton (like me), for example, the measure of success is getting a job at investment bank/management consulting. For a time being, I really thought that I was okay doing what others expect of me. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure, so I did all the things - on campus recruitment, working my ass off until 4 am, joining all these different extracurriculars that wasn’t really me. I realized that I don’t have to be bound by this form of success, and that success depends on how I define it. Right now, I love blogging and investing, so I make it work for me - my investing pays for my time blogging. Or let’s take a look at John Legend, he was a BCG consultant for 2 years. He then realized that he loved singing, and it was his true calling. If you don’t do what you love, you’re going to end up feeling empty and unsatisfied. So do what you love! The money will follow, and you can make it work for you. If you love photography, open a freelance photography studio. If you love fashion, make a fashion blog or online store. If you love knitting, sell your knits. If you love writing, start a blog or write a novel. There are so many ways to monetize passion, and it will fuel you to only work harder.
10. Have hope that things will turn out for the best
When things seem absolutely abysmal, sometimes you feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. You can’t see where you are heading, and you feel like you’re drifting with no aim. Sometimes, you want to just cry on the floor all day, because you don’t know how to make the pain stop. I know that when you are depressed, it's hard to see the silver lining in living. I’m telling you, it will get better. It might take a while for you to even start feeling just a tiny bit better, but be patient and have hope. Being depressed is terrifying, I know, but please stay strong. There is a point to all of this suffering, that you will be strengthened by all of this. As Dumbledore says it, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
Sending you lots of love, hug & sisterly support,