Tomorrow is the day I turn 22, and I have to admit that I’m starting to feel old. I’m not objectively old, but it feels like I’m getting too old when I recognise Taylor Swift songs from 2006, only to realise that 2006 was 13 years ago. Ugh (but yes I still very much love Taylor).
22 is an ambiguous age; we’re legally adults, but it still feels as if we’re baby birds barely ready to face the challenges of adulthood. Some part of me fears that when I someday try to fly away, I’ll end up plummeting headfirst to the ground below, but another part of me is excited to see what the next chapter in life has in store for me.
Before I digress further, here’s 22 lessons I’ve gleaned from ‘life’ so far and things I’ve learnt about myself in this past year, in no order of importance:
- Things almost always turn out better than expected. You know how you sometimes lie awake in bed at night, imagining the 101 ways you could mess up an important presentation or meeting? Well, I’ve realised that things rarely go as badly as we imagine they might, and that our brains love to play tricks on us and make us feel paranoid/insecure.
- Don’t overthink or worry excessively. This used to be a huge problem for me when I was in my late teens, and I would have endless anxiety about university, dying alone and my future. Still dying alone, but at least I no longer worry myself into a tizzy over it.
- Sleep honestly helps with everything. If you’re stressed about a problem or having difficulty making a decision, don’t rush into it and just sleep on it, then think about it again when your head is clearer.
- Life is too short to spend time with people who aren’t worth your energy. The same goes for fake, shallow social interactions. When it comes to friendships, quality > quantity.
- The more you let go of things, be it material objects or negative emotions, the easier your life becomes. You’ll have more time and headspace to dedicate to whatever is important to you.
- Learn to compartmentalise your work from your personal life. Don’t let a bad day at work taint your mood when you’re out with friends or chilling at home.
- I need to stop trying to seem agreeable and be more assertive, otherwise I’ll be seen as a pushover and end up in more toxic friendships. Being ‘nice’ isn’t the best way of dealing with some types of people, because you’ll end up doing a disservice to yourself.
- Don’t let your life be consumed by work or the pursuit of success/money. Spend time with your friends/family, devote time to your hobbies and stay healthy, because those will make you happier in the long run.
- It may be scary when you’re in your twenties/thirties and everyone else seems to be getting attached, engaged and eventually having kids, but you don’t need to feel pressured to reach life milestones (graduating, settling down, etc.) at the same time as others around you.
- Don’t fear failure, because the best time to try new things and possibly fail is when you’re young and relatively free from responsibility & commitment.
- Priorities and dreams change as you age. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want in life, and it’s changed drastically from what the younger me would’ve wanted. I used to be more ambitious and passionate about academics, but now all I really want are pet cats and a cozy house in some other country.
- I shouldn’t take my education for granted. Yes, I love internally whining about how I’m so tired of being a student after 16-odd years of non-stop education, but I should be more grateful for the opportunity to further my education, an opportunity that women in other countries or from different family backgrounds might not have.
- Being an adult, or at least transitioning to adulthood, isn’t fun. The prospect of slogging 12-hour days once I start working as a House Officer, the ambiguity of the future, along with managing my own finances frankly scare me.
- Continue to work towards your goals even if you can’t see the end, because someday, all your hard work might bear fruit. I started this blog in 2016, and I’m going to continue writing it indefinitely, in the hopes that someday I’ll be able to build a writing career with these foundations and practice.
- Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for long-term benefits. I’ve given up pretty much my whole twenties to med school and the 5-year bond after graduation, and as much as I wish I could buy my freedom back, I know that this will help secure myself (and my family) a better future.
- “People will come and go in your life, but the person in the mirror will stay forever.”
Learn to love, support and trust yourself, and find ways to grow. You’ll never be perfect, but self-improvement is always a good thing.
- I shouldn’t feel guilty just because I’m not as dedicated to religion as many of my friends. To me, religion/Christianity is a way of life and a personal relationship with God, and I don’t need to feel pressured to be as outwardly ‘religious’ or spend entire weekends in church (like many do). Different strokes for different folks.
- Problems and difficulties can sometimes feel overwhelming, and you can feel physically sick from the stress of bearing them. It’s okay to give yourself time to recover, and there’s no shame in taking a mental health day (although I know the stigma behind it still lingers). Just because it isn’t a physical ailment does not make it any less legitimate, and you are allowed to use your sick days for it.
- Put yourself first, without being selfish. How can you take care of others without first taking care of yourself? I mean sure, you can keep selflessly taking care of them but you’re almost guaranteed to burnout. So be kind to yourself, and remember that self-care is as important as helping others.
- I should definitely be exercising more. I rarely exercise – the last time I exercised regularly was when I had a ClassPass free trial and did 8 classes in 5 days – and I lazily justify my daily speed-walking as exercise. It’s so ironic that I tell patients to exercise more, when I myself can’t commit to an exercise regime.
- Spend money on experiences and memories, not material things. Memories last far longer than objects, unless you suddenly wake up with memory loss one fine morning.
- Spotify has been my lifesaver; music is one of the great loves of my life, and it can improve my mood or state of mind in an instant. Music has helped me through tough times throughout life, and I’ve curated playlists – most have 300-600 songs, I’m not even kidding – to suit any mood and my music taste for the day. I put this as #22 just so I could feature one of my Spotify playlists (600 songs from 2013-present):
P.S. I don’t make any money from running this blog, so if you’d like to support my writing and help me bring even better content to you, you can buy me a coffee/donate on Ko-fi!
If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series