07/30/2015 03:00 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2016

21 Things I Learned (Or Tried To) While Being 21 Years Young

As my twenty-second birthday is quickly approaching (cue the Tay Swift remarks) I'm reflecting on the past whirlwind of a year. For most, finally being legal seems to be the center of the year, but that's rarely the case. Since my last birthday, well, it'd be an understatement to say that a lot has happened. I graduated college, was diagnosed with skin cancer and had surgery for it, lost an incredible family member, came to terms that I went through sexual abuse, and dealt with family matters that were deemed more suitable in the latest drama, instead of my life. Oh, and I went through all of my savings to move to New York City to begin an internship without a secure full-time job beyond a few months. Seemingly a little crazy, right?

Nonetheless, you could say this has by far been the toughest and scariest year of my life, but incredibly exhilarating. It's been the year where I've found myself, discovered my passions, and uncovered my true friends. And as expected, I've learned lessons that I wish I had known prior to the notorious 2-1. So with that said, it's only fitting that I share twenty-one learned lessons from my past year as a twenty-one-year-old. And if you aren't quite there yet, hopefully this will give you a little insight into what growing up is really like. It's hard as hell, but it ultimately unveils who you are.

  1. Times are tough, but the support around you is even stronger.
  2. You can find happiness in the littlest of things. And you can find hatred in the broad scheme of the world. It all comes down to perspective.
  3. Nothing tests relationships more than moving thousands of miles away.
  4. Rock bottom is never really the end. It's all for a reason and it all leads to more.
  5. It's perfectly OK to not be OK (or have life figured out). And it's even more OK to (shamelessly) ask for help.
  6. Family surpasses anything. They're your core to your wellbeing.
  7. Sometimes your faith is tested, but it doesn't mean you have to lose it--you only have to hold on like hell.
  8. It's absolutely OK to say "no. In fact, learn to say it more often. If you're not saying "hell yes," it's probably not worth your time.
  9. Life (looking at you, NYC) is expensive, but experiences don't have to be.
  10. People rarely intentionally hurt you. Instead, understand that they're going through pain themselves.
  11. Your success is never dependent on your job title, income, or zip code.
  12. Stress will deteriorate your health, but it's up to you to take control. Do one thing for yourself everyday.
  13. No amount of money can solve problems, contrary to how amazing that bag is.
  14. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away, and that's incredibly hard, but absolutely necessary.
  15. People who are meant to be a part of your life will make time for you. There's never an excuse for not being a friend or not being able to let them know you're there.
  16. Despite popular belief, mom (and dad) know best. Find your comfort in those who look out for your best interest and love you at your worst.
  17. Never underestimate the power of a phone call, a quick text, or a funny GIF.
  18. Trust your intuition (aka, your gut). If something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't.
  19. Take chances. Take risks. You'll never have another time in life where you're able to make decisions with little strings attached. But, always be safe.
  20. Keep learning. Stay up-to-date on the news, read a book, learn something. Just because you're out of school doesn't mean your mind should slow down.
  21. And finally, enjoy life and live in the moment. Worrying about the future doesn't solve any problem. Instead, you'll miss incredible opportunities that are right in front of you.