23 Things I’ve Learned in 23 Years

Route 66 - Photo by: Whitney Young
1) Comfort food is the best food.
Fancy restaurants usually aren’t worth the cash blown. Mac and cheese is the real crème de la crème.

2) Saying “I can’t” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You usually say it about the things you’re not sure you can do, or things you don’t want to do. Then, you wake up one day with extremely limited options, because you’ve sabotaged your abilities. I can’t cook. I can’t sing. I can’t surf. I can’t move away from my family. I can’t get up that early. I can’t stay up that late. YES. Yes, you can.

3) Confidence is power. It’s been said before, but until you’ve felt the power firsthand, you don’t understand the meaning of the phrase. Doors open and seas part for confident people. At first, you may be faking it. But the more you practice, the more it becomes an ingrained part of your identity and behavior.

4) Nothing feels as good as achieving a goal on your own. Sure — it’s great to have help. We wouldn’t get by without it. But there’s nothing as truly and deeply satisfying as attaining success as a result of your own devices and hard work. Because it’s the blood, sweat, tears, long hours, long days, sleepless nights, soul crushing doubt, and subsequent conquest that makes the win so glorious.

5) Work a truly shitty job as a teenager. It humbles you, and makes you a better person. My first job was as a kitchen dishwasher at a nursing home when I was 15 years old. The shifts were only three hours long. But it was dirty, disgusting, and degrading. I had half-eaten puréed chicken and gravy splashed in my face on the daily.  And it absolutely 100% made me a better person.

6) FOMO is destructive. When I was in college in New York City, and a club promoter would text me saying, “TONIGHT IS GOING TO BE EPIC AT [club]! YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS OUT!”, I believed them. I believed that every single night out could result in some totally unpredictable awesomeness that I would miss out on if I didn’t go.  The older I get, and the more mediocre nights out I experience, the more I realize I’m really not missing anything. If you carry on throughout life in a constant state of FOMO, you’ll be miserable. And burnt out from all the unnecessary clubbing. So chill while you still have ample brain cellage. 

7) Always bring a pen. You never know when you might need one, and you don’t want to be the asshole that has to ask for one.

8) Wine is one of the most wonderful things in life. Relaxation effect aside, there’s something so tranquil about vino. It makes you stop, and live in the moment, which is something we so rarely do (thanks, social media).

9) High school means nothing. Don’t worry about who you are in high school. It does not foreshadow who or what you’ll be in life. Set goals for the future, and start working toward them now. The cool kids peak in high school — seriously. Just be nice to everyone and work hard. You will do great things. 

10) Diets are bullshit.
 Eat the food you love — just eat less of it. It’s taken me 23 years, and more food comas than I can count, to realize it’s not the food, it’s the quantity. Life’s too short to not eat ice cream and pizza.

11) Bad dates are necessary. They’re awkward, painful, and wrought with anguish and anxiety. They make you lose hope in love, romance, and the goodness of humanity. They’re frustrating, and sometimes, repulsive. But they are not a waste. Having had dinner with my fair share of disenchanting individuals, I know exactly what I don’t want in a significant other, and how to detect those traits almost immediately. Check, please!

12) Bad relationships are necessary. Again, it’s not all rainbows, glitter, and One Direction songs. Bad relationships, like bad dates, teach us what we don’t want. Process of elimination.

13) Everyone should live with a roommate at least once. It’s not pleasant. In fact, it can be utterly hellacious. But you need to do it. It builds character, and forces you to tolerate other people’s ways of life in a very up-close-and-personal way. When I moved in with my college roommate, we were polar opposites. I was Type A, she was Type B. It wasn’t an ideal pairing, but we taught each other a lot about life. Because we saw things so differently, we ended up learning other points of view on almost everything, understanding those points of view, and, sometimes, changing our minds. She taught me how to let loose, and I showed her how good strawberry cream cheese is on a waffle. And in her, I ended up forming one of the greatest, most unconditional friendships of my life.

14) Go to your dream school. Getting into your dream school is important, because it’s the first significant goal you set for yourself as a young adult, and, if pursued, your first great accomplishment. If you don’t get accepted the first time around, work your ass off and reapply. The pursuit and consequent success teach you the power of hard work and self-discipline, as well as the endless profitability of perseverance.

15) Looks are a depreciating asset, so don’t invest everything in them. I think it took living in Hollywood for a year to truly understand just how worthless people are who only care about their appearance. Sure, it’s good to be goodlooking, but if it’s your #1 priority, you need to reassess. Work on your brain — it doesn’t get a beer gut.

16) Everyone should live in New York. Even if only for a month. Living there teaches you about culture and the acceptance of differences. It also makes you tougher than hell. Despite the insanity, you start believing in magic, because when things are good, they are SO good. There is an energy; a spirit in New York that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

17) It’s imperative that you leave home while you’re still young. You can always come back, but you MUST leave for a while. When you go somewhere entirely foreign, you are instantly freed of all the things you have felt pressured to do, be, become, achieve, and believe your whole life heretofore. If no one knows who you are, you can be whomever you wish. Going somewhere new enables you to discover the parts of you that have been hidden or missing, and embrace them. And that is the most liberating thing in the world.

18) Try everything you want to try. As Eminem once said, “You don’t get another chance, life is no nintendo game.” Try new foods. Try new philosophies. Try new workouts. Try new cities. Try new languages. Try new clothes. Try new hairstyles. Before I moved to Los Angeles last year, I had never hiked once in my life. By the time I left, I was a hiking machine.

19) Lust is not love. Learn to distinguish the difference early on, and you’ll save yourself an immeasurable amount of time, energy, and pining for the wrong person. Lust is being suddenly and extremely infatuated with someone you just met, and about whom you know very little. Love is knowing someone well enough to know all of their flaws, and still loving them.  I once thought I was in love with a club promoter. We all have to learn.

20) Tell your loved ones you love them while they’re still here. I’ve made it a priority to write letters to the people I love (on their birthday, for Christmas, etc.), telling them how much they mean to me. It doesn’t ease the pain of their absence after they’re gone, but it lends an unparalled sense of closure.

21) Stay true to your convictions. If they are moral, well-founded, and what you truly believe in — be unwavering in them. There are many sheep, and not enough leaders. Don’t fit in.

22) Be kind. There are enough assholes in the world.

23) “Not all who wander are lost.” In the final days of my grandmother’s life, she gave me a necklace with those words engraved on the pendant. At the time, I was 18, hadn’t really had the opportunity to wander, and thus I had never been lost. The words didn’t hold the meaning they do now — now, they are everything. In life, there is a well-traveled road. Go to college, get a job, get married, have kids. If you wander from this road, you are not necessarily lost. Interstate 40 is a straight shot, but the winding Route 66 is much more scenic.



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