20 Things I’ve Learned by 20

20:20Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m 20 or 12. I feel like both, and I feel like neither. I had, for so many years wondered who I would be, what I would look like, and what I’d be doing by the time I entered my 20’s (that was surreal to type). The glamorous, picture-perfect life I painted in my head when I was 12 is far from where I am now, but my life has turned out to be pretty rewarding in its own way thus far.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far, upon reaching the coveted (or feared) years of my 20’s.

1. Know when to leave the party 

I mean this both literally and metaphorically. It’s often hard to know the cutoff between where we end and everyone else begins. We often get so wrapped up in other people’s lives we lose sight of the most important one; our own. It is not selfish to focus on yourself, and taking time for you also makes you a better ‘you’ for those around you.

2. Exercise is important for mind, body and soul 

For fear of sounding like an overbearing mother, I’ll keep this one short and sweet. The times in my life when I have focused on and made being healthy a priority, I have been much happier. My confidence went through the roof and I proved to myself I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. You know, ‘your body is a temple’ and all that jazz.

3. Everything on social media should be taken with a grain of salt

We don’t often post pictures of ourselves shoving pizza and ice cream in our mouths at midnight, so it’s pretty unrealistic to believe anyone else would either. I’ve found that most of the images I was blindly accepting as someone’s ‘life’ were just constructions. We omit what we don’t want others to see, and almost too often, what makes us real. Don’t follow blindly.

4. Your heart will break, but it will mend too

It doesn’t always feel like it will, but the cliche does state that “Time heals all wounds” and in this case I definitely agree.

5. Take time to enjoy the small things 

Your morning cup of coffee. Walking your dog. Watching TV with your parents. Seeing a movie with your friends. Getting a good grade. Take all of it, no matter how small it may seem, and revel in how truly amazing it all is. We forget, unfortunately, how much good there still is in the world. Just acknowledge it and you’ll be a happier person for it.

6. Make playlists to document different things

It probably sounds strange at first read. It’s really pretty simple though. For the past 3 years, I have organized a new, bi-monthly playlist in my spotify, and added all the music I loved during those two months. When I go back and listen to my ‘March/April 2015’ playlist, I’m transported back to the music festival I went to with my best friend. I can practically smell the country air that flowed through the windows while we sang in the car. It’s really pretty special, the way music connects us to a feeling, a time, a place. It’s amazing to be able to access those memories whenever you want.

7. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone 

You rarely find things worth doing from your self-constructed safety bubble. Sometimes stepping out of these tiny prisons can bring the most rewarding experiences. So go out, travel, explore and learn. Always strive to better yourself (am I a motivational poster yet?).

8. You don’t need a best friend to feel complete

There will be times when you’ll be totally and completely alone.  And that’s okay.There will also be times when  you meet your ‘soul person’ and connect on another level. You can become your own best friend. I often felt like the fact that I didn’t have a ‘best friend’ all the time meant I was missing out on some awesome thing I could only view from the outside but never be a part of. I realized later this left me open to making tons of really awesome friends without ever feeling exclusive.

9. Tell people you love them as often as you can 

I feel so pessimistic even writing that, but you never know when someone may be needing to hear it, or when it may be the last chance (I hate that so much but it’s true).

10. Travel is the most addictive drug

Whether you’ve just got up the courage to go to a new town or city an hour away or have booked a ticket halfway around the world, travel becomes addicting. I’ve been traveling my whole life and still feel like there are so many things I want to do, and places I want to go. Start small and build up to that trip of a lifetime. Bring a camera and document everything.

11. Veganism changes your life

I’ve been a vegan for over 2 months now, and I do not regret a single day. It is probably the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. Knowing that I am living a life without causing any unnecessary pain and suffering to another living thing is such an incredible feeling, and I can’t imagine going back to Carnism ever again.

12. School is important, but don’t let it control you

I always advocate for people to study and try their best, but if you are absolutely miserable, change your course. Maybe the path you are on is not right for you, and thats okay. If you think you know of something that will make you much happier and fulfill you, then go for it. Be careful to fully consider the implications first though. You have to make choices like this without any doubt.

13. Learn how to save money early 

I wish this was something I had known earlier. I had always been a reckless spender, and now as I’m thrown into the ‘real’ world I’m realizing the gravy train is slowing down. I wish I had started saving years ago, so I would be able to live without any limitations (although at 20 this is way too optimistic).

14. Art is special

My favorite kind of art to create is poetry. I love it. I am addicted and can’t get enough. I could scribble half-assed poems on the back of paper napkins for hours and be perfectly content. I urge you to find your favorite type of art form to create, and let your mind go to work. Maybe it’s writing, or drawing, or painting, or taking pictures, or creating home movies and videos. Whatever it is, tap into this outlet and see how much better it makes you feel.

15. Use the past as an inspiration, not a punishment

I used to think of darker times in my past when I was feeling down about myself. I would torment myself with these negative memories and thoughts to the point it would make me feel physically ill. Now, I’ve learned to channel these past experiences into my writing and poems. I feel that expressing these things on paper, and potentially helping others who feel the same is much more rewarding that using the time  and thoughts to pick myself apart.

16. Don’t let the thoughts of others influence your decisions

If you want to wear a blue and pink cheetah-printed top that you love, you have every right to. I hate when people feel they can’t be themselves because of the fear of being judged. No one ever made history by being afraid of what people would say. Dye your hair pink, wear cargo pants, whatever. Just be yourself, unapologetically.

17. Love yourself for what you are, rather than hating yourself for what you aren’t

We spend so much time nit-picking all our imperfections that we often forget our beautiful and unique features. Maybe you have a bright smile or are a great dancer, but you hate your stretch marks or you hate your nose. Turn these negative, self-depricating thoughts into mantras of power, self love and confidence. You are unique. You are talented. You have a kind heart.

18. Enjoy the teenager years 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I can’t blame every cringe worthy decision I make on being a teenager. I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

19. Salt water heals everything 

Hangovers, cuts, sadness, anything under the sun! If I’m feeling anything at all, I will take myself to the closest beach and dunk into the water. I love floating on my back and listening to the sounds of the water. Just try it once, and tell me you don’t feel instantly better. I dare you.

20. Don’t fight the current, just float with it. 

Ride the waves, high and low. Keep moving forward and don’t fight it. No one gets out of a rip tide by trying to swim against it. If things suck, just take them in stride. Everyone goes through ‘periods of adjustment’ (the term my parents gave to situations which are less than ideal) and they always pass.

I hope this posts helps you in some way, or at least entertains you. What are some of your most notable ‘life lessons’ learned thus far? Let me know! xx

For business enquiries, please contact: emilyflaherty3@gmail.com







7 thoughts on “20 Things I’ve Learned by 20

  1. Hey Emily

    As a 20-something year old I can totally relate tho this article and love the 20 things by 20 article angle.
    Thanks so much and here are my favourite things as listed by you:

    Exercise is important for mind, body and soul

    Everything on social media should be taken with a grain of salt

    Your heart will break, but it will mend too

    Take time to enjoy the small things

    Make playlists to document different things

    Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone


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