25 Things I’ve learned in my 25 years of life

Happy Birthday to me! You know, I’ve always wanted to play it off as one of those people who doesn’t like to celebrate their birthdays or dislike the attention but I’m a Libra and I would like to be celebrated for being alive.

Do not be ashamed to celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. Birthdays are a great way for you to reflect on past years of your life and maybe even goal set while looking forward to the future. I used to write these reflections in my journal, but I think it’s time that I start being comfortable sharing.

  1. Your creativity matters

I basically covered this on a previous blog post. I think everyone deserves to be heard and I also believe sharing your work can be so freeing. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders when I started sharing my bullet journal spreads, writing on this blog, editing YouTube videos and sharing it on my Twitter account.

2. Maturity and Age do not correlate.

As a 5-year-old, I thought once I turned 30, my life will be together, I will understand and know the world and I’ll have all this money and gather so much wisdom. The older I got, the more I realized I don’t know anything at all. I think understanding no matter how old you get, there will always be an opportunity to learn more. Being mature correlates more with the experiences you encounter rather than a biological number.

3. It takes a courage and strength to ask for help

I always thought you had to do everything yourself. The more independent you are the stronger are, but it’s really stubbornness getting in the way of growth and progress. Asking for help takes courage and strength. You let your guard down and you show others that ‘hey, you know what? I can’t do this, and I need your help.’ You let more people in and again, it’s a learning opportunity.

4. Relationships should stay offline

I’ve seen it with Prank vs Prank – does anyone remember that YouTube channel? Jesse Wellens and Jeana Smith were in a 10-year relationship and they split up in 2016. One of the major reasons why they broke up was not being able to differentiate between showing love to each other to seek validation of others or solely showing love to each other with no other purpose. This breakup took a huge turn in how I viewed relationships. I saw all my friends going through the same breakups with the same reasons. I love showing off Akeel because I do love him, but I mostly try to keep our personal adventures and gestures to ourselves and off social media. I don’t think I want my relationship to be judged in front of strangers, especially when they know absolutely nothing about us.

5. Long Distance is a great way to test the strength of a relationship

I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson but I would highly recommend against putting yourself in this situation. Akeel and I spent five out of the seven years in a long-distance relationship. It was difficult because we couldn’t physically console each other, go see each other any time we wanted too, and we were forced to have trust and open communication. Communication and honesty helped us all the way through when he was in Kitchener, ON and Kingston, ON. We spoke everyday in multiple online platforms and we always knew what was going on in each other lives. At the same time, we had healthy room to grow for ourselves, especially in our early twenties. I got my separate group of friends and so did he. We got to figure out who we were and what we wanted throughout our university years. Luckily, we didn’t grow apart, and we only grew together.

6. The only person getting in the way of what you want to do is yourself

Fear is the number one reason as to why we don’t do the things we want to. I had a friend who wanted to see a waterfall up close but for her to see it up close, she’d need to climb and hike down a very steep hill. We drove an hour out to see this waterfall and she was just going to stand up there and avoid it. With enough peer pressure from my friend and I, we got her to go down and she realized how much she would’ve missed out if she didn’t do the climb. Overcoming fear is difficult but it’s a journey I think everyone should take. You learn so much and regret so little.

7. My empathy is a strength and not a weakness

I used to think my empathy made me so weak because I would physically feel the emotions of my friends downfalls, I would be angry to the point of tears for some, and I would post great accomplishment of others like it’s my own. I thought my feelings were too strong and it would control my mood for the day. Then, I realize that the power to empathize with others is a quality to be celebrated. It’s a great way for me to understand and connect with people I care about.

8. My passion for journaling goes beyond career prospects

Journaling has created such a weird avenue for me since I could remember. I used to write ‘Dear Diary’ in my princess locket Polly Pocket notebook in grade 3. Ever since then, I would do some form of journaling every year. I never stuck to a journal everyday routine basis as much as I wanted too. All that did was make me resent journaling so I made sure I never put any strict deadlines in order for me to avoid feeling guilty. Journaling has helped my creativity expand, it has help my mental health, record important memories and have reflective moments that I don’t think I would have otherwise.

9. No matter how many friends and family you have, you can still feel lonely

I could be in a room full of people that I love, giving me all the attention possible and I could still feel lonely. I understand there will always be people there to listen and care about me, but what it comes down too is yourself. Could you be with yourself and be content? I’m still working on this, but I understand the concept of feeling lonely in a crowded room. At the end of the day, it’s you who you come home with. You are stuck with yourself 24/7 whether you like it or not.

10. Anything you enjoy doing isn’t a waste of time

Bullet journaling, making comprehensive Spotify playlists, posting food photos, and making movie lists on Letterboxd were all things I believe to be considered a ‘waste of time’. I used to feel guilty for having pleasures in ‘wasting my time’ with things I enjoyed but at the end of the day, I reap the benefits. I feel a sense of completeness and I feel whole when I look at my playlists or food photos afterwards. If you enjoy playing games and going up in your ranks, that’s your accomplishment and I don’t think anyone has a right to tear that away from you. It’s your personal time and you deserve to do whatever makes you feel good about yourself.

11. You don’t have to love your biological family members

As a Vietnamese woman growing up with immigrant parents with traditional roots, this will always be a difficult concept to grasp. I’ve had acquaintances Tweet or rant about “if you don’t love your mother, you should rot in hell.” But what people don’t understand is everything in terms of family is situational. I do love my parents, very much so but I now understand that they’ll never provide me the support that I need and that’s completely okay. That’s why I think it’s important you have a chosen family – people you know that will have your back when you fall. You don’t need to show constant love to people because of blood. Love and respect need to go both ways.

12. Being grateful for the smallest and simplest things in life

Sometimes I catch myself falling into a deep hole of sadness. You’re allowed to feel depressed and sad and you should feel what you need to feel. I’m not saying to neglect or to turn away from it, but it’s a nice reminder that life gave you ups, and they gave you some downs. Sometimes I need that reminder – “hey, I have working hands and feet. I can see and hear. I can look beside me and my partner who loves me unconditionally is right there. I could buy coffee and make it every morning. I can not only work and provide an income for myself but also work from home.” Writing it down in my journal of little things I’m grateful for can really boost your mood. I’m not saying your problems don’t matter but sometimes you need to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

13. Never delete any memories or creative projects you’re ashamed of

Oh, do I regret this one. Before I get Akeel running up to me – yes, he did teach me this one. I’ve been mad and frustrated at my short stories, my writings, and some of my digital design work. I would completely scrap the entire thing. I had ripped up an entire journal of short stories made from my nightmares and three years later, I regret it. I know how bad my writing was back then, but it’s always important to look back on where you started and see how much you’ve grown. Using Akeel’s analogy, it’s important to take before photos before you start a heavy workout routine because you’ll see yourself everyday in the mirror and you could convince yourself that no progress has been made. Photo evidence helps you see differences and how much you’ve grown. I’ve been archiving my past works ever since even though I now dislike them.

14. Never feel ashamed of your sexuality

Growing up in a strict Asian household, you’re told abstinence is key… actually you’re told sex doesn’t exist and if you ever find out that it does, you go to hell for participating in it. I am a very sexually open person; I love discussing with whomever about anything on the topic. I also love that women shouldn’t be ashamed to show off our bodies, to celebrate our bodies, and especially profit off of them. No matter which way you flow, LGBTQ+ wise, you feel the way you do, and you cannot help it. You don’t need to hide it for anyone, and no one has the right to judge you. If you’re not harming anyone, no one has the right to make you feel like you’re a ‘slut’, ‘whore’, or ‘unworthy’ of love.

15. Putting blush on your nose makes you look cute

Honestly, this e-girl movement is amazing. It makes you look like a cartoon character! I haven’t stopped putting blush on my nose since I’ve heard about this.

16. Travelling can bring me into a unique state of happiness

There are some people out there who genuinely enjoy being a homebody and never want to leave their home country and I respect that. In my opinion, travelling can expose you to so much you cannot get from staying in one place. You learn how to navigate new roads and new cities. You learn a little bit about their culture, their customs, and even new languages. And lastly, you learn about traditional foods and how the country connects with the ingredients in every cultural dish you try. Travelling anywhere makes me feel like I’m learning several things all at once. It’s overwhelming, it’s stressful, it’s exciting and it provides such an adrenaline rush.

17. Delicious food doesn’t have to cost an arm or a leg

I like to again, attribute this to my fiancé Akeel. Growing up, I’ve always thought going out to eat costs a lot because my mom says so. When I finally could go out on my own, I went to places with my friends where they charge $20 for a mediocre plate of pasta. After being with Akeel, we love to explore mom and pop shops. We love those $3 tacos in a small little shed at the corner of the street that’s hard to find. I loved eating dollar dumplings and so many more cheap eats. Some of the most delicious food we’ve ever had has never been through fine dining. The experience is spectacular because you not only get cheap food, you also get a restaurant with character along with fun personalities from restaurant owners. This lesson I will always hold close to my heart.

18. Making the best with what you got

I always thought if I had a DSLR camera, I could finally make the high-quality videos I want. If I had all the right video editing software, I could make it look like a David Fincher film. If I had the expensive Archer and Olive notebooks, I could have an out of this world bullet journal. Turns out, I didn’t need any of it to make any content I’ve ever produced in the last 25 years of my life. This blog is written on a free WordPress template. YouTube videos are being recorded by the Canon G7X Mark ii and edited on Adobe Premiere pro. All my stationary is from Muji, Crayola, or gifted to me. I made the best with whatever I had and I’m honestly shocked at what I could do with everything. You work with what you got for now and the more you grow your content, the more you’re inclined to upping your production value.

19. I’ll never have a favourite coffee drink because there’s too many I love

This one I feel like I don’t have to explain. Going into several coffee shops in 25 years of my life, I love them all. So many people ask me, ‘Alicia, what’s your usual?’ And I always say something new or I don’t answer at all. I just love coffee and I can’t pick my favourite flavour or form of it – just give me caffeine and I’ll be happy.

20. Cherish the cozy nights with your favourite people

Some of my favourite nights are just my friends and I sitting in a basement, blasting some Frank Ocean or 6LACK and talking about the most random topics you could think of. We could talk about our fears, our future, our goals, and our least favourite One Direction member. Those effortless 3am nights you spend with your friends are something I miss the most during this pandemic. I don’t need alcohol or drugs. I don’t need anything flashy or big planned. Just get me, a bunch of my friends and some blankets on a cold fall night and let us sip hot cocoa while talking about whatever we want. Or even sit in silent with our old favourite movies playing on the television. I crave these nights once a week and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

21. Save up for festivals rather than going to individual concerts

This is more of a financial lesson. Akeel and I spent $300 to see Osheaga in 2017. We saw The Weeknd, Muse, Lorde, Milk Chance, Vance Joy, 6LACK, Local Natives, Tove Lo, Daniel Caesar and so many more artists live. It was an amazing experience. With concerts now-a-days, we’ll be spending over $100 on one artist if you don’t count their opening acts. I still never learned afterwards because I believe in 2018, I ended up seeing 12 artists live, spending over hundreds of dollars. Hopefully, I keep this in mind for Lollapaloza in the future. 

22. Listening is learning

Overtime I’ve learned that you don’t really learn about anything if you talk about yourself. Yes, catch up with people you love and how you’re feeling but if you stay silent and actively listen, you can learn so much. You learn more about the people you’re with, how they’re feeling and sometimes you learn something completely random and new. After speaking with some mentors or professors of mine, it was best for me to just give into a tiny snippet of who I am and listen to how they got to where they are. I can learn from the way they motivate themselves, what drives someone to be successful, or even what drives people to their downfalls. You learn by listening.

23. Mental health matters the same amount as physical health

A lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. I’ve pushed aside mental health because I wanted to succeed in my career prospects, and I wanted to push myself like they show in the movies or television shows. Turns out, that’s just not realistic and it’s pretty unhealthy. Some mental health issues could also result in physical health issues as well. Taking care of your mental health can help motivate and drive you to do better things. After some counselling, getting proper diagnoses and finally taking the medication I need, I’ve been more motivated to do creative projects and more present at work. Mental health affects all parts of your life.

24. Expose yourself with different people, different backgrounds and cultures, and different opinions

I’ve learned over the past few years that I cannot agree with everyone. But what if I made my entire social circle with people who are exactly like me? Would I learn anything? I don’t think so. I mean, to be fair, it’s hard to find 20 people exactly like me, who agrees with everything I have to say and values all the same things. I think understanding where people come from and why they think the way they do puts life into perspective. I was a terrible student in school, but I do enjoy learning about the world around us, society and how and what people think about. I’ve always been told to hear both sides of the story or try to have unbiased opinions so you can form your own and I do think this fact is true to some extent.

25. Not everyone has to like you

Not to bring astrology into this yet again, but as a Libra we do love seeking validation from everyone. I am such a people pleaser. I used to go to sports bars with friends to watch sports. I used to go to the club with people who weren’t necessarily nice to me. I used to help people and do things for those who took advantage of me. I think it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do things you wouldn’t normally do and try everything once. But I do think there’s a difference in trying something new versus doing something solely to avoid someone hating you. I used to do things for people so they could like me but all that brought me was resentment and negative energy. If someone doesn’t like you, move on to the next, stay unbothered and unphased because the energy to make someone like you could go into someone that loves you and values your time. It’s not worth it.

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