Twenty-two Lessons Learned at Twenty-two
Today I turn 22--the age that I once fantasized about being and listened to songs about repeatedly (Lily Allen, Taylor Swift, anyone?). Looking back at my road to 22, I cringe at some of my past decisions and behavior, but I also can't help but feel gratitude for all the lessons that I have learned over the years. To express my gratitude, I have compiled a list of lessons I’ve garnered from childhood to young adulthood (in no particular order).
Friendships are hard work.
Friends are the family you choose...so they say. Finding people you enjoy and want to do life with is an enormous blessing but requires time and effort to nurture and maintain. Inevitably, as you grow closer to someone, their flaws become more evident. As you both discover these flaws, it requires work on both sides to make a friendship last.
Honor your parents but recognize that they’re broken too.
Growing up, I always thought of my parents as infallible role models. But as I got older, I realized that they are just as flawed as anyone else—it is important to love and honor your parents without expecting perfection from them.
Read—as much as you can while you can.
Granted, I did not read as much as should’ve in my younger years—and my choices of reads were questionable. BUT, reading fostered a curiosity and wonder in me from an early age, and continues to do wonders in broadening my perspectives and challenging my beliefs.
Fitting in is not as important as finding yourself.
In high school, I was so caught up in fitting into the status quo that I lost a precious opportunity to become comfortable in my own skin. I realize now that social conformity robs you (and the world) of the unique individuality we each have.
Everyone has his or her own time table in life.
Don’t compare your progress with others—there will always be those “ahead” of you. Comparison is the thief of joy. Stay in your lane and live out the story unique to you.
Wealth is not a status symbol—it’s a tool to be stewarded responsibly.
With the advent of social media, it is easy and tempting to want to show off wealth. But realize that wealth is not to be flaunted, but rather used responsibly to share with those who need it and invest in worthy causes. The love of money is the root of all evil, after all.
It is better to say sorry than to be right.
I understand better than anyone how pride can be the downfall of friendships in times of conflict. But, is upholding your pride really worth losing a friend? Saying sorry first (even when you feel wronged) will save you a lot of time and unnecessary hurt, and potentially save a friendship.
Don’t limit yourself to one “best friend.”
Assigning yourself a singular “best friend” is cute, but can lead to unmet expectations and tremendous hurt when your “best friend” disappoints you. It is better to make and maintain multiple meaningful friendships that can weather the storms of life than to place all of your hope into a single friend.
Pain and suffering bring unexpected blessings.
Times of pain and suffering are not the results of divine punishment, but rather opportunities for personal growth and maturing. Be patient in these times and have faith your pain and suffering is never wasted.
Do not place your intrinsic worth in your popularity (especially on social media).
Instagram and Facebook make it so easy to measure your self-worth by the number of “likes” you receive. But getting wrapped up in these likes or in popularity in general can lead to toxic people-pleasing and comparison—which rob you of true joy and contentment.
Don’t compare your gifts to others.
We are each uniquely gifted. I used to be jealous of people who were good at dancing, as I was horribly stiff (LOL). But I have learned to embrace my own unique set of gifts and genuinely praise and admire the gifts of others without falling into the trap of envy.
Find a hobby—something productive that brings you joy and is unrelated to your work.
True rest isn’t found in nap-taking or lounging around in bed. Rather, my most restful and rejuvenating times are when I am deeply engaged in an activity I love and enjoy (without the pressure of performance). For example, I love to immerse myself in painting (and writing on my blog).
Media is deceptive—especially when it comes to how you should look, dress, and act.
Echoing some of my previous points, trying to fit into the mold of what is considered “pretty,” “fashionable,” or “normal for my age,” can lead to a loss of individuality and toxic comparison and trend-chasing.
Getting straight A’s isn’t as important as discovering your passions and motivations.
As your typical asian kid, I was often pressured to get straight A’s in school. But working for a letter-grade can prevent you from A. really understanding the material and B. uncovering your passions and core motivations.
We aren’t meant to do life alone—we need solid community everywhere we go.
As much as we want our independence and alone time, we simply can’t do life by ourselves. It is so important to find a community of friends you can lean on for emotional support and solid wisdom wherever you go. “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
The music you listen to and videos you watch influence you more than you think.
The music you listen to and shows you watch, and any other media you ingest can and will shape the person you are, for better or for worse.
Going to church regularly isn’t nearly as important as immersing yourself in the Word, prayer, and quiet time with God.
Personally, I attended church regularly for most of my life before realizing that developing a personal relationship with God does not and cannot solely depend on regular church-going. While going to church is important, having a relationship with God, as with any relationship, requires time and commitment—reading your Bible regularly, habitual prayer, and quiet time alone with God.
Contrary to popular belief, the university you attend does not determine the success of your professional career.
Being raised in the Bay Area, I was repeatedly fed the lie that the name value of the undergraduate college you attend will determine the course of your life. In other words, going to an Ivy League university will secure you a successful and happy life, while attending community college is…a death sentence. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until much later that it’s not about the name value of your educational institution, but your own dedication and discipline that determines the course of your career.
Recognize your own cultural biases and address them by studying other cultural world views.
As an anthropology student, I was forced to recognize and wrestle with my internalized biases about race, ethnicity, social status, and more. If not for my discovery and appreciation of other cultural world views as an anthropology student, I would have forever confined myself to the narrow-mindedness of my ingrained biases and missed out on the wonderful opportunity of learning from and appreciating other cultures. I believe this is key to becoming more compassionate and loving to those unlike you.
Being a leader is less about being “in charge” than about serving those you are leading.
As a kid, I always viewed leadership as an opportunity to boss around your underlings and assert your authority effortlessly. However, after holding multiple leadership positions, I learned (the hard way) that true leadership lies in serving those you are leading and helping them to reach their highest potential in their roles.
Finding a romantic partner is not about your own personal happiness, but about commitment and sacrificial love.
Media nowadays portrays romantic love as the pinnacle of human happiness and the solution to all of your problems. As I personally witnessed in my parents’ broken marriage and the relationships around me, relationships built on anything other than commitment and sacrificial love are bound to fail.
It’s not really about you—but how well you love those around you.
To summarize ALL of these points concisely, life ultimately isn’t about you and your personal gain. Achieving your goals in life is meaningless without those to share it with—and using people to attain selfish desires never leads to true satisfaction and joy. Rather, living for others and dying to self is the key to joy and true fulfillment.
There you have it—twenty-two mini lessons I’ve learned the hard way. If these twenty-two years are any indication, I still have many more lessons ahead of me. But I’m grateful to know that I have a wise and loving God paving the way and authoring my story.
Peace and blessings,