I’m turning 23. But it really don’t feel like it

by MJ Sullivan

At this time in the world, this does not feel like the time for the celebration of the 23rd time I’ve revolved around the sun. I was originally looking forward to finally having a birthday I could celebrate: not amidst finals, school, or personal crisis (The universe had other plans). On top of the state of the world, I also personally don’t feel like I’m ready to or should be allowed to be turning 23. In my mind, at 23 you should have things a little bit more settled than I feel I do. However, with the help of some loved ones, I’ve started realizing that I don’t have to have to have it “all figured out” right now, and that I might have accomplished more than I can see or feel. In light of this, here are 23 things I’ve learned, or figured out, in my 23 years on this Earth.

1. You don’t owe anyone anything. Ever. Period.

2. As long as you are safe to do so, be and present yourself as authentically as you can. The amount of emotional and mental freedom you feel when you can truly be yourself is nirvana.

3. Dark chocolate is the supreme chocolate, and black coffee is the ruler of coffee. If it’s the good quality stuff, it doesn’t need sugar or milk to be great.

4. You’re not weird for liking or being interested in the things you like. There are like-minded people out there in the world just waiting for you to discover them who will not just tolerate you, but celebrate you for it. 

5. Sometimes, you have to let go of things or people that are causing you more harm than good. It might take you a while to notice, realize, or accept, but flowers can’t grow in poisoned soil. Cut out anything in your life that is causing you angst or stopping you from growing.

6. You do need sleep and food! Providing your body with the proper amount of energy to function properly actually works. The body craves equilibrium. Everyone’s balance is different, and finding yours may take some time, but it’s worth the time and effort you might put in to find it.

7. The present moment is always going to be “the in-between”. I have had, and still do have, a hard time not idealizing the past or wishing for the future to happen faster; so much so that I forget to enjoy the present until it is the past. Take the time to enjoy the seemingly small moments of your present situation, because someday, you will cherish them.

8. Your entire life is not just middle and high school. Your entire life is not just your hometown, or the first 18 years of your life. When you’re in a place where not everyone gets you, it’s very hard to see that life gets better. The world is so much bigger than one town and has so many people and opportunities. You’re not defined by where you come from but how you progress from it.

9. Everyone can be an asshole. Doesn’t matter age, race, sexuality, gender, religion, etc. It takes all kinds.

10. Nobody in the world is a background character. Every single person you run into has a life: a family, friends, a passion, a career, a personality, and feelings. Your bodega man, your coworker, the person next to you in traffic, your sibling. Everyone comes from such a different background that you will never fully know because you haven’t lived it. Keep this in mind when interacting with people.

11. Take care of the aftercare of your piercings, tattoos, scars, or surgeries. They are alterations to your body and they deserved to be treated with care! Plus, you WILL regret not taking care of them, aesthetically and/or pain-wise.

12. Felt hangers are so much fucking better than plastic ones. They keep every piece of clothing on the hanger and off the floor. Do yourself a favor and invest in some.

13. Education is important, but there are many ways to learn besides through institutionalized education. You are constantly a student of life, and never have to cease your learning due to lack of funding or skill. Go learn guitar from a YouTube tutorial, ask a friend to teach you to drive stick, teach yourself how to paint. The world is your oyster if you’re willing to put in the time and passion.

14. Whatever you’re feeling, there is a song out there to express it.

15. There is almost never a reason to not use a reusable water bottle. Go buy a good one and decrease your carbon footprint.

16. You are not your trauma. You are not your mental illness. These things can manifest to be a huge part of your life or identify, but you do not have to let it become you. These things are a part of you and your life, but you are worth so much more than something that happened to or is happening to you. 

17. Getting better is always worth it. Trust me. Asking for help is always worth it. Trust me.

18. Friends can become your family. Surrounding yourself with supportive, amazing people makes life so much better.

19. Black looks good on everyone.

20. Never, NEVER wait to buy these things: plunger, krazy glue, glasses repair kit, sewing materials, light bulbs, flashlights, toilet paper, toothpaste, charger. By the time you need them, it’ll be too late. Thank me later.

21. It’s never too late or too dumb for you to start something you’re passionate about or interested in. If you want to do something, just fucking do it. What other people think or if “it’s good or not” literally has no bearing on the fact that it makes you happy or it’s fun. Spend more time thinking about your happiness and amusement rather than people’s supposed opinions about you.

22. Always go. If someone asks you to a concert, go. If someone asks you to go to a bar at 1am, go. If you’re invited to a poem reading at a bookstore, go (as long as you are comfortable of course).

23. Although, I’ve learned so much more in my life, I’ll leave you with this: The only constant is change. You can take this in a light way, or a dark way. What’s happening to you right now is not going to be that way forever, but also what’s happening to you right now is not going to be that way forever. Enjoy your happy moments while they are happening, and know that in your worst times, the skies will clear eventually and the sun will peak if not fully shine through.

24. Bonus: Don’t shave your fucking head without thinking about the fact that you have to grow it out, and that it’s gonna look weird sometimes and have its phases. Take it from me.

Happy Birthday to me. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay inside folks.


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