Ten life lessons I learned by the age of 21

January 16, 2017
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From the time you finish high school to the time you turn 21, there’s probably no other period of your life where you’ll experience so many changes. From uni to changing friendships and entering the real world of adult life, these are the lessons I learned by the time I turned 21.

You can’t party like you did when you were 18

At least without a god awful hangover. What I wouldn’t give to have the resilience to hangovers I had when I was 18. Despite the horrible fate that awaits you the next day, you’ll still try to party just as hard as the good ol’ days.

Good grades aren’t everything

As much as good marks help, they’re not the only thing that matter when you're trying to get ahead. Much like the HSC, it was worth stressing about a little, but at the end of the day your ATAR isn’t the only indicator of your abilities. While you should still take assignments and exams seriously, it’s not a big deal if you get a slightly lower mark because you’re working your butt off to get experience.

Your circle of friends decreases as you get older

And that’s definitely not a bad thing. You’ll learn that it’s much better to have a smaller group of close-knit friends than a big group of friends with superficial friendships.

You can’t survive off junk food and no exercise

I thought I was invincible in my first year of uni, but it definitely caught up on me. The new friends and freedom meant there was a lot more lunch plans and drinks at the uni bar inbetween classes. A student budget tends to call for the unhealthier options of Thai, dumplings and burgers – and who can afford an exxy gym membership? But as you get older and your metabolism slows down, it might be wise to occasionally opt for a salad sandwich and a run.

Holding on to toxic relationships will hurt you in the long run

You might think the relationships in your early 20s won’t matter later, but if you continue to stay in a toxic relationship, the more likely you are to accept this behaviour from others down the track. It might seem easier to stay than to deal with the fight, but it’s better to act now and get them out of your life so they don’t continue to hurt you and your future relationships.

You need to stop trying to make everyone happy

It’s impossible. If you live your life worrying about what other people want or expect you to do, you’ll be putting their happiness above your own. It might be tough, but if you're studying a degree you don’t want to do because your parents tell you to, you'll regret it later.

Travel is 100 per cent worth it

When I was 18, I could have never imagined being able to afford a six-week European adventure or going exchange for six months. But no matter what it costs, the experience is definitely worth it.

There’s nothing wrong with still being at uni at the age of 21

It’s the age where you start to see your friends finishing three year degrees and entering the real world. But there’s nothing wrong with being the only friend still at uni. If you’re doing a long degree or you’ve changed degrees a couple of times, being at uni for a few more years will give you more time to discover what you really want to do before you have to make that leap after graduation, Besides, you’ll get more time living that bludgy student lifestyle.

Moving out can improve your relationship with your parents

It seems counterproductive, but it actually works. As long as you’re willing to make semi-regular visits and phone calls, your relationship can improve when you’re not living in such close quarters. You’ll fight a lot less over petty things if you are seeing them in smaller doses.

Adult life is not quite what I expected

When I was younger, I thought being an adult would mean I was transformed from awkward and clueless to this sophisticated, responsible person who loved sipped martinis. But not one part of 'adulting' lived up to my expectations – not only do I not like martinis but I definitely can’t afford one with all these other adult expenses I have to pay for.

Despite adulting being a tough gig, you do learn a lot. And chances are there will be a whole new set of life lessons you'll discover by the time you turn to 25.