23 Things I Learned When I Was 22

Twenty two was a big year for me; A lot of things happened to say the least. I ended a serious long term relationship and started a new one. I graduated college. I landed a job. I rented an apartment, ended my barista career and sorta became a yogi. I travelled, learned, cried and grew. Ampersand became a legitimate thing while I was 22, as did my love of writing. 22 was a year of change. Despite that–or maybe because of it–22 was one of the best years of my life.

Last year on my birthday, I wrote a post of all the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I turned 23. Having completed most of the things on that list, I only thought it would be fitting to share some life lessons I’ve learned these past 365 days. Cheers to turning 23.

1. Yoga is a wonderful thing. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t done it enough. I first turned to yoga because I wanted to try something new. I turned back to it when I lost my way, and once again when I needed to feel grounded. Words cannot begin to describe the things I learned about myself on my yoga mat.{Shout out to Prana House Yoga for my beautiful birthday practice on Saturday!}

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2. Hang onto good friends. My life wouldn’t be as half as fun, happy or full without my best friends. I’m lucky enough to still be friends with my girls from childhood and to have gone to Villanova with some of the best people I will ever meet. All my favorite memories from this year have been because of the amazing people around me.

3. Brunch is always a good idea. What’s better than good friends, good coffee and french toast? There’s always time for brunch.

+1000 basic points.

4. Sometimes, you have to be spontaneous. Yes, you have to be responsible. But spontaneity makes you feel young. It makes you feel adventurous. It makes memories that you’ll tell you kids someday and then they’ll think you’re cool. Just do it because why not?

5. And other times, you just have to be patient. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not patient. But sometimes there’s nothing you can do but… wait. I learned this the hard way with looking for a job, but I ended up in a position that fits me so well, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now. Good things are always worth the wait.

6. Love comes in different forms. And they’re all beautiful. Love changes and grows, that’s why it’s amazing.

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7. Thank your familyThis past year, I won an award based on my leadership and academic achievements at college. My parents attended the ceremony and dinner and it was that night that I realized I couldn’t have achieved anything without them. If they hadn’t supported me, challenged me or encouraged me, I literally wouldn’t be the person I am today. Karen & Joe, I really do owe you everything.

Cheers to Joe & Karen.

8. Dreams change & that’s okay. For the longest time, I dreamt of becoming a magazine editor. I chased my editorial dreams with a fierce determination all year, only to realize that it might not be what I want to do. At first, I was disappointed and upset with myself that I gave up searching for an editorial position for a job in PR, but then I realized that it’s okay to change my mind. It’s part of being human.

9. Don’t get too comfortable. 1. Because things change, quickly and 2. The best things happen at the edge of your comfort zones. If you’re not a little scared or uncomfortable, then you’re not growing. Keep pushing yourself.

10. Joy & sorrow go hand-in-hand. “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain” –Kahil Gibran.

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11. There’s usually a silver lining. Some situations just suck. Sometimes you can’t figure out “the reason.” But sooner or later, you’ll realize the silver lining, no matter how small. Plus, a little positivity never hurt anyone.

12. Hang out with your siblings. Because they’re the best friends you’ll ever have. I’m not only lucky to have Krista, I’m even luckier that I can call her a friend.

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13. Save your money, but not all of it. The end of my 22nd year and beginning of my 23rd has been spent thinking A LOT about money. Adulting is expensive! While it’s good to save for your future, we can’t go around not doing things because we’re so terrified of spending money. Great conversations with friends are worth spending money on dinner. Get a manicure when you have a crappy day at work because it will make you feel better. Money is good for saving, but you make it so you can spend it, too.

14. Be goofy. Ryan is a goof-ball. Sorry for outing you babe, but it’s true. And honestly, it’s probably one of my favorite things about him. He brings out a silly, goofy, giggly side of me that I love. We laugh a lot which makes life more fun. He’s taught me to not take myself too seriously.

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15. Read good booksBecause bad books suck and kill you soul and ain’t nobody got time for them.

16. Networking does help…But so does just being a good friend. I’ve learned valuable professional skills from networking, but I ultimately landed my job because I kept in touch with a friend. Networking is necessary, but ultimately if you’re just a good person and are nice to people, you’ll be fine.

new friends!

17. Find a mentor. Or two. I’m lucky to have multiple intelligent, strong and kind women that I look up to. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have their help and guidance, professionally and personally. Role models can really make a difference (especially when you have no idea what you’re doing with your life).

18.  Throw away your checklists. This is surprising coming from the girl who makes a daily to-do list on a legal pad every day at work. What I mean is, don’t make a check list for everything. It’s probably healthy to have nothing to do some days or not pressuring yourself to get everything done, every single day. Do random stuff you didn’t write down with a box next to it.

19. Be kind. Because there’s no reason not to be.

20. Know your worth. In relationships, at work, in life. You don’t deserve to be disrespected, lead on or treated poorly, ever. It’s not worth it because you’re worth more than that.

21. Trust what got you here. This is one of my favorite things that I heard this year. We may not know where exactly what we’re doing or where we’re going, but you have a whole life of experience behind you and you’ve made it this far, right? Trust the same will help you in the future.

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22. Soak it all in. Aka be present. It’s probably one of the most challenging things to accomplish, but I’m determined to make a habit out of it.

23. All you have is time. Hearing this as a freshman at Villanova’s Orientation, my mind was blown. I don’t think I fully understood it until I became a senior when I felt like I was constantly running out of time. No time for relaxing, vacations, long conversations, family dinners, errands, coffee dates or catching up. But in reality, all we have is time. And we have the control of how we spend it.

Here’s to 22 being great & 23 being an adventure.

{Thank you to all the people who made 22 amazing!}

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Everything I Know About Being a Writer

I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. In 5th grade, I started my first of three volumes of poetry. Somewhere in my closet there are upwards of nine completely filled journals, and my college essay was about writer’s block. You would think with the thousands of words I’ve penned and the sentences I’ve typed, writing would be something I could easily explain.

It’s not.

In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things to articulate. There are no words to describe writing. However, that all changed when I took my Writing for Magazines class.

Second semester senior year, I decided to take an english class with a man named Jeff. I hope he never reads this post because it will be littered with clichés (and he hates clichés), but he is the only person to describe how I feel as a writer. On the very first day of class, I literally sat in awe of this crotchety, hardened journalist with his wide-rimmed classes and faded baseball hat. Throughout the semester, he found the words I had been searching for, ripped my work apart and taught me everything I needed to know about writing.

And since his class, I’ve learned a few things too. So for all you writers out there, here’s everything I know about being a writer.

There are shades of words, pick the right one.

When I wrote in-class essays in high school, I would tap my nose. Not all the time, just when I couldn’t think of the right word. The more I write, the more I realize how many different words there are & how fun/frustrating/rewarding/infuriating it is to play with them. Words have connotations. They have emotion. There are thousands of different shades between “good” and “extraordinary,” so pick the right one because it could change everything.

You might be a writer, but you’re also a psychologist. 

This particularly applies to when you’re interviewing someone. It’s hard. Like way harder than you would think. You’re in a completely artificial situation, yet you have to make it seem like a natural conversation. You have to uncover hidden desires and feelings without being too pushy. Surface information is great, but people’s true personalities live way beneath that. As a writer, your job is to figure out your interviewee like a detective, but treat them like a friend.

You have to lead readers through a piece, but they’re not stupid. 

Jeff emphasized the importance of a focus in a piece. You need a clear sentence or topic that you entire piece will revolve around. Readers like focuses. It helps them stay on track.

However, you don’t need to spell everything out for readers. They’re smart. They will pick up on hints, innuendos and subtle foreshadowing. But you also have to make sure you give them some sort of resolution at the end. You can have a plot twist in your story, but your readers have to be able to make sense of it afterwards.

First drafts are sh*tty. Let them be.

Nothing is more intimidating than a blank screen and a blinking cursor. Jeff once said, “The first word you write eliminates half of the possible directions of your piece. The second word cuts them in half again.”  Talk about pressure. I would get so paralyzed by my need of perfection that I couldn’t write my first drafts. That was until Jeff tore up a first draft of mine in front of my face.

His point? First drafts suck. Let them suck. First drafts are for getting your thoughts out on paper. Who cares about first drafts, no one is going to see them. Sometimes it’s hard to get it out, but once you get rolling it’s easier. Then re-writing is where the fun begins.

There are rules. And you can break them. 

Grammar is important. Cohesion is important. Intros, bodies and conclusions are important. Starting a sentence with a conjunction or adding a period for emphasis? Not a big deal. Since middle school we’ve learned the ins and outs of formal writing, when in reality it’s only good for college assignments and academic literature. Develop a voice and play around with rhythm. Know the rules well enough to break them.

You’re going to hate most of what you write. 

It’s true. I do hate most of the things I write. Even the things that multiple editors look at and publish. But there are always those few magical sentences in every piece that make it worthwhile. Writing is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I can’t imagine pursuing anything else.

May your writing be effortless and your writer’s block be brief.

Featured image by Krista