Last week marked a new chapter in my life. One where I hug my teenage years goodbye and welcome a new stage, my 20’s.
It’s hard to believe that I have existed on this earth for 20 years. It doesn’t feel as though all that time has flown by but it has.
On the morning of my 20th birthday, I felt different. As cliché as it sounds, I truly did. Although my reflection in the mirror was the same, internally, something had changed. I felt a sense of security in who I was. After struggling with self-esteem issues for years, it felt fulfilling to reach a point of loving me for me.
To simply put it, I felt whole.
Although I left my teenage years behind, I didn’t leave behind the lessons that I learned. And let me tell you, there have been many!
One of the lessons that I’ve learned (still learning) is how to come to terms with losing a loved one. In 2014, my great-grandmother passed away. Simply known as “Gram”, she was a one-a-kind gem. She was always a phone call away, listening to all my stories and offering words of encouragement. Gram represented stability in my life. The constant factor that never wavered and she kept everything in order as the matriarch of the family. I never wanted to see her go and I dreaded the inevitable. So much so, I would pray that by some miracle, she would live forever.
Losing her gave me a taste of the real world and it was bitter.
I didn’t think life was all rainbows and smiles but losing her showed me the way things are. Death is inevitable. It makes me sad that it is. But, on the other hand, death is a part of life. Changing my thoughts on Gram’s passing helped put things into perspective.
While Gram did pass away, her teachings will always remain. She instilled values in me that will continue to live on. From how to always treat people with respect, to believe in myself even when life isn’t sweet, and to never stop being who I am. There are times when I catch myself saying one of her famous phrases and I smile. I don’t even realize that I’ve said it until the words fly out my mouth. Gram has done something great. She planted her seeds, she watched them grow for as long as she could, and she had to bow out gracefully. This is how life is. You teach until you can’t teach anymore. Even then, one’s lessons will still resonate for years to come.
Learning how to forgive was a tough lesson for me. Not just to say, “I forgive you” so the situation can pass but to truly mean it. Forgiving someone after being hurt by them is a process. It can’t happen overnight, especially when trust was broken. I had to go through the range of emotions which included betrayal, anger, and sadness. I have to let myself feel whatever I need to. It’s a part of the process. Then, I thought, “Okay, do I store these emotions towards this person forever or do I forgive them?” Definitely, easier said than done. But, I came across a quote a couple years back that helped me make the decision:
“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
This was my “light bulb moment” because everything made sense. When I didn’t forgive someone, they would not be the one to suffer, I would. Harboring ill feelings towards another doesn’t help me in any way, shape or form. To forgive is to truly let go. No animosity. No hatred. No anger. I had to come to terms that people will do horrible things, that’s human nature but I don’t have to hold grudges. It feels better to release the anger towards that person and to continue to live my life.
To always do what makes me happy has been a great lesson. I used to be consumed with the thoughts of others. So much so, I would forget about what makes me happy and wasn’t even living my life. One scenario that comes to mind is the great debate over my hair.
I enjoy wearing my hair both curly and straight. While alternating between the two is fun for me, some of my family members voiced their preference on one, more than the other. “Oh, why don’t you straighten your hair?” I would hear this all the time when I have my hair curly. It’s beyond annoying because they seem to forget curls naturally grow from my scalp. Most times, I would give in and grab my blow dryer, just to make them happy.
Oh how silly of me.
Curly hair is an extension of who I am. When I would straighten it (without wanting to) I wasn’t being who I wanted to be. I stopped trying to please my family members because it didn’t make me happy. It takes too much energy and time trying to please everyone. It’s healthier and easier to live my life under my terms. Translating this into other areas of my life, more than just hair was crucial. Doing what makes me happy is what matters the most.
Coming to terms with death, learning to forgive, and doing what makes me happy were three reoccurring themes in my teen years. I’m sure that they will continue to be present throughout my entire life. All the lessons I’ve learned have shaped me into the person I am. While actually going through those times were tough, it’s what I needed. It prepared me for what’s to come.
I’m curious to know what’s in store for me in my 20’s. But, I’ll have to wait and see. I can be sure that there will be more lessons to learn. In true journalistic fashion, I’ll be ready with my notepad and pen, ready to jot down all life has to teach me.