I am an aggressive procrastinator and this is two years too late.

Two years ago, I planned to publish my first blog post, 20 to 20 on my 20th birthday. It was going to be big and life-changing especially because I was recording one lesson a day for the 20 days leading up to my birthday. Sitting in my friend’s bedroom about 4 years earlier, I told her that I wanted to start a blog; I was waiting to begin university so all I had was time and I genuinely enjoyed writing. Well, you’re reading this in 2021 so clearly, I did not begin then either. In retrospect, if I had followed through with that plan in 2015, it may have been one of the best decisions of my life because for the first time in my life, I came face-to-face with depression and didn’t even know it. Writing could have been my outlet, my release. Today, 20 to 20 still sits in my draft folder, unfinished. And for many reasons, it took me almost 6 years to finally do it. So instead of being fixated on all the ways that things could have been different if I just got on with it and kill 20 to 20 forever, I bring you an update- 22 to 22. Here’s a list of 22 profound and random things I have picked up in the last 22 years.

  1. It’s never too late to be a better friend. I guess I’ve always known this but early this year when I hit an all-time low, some of my best friends reminded me what true friendship looks. They redefined my inner circle and loved me in a way that comforted me and at the same time challenged me to do better.
  2. It’s okay to not have every detail figured out. Feeling like I couldn’t make mistakes, I mastered the art of saying the right things and having the answers that I thought people wanted to hear. However between changing academic/professional fields of interest, graduating, navigating life as an international student, and changes in my relationships, I am learning to embrace uncertainty and be comfortable giving the “wrong answer.” It sounds something like, “Honestly, I have no idea,” or giving a rough sketch of my thoughts and finishing out with, “…but I am still figuring it out.”
  3. I can handle so much more than I think. I know, this one’s a bit cliche but you don’t realize how true it is until you come out of something that felt impossible, maybe you do it graciously or maybe you do it not-so-graciously. You survive the death of a loved one, make a difficult transition or decision, or whatever else is on your “I don’t think I could survive if this happened” list. And there you are still. You’re okay.
  4. Sometimes, you will handle things differently than you pictured and that’s okay. This one kind of goes with #3. You may have a detailed, hypothetical image of how you would react if you found yourself in a particular situation and one day when you are, in fact, in that situation, it looks nothing like your picture. That is okay. It does not make you a fraud, it reflects your evolving nature as a human.
  5. Niceness and kindness are two different things. The way I see it, niceness is fleeting and kindness is deep-rooted. You can be polite and nice to people because it is expected of you, but kindness has nothing to do with societal expectations, it is your heart even when no one expects it or when people do not deserve it.
  6. Kindness and compassion are in, always. We can agree to disagree but being a kind and actively compassionate human being (as hard as it can be sometimes) will never not be cool.
  7. Setting boundaries is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and for others. You may have heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It becomes increasingly challenging to be a loving human being when you feel drained. For instance, if you are a people-pleaser who has began saying “no” or one who now does things because you truly want to, not just to please others, it is easy for the people who have benefitted from your people-pleasing to misunderstand this as selfishness or change for the worse. However, when you are filling your cup and feeling your best, organically, you are in a better position to truly serve and care for those around you.
  8. You can only blame external factors for so long, at some point you need to take responsibility. It is true that our upbringing and life experiences influence how we turn out, but if you want to see change, you need to take charge. Think about it, how long can you keep blaming your abusive behavior towards your partner or friends on the abuse you witnessed growing up? Sure, this explains why you are more likely to engage in the same behavior, but where do we factor in your free-will to make different and hopefully better decisions?
  9. I don’t like coffee. I did say this list was random haha. In all honestly, “coffee doesn’t like me,” is more like it. For a while, it felt like having a coffee addiction was a “trendy personality trait” and my 16-year-old, newly-obsessed-with-American-YouTubers self wanted to wake up everyday and order something complicated off the Starbucks menu but my body said, “NO.” Coffee makes me painfully jittery, light-headed, and sick to my stomach. I’ll have a cup occasionally after spending a lot of time mentally preparing myself for the aftermath. What can I say, I am a grandma who enjoys her herbal tea.
  10. All relationships are not and should not be the same. I’ll admit, I’m one to romanticize relationships, particularly friendships. I meet someone for the first time and can already picture us as best friends, doing life together, and being key parts of each other’s big moments. I don’t know about you but for me, 90% of the time, it doesn’t go like this lol. And every time I feel like I hold up my end of the unspoken contract yet things don’t go as planned, I’m hurt. It has taken many years but I have finally accepted that acquaintance, colleague, friend, group member, business partner, coworker, and so on, are great relationships to have with people too.
  11. Progress isn’t linear. When I told my therapist at the time that I was making this list, she jokingly said something along the lines of, “If I stumble upon this blog post and don’t see ‘progress isn’t linear’ on the list, I’ll send you a message.” Lol. The truth is coming into 2021, this became my mantra. I was on a journey I had never been on and as part of extending grace to myself, I had to keep reminding myself that progress doesn’t always follow a perfectly straight line. Sometimes instead of the satisfying 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, sequence, it happens in the 1, 2, 3, 1, 4, 2, 5 sequence. One word- frustration! But each time I reframe my thoughts to see this as a different kind of progression instead of regression, I honestly feel at peace.
  12. Emotional safety is underrated. Lately, both in casual chitchat and in serious conversations, I’ve heard more “good vibes” being thrown around and honestly, who doesn’t want to be around people that have good vibes? I’m not sure if this has come with age or just life in general, but I’ve found myself using emotional safety as a bigger gauge for my relationships. Yes to “good vibes” always but when it comes down to it, do I feel safe enough with this person to delve into the messy things that go beyond good vibes?
  13. Forgiving yourself is the real work. When we talk about forgiveness, we almost always do so in the context of forgiving others who have wronged us. It’s such a topic of conversation because of how difficult it really is. However, not enough is said about how forgiving yourself after you’ve done something that goes against your character. Not forgiving ourselves often results in further hurt, either to others or ourselves. It’s often easier to extend that grace to others but to really heal, move forward, AND allow ourselves relish the beautiful things ahead of us, we need to forgive ourselves as well.
  14. Unlearn it. One of my previous supervisors always said, “You live and you learn,” when someone in the office made a mistake. Almost everyday, you learn something new. You know something just as beautiful as learning? Unlearning. Let go of the things you’ve imbibed and have become married to over time that are neither useful nor healthy.
  15. Respect isn’t blind obedience or unconditional agreement. To my last point, I realized this as I detached myself from the concept of respect that my Nigerian upbringing so generously gifted me. I can respect a person and disagree with them or choose not to do something they tell me to do because it’s just not the best thing for me. Yes, it is that simple.
  16. No, you are not asking for too much. I have had multiple conversations with friends (mostly females) where they talk about something they expect from someone or a situation, to which I think, “Yeah, of course you deserve…xyz,” because I see it as the barest minimum. Unfortunately, more times than I wold like, almost immediately it’s followed with a “I don’t know if I’m asking for too much.” Sometimes, you may be asking for more than someone can give to you based on their capacity, but it doesn’t always mean that your needs are excessive.
  17. Hurt occurs when there is an undesired outcome. It does not always mean that you have done something wrong. That I made a decision that resulted in an unwanted outcome for the other party could mean that I hurt them, but fundamentally, I may not have done anything wrong. This immediately made me think of a scenario where two people are in the talking phase of a romantic connection and person A ends up saying, “Hey, I’ve loved getting to know you but I’ve realized that there isn’t as strong of a connection here as I thought.” That may hurt person B if they were hoping that the relationship would blossom into something more. However, person A hasn’t done anything wrong by choosing not to pursue that relationship any further. It isn’t the easiest but it is important to make the distinction between hurt from an undesired outcome and hurt from offense.
  18. Make peace with change. It is one of the few things that is constant. The earlier you accept how easily change could occur, the less stress you may feel surrounding it.
  19. Vulnerability and authenticity build depth. Surface-level and politically-correct conversations tied up in a pretty bow typically don’t go any deeper than that. It seems like a pretty easy equation. Vulnerability is courageous, it gets messy, and might involve the risk of being judged, but it births solid connections and relationships with deep roots.
  20. There is no end to growth. The way I see it, human beings are lucky that there is no cap to our personal growth/development. Unlike indoor plants with restricted room, we are more like trees planted outside, in the middle of nowhere. We can spread our roots as far as is humanly possible and sprout inches tall into the sky. There really is no end to how far we can go when we decide to embark on the journey of bettering ourselves.
  21. There is no ONE way to heal. This goes hand-in-hand with my point about the non-linear nature of progress. Sure, there may be tried and true approaches to healing from a bad experience, grief, loss, heartbreak, and so on, but it may not be your cup of tea. Your journey can look utterly different from the next person’s and still remain as valid.
  22. I get overwhelmed. This sounds like a ridiculous realization to have now. It seems too obvious to have only learned this in recent years but hear me out. For a long time, I crafted the persona of someone who could handle a million and one things, feel the stress occasionally, but really be overwhelmed. After I decided to take on two jobs, actively serve as a student-leader in two different organizations, and take a course over-load in one quarter (essentially, a semester on fast-forward), I FINALLY admitted to myself that I, too, get overwhelmed.

And that, my friends, is the long overdue 20 to 20. What are some things you’ve learned in your doings? Did anything on this list resonate with you? I’m eager to hear!

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