Things I wish I knew at this age – advice given to a 21 year old
My god-daughter recently celebrated her 21st birthday. I was asked to make a speech at her birthday celebration. Although notice was given in advance, finding the correct words for my speech deemed a difficult task. After contemplating on whether I need to talk about her character or just give her well wishes for the future, I then decided to give her some fruitful advice. So below are snippets of my speech and the advice I gave to the 21 year old.
Congratulations on your 21st birthday! As weird as it may seem to you the reality is your childhood is over. 18 is seen as the legal age In South Africa. To enter into legal contracts, marriage without your parents’ consent, getting a drivers licence, legally drink alcohol, purchase property and a whole list of which I am not going to mention. I think the only thing you can’t do at 18 is purchase and apply for a firearm license. And although 18 may be a legal milestone in this country; we all know that some 18 year olds are nowhere near accepting the responsibility of adulthood. It’s 21 that marks the beginning of your life as a young maturing woman.
And as today may seem not much different to what yesterday was; the beauty of it all is that you don’t have to have life figured out at the age of 21. In today’s life, society put so much pressure and expectations on young adults to succeed in life from the onset. Adulthood will be your own journey to adjust to the responsibilities of life in your own time. It is a time to decide what you want for yourself without having a checklist and expiry date. So with that in mind; I would like to share some advice with you. Knowing what I know now, I wish I was given some of this advice when I turned 21.
Perhaps the advice that I give you today will make no sense to you now. However, I want you to go back and look at these points in 2 or even 5 years from now and see if it resonates with you. I don’t expect you to remember everything off hand and therefore I printed a copy.
- In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success. Proverbs 3:6. Thank God every day for your blessings and accomplishment – no matter how small.
- Your parents will remain your parents for the rest of your life – no matter how old you are. They have raised you well up to this age. Love them equally and maintain a healthy relationship with them. Always have that line of respect and appreciation for them. Even if you don’t agree with their spoken words or actions – you now have the ability to guide them into the right direction. However cutting the umbilical cord doesn’t mean you can’t ask your parents for guidance and advice. You might not have to take it but you might learn something from it.
- You are blessed with wonderful grandparents. They had a huge influence on your life since you were a baby. I’m sure should God spare them they will continue to have an influence on your adult life. Treasure those special moments spent with them. Make new memories as not all of us here are and were as fortunate as you to enter adulthood with your grandparents by your side.
- Having siblings is a gift from God. They are friends for life – don’t take the bond that you have with them for granted.
- You now have the authority to make your own decisions. Also know that sometimes there are consequences for your decisions and you need to take responsibility for it. If you find yourself facing difficult decisions in your life and you can’t speak to your parents about it for guidance – find yourself a mentor. Someone you can trust to confide in, someone that will listen without judging you, someone that can give you guidance. That someone doesn’t have to be a professional person – it can be an aunt, uncle, cousin or a friend.
- Complete your studies and continue to learn for years to come – learning is a process and a source of empowerment.
- Have a vision and set goals for yourself – it gives you the power to take control of your present and your future.
- Don’t be in a hurry to live life. Enjoy the present without putting pressure on yourself about the future.
- Love is beautiful but choose wisely and carefully when seeking a relationship. If the person does not respect you and treat you well – that is not love. You are still young; getting married and having children can still be delayed for a couple of years.
- Your first job is not going to be your last job, and there will be plenty of crappy jobs that will come your way. However learn from your career experiences and do not quit a job until you have another one lined up. The right job will eventually come your way and once you found it – don’t undervalue yourself for what you are worth, and be more than just your job description and don’t compromise your integrity for bribery and corruption.
- Success in your 20’s does not happen overnight – its more about refining and defining yourself. So have patience as success takes time.
- Be grateful for what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have. Value comes from within and no amount of money or material possessions will bring you happiness.
- Being an adult can be tricky. Being surrounded by people that support you can make all the difference. Surround yourself with those who have a positive influence on you and bring value to your life – choose your friends wisely – friendship is about quality not quantity. Separate yourself from gossip, drama and everything that has a toxic effect on your life.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from it – don’t play the victim and blame others.
- Your reputation is the most valuable thing that you have. It should be guarded like a sacred treasure because once it’s broken or lost, it will take years to restore it or get it back.
- Stay out of debt – if you can’t afford it don’t buy it.
- Save at least 20% of your income since the day you start working – even if it is a casual job. Spend your money on experiences – like travel – take advantage of your freedom and flexibility while you are young and while you still living with your parents.
- Invest in your retirement now already – I know it might sound silly – you only just reached the age of 21 but saving a little towards it now will see you reap the rewards later.
- Invest in a good medical aid – that’s if your job does not come with that benefit.
- Give without expecting to receive.
- Get your driver’s license in you don’t already have it – it is a step towards your independence.
- Take care of your body and treat it well; you only get one. Eat a balanced diet and don’t punish it with toxins like addictive substances. Whatever you put into your body now will have affects you can’t even imagine later.
- Trust your gut as a woman it will rarely fail you – if something isn’t right – listen to your heart and act on it.
- If at some point between 21 – 29 years old, you are freaking out as you don’t know what to do with your life with no hope in sight and it feels as if you are going through a quarter-life crisis – life doesn’t always go according to plan. Have faith and pray about it as God’s plans for your life are bigger and better than your own dreams.
To conclude, I hope that your journey into adulthood will be full of memorable experiences and that you embrace whatever comes your way. Once again, congratulations!