So it’s my birthday today! I am now twenty-three years old. I remember only a few years ago I used to think that people in their twenties were so cool and put together. Am I put together? Well… that’s an excellent question. Let’s just stick to my list, shall we?
Here are twenty-three things I’ve learned in the past year!
1. I control my own happiness.
Cheesy, yes, but true. I’ve realized that though my struggles with my family have been really frustrating and painful, it was up to me to make the best of the way things are. As angry and hurt as I have been, it wasn’t my family pushing me anyway — I was pushing them away. It was up to me to make the choice to try and be part of their life still. And in doing so, it was up to me to choose to be happy.
2. How to say no.
I’ve said before that saying no is one of the best tools you have, and it’s true. This past year has been the most stressful of my entire life thus far. It was my last year of university, and I took on WAAAAY too much. I signed up to be the Editor-in-Chief for a university paper and the lighting designer for a faculty drama production, performed in a different drama production, and was in five courses — two of which involved a lot of outside of class rehearsal time as they were 400-level drama classes. Oh, and I’m dating someone, have friends, and needed time to myself.
This was all in one semester.
Saying no was not in my vocabulary that semester, and it sucked. The following semester I was finished the two productions, but was in my final teaching practicum, which was an hour and a half away by bus. It was easier, but I was so burnt out that I didn’t feel like it was a break.
Immediately after that, I worked full-time teaching that grade two class, and after that I went and taught English summer school for grade ten.
So yeah, I learned to say no.
In September, I refused another grade two job. At the time I was scared that I was making a bad career choice, since I’m so new teaching — what if this makes me look bad? I had fought to be allowed to substitute for elementary school despite having only studied for high school. (I had taught it for two months!) And there I was, refusing a full-time job right after graduation.
It was the best decision I’ve made all year.
Having time to myself has been unheard of. I can’t tell you what a nice break it is. And I’m not screwed — I’m still working in my field, and I took on a hobby which I’m now trying to take more seriously. By taking a break, I learned more about myself!
If your year has been anything like mine, give yourself the chance to shut down every once in a while. Trust me — you’ll be glad you did.
3. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’ve experienced trauma until waaaaay later. And that’s just fine.
Getting into the dark stuff here. Yes, I learned that I was raped this year, even though it happened nearly six years ago. We all know that this kind of stuff can cause trauma for ages, but we never picture it happening to us. I keep telling myself I’m being stupid for being weird about sex. But I’m not. I’m still working on believing that.
4. This enchilada recipe is the best quick healthy meal on the planet.
Not even joking. Try it. It takes me no time and then I have food for days, and you can freeze it too!
5. It is indeed possible to become immune to kitten dander.
I am living proof. I started out not being able to breathe, constantly blowing my nose to the point of popsicle pinkness, finding out how much water really can come drain out of your eyes, and having miserable headaches every single day. I had an inhaler that I used twice a day, eye drops once a day, steroid spray for my nose once a day, and prescription extra strength antihistamines. Now, I use my inhaler maybe once a week, never use eye drops, and I only have headaches every once in a while, and regular antihistamines do the trick.
It can be done! You just have to survive the first two weeks!
6. The Lord’s Prayer.
You’d be surprised how quickly you can learn something just by passively hearing all the time. (Thanks, family.)
7. Exercising really does help with sex drive.
I never really had to worry about this before because both the sex drive and exercise were doing just fine, but recently I’ve been exercising a lot less and the sex drive has plummeted for various reasons. But in the summer, I was at peak exercising…ness and once I got off the Ring, I noticed a big difference. Realizing I was sexually assaulted changed that quickly, but that’s a mental problem… that can also be helped with physical exercise! Ha!
8. Never leave KD out with a kitten around.
I don’t even know what’s going to happen when he learns what catnip is.
9. Cats don’t appreciate catnip until approximately six months of age.
Yup, Matrix is six months now… nearly seven. But he still doesn’t seem to care. (KD it is, I guess?)
10. It’s way easier to go from teaching high school to teaching elementary.
There is difficulty in having to remember that kids in grade one don’t know how to tie their shoes, but communication-wise, it’s so much easier! After teaching elementary one week, I have to remember not to talk to high school kids like they’re still learning their ABCs and go back to being my normal sarcastic hilarious self!
11. Full-time teaching is great, but so is being a substitute teacher.
I know I’ve said it before, but one of the great things about being a sub is that I don’t have such a big workload. The thing about going full-time is you really get to know your students and that relationship is what makes being in the classroom so much fun. I’ve now subbed a few of the same schools a number of times, and so I know a handful of kids pretty well (I want to say maybe 150 kids?) and it makes such a big difference.
But I LOVE being able to take a break when I need. If I made just a tad more money doing it, I would love if this were not my in-between job by default. I’d be really happy if I wasn’t always being pressured to go full-time right away. I could do this for a couple years for sure!
12. I might not want to be a teacher after all.
Well, that escalated quickly.
It may seem selfish, but you try giving up all your evenings and weekends and long weekends to do work. According to my teachers’ union, it takes about five years before a new teacher doesn’t have to do all that work at home — yes, I would get two months off each year, but as a newbie the sacrifice of destroying myself for the other ten months isn’t worth it. I’m not ready after university burn-out. And I got a taste of it for three months already, I know what I’m talking about. (Those three months were easier, too, since I didn’t have many after-school activities or anything.)
So I’m seriously thinking about teaching sex ed now. I know I’d love it, I know I’d be good at it, and I’d still be able to work with kids and have time to myself. I wouldn’t even mind doing some planning at home, because it wouldn’t take up ALL my time. I’m not just lazy to do any work! In fact, blogging actually takes up a LOT of my time — sometimes it even stresses me out. I just don’t like the at-home work of teaching enough to do it for a living right now. But I could do the sex ed planning, and I’m already doing the blog! At least I know what’s worth it for me, right?
13. Tabletop roleplaying games are fun.
G has organized one and for the first time, I’m participating! It’s been interesting and fun, for sure. I was really hesitant to do it when he planned one last year, but this one seems pretty cool. Also, my character name is Scarlet — ha!
14. Sleep is NOT for the weak.
Getting enough sleep is one of my favourite things about being done university. I don’t get to sleep in, but going to bed at 9:30 and getting 9 hours of sleep is AMAZING.
15. Making time for yourself is underrated.
Seriously, everyone loves responding to the question, “How are you doing?” with “BUSY.” But why?! I love being able to say, “Great! I spent all day reading and writing and watching Netflix yesterday.”
When I used to reply with “BUSY,” I was not happy. I definitely learned that saying screw it to everything and just doing what I wanted or even needed to do just for myself is worth it — and making time for it is even better.
16. If the couch you got off Craigslist smells like weed, you CAN get the smell out.
Tried and true! It may take a few days, and you’ll need to remember to leave curtains and windows open for a few days, but it can happen. Just don’t sit on it for a while!
17. I actually need dancing in my life.
I’ve mentioned that it’s been too long since I’ve seriously danced, and I still haven’t found a dance class I can do. Despite this, I know it’s something I have to do to stay happy. I don’t know why I forgot, or why it took me so long to remember, but I’m glad I realized it — I may even need dancing more than theatre to be happy.
18. Marie Kondo’s system for folding clothes is actually awesome.
Please note: the Amazon link below is an affiliate link. If you purchase the items through my links I will receive a small commission, but know that I’m only recommending Kondo’s book because I myself want it! Thanks for supporting me if you do use my links.
I was googling organization tips because I’m an organizational nerd, and found Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I didn’t buy it at the time because at first, I thought she seemed a little overly organized. I did some research and found that her main point is that if an item doesn’t spark joy for you, you should thank the item for the joy it has provided and let it go. I thought that sounded reasonable, so I searched some more and found this page with an illustrated guide of how to fold your clothes her way.
I tried folding my clothes using the guide, and seriously, I’m never going back to my rolled up balls and piles of underwear! It makes it so easy to see what I have in the drawer, and it actually saves so much space. I even got G to try it and he loves it too — and let me tell you, getting him to get organized is one big task. Sounds pretty clever. I’m buying her book asap!
19. How to drive in G’s big-ass truck.
I honestly drove more in June than I have in the past five years, because my parents have one car and I never really got to practice much after I got my licence. Their vehicle is pretty big too, in fact comparably big to the truck G is sharing with me, but I was always pretty insecure driving it, and I never drove alone. In the summer, G’s parents sold G their giant old Yukon XL, and I got insured to drive it so that I could drive to work every day. Just driving, nothing special. But it really is a huge freaking vehicle, and I was so nervous.
And this summer, I drove alone for the first time! AND now I can parallel park in that thing! (This is a big achievement, trust me.)
20. People are idiots when driving, somehow ESPECIALLY in the snow.
I know I’m still a newbie driver, but seriously. I live in Canada. People should know how to freaking drive in the snow. But no.
It’s the first snow of the year. I’m sitting at in intersection right by my apartment, waiting a few cars back to turn left. Turning light goes on. Roll forward. OH WAIT, some idiot who has a RED LIGHT is turning on our turning light! Luckily the guy at the front of the line stopped and nothing bad happened except that the idiot still exists. And a few days later, on the way to work I passed THREE car crashes.
Bloody hell, people. Leave earlier.
I mean, would you rather be in an accident or be late to work?! I don’t understand how fast people go on the road when it’s clearly icy. You go, moron. Have fun skidding.
21. There is an insane amount of free shit on Craigslist.
Seriously, in the past three months G and I got a new couch for a trade and a new bookshelf for free, and both times the sellers were trying to give us even more for free, but we didn’t have enough room! There’s also a lot of cheap stuff — we got a new air purifier for $30 instead of $300, and a memory foam pillow (I washed it of course) and a blanket for $20. I mean, we all know Craigslist is useful, but wow the amount of money we’ve saved!
22. Despite everything, I’ll always want to go home.
I didn’t want to spend Christmas at home last year. I was miserable, dreading spending it alone, and lonely, crying to Tankie about my family. But on a whim I bought my tickets and went home. This year, I dreaded it again but still bought my ticket, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as before. This time, when I got to the airport and was sitting by myself at the gate, I wanted to go home.
Even though I’ve been through a lot because of what’s happened, I always want to go home. It’s just a matter of facing what I’ll find when I get there.
23. How to design a website.
Well, I couldn’t leave this one out, could I?! I’ve learned so much in the past two weeks about setting up a website. You can be sure I’ll be writing about exactly what I did and how, so you can learn too!
So there you have it! Twenty-three things I’ve learned in my twenty-third year of life.