Twenty-one was a benchmark year for me. Other than reaching drinking age in the U.S., I set a lot of high standards and goals for myself but also drew back from certain people and things. It was a very eye-opening time for me and despite my many successes, I of course made mistakes along the way. These mistakes challenged my perception of myself and the world and have made me better for it. Here are 7 things I wish I had done differently when I was 21:
7 MISTAKES I MADE AT 21:
1. Putting People on the Chopping Block for the Wrong Reasons
When people gotta go, they gotta go. Some people were detrimental to my growth and/or were just unhealthy to be around and I had no problem removing them from my life. However, I realize there were some instances where I could have been more patient with a person who wasn’t necessarily harmful or causing me to be stagnant, but instead was just really annoying or had a perception that challenged my own. I’ve since learned to be more patient with others while balancing my own growth.
2. Not Talking to my Parents More
As one of my new year’s resolutions, I had made it a goal to call my family at least once a week. Lo and behold, that did not happen. However, it’s not the frequency of which I called that bothers me but rather the content of the phone calls. While checking on their well being was a must, I wish I had asked my parents more substantive questions (e.g. How did you build your credit? What is your greatest career regret? Did you really get all A’s as many Nigerian parents claim?). Not only would I have learned more about them, but I also would have received some great advice early on.
3. Little Patience with Myself
At 21, I was in a very high achieving environment surrounded by some of brightest minds and proactive doers. Being in this environment often made me very critical of myself in an unhealthy way, even though the things I was doing at the time were phenomenal. After having listed out all my achievements in the last 5 years recently, I’ve learned I shouldn’t have beat myself up so much over not performing as well as I had liked or not making the right power moves at the "perfect time".
4. Underestimating Networking
I really needed to work on my networking skills back then. Thankfully I have gotten better as I have been exposed to people who are better at connecting with others than myself. Part of it is understanding the reality of networking (e.g. not just meeting some successful person at a fancy cocktail hour and exchanging numbers). Networking is really a matter of taking time, no matter how small, to invest in other people who can invest in you. I sometimes think back to all the wonderful connections I could have made a few years ago and really wish I could have built some of those relationships. But I do recognize that 21 was definitely a year of personal growth- physically, mentally and socially- and I would happily give up some of those relationships for the things I learned about myself that year.
5. Keeping up with the Kardashians and NOT current events
No, I do not watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But being in college-mode definitely made me unaware of many things happening on the national and international stage, especially in politics. Instead I was more focussed on trends that would have no long term effects on me. Especially now that a new presidency has taken place, I find that I am more aware of current events. But, it definitely would have been beneficial to my understanding of the way the world really works if I had taken 15-20 minutes a day to just read or watch short news segments about events happening outside my college bubble.
6. Minimal Reflection Time
Being a student in a social environment definitely affected the time I made for myself. Even being an introvert, I found it sometimes difficult to find “me time”- whether I was mentoring, running an organization (or 3), practicing problems in a study group, etc. Spending 15-20 minutes a day to reflect on myself and my goals was definitely needed in the hustle and bustle of everything going on around me.
7. No Journalling
In my elementary/middle school days I was a writer. I kept constant journals about even the most minute occurrences. Then somewhere along the lines that love for journalling lost its touch. Journalling is a great archive for my growth as well as a great escape. While I have not forgotten about the events, people and things at age 21 that helped make me who I am today, taking time to write about pivotal experiences or important moments of reflection would have been a great means of allowing me to look back and see how far I have come.