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I am 22 years old today. While I refuse to make any obnoxious Taylor Swift jokes or references, I certainly see this as a fun age and I feel like I could take on the world if I could.

I love the idea of getting older. Maybe it is because I’m still at that age where I don’t have to worry about wrinkles or menopause, but I see getting older as a gateway into new experiences, new mistakes to learn from and windows of opportunity. While I am excited about what I will learn about life, love and myself in the years to come, I know that I have learned so much already in my short 22 years of living.

Because I want my birthday to be about more than just cake, gifts and martinis, I have compiled a list of 22 things I’ve learned in 22 years. As the years go on, I will acquire new insights and add to it. And I couldn’t be more excited about that.

  1. Your friends and your family will love and support you through everything, no matter what. They will never give up on you, even if you have given up on yourself.
  2. One should never dream about success; they should work and bleed for it.
  3. You should only want success for you, not for the sake of revenge. When you want to be successful in order to rub it in other people’s faces, it loses its value, because it was for someone else and not yourself.
  4. Everyone is doing the best that they can. Try not to be a dick about it.
  5.  Never be compelled to apologize when you don’t feel sorry. It’s okay that you’re honest. It’s okay that you have a different opinion than everyone else.
  6. Sometimes we do things that hurt us. Sometimes, we walk into our own heartbreak because we think it will be better than being alone. It does not make you weak or stupid.
  7. The love of another will not be able to fill the void left of not loving yourself.
  8. No matter how old you get, a hug from your mother will 100% solve all of your problems. Or your pet.
  9. You’re allowed to have bad days. You’re allowed to cry about bad days. You’re just not allowed to reside there.
  10. Some people leave, and some people stay. We have no control over who chooses to stay or leave. It’s sad and you’ll want to control this as much as you can, but the people who leave you aren’t worth knowing anyway. Pay attention to the ones who stay. They are the ones who will love you right.
  11. Take care of your body. Your body is the only one you will ever have. Your body has been there for you, even when you mistreated it, even when you hated it. And that’s what real love is.
  12. I would rather get labelled a narcissist than spend any more years hating my body.
  13. The audience only claps after you bring yourself back. And I brought myself back.
  14. You can forgive someone without welcoming them back into your life.
  15. You will always love your first love for the rest of your life. This is the part that they don’t tell you; you don’t stop loving them, no matter how many years go by. They are in that tiny corner of your heart, collecting dust and cobwebs and your memory keeps it alive. But that it only one love, my dear. When you meet the great love of your life, that love won’t even hold a flame to them. That love will be a candle lit flame, while the great one will be a forest fire.
  16. People make mistakes, even the people we love.
  17. Don’t aim to be a role model. Aim to be a human being. Human beings are easier to forgive than role models.
  18. Find your passion and throw yourself into it. You won’t regret it one bit.
  19. There is nothing wrong with unapologetically loving things. Love the crap out of everything. Too many people are consumed by hate. Don’t let them make you one of them.
  20. You deserve to be happy. Don’t ever let anyone or anything tell you differently.
  21. Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.
  22. Be a living, breathing expression of love. There’s no need to convince anyone of anything. The most powerful way to teach is by example.

I am eternally grateful to all the people in my life who have made these last 22 years so incredible. I love you.