26 Lessons for 26 Years
1. The relationship that matters most. The most important relationship to cultivate in life is the one you have with God. The relationship you have with him is not one-sided. Don’t just go to him when you’re in need or in trouble. Allow him to become your best friend by spending time with him; become so in tune with his voice that you hear his direction for your life.
2. Show up for yourself. While you may think you can handle this, having an empathetic spirit causes you to unconsciously take on others’ burdens. However, it can be so much that you don’t have the energy to deal with what you are struggling with. Be careful with what and who you let in. It is okay to be there for others but make sure you’re also there for yourself. You need you the most.
3. Don’t compromise yourself to please others. I’ve stayed in relationships and friendships because I was scared to walk away for the sake of others’ feelings. By doing so, you are dishonest with yourself about what’s important to your happiness – as a result, happiness will be hard to achieve because you are attached to dead weight. Don’t feel guilty for choosing yourself over pleasing others.
4. Move away from comfort. Every young adult should move away from home for some time whether it be during college or post-college. There should be a period of your life where you are away from your comfort zone in order to see exactly what you’re made of. I didn’t know who I was or what God had truly placed in me until I moved to Charlotte then St. Louis. I know each of those chapters were integral to my growth as a woman.
5. Visit home often. Moving away is quite uncomfortable because you miss being around the love and the home you’ve become accustomed to. Make frequent trips back home to fill your heart when you miss it. Sometimes you just need to go back home to regroup and it’s okay to set aside weekends to get back around that familiarity. Home will always leave you full.
6. TRAVEL as much as you can. I’ve been to 12 countries since I’ve turned 20 and it has truly changed my life for the better. I’ve found God present in every place I’ve traveled to — in the people, in the scenery, and in the isolation of traveling itself. Every time, it’s like he knows he must pull me away from my comfort and things I know so he can allow me to feel his presence even more. I was in Kenya when I was accepted to Washington University, but I didn’t get accepted until I told him I trusted him and I’d go wherever he wanted. Due to this commitment and the service I did there, Kenya will always have a big place in my heart because God met me there in more ways than one.
7. Don’t avoid your reality. Be careful not to travel so much that you avoid your reality. In the middle of my time in St. Louis, I was gone almost every week whether domestically or internationally. I would get so sad when I returned home because once again, everything I was avoiding was right there waiting on me. I had to learn to make a home for myself there and to find peace even when I felt uncomfortable.
8. You cannot give 100 percent to 100 things. As an African-American woman who has a full schedule consisting of school, chasing dreams, giving back, and working, I often forget to give myself the time I deserve. I find myself more tired and burdened than I’m supposed to be. I had to learn to let go of some of my commitments to maintain my center. Prioritize and ask yourself is this helping me in my purpose? Or is this a resume filler? Asking yourself these questions will allow you to find what’s most important.
9. Self-care is a priority. This can be taking yourself to a movie, to dinner, a massage, finding time to journal, laying on the couch with some wine, or traveling. Find what centers you and make time for it so that you can continue to be the best version of yourself.
10. Don’t abuse self-care because you’re being lazy. I’ll often do the bare minimum then take a break in the name of it knowing there’s more that I could do. Push yourself to do what you need to do but find your balance.
11. You’re not tired, you’re just uninspired. Sometimes we get so tired of working towards our goals and dreams because we’ve lost the reason for our why. Also, it could be that we don’t have much energy to give to our dream anymore due to the difficulty we’ve faced towards achieving it. Whatever it might be, continue to inspire and remind yourself of what you want to do and become. I had to make a “Remember the Promise” board to constantly remind myself of what God has done for me so that I can trust that what I’m believing in him will come to fruition just like it has in the past.
12. Trust the timeline you cannot see versus your own. It’s up to God when all things will come to pass for you. The career you want, the person you’re supposed to be with, and the dreams you want to accomplish are all on God’s timing. He knows when to put things and people in your life as well as when to take them away. There is nothing wrong with you — he just cares so deeply about you that he knows that if it’s not in his time, you could possibly hurt yourself or alter your destiny. Be careful not to compare yourself to others as their timeline will be completely different from yours.
13. Be vulnerable in your process. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing and it’s okay to get help. There is most likely somebody around you that has went through what you’re going through and willing to provide advice on how to get through it. You don’t have to have all the answers and you may not have a clear path but vulnerability is admitting issue and accepting assistance. I remember my first year of teaching, I struggled something serious my first month but I had to get over my pride. I aligned myself with a veteran teacher and she coached me through every lesson to teach. She is one of the reasons I was able to have the impact I had as a teacher. If I had never been vulnerable, I would’ve remained stagnant in that process.
14. Delay is not denial. While I hate cliché sayings, this one speaks true to my life. God has delayed me at almost every turn and while it used to frustrate me, I’ve learned to be conscious as to what God is trying to teach me. Sometimes the place that is destined for you is not prepared for you yet or maybe you’re not ready to do what you need to do once you get there. Whatever it is, trust his plan over your comfort.
15. It’s all working for your good. Romans 8:28 is one of my fave scriptures. While I believe that, I also had to understand that God can’t make it work for my good if I won’t let him. For example, if I choose to live in that heart break, that rejection, or that failure and never allow God to heal me, then how could he use it for my good? I must accept what has happened, receive healing and watch how God uses it for his glory. I didn’t pass the test I needed to teach when I got into TFA (Teach for America). I was worried because everyone else that failed was forced to go home. I remember being completely distraught and not knowing what to do. I chose to stop living in that failure and trusted God anyway. He used the very same classes I struggled in undergrad with to validate and over-qualify me to teach without having to take the test. Not only did he use past struggles but he also allowed favor to secure a position that I wasn’t supposed to have.
16. Give back. Community service or any type of service-oriented work feeds the soul like no other. It heals my heart to pour into young people especially girls that go through some of the same struggles that I have faced. The ability to help someone else recognize and reach their potential can open the doors for you to see your own. While I walk into many of these roles with the heart to impact, I always end up being changed by the work I do. You cannot be what you cannot see — the children in our community need to see our black faces, not too far from their age, being successful and making it happen so that they can see that it’s possible for them.
17. Thank God for the things he didn’t let happen so that you can be all that you’re called to be. You didn’t get that job, you didn’t get into that school, and it didn’t work out with that guy/girl because it wasn’t supposed to. Sometimes God’s no is to save you from things you may not be able to see. Learn to thank Him when he closes a door because you certainly don’t want to walk through a door not meant for you.
18. The enemy hears your prayers too. He knows your fears, insecurities, and every single downfall. You are giving into the enemy’s tactic every time you’re fearful of something or when you convince yourself that you don’t deserve the things God has for you. You must think like the enemy to know how to fight against the things the enemy tries to attack your mind with. Every sabotaging thought can be combated with the word of God. For example, if you feel like you can’t get through this season, Philippians 4:13 says that you can do all things through Christ. For every lie the enemy has, God has truth that overrides it.
19. Your circle should reflect who you are and where you want to be. I’ve been quite fortunate to have both women my age and older pour into my life as much as I have theirs. Some of the women in my circle are more spiritually sound, have more discipline, and have reached the places I plan to eventually. Every step I take whether spiritually or naturally has the support of these women. It means so much to hear a sister say that it’s going to be okay, to pray over you, and to often believe in your dreams for you because it may hard for you to see in that moment. When I was about to take the MCAT in 2016, I was moved to tears when the women in my life started a GroupMe to send me encouraging words – they even sent care packages. They will never know how much it meant to have every woman I’m close to pour into me on a day my fear was so real and clear. Align yourself with people that feed you spiritually for every walk of your life.
20. Write it down and make it plain. Habakkuk 2:2 is one of my favorite scriptures. When you write down a goal, a dream, or a vision and then trust God to make the necessary provisions for you, it happens. Two years ago, I wrote down that I wanted to travel to a country in Africa to do mission work. Not even 3 months passed before I saw the opportunity on my timeline to do so. A friend of mine started an organization and wanted me to volunteer in the classroom in Kenya. I was there that summer for a life changing opportunity that I believe happened because I sat and wrote it down. It’s almost as if God knows how serious we are about something when we not only pray for it but we also write it down and put some trust in him about it. Write the desires of your heart, pray, and watch God work.
21. I choose joy over happiness any day. Growing up I didn’t understand the song that says, “The world didn’t give joy to me and the world can’t take it away,” but it’s true. Happiness is purely based on what’s happening for you and if it’s working in your favor. That’s not life; it won’t always be in your favor. You’re going to go through some trying times but that’s when joy comes in. Joy is when you have the confidence that although it doesn’t look good right now, it’s going to be okay. It’s the blind trust that says no matter what I may be facing, it is all going to work for my good.
22. Healing hurts. It hurts to deal with your pain, accept it, then allow yourself to go through the process of healing. I got stung by a jellyfish when I was in Hawaii and it was the worst pain ever. I received advice on what to do to subside the pain and I used apple cider vinegar on the sting. The acid in this solution killed the poison so it hurt when it was healing because it had to get rid of the very thing that was causing the pain. It’s the same thing with spiritual healing: As God is taking the pain away, it may hurt worse to get to the root of the pain and ensure that you’re healed. I read somewhere that the way you heal from your past is to place the events into a different context, look at it differently, and recognize the hidden gift in the trauma. By giving the event new meaning, it causes it to lose its power.
23. There will be growing pains. As you get older and grow into different versions of yourself, it can hurt and be quite uncomfortable. Much like physical growing pains, when the bone is being stretched as it’s maturing; you will feel the same as you’re maturing as well. If you’re feeling stretched and uncomfortable, know that growth is happening and it’s good for you.
24. Forgiveness is necessary for you, not the other person. I once heard a quote that forgiveness is accepting that the past couldn’t have been any different. We have expectations of what we think should’ve happened, how a person should’ve treated you, or how the situation should’ve played out in your head but it’s not reality. I have been hurt in relationships, friendships, and even by my own expectations of how my life should be going but I’ve had to release and let go to be able to move forward. You can’t fully grow into the person you’re meant to be while holding on to past pain and refusing to forgive. Literally, you can’t physically receive anything if your hand is gripped refusing to let go. You must release, grow, heal, and be patient with that process.
25. Life can teach you better than anybody can tell you. While I listen to counsel from others when it comes to different situations in my life, there are just some things you must go through in order to truly learn. I remember getting advice before college, before teaching, and even before grad school of how these processes would change and mold me but it took me experiencing it to learn what others were trying to tell me. I am thankful for every piece of my life because it has all been a part of my testimony.
26. Relinquish control of your life. Before I got accepted to TFA, when I didn’t think I would be able to teach, and when I didn’t think I would get into a bridge program for med school, I told God that whatever he wanted me to do I’ll do and that I trusted him. In each of these moments, he provided opportunities to fulfill my purpose even when I was uncertain of how I would. It is important to let go of all preconceived notions of how you think situations should go and trust his plan.
Your twenties are meant to be the most lit and stressful time of your life. Learn to find your center, what re-energizes you and watch your life intently. I promise you’ll learn so much if you take the time to be present and embrace where you are. I lived much of this period of my life fearing rejection, failure, what others thought, and giving fully in both relationships and dreams. I allowed it to cause anxiety and even depression. I prayed, sought therapy, and starting to work on myself. One day, I realized that living in fear made me a prisoner to my own thoughts so I decided to change them. I wont pretend that I do not deal with fear anymore because I do; but I have decided to continue to move forward in spite of. Now, I know that my destination is guaranteed through the promise of God. Every year of my life has not been easy, in fact it gets harder as I grow older. However, I am learning that even the hurtful things had to happen to make me who I am today. I pray this post spoke to you and that you decide to move past everything that may holding you back in this season of your life.