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By Emily Higgins

1. Those who move through each day with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.

2. Learn to laugh at yourself. Let people laugh at you. Pronounce things wrong. Trip over your own feet. Spill coffee all over yourself. Accept it, people will love you more for it.

3. If you’re feeling wildly overwhelmed by everything, try this: organize your room, go for a long walk or run, light and candle and lay on the floor, make dinner plans for tomorrow, write down the good and go to bed before 10pm.

4. If he wanted to see, talk or be with you, he would. Simple as that– no ifs, ands or buts. If the feelings are mutual, the effort will be the same. This will take a while to learn.

5. Do not shrink or be ashamed of your life path to check some imagined set of boxes people/society have formed in their mind. I cannot tell you how many parties I have been afraid to attend because I was ashamed of my “job status” at the time. Everyone starts somewhere. Quietly carve out a life you love on your own terms.

6. Contrary to what everyone says, I do not think you should always wear sunscreen. Do this instead: go to the pool, beach, front yard, roof- wherever, on the hottest day of the year wearing no sunscreen. Turn yourself around every 20-30 minutes like a rotisserie chicken. After the sun dies down around 3pm and your body is fully dehydrated, go shower and wait. Stand in front of the mirror to find your skin now matches the red shirt you had planned to wear out that night. Lay in bed, not able to wear or touch anything other than the flimsy sheet that covers you and the bag of frozen peas you are now cooking with your hot skin. Repeat this once or twice in the coming years—you will start to notice the sunspots appearing on your chest at 24. Then and only then, will you really learn how important sunscreen really is.

7. Write things down. Keep a journal on your bedside table– (Highly recommend The 5 Minute Journal). Your memory will fade, but nothing beats looking back —you’ll be surprised at how much good you forget.

8. Life is hard: everyone knows that. Though no one really tells you how utterly terrible and brutal it can be and I wish they had. Awful, terrible things are going to happen around you and to the people you care about most. You will find sometimes the worst things happen to the best people and you will learn that you will never be able to work out the sorting system for tragedy or who gets allocated what, when. With that said, there is a strange sense of relief when you accept that sadness and grief is inevitable and there’s no way to avoid it but to continue to stare down that fear with your unrelenting love and hope for life.

9. But there’s light and happiness coming your way too. There will be holidays and birthdays in rooms and homes too small for the size of your family and friends. There will weddings and conga lines. First kisses and slaphappy Sunday’s. Cotton candy sunsets in places you don’t even know exist yet. There will be newfound friends and loves, pay raises and really good haircuts. There will be dinners with loved ones that last far after the meal is finished. There will be nights that turn into mornings and apartment dance parties that end in tear-filled laugh attacks. There will be road trips, forehead kisses and sweaty palms from holding hands for too long. Be present in every moment.

10. At one point or another, you will lose your friends to love– This will most likely be your first love. You will learn this the hard way, but the good ones always come back.

11. With that said, keep the people you love close to you. Make an effort, put in the time and care for these relationships. Take the 30-minute train ride to visit Mom and Dad at home, plan a girl’s night, call your best friend from high school and catch up over coffee or drinks—reminiscing will leave you both with tear stained cheeks after laughing so hard. Only with age will you be able to appreciate their worth and realize they are the best investment in your life.

12. The first time you do something kind for someone who cannot repay you is the first time you realize that giving love will bring you infinitely more joy than trying to receive love. You can still be generous even when you have little.

13. You won’t always be the smartest person in the room (let’s be honest here) … or the most talented for that matter, but you can be the kindest. The bravest. And this is what people will remember.

14. Continue to take pictures. Cover your walls with them. Your future self will thank you for it. I once heard that you photograph the things you are most afraid to lose. Remember that. Every photo you take means something to you in one way or another.

15. There are 24 hours in a day… Dedicate one of them to exercising. Learn to move and love your body every single day. Running will change your life. It will become your therapy and safety net… Your one constant during a time where most things are uncertain.

16. Stand up for yourself and set boundaries even though confrontation is not your thing. Do not let people walk all over you. It’s okay to distance yourself from people who don’t treat you well. Teach others how to treat you.

17. Life experiences will teach you far more than any class/school will. I spent the four years of my college career at three wildly different schools. From the deep south in Mississippi, the corn fields that carpet the state of Iowa, all the way back to the bustling city of Chicago… each experience provided me with a heavy backpack full of wisdom and a backbone that I wouldn’t have grown otherwise. I can’t remember one ounce of Spanish from freshman year, but I can tell you about living in a frat house in Iowa City, being a “new girl,” aka: Cinderella, in a popular sorority, how to manage and live through football Saturday in The Grove and how to be your own best friend when home seems to be worlds away.

18. When it comes to chocolate or fries, resistance is futile. Not sure if you have heard this before, but life is short- order the damn fries.

19. Never apologize for being overly enthusiastic. There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything.

20. Money does not buy happiness. Count your blessings, not the number in your bank account. Some of my favorite moments happened when I couldn’t afford to go out.

21. With that said, be careful with credit cards. Fear them. Do not buy anything with a credit card that you cannot afford with what’s in your bank account. You won’t realize you are in a financial hole until you are stuck (and panicking) watching those numbers climb every month because you are unable to pay them off.

22. The only way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.

23. No one really knows what the hell they’re doing. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized life isn’t linear. There isn’t a step-by-step instruction guide on how to reach a certain goal or be at a certain stage in which society claims to be appropriate for your age. We’re all on different timelines, shoveling our way through life to reach different goals. Define “success” in your own terms. Those who matter in your life will love you for you—not because of your paycheck or where you spend your days.

24. Do not let anyone intimidate you. You might be intimidating, ever think of that?! Everyone is insecure and nervous from time to time and it is crazy how much we can get in our own head. People are just people. Do not let differing personalities make you feel less. You don’t need to be loud, harsh or Type A to make an impact. This will take a while to learn as well.

25. Most of the things you worry about never happen. Worrying and overthinking is only praying for something to go wrong.

26. Follow your heart. Because we learn about trusting our gut only after we haven’t. And we are only able to learn about love after digging through the trenches of heartbreak.

27. There is no short cut to growing up. I needed to learn every last thing on my own, and in my own time. Because it has been how I have learned each thing that has shaped the person I am now–and the person I’ll be tomorrow and the day after, and the year after next.

Here’s to 27. I think it’s going to be a good one.

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