Today, I turn twenty years old. These two decades have been ones of growth, gaining of wisdom and knowledge, and moving forward. I have been so blessed, especially in the last five years, to be surrounded by wise and intelligent people, and I have learned much. Therefore, I decided that to commemorate the start of my third decade on earth, here are twenty things I have learned in the past twenty years.

Salvation through the blood of Jesus and walking daily with him are the most important things on this planet.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” Nothing on this planet, in this universe, is more important than being saved through the blood of Jesus Christ and living life with him and to glorify God. He is the sweetest love, the closest friend, the greatest Savior I could ever have. Life gains meaning through the Cross.

You’re never too cool for your parents.

If you are 16ish, realize that you are never too cool for your parents. Sure, they may be dorky at points and get on your nerves, but they are truly a blessing. Love your parents constantly, spend time with them, and keep up conversations. Don’t get into adulthood and regret your former attitude toward your parents.

If you don’t read, you don’t grow.

Seriously. If you don’t read, how are you growing? There is so much to learn in this world, and there are so many different things you can read that will tell you about all this learnable stuff. Read articles, magazines, books. Just keep reading.

Live like you’re broke now so you won’t be later.

You know what’s a lot cooler than the newest iPhone, a brand new car, or spending all four years of college at an elite institution? Being debt free. Dave Ramsey always advises people to live like they’re broke now so that they won’t have to later. Especially if you’re a college student like I am, work incredibly hard and sacrifice to stay out of debt. You will never regret the money saved.  

Be politically informed.

I don’t care if you’re a political junkie like I am. Politics literally affects EVERYTHING you do, from the way you’re able to worship to the gun you can or can’t carry to the way you can raise your children. At the very least, be basically informed on what’s going on in the political arena so that you don’t become an American sheep led to slaughter.

Learn to love black coffee.

Dark roast is good, it’s a super healthy caffeine fix, and it is usually super cheap. Switching over to black coffee is always a great idea.

Read your Bible consistently and daily.

Spending time with God and in His word every single day will skyrocket spiritual growth. He inspired the Bible for our benefit-consistently and daily put in time reading it and mulling it over, and you will know God better and grow abundantly.

Schedules and structure actually create more freedom in your life.

I’ve run into so many people who say, “I don’t like structure; I like being able to have freedom.” Okay, look people. I break my week up into color coded time blocks in my phone calendar, every assignment from my syllabi gets put into my planner, I have countless to-do lists running…AND I still have plenty of free time. Being scheduled and structured has allowed me have free time and do what I want to do with the peace of knowing I’m not supposed to be doing something else at that time and that I’m not letting anything slip through the cracks. Structure your life, and you’ll be able to enjoy the unstructured parts much more.

Take dating seriously and have some standards.

You either date someone to marry them or break up-it’s not a hobby. Realize what you have to have in a marriage and what you can live without, and approach dating with the same mindset. Dating person after person is a great way to break a heart while failing to ever get closer to marriage. Raise your standards and critically think through everything before jumping into a relationship.

Discover exercise that you love to do, and a workout won’t feel like work.

I used to hate working out, but then I realized that I can’t do Zumba or generic aerobics and enjoy myself. I have to do really intense workouts like kickboxing or heavy lifting to get my brain engaged. Figure out what exercise or active hobby you really enjoy, and then start doing it. When you’re having fun, even when it’s a hard day, your workout won’t feel like work.

Prayer is a conversation.

As Christians, we are called to pray continually. This seems so challenging, but it is simpler when you realize that there’s no complex method or strategy to prayer. Prayer is a conversation with a real person; you just keep pouring out to God and picking it back up where you last left off.

Basic financial math is so much more important than algebra.

Far too many high schoolers graduate knowing algebraic equations but not knowing how to balance a checkbook or fill out a W-4. Unless you are going into a STEM career, basic financial math is the most important form of math you could learn. Knowing how to handle your finances, your bank accounts, and your college loans if you’re my age is extremely important.

Get a job.

I was hired at my first job when I was fifteen years old, and I have always had one or two jobs ever since. Working builds character and discipline, teaches you about finances, and forces you to be responsible. Even if you don’t need a job or are still young enough that your parents pay for everything, I highly encourage you to work some form of job, whether that’s a 40 hour work week, part time, self-employed, or from home.

Detox from social media every once in a while.

Constantly being on social media is like being hooked up to an I.V. that’s slowly dripping poison into your bloodstream. It’s toxic. For your spiritual and mental health, it is crucial to disconnect from social media every once in a while. For me, that’s typically one day a week, but other people may need to disconnect more or less frequently, or for longer periods of time.

Discipline yourself.

Learning to tell yourself no, set boundaries, and push yourself beyond your limits all feed into self-discipline. When you’re disciplined and controlled, you can accomplish more than you ever thought was possible. You will also be performing at your very best, and that’s just great.

Learn how to take care of your vehicle.

When should you change your oil? How’s your tire pressure? What should you be doing about that funny noise you’re hearing? If nothing else, at least know how to keep up with the routine maintenance that your car needs.

Never stop studying.

Even if you’ve been out of school for a long time, there’s still something to study. Study God’s word, current events, politics. Learn about subjects you’ve never discovered before. Studying goes hand-in-hand with reading: you need both to grow.

Dogs are truly the greatest animal God ever created.

This doesn’t need an explanation. Those snuggly bundles of fur just simply are the best animals on the planet.

Friendships and relationships will end, and that’s okay.

The 18 months after I graduated high school were full of relational break ups. I broke off a dating relationship, I had many friends walk away from me for reasons known and unknown, and I had to break off some toxic friendships. I am a relational fixer, and so for a long time, I was really sad about losing these friendships. However, my mom was wonderful and reminded me that friendships, especially during periods of transition in our lives, don’t always last forever. As long as you are Christlike and your conscience is clean, it’s completely fine to let go and not look back.

Dreams don’t work unless you do.

Finally, your dreams won’t work unless you do. Goals aren’t achieved through stagnation. To reach your dream, you are going to have to work incredibly hard, sometimes with very little return. Keep fighting hard for your dreams, what you feel called to, even when you can’t see the finish line. The hard work will always be worth it.

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