On the night I turned 21, I thought, “Wow, I want to be 21 forever. This is where I wish time would stop. That clothing store with all the bright colours had it right all along.”
Of course, time doesn’t work that way, and in what feels like a sped-up roller coaster ride, I’m here with the number 26 awaiting me just a few months down the road.
From being the ‘quiet one’ in high school to life now as a recently (f)unemployed adult, here are 25 things I have learned as I celebrate my final moments as a 25-year-old:
1. People will like you, some will love you, and some will absolutely hate you.
I used to be a prefect in secondary school. One afternoon, while on duty, I overheard a senior speaking to her friend in Cantonese. She was pointing at me and said, “This one. She’s the one I don’t like.”
I had never spoken to this girl in my life. What did I do to offend her? I thought it might have been my trademark Resting B*tch Face.
That’s when I learned how people feel about you is out of your control. All you can do is be your best self.
2. Most of your closest friends will be made in school.
My friend from high school once told me, “My mum says that the friends you make in school are your forever friends.” I truly believe in that.
Sure, you’ll meet great people as an adult, from work or by chance. But the bond you have with your high school squad is on another level.
Even though we live in different cities now, and sometimes go months without a single text, I know they’ll be in my life forever.
3. Not knowing how to cook doesn’t make you less of an adult.
Trust me. We are all ordering GrabFood.
4. You can’t live on instant noodles forever.
Dinner is served.
During exam season in Uni, my dinners were a packet of Korean instant noodles. I’d make it with a slice of cheese and an egg, all cooked and served in the same bowl. Anything to wash fewer dishes, right?
But such a diet can’t go on forever. Real, nourishing food may cost more but any money spent on your health should be a necessary investment. This applies to annual visits to the doctor too!
5. If you want to lose weight, do it for the right reasons.
When I was starting Uni, I thought, “This is it. I’m in a new city. I’ll lose weight, get hot, and live the life I’ve always wanted with cool friends and endless attention from boys.”
That didn’t happen. Not only did I not lose weight, the more I told myself to eat ‘clean’, the more I craved ‘bad’ food.
Because of the guilt, I also found myself eating in hiding – once, a cheesecake in the campus toilet and another, a cookie sandwich in the fitting room of a department store.
I later realised it was more important to be healthy than to be hot. Slowly, my diet became more focussed on nourishing my body than on restricting it.
6. Your tastes and opinions will change.
I never thought I’d like salmon and I’d refuse to even try it when I was younger.
Now, I love it – on my bagel with cream cheese, as ceviche with the fresh bursts of citrus flavours, and with good old soya sauce.
Image via @cevichehouse.ccs on IG
I never thought I’d be on Tinder either. When it first came out, I was all sceptical and judgy. But now, I’ve met great people (and even my ex-bf) on it.
7. When dating, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
In the early stages of dating, try not to get too attached to one person. They might ghost you or end things out of nowhere.
Divide your attention — if not on other dates, on friends and on your relationship with yourself. I call it emotional self-defence.
8. Sometimes, relationships don’t work out even if you still like each other.
Different goals, bad timing, you name it.
He needs to move abroad for work; you don’t want kids but she does; your idea of retirement is travelling the world; she just wants a simple life in the countryside.
There’s much more to work out in the relationship than your feelings for each other.
9. A heartbreak can be the best thing to happen to you.
It hurts at first. It really does. But once you’ve gone through the stages of grieving and mourning the loss, you’ll feel renewed and ready to be a better version of you. There’s no better motivator, I tell you.
10. When you’re feeling down, dress up.
A couple of #ootds I sent my mum back in 2014 when I was feeling low
I’m talking your favourite outfit with the sexy ankle boots and red lipstick. When you look good, you feel good.
11. You’ll almost always regret getting bangs.
Unless I want to look like a five-year-old again, I think I’ll stick with no bangs, thanks.
Me with bangs in 2012 and without in 2019
12. You’re prettiest when you’re happy.
I see it in my friends and in myself. A genuine smile with the squinting eyes and teeth on full display radiates a special kind of energy that truly pulls people in.
13. It’s okay to not like alcohol.
Does anyone actually enjoy the taste of alcohol? I know I don’t.
Even if you’re not into downing bottles of beers or glasses of gin, you can still have a great night out with your friends. And if they are pressuring you into getting wasted, get better friends.
14. You should travel alone. At least once in your life.
Me cycling at Rottnest Island
I was cycling alone at Rottnest Island once and shyly asked a fellow solo traveller if she could take my photo. She then became my bike ride buddy for the rest of the trip!
I absolutely love travelling alone. You’re following your own interests and schedule, without fear of leaving people behind.
You’ll also discover more about yourself, and become more independent and more sociable, especially if you’re an introvert like myself.
15. Remember to put on sunscreen.
The sun is out all-year-round here in Malaysia, not just at the beach.
16. Not everyone needs a car.
The public transport system in Malaysia is only going to get better. Ask yourself – do you really need a car or do you need one because everyone else has one?
17. Crying at work is totally normal.
If you find yourself crying in the bathroom stall in the office, know that you’re not the only one. I myself have done it a few times. And always, I walk out feeling better and ready to conquer the tasks at hand.
18. Have a go-to source of inspiration.
Whenever I’m feeling lost and unmotivated, I watch The Devil Wears Prada. It makes me feel powerful and reminds me to never give up, despite the hardships.
More recently, I watched Little Women on Netflix, and seeing how Jo spends her nights and days writing so passionately inspires me to do the same.
Be it a song, a movie, a book, or a simple quote, we all need reminders to keep going in life.
19. Do-nothing days can do a lot for you.
Breaks are mandatory. I repeat, mandatory.
Dedicate a day each month to do nothing. No catching up with friends, no chores, no replying emails, nothing.
20. You don’t have to be good at your hobbies.
I fell in love with lettering when I was in Uni. It was therapeutic.
But soon, I began pressuring myself into getting good. That’s when it turned from something that brought me joy into yet another source of stress.
Funnily enough, that’s not how hobbies work. All we need is to have fun.
Me at a brush lettering class
21. Everyone is on their own journey and you can’t compare yours to others.
My friends are buying houses, moving in with their partners, and one or two are even having accountants do their taxes.
Meanwhile, I’m here, jobless, boyfriend-less, and still struggling to understand what SOCSO is. But hey, we all have a journey of our own. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the past you.
22. It’s the little things that make life worth living.
No, it’s not the promotion, the next grand adventure, or the new partner who would magically make life better. These are all great things, sure.
Image via Pexel
But it’s the way the rojak stall aunty smiles at you when you’re walking to work. The songs the birds sing on a Sunday morning when you’re tucked in bed. The first bite of the cheesecake from your favorite cafe.
Life is made up of the little things.
23. Five minutes of meditation can do wonders.
It’s hard at first, but you get better at it. Now, when I’m having trouble falling asleep, I’d whip out the Insight Timer app on my phone and the world would slow down.
24. Find ways towards success, not excuses for failure.
This is my all-time favourite piece of advice from my dad. I remind myself of it every time I face obstacles in life.
25. You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do.
There is a famous quote that people think is by Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
The quote is actually from P.S. I Love You, a 1990 book written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. It’s a collection of memorable sayings from his mother.
I love the message. Better an “oops” than a “what if”, right? You wouldn’t want to live to 80 and have a whole list of regrets.
For more stories like this, read: If You Still Struggle To ‘Adult’ At 26, Here’s What You Can Do and Here Are The Mistakes I Made During My Quarter Life Crisis – And What You Can Do Instead.