22 Things I’ve Learned at 22

This is my final semester at Iowa State. I am going to graduate in a few weeks and start the next part of my new adult life. I am both terrified and excited to start this new adventure. I’ve also just turned 22, and it seems like just yesterday I was only 18 and starting college.

My first year here was really tough. It was my first time being out on my own, moving to a new place and having to make new friends. I started working at the Seasons Marketplace dining center and started going to a lot of campus events and student organization meetings. By the end of the year, I got my first writing job as a blogger and social media content creator (which I still have, and it’s how I’m getting to write this blog post!)

In my sophomore year, I leased my first apartment and landed my first internship. During this year, I had to learn how to be okay with being vulnerable. I also started getting involved in committees for multicultural student events.

My junior year was my biggest year for personal growth. I got really involved with organizations on campus and created or coordinated a lot of events. The leadership skills I learned are invaluable to me, and I am so thankful for how those experiences made me grow as a person. I also finally learned how to stand up for myself and walk away from things that hurt me, and I even adopted Dubu, my first cat.

My senior year was definitely a time for professional growth. I got a third job and I took a 6-credit political journalism class where I had the opportunity for a lot of hands-on experience in reporting. I discovered a love for photojournalism and visual storytelling, which sparked a passion in me that I never even knew I had.

College was a time for me to study, learn and grow. It’s incredible to look back and see how much I’ve changed during these four years. With that being said, here are 22 of the most important things I learned by the age of 22.

  1. An important part of becoming an adult is learning how to make friends. This doesn’t mean that you have to be outgoing. I’m addressing how important it is to know what friendship means to you, learning to be a better friend and setting up healthy boundaries for yourself.
  2. The other important part of becoming an adult is learning to create safe spaces for yourself, wherever you go. You always deserve to feel safe.
  3. Always communicate how you feel. I spent the first half of college being over-emotional and the second half of college being emotionally unavailable, which absolutely put a strain on the relationships I had with the people I cared about. The best thing you can do is to be upfront about your feelings.
  4. You don’t have to be sorry about everything. It’s easy to take the blame when something goes wrong, but you don’t always have to place the burden on yourself.
  5. You also can’t please everyone. Learn to say no, to take criticism and to accept that you can’t control how others react.
  6. You can’t control things except for your state of mind. Since you can’t control when things go wrong or how other people react, the most powerful thing you can do is to be in control of how you decide to react.
  7. Worrying about something too much before it happens is like making yourself suffer twice. Don’t put yourself through more than you need to.
  8. Call your mom (or dad/guardian). The time I spent away from my parents made me really understand the sacrifices they made to give me a better life here. 
  9. Call (or text) your friends, too. It’s important to check in on each other. A short conversation goes a long way in making someone feel cared about. 
  10. You never know what the future holds. What I had in mind for my future when I was 18 has drastically changed now, at 22. And who knows what chances I will encounter at 25, 30, and so on?
  11. It’s okay to choose not to see it. By that, I mean it’s okay to choose to be oblivious to things that hurt you. One can only take in so much pain at a time, and it’s not productive to dwell in pain.
  12. It’s also okay to choose not to say it or hear it. Once you say something, you can’t really take it back. Sometimes, we say things that may be true, but they are hurtful and not particularly helpful. In those instances, take a step back and think about the other person’s feelings.
  13. Take chances and experience more. The best way to learn is to go out and do it, even if it’s scary sometimes.
  14. Every experience is a learning experience. Even if you fail, it’s just practice for next time.
  15. Don’t give up on your art. Whether it’s words, drawing, painting, photography, music, performance or anything else, the world needs more art.
  16. Be proud of who you are. I am not just a Korean, and I am not just an American. I am uniquely me. As a diasporic Korean who grew up in America, I found myself struggling often with racism and identity issues, and it consumed much of my early adult life. I’ve come to accept myself for who I am. Whatever you’re struggling with, I hope you come to accept it too.
  17. Be confident in yourself. Have you noticed that people who are confident radiate a positive energy that draws people toward them?
  18. Start making changes that will make your life better, today. Start meditating, read that book, go out on daily walks or start waking up early every day. Whatever it is, do it and stick to it.
  19. Do things out of love, and don’t expect more. There’s nothing to regret if you did something out of a genuine place of love without any expectations to get anything back.
  20. The best thing you can do for others is to be a source of positive energy. There is only so much we can do for others in a material sense. I’ve made it a life goal to radiate positive energy around my friends and family when I’m around them. That energy can go a long way to uplift your loved ones.
  21. Spark change by initiating open conversations. If there’s an issue you care about, start having open conversations with people in a way that makes them feel safe and curious. That’s how you spread your message.
  22. Don’t give up on yourself. You are your greatest critic, but you can also be your greatest cheerleader. Fight for your dreams and what you believe in.

Good luck!

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