I guess I’m officially an adult. As a huge Taylor Swift fan, I’ve waited for the year I turn 22 since the year I turned 15, but I didn’t think, “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time,” would resonate as much as it currently does. Up until this moment, I’ve always known where I have to be and what I have to be doing; the next step was always right there. Now, I am responsible for no one but myself, and technically speaking, I can do whatever I want.
That had previously meant late night runs to Insomnia Cookies and watching Netflix until 4 a.m. freshman year because no one could tell me otherwise. But now, it means that if I want to blow through my savings and take a year-long trip around the world or move to Argentina and become a full-time waitress, there is literally nothing stopping me. The leap from 21 to 22 is truly astronomical, and unfortunately, I have really been feeling it.
And with age comes wisdom. This overwhelming freedom presents a whole new slew of challenges, and I’m sure (or rather, I sincerely hope) 23-year-old me will look back at this moment and chuckle. I know there are a million things I wish I could tell myself last year, but here are just a few:
#1: I know myself
I went through a pretty hellish time this past year, primarily because I let the opinions of other people shape how I saw myself. What I know now is that no matter how well I think somebody knows me, they will never know every facet of me. I am truly my own worst critic, but I have been trying to be kinder in the way I speak to myself.
A good philosophy I have been following is to not say anything to myself that I wouldn’t say to someone I love. Of course, gossip will still get to me, but I do my best to let it roll off my back like a raindrop.
#2: Learn how to make feta pasta before TikTok makes it a trend
A friend of mine suggested this recipe to me almost a year ago and I shrugged it off. Now, it’s my Tuesday lunchtime staple! A little tip: throw some baby kale in the sauce when it comes out of the oven, and use crumbled feta instead of a block.
#3: There is nothing I “should” do
Advice is really only warranted when it’s asked for. Especially from strangers. I can’t tell you how many times in this past year I’ve been down LinkedIn job search spirals looking for, or spent hours applying to, things I would really hate doing. Just because someone thinks, from a four-minute conversation, that they’ve cracked the code to my future success, does not mean they have. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this, and at what seems like such a pivotal moment in life, it caused me far too much stress. I know now that it’s important to do what feels right, not what looks right.
#4: Online thrift shopping is a game changer
I committed to curating an entirely sustainable and ethical wardrobe in 2021 to blend my passion for the environment with the love of my life: fashion. This has been made so much easier by sites like Depop and ThredUp — if only I had known about them sooner. Good On You is another great tool I use to keep myself on track with where I shop.
#5: It’s Okay to Outgrow People
Things change, and boundaries change. No matter how many good times we’ve had together, sometimes someone just doesn't bring out the best in me anymore. Regardless of the reason, I know that I owe it to myself to surround myself with people who make me want to be better and challenge me in the best ways. A true friend would see my success as theirs too.
#6: Food is fuel
Unfortunately, it has taken following a few TikTok dieticians for me to finally realize that, barring diets that are actually meant to ease symptoms of health issues such as Celiac disease or diabetes, there is no need to fully cut something out of my life if I don’t actively want to.
Of course, everyone is welcome to their own choices — for example I prefer almond milk to whole milk — but they should be choices of preference as opposed to because Khloe Kardashian says it reduces bloating. I can’t believe I ever tried a diet tea (which, by the way, is just an expensive laxative) or juice fast, and I’m so glad I spent half of last week devouring a whole cake with a fork on my couch (I practice moderation, it was a birthday treat!).
On the last few minutes of my 22nd birthday, when the clock struck midnight, I wanted more than anything to be 21 again — to never grow up and stay frozen in time. This little piece of reflection has shifted that perspective completely. Now, I’m intrigued to see the woman I become — I’m hopeful that I’ll grow as much in the next 12 months as I did in the last year – and I’m so excited to meet her.
Saniya Ramchandani is a senior from Singapore studying Physics. Her column is a reflective narrative that chronicles her experiences navigating various aspects of college life.