20 Things I Learned Before I Turned 20

Last week I turned twenty years old. I couldn’t believe it, twenty. Where has the time gone? I feel like just yesterday I was starting my first day of high school, now I’m heading into my junior year of college with a whole new life ahead of me. Being a twenty-something means I eventually have to get my life together, it means that I will be on my own with a new life in a couple years, and it means that life is starting to get serious. While yes this does sound scary and daunting, it also sounds freeing and exhilarating as I step into this new decade of possibility. Also, let’s face it, the teenage years are just awkward for everyone so I was beyond excited to enter into my twenties and get a fresh start. Over the past week through much self-reflection, I have compiled a list of 20 life lessons I have learned by the age of 20. A few of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned (in no particular order) are…

  1. Forming a relationship with God was meant to be FUN

A relationship with God was never intended to be a boring checklist of going through the motions of ritual prayers and singing the same hymn every Sunday morning. If you have a different way to connect with God, that is okay. Every followers walk with the Lord is uniquely personal and that is what makes God SO cool. God is anything but boring, so stop making your relationship with him feel so boring and learn to have fun growing in him. There are literally unlimited ways to invite God into the fun of your daily life. Maybe while you do your daily yoga you take that time to meditate on God’s word or use it as a time of prayer. Maybe when you go on your next run you listen to a sermon and allow God’s truth to speak into your heart, or even ditch the headphones and pray as you jog. Or just maybe you grab the biggest chocolate bar you can find, cuddle up into your perfect Pinterest bed under those Christmas nights you stole from your mom, turn on the aroma therapy diffuser, and open your bible. We serve such a fun God, my prayer is that each of you would have fun growing in relationship with Him.

  1. A bad day is not the same thing as a bad life

I have had days where I have 6 tests to study for all at the same time, anxiety attacks are real a thing, it feels like I’ll never catch up, and the weight of the world feels like my responsibility. In these moments, I’ve learned to take a step back, breath, and realize God is so much greater than my bad day. It’s easy for us to get into a pattern of negativity thinking it’s a bad life and everything is going wrong but, at the end of the day we truly are SO blessed. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Something bad happening to me or a mistake I have made in the past does not have to affect me forever. God extends us grace, and we need to learn how to give ourselves grace on these days too.

  1. A dance party can make any situation better

Yes, sometimes life stinks, you get bad news, and you’re not feeling too hot about that test you took today. It happens. Simple solution: when life gets rough embrace your inner Meredith Grey and dance it out. Fill your life with more laughter and joy than stress and anxiety. Think about it, when was the last time jamming to Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, or J Biebs didn’t make your day? Never. Fill your life with positivity and dance it out.

  1. Stop Pinteresting your dream life and start living it

If my life were anything like I portrayed it to be on Pinterest I would potentially be the richest, most powerful, put-together woman in America. As most of the people closest to me know, I’m actually obsessed with Pinterest. Pinterest is definitely for dreamers. But I’ve learned to stop the dreaming phase and start attempting to put my boards into action. For instance, I’ve started painting the bible verses I find as a new, creative form of worship that has given me a new perspective on the beauty of God’s word. As I add pins to my already horrifying 5K Wedding Board I have started to stop and pray for my future husband (& that the beauty of the marriage would be more beautiful than the wedding I have picked out… lol). I have also begun to pray for my future bridesmaids and groomsmen, the most important people in my life and my best friends. This practice in particular has helped me to slow down and solely rely on God’s plan and perfect timing. My encouragement to you would be to stop dreaming and start doing (so cliché, I’m sorry). Go on that perfect adventure you have planned out, throw that “Pinterest Perfect” party, and treat yourself to that cute outfit you found. Life is too short girlfriend.

  1. Instagram is not reality

Unfortunately, the image we portray of ourselves on social media is often not reality. The editing and captioning an can take some people hours because, obviously everyone wants to put their best face forward for the whole world to see. But what we often don’t see is the reality behind someone’s post. It might have taken that family 50 tries to take that picture, that girl an hour worth of editing to get that picture just right, and just because that person has 500 likes doesn’t mean they never feel lonely. My friends, let me encourage you that we need to stop comparing ourselves to that skinny girl’s beach trip to Caribbean on our feed because comparison is the thief of joy my sweet friends. Someone else’s post is not your story, your story is uniquely yours so please stop allowing an IG post to question your worth. I have been here and had to learn this lesson over and over so many times, but Jesus is so faithful to his promise of our worth gfs.

  1. You are beautiful because of whose you are not who you are

You are beautiful. Please know and believe that. But this isn’t true just because I told you so. This is not true because some guy you had a crush on told you this, or your boyfriend told you this. Our worth is not in guys, if you struggle with this I relate my girl. When a guy says “your beautiful”, it’s so easy to put so much of our self-worth in that statement and feed into more of that attention. I get it, but sweet girl, you were beautiful FAR before he told you so. That guy isn’t the one who made you beautiful, that would be Jesus. You are beautiful because of who you are in Christ, not because your boyfriend said so. If you need some extra truth in this go hit up Proverbs 31.

  1. Eat that ice cream cone, popcorn bucket, chocolate bar, etc…

Whatever it is you’re craving right now, treat yourself. You deserve it. Look, the balancing act between not binge eating and not starving yourself is constantly a struggle… I genuinely feel that.  I would argue that every woman no matter what shape, size, or age struggles with their weight at least at some point in their life. My three biggest reminders to you if this is you right now

1) You are not the number on the scale, Jesus looks at you and calls you beautiful

2) Count your blessings not your calories

3) There is nothing wrong with carbs…

The bible says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It has taken me a long time to figure out what this actually means, but to me that means that our job is to take care of our physical bodies for the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us. When we run until we throw up, or stress eat nothing but popcorn for three days straight, that’s probably not the best way to take care of the only body God has given us.

  1. I am not defined by what other people say or think about me

One of the biggest challenges I believe we are faced with in this life is living outside the stereotype of what everyone else thinks we are or should be. We’ve been stereotyped for the past 15 years of being in school as we have heard the other kids say, “That girl is a goodie-two-shoes, we can’t hang out with her”, “She’s just a dumb blonde”, or “what a church girl, wow”. When we get to college we judge each other based of what Greek groups we’re in or what organization they joined. We are so quick to get caught up in all these labels and make them our identity. However my friends, are identity should only be in Christ. Everything else will ultimately fail us. All the lies, labels, and stereotypes put on us by others do not define who we are. You are a beautiful daughter of an all-powerful king and that is your identity.

  1. Confidence is beautiful

A girl who is confident in the woman that God made her to be is beautiful. If you feel like you are confident and content in who you are, you go girl! If not, it is a process, and that’s okay! Our culture is intimidated by confident women but Jesus craves our confidence both in ourselves and in him. My prayer is that each of you reading this would grow in your confidence over the next few months.

  1. It’s okay to have a few close friends rather than 100 casual friends

Over the course of the past few years I have learned that developing deeper, closer friendships with a few friends has been more life-giving than simultaneously trying to maintain friendships with half of campus. Popularity and status won’t matter after high school, or even college and will never satisfy us as much as we often think it will. As we get older deeper, life-long friendships start to matter more and more as these are the people in our lives that will push us closer to Jesus.

  1. It’s okay to pop the bubble of your comfort zone

This is by far the most cliché lesson learned on my list but it still holds so much truth. There is a deeper kind of joy to find in our journeys when we step out of our comfort zone into the unknown world around us. Whether that means traveling somewhere you’ve never been before, trying new foods, meeting new people, or whatever it is you’ve been dying to do but are too afraid to try, just do it. The adrenaline rush of a new experience is a hundred times greater than the regret of the “what if” when the time has passed. I completely understand that it is so much easier to stay in the comfort of the routine we know best, but aren’t your twenties supposed to be the time when you are allowed to have a little fun? (Be smart people, I’m not encouraging madness) Go run a marathon, jump out of a plane, climb a mountain, eat gelato in Italy, pop your bubble and see what the world has to offer.

  1. God’s plan is better than mine

LOL. This one kills me because, it took me years and years just to surrender one of my small plans over to God. Those of you that know my whole college dilemma know that I applied to 25 colleges and universities and ended up at the last place I ever thought I would be (because God has a sense of humor like that). If I’m being honest, I struggle with this people. I’m a planner, I like to have everything on my schedule done my way but 75% of the time God doesn’t really agree with my plans. Over the past year in particular God has been teaching me that surrendering over to his plan is far greater than stressing over my plan because I’m a hot mess that needs Jesus.

  1. Be where your feet are right now

So many times I catch myself wondering where I’m going after work, where I’m doing after class, what homework I have to catch up on after this lunch date, etc. My mind is so busy going through the checklist of all the things that need to get done, that I miss opportunities to offer support to a friend, stop and take a period to have bible time, or be present in the current moment. There is so much excitement ahead of us in this twenty-something decade but if we’re always wishing away today in hopes for what’s ahead tomorrow we are bound to miss some pretty incredible things happening in our lives. This academic year my goal is to be where my feet are in every area of life at school. In two years my best friends and I will never be in the same place for an extended period of time before we grow up and everything changes. My encouragement to you would be to take advantage of the season your currently in and be truly present with the people in your life. Matthew 6: 34 puts it perfectly in saying, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

  1. Your heart is not damaged because it has been temporarily broken

Sweet friend, heartbreak is rough. It’s prime time for Satan to get in our heads and tell us “No boy will ever like you and you’ll probably be forever alone” or “if he didn’t love you, who does?” These lies seep into our brains after we’re already fragile because, we just got out of a relationship that we invested so much time & heart in but are now entirely alone. We feel damaged, hurt, and sometimes even question our worth. The good news is I promise your heart will not be broken forever. It hurts now but obviously, he wasn’t the guy God had in store for your bigger picture. Also, please remember, that not all boys are bad because one of them broke your heart. Truthfully, the only one who can truly fix your broken heart is the one who created it, run back to Jesus girlfriend.

  1. It’s OKAY to be single

When everyone else around us is either in a long-term relationship or already engaged, it’s so easy to feel pressure to get in a relationship. It’s so common for women to feel behind, pitied, or even ashamed because they are in a single season. We crave love and attention as women but the temporary earthly love from a man will never equal the external love from God. This is a difficult lesson to learn, but, I promise you it is definitely okay to be single. There is nothing wrong with you because God hasn’t placed that special guy into your life yet. This season was put in your life for you to grow in who you are and learn to love the Lord first before God brings a guy into your life forever. (If you need more truth into this check out my 3 Steps to Your Happily Ever After in my previous posts)

  1. Emotions are meant to be felt

I have a bad habit of suppressing every emotion I feel. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. My comfort zone is my RBF, no one outside of my immediate family has ever seen me cry, and I am NOT a hugger. (If we’ve never met this description of myself probably sounds really dark, lol sorry, I promise I have the love of the Lord in my heart.) I am slowly learning that Jesus gave us emotions for a reason, and they can sometimes be such a blessing. They allow us to feel joy, laughter, sorrow, and empathy. But most importantly they help us in extending love and grace. Allow yourself to feel and stop numbing yourself to the world, it really isn’t as scary as you think my friends.

  1. God is still there even if I can’t feel him

We talk all the time about “feeling” God: “I feel like God is calling me to move to this place” or “I feel God’s presence when I walk into that chapel” or “I felt God at summer camp”. I think far too often we base our relationship with God off the way we feel in the moment. But faith is not a feeling it is a relationship. It could definitely be possible that God might be trying to teach us something through a period of silence, even then he is still with us. When we accept Jesus into our heart the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and that truth is so so real. Jesus also said many times in the bible that he will never leave or forsake us (even if we “feel” like he has).

  1. The FOMO might be real, but so is God

Fear of missing out is a real thing. Especially when you are in your twenties and you feel like you haven’t experienced half the things other kids your age have. You might be beating yourself up because you miss all the parties so you’re not in the popular crowd, you didn’t get into that sorority you tried so hard to rush, or you haven’t traveled the world as much as that girl has. It’s okay! If you’re following Jesus these earthly successes aren’t always honoring to the kingdom. Romans 12: 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Just because you live in the world doesn’t mean you are called to conform to it’s sinful pressures and ways (in fact you are called to do the opposite). God is more real than your FOMO. Let this serve as a reminder that when you passionately pursue Christ you will never miss out on the good things he has in store for you.

  1. Just because I go to a Christian college doesn’t make me “more qualified” to be a Christian

This is such a large misconception. There are still people who don’t know the Lord at Christian schools, shockingly we still sin very frequently, and just because we have mandatory bible classes doesn’t mean we actually know anything more about theology than secular school kids. The straight truth is, Jesus accepts everyone from every walk of life and background and loves us all the same. Christian school kids are not better than anyone else. There is no such thing as “qualified” in the kingdom, Jesus just wants YOU.

  1. NO MATTER WHAT, GOD IS GOOD

At the end of the day this is the only truth that matters. In every circumstance, in every trial, in every good and bad day, remind yourself: “No matter what, God is GOOD”. You were put on this earth for a greater purpose by a creator who calls you beautiful, enough, and worthy. God is greater than your current circumstance, and he is good. God has a bigger plan for your life that is more wonderful than anything you could ever dream of or imagine because he has made it good in his perfect timing. When I was in high school my friends and I would always say, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good”, remember that truth today.

Twenty years of continual self-growth has formed me into the young woman I am today. God has truly taught me so much along my journey thus far and I am very interested in what he will continue to teach me throughout my twenties. Life is full of hundreds of twists and turns for a twenty-something and there is so much more to learn. My prayer is that you would never stop growing in and learning to be the beautiful woman God created you to be.

XOXO,

Maddie G

One thought on “20 Things I Learned Before I Turned 20

  1. I love reading posts like these! It’s incredible to reflect and look back on your journey and expereiences. You grew a little more after analyzing what you’ve learned. 🙂

    – Stephanie

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