Reflections: 22

Nicole
7 min readMar 15, 2023

What I Learned During My 22nd Trip Around The Sun

Vision board image.
Images curated by author, Nicole

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I learned that life is still stressful — if not more.

I learned to step out of my comfort zone and say “yes” to any opportunity that gets shoved in front of my face (even overnight decisions… just say yes). I learned to drop any and all expectations you have about a situation and to try and go into it blind (I’m still working on understanding this). I learned that comparing yourself to all of your old friends, current age group, and people who have more than you, hurts. Stop doing it. You are exactly where you need to be at this moment. Stop looking at their Instagrams. No one is doing “better” than you. You are where you are meant to be.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I made genuine friendships and felt necessary heartbreak.

I felt the feeling of giving so much love and feeling so truly needed by others. I felt love and commitment run through my veins and heartbreak that poured down my eyes. At 22, I thought I made the lifelong friends I had been searching for since 2018 in my senior year of high school. And quite possibly, maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. Time will tell. At least I can close my eyes at night and say I tried and I’m still trying to find those people.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I traveled to places I’d never been.

I felt the feeling of riding a jet ski for the first time under the blazing sun. I felt the feeling of visiting a country club for the first time and eating a DELICIOUS gourmet cheeseburger. I felt the feeling of watching stars during a fishing trip in the middle of the night on a lake. I walked across a stage during a college graduation in a room full of strangers at a school I never physically stepped foot in.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I met my online friends in real life.

A feeling I had waited on for years to come. A truly, unreal sensation filled with emotions I didn't even know was possible. I met more than 5 of my online friends in real life at 22. An experience I had waited over 3+ years for. These were moments that would forever change my life. The massive amounts of love that filled the air were nothing but pure happiness.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I learned to stop trying to impress people.

At 22, I learned that I cannot be everything my parents may want me to be. I cannot be everything my boyfriend may want, everything that my friends may want — and that’s OKAY. I don’t have to be. I am going to be “too much” for people in this life. And sometimes I may not be “enough”. Not everyone is going to agree with my decisions and they don’t HAVE to. If I spend my whole life trying to “prove” myself to someone else, then who exactly am I even? Am I my genuine self if I have the constant feeling of having to be “more” for others?

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I realized I cannot save my parents, as much as I may want to.

I am not going to be able to heal my mother’s trauma or my father’s stress. At 22, I learned that my parents are trying to love and care for me in the only way they know how. They are trying to break generational curses and trauma themselves. They are doing the best they can. As much as I may not agree with their parenting styles, I know they are coming from a place of love. As much as I may want to help them heal, I cannot save them.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I learned how to set boundaries.

I started saying no. I started saying, “I can’t talk about this right now. Can we speak later?” I learned how to put my foot down for my friends, family, and on social networks. If someone doesn’t agree with my boundary, that is okay, as long as I am respected as a human. I learned how to stand up for myself in a respectful manner.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I noticed I didn’t always agree with other people’s morals and values.

I learned the hard way that even my own age group will value different commitments and ideologies than what I have — and that is perfectly normal. I learned that it’s okay to not agree with the actions of your friends. Whether you continue to foster that relationship between you two or not, is up to each of you. Do not resent them unless they cause harm to you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and is allowed to make their own choices. Even if it’s not what you would do. Do not judge (I am still learning to not do this).

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I experienced pet loss.

This one came unexpectedly that shook me a little differently. I realized I valued my relationship with and love for animals much more through the passing of my childhood cat, Zoe. This opened my eyes to realizing I cared more about the environment and saving wildlife than I initially thought I did. The feeling of being pet-less for the first time in my life since I was born was something I never want to experience again. It was an utter sensation of pure loneliness.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I fell back in love with reading.

During my childhood I was an avid reader who loved opening new books, taking trips to the bookstore with my grandparents, and reading every single night. I lost that passion through high school and I was gladly reintroduced to it in my 22nd year of living. This is something that has connected me to more friends, invited me into a new network of people (bookstagram, booktok), and given me a new hobby to pursue. I fell back in love with it immediately.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I became devoted to pursuing my hobbies and passions.

I spent countless time outside in the fresh air. I took photographs to remember my favorite moments. I started reading again. I learned how to use a Cricut machine. I learned how to crochet. I learned how to bake. I became one with nature, one with life. I became dedicated to studying holistic health and wellness. I planned for hours about what I wanted to make out of this life. I created a reality filled with hobbies and passions and dreams. I started dreaming again. Dreams bigger than anything I’ve ever thought of.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I stopped relying on toxic chemicals to relieve stress.

As much as this one may not be important to others, I was an avid nicotine user since my grandfather died in 2017. Over 5+ years of addiction, useless money spent, and terrible health habits. In my 22nd year of life, I decided to quit. This has been one of the greatest and biggest achievements of my life. I have been sober from other substances for over 5 years now. This was the last one to go and in my 22nd year of life, I made it a priority to let it go. This was one of the most difficult mental strengths to go through, and I am happy to say I am over 6 months free.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I started prioritizing my physical and mental health.

I started working out. I started watching my eating habits and correcting my behavior. I started therapy again to learn how to be a better communicator and to train my mind to calm during heightened anxiety. I started implementing holistic health coping mechanisms and treatments. I am still struggling with eating conditions and making better life choices, but that is the journey of life. I am working hard now so that come this summer (or anywhere in the future), I will never be in the position I was in ever again. At 22, I learned that health is wealth.

In my 22nd trip around the sun, I became a soul committed to lifelong learning.

There is nothing more exciting than learning everything this world has to offer. In my 22nd year of living, I learned that I will forever be a teacher AND a student. I will forever learn from those before me, those around me, and those away from me. This life is about learning. Learning to be better, learning to speak smarter, learning how to love others, and learning how to be more educated.

I want nothing more from this life than to learn everything I possibly can.

Thank you, twenty-two. For being the most challenging, accepting, loving, and passionate year of my life. May the lessons come harder and stronger this year and may my success, happiness, and health prosper for years to come.

Here’s to 23.

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Nicole

Freelance writer, travel & lifestyle blogger, artsy human, and full of thoughts.