Birthday Reflections | 20 Things I Learned by 20

by Holly Swasko


Age has always been a funny thing, and come to think of it, my own is something I don’t think I ever actually specified on here in the 4 years I’ve been blogging. I’m always spilling stories, favorites, and tales of my insecurities, but my age, a basic detail, still isn’t anywhere to be found. Why? I honestly don’t know.

Growing up and still to this day, people have always guessed my age wrong. When I was 10, people would think 15. And even today, I still get the “I’m guessing you’re in your mid-twenties.” I don’t know what it is. Maybe it was a height thing then. Or maybe it was growing up with older siblings. I really can’t tell you exactly why that is. But what I can tell you, if my math is correct, is that today I am, in fact, celebrating 20 years of this beautiful life. So there you have it, the number is no longer a secret. (but really though, it’s only a number, am I right?)

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Throughout the years, there have been highs, there have been lows, there have been tears, there have been smiles. But through it all, as I enter my 20th year of life, I look back with an overwhelming sense of joy in how each stage thus far, each mistake, each lesson has shaped me into who I am right now. And right now, I’m able to look ahead with that same overwhelming sense of joy, fully knowing yet at the same time having no idea, of the similar, beautiful, culmination that yet awaits me,

So have I learned a thing or two? Oh yes. Do I still have more to go? Oh yeah, don’t we all! But that’s the beauty of it, and that leads me to my first of my 20 things I learned by 20. Here goes:

1. Lessons are a good thing. Especially the hard ones.

I believe that the toughest lessons to learn end up as the biggest blessings in the long run. As much we want to avoid messing up and making mistakes, that’s where growth happens. You can’t learn while staying frozen in place in the hopes of being perfect. Take the risk, face the fear, get rejected; sure, it might be uncomfortable, but playing the game knowing your hands might get a little dirty is the only way learn. Lessons aren’t something we should dread to learn, they’re something we get to learn.

2. We don’t always need answers; just a different perspective.

We as humans simply like to know for the sake of knowing. We crave security, we crave that safety net of knowing exactly what’s next, what’s tomorrow, what’s years from now, why X, Y, or Z happened, We crave set plans, we crave certainty. However, I’ve learned that it’s more than okay to not have the answer to everything at the moment and that uncertainty? It’s not a bad thing. Sometimes we go rushing to hastily figure everything out when what we really need to be doing is slowing down in the midst of our circumstances and finding peace within them. Here’s why:

3. No one, not one, has it all figured out.

Two decades in, and I’ve finally come to realize that it’s true; no one truly has it all together, all the time. The person you compare yourself to, the person you deem as “perfect,” that person you can’t help but “wonder how they do it” still has things they’re working on, they still have off-days, they still mess up. So rest easy, that big mess that you think you are, isn’t so big!

4. Take pictures. Lots.

Maybe this is the photographer in me, but seriously. Take pictures. Of everything, everyone, anywhere. You don’t need a fancy camera, just snap em’ whenever you can. Even in a world that urges us, more and more nowadays, to put our phones away and live in the moment, I can tell you that years from now, when you’re looking back laughing and reminiscing, you’ll be glad you captured them. Hear me out; visual memories are priceless.

5. Pray.

Make it the first thing you do before getting up, and the last thing you do before falling asleep, and all of the moments in between. Even if you have to set your alarm for a little bit earlier. Pray when you’re down, pray in the moments of content - anytime, anywhere; it changes the course of your days.

6. Don’t live to impress.

It gets tiring and frankly, very boring walking around thinking you have to impress everyone, everywhere. I used to be a perfectionist - planning outfits for hours, losing sleep in order to primp from head to toe. While I still love putting time and effort into my appearance, I’ve learned that nothing in life should run you ragged for the sole purpose of impressing others. So let it go. So what if there’s a hair out of place, so what if you can’t be glam and perfect 24/7. Life’s more fun and way less stressful when you begin to walk in and own all that you already are; nothing more, nothing less.

This goes with one of my favorite quotes from Gabrielle Union: “Don’t switch it up to be everything to everyone, because then you’ll end up being nothing to YOU.”

7. Heartbreak will come around, but it won’t stay forever.

I’d be kidding myself if I pretended like I haven’t faced any kind of disappointment or hurt in these past 20 years. We’d all be kidding ourselves. It’s real, it exists, however, having been faced with these moments, I began to see it as exactly that; a moment. The heartbreaks, struggles, and losses we face in life are beautifully pale and are mere minutes in comparison to all of the love and priceless joys we have yet to experience in our lives. So cry, feel, hurt, heal, but just know that it’s only for a moment.

8. Shoot your shot

The worst you can be told is no. So send that email, make that call, pitch that idea. If you aren’t able and willing to hear a few no’s, you’ll ruin your chances of ever hearing that yes.

9. It’s okay to take the road less traveled.

If you’re walking a road and aren’t thriving while you’re at it, it’s time to change directions. Sure, you might feel a little different or alone at first, but let me tell you; when you find the right path, it’s always worth it. You know yourself best. This one hit me hard when it came time to make college plans. Though my grades said yes, I myself, never felt passionate or as though I thrived in a classroom environment. So, I paved a different way. And though I felt a little alone at the time, it was so, so worth it.

10. Your story has power. Use it.

Your struggles, your experiences, all that you’ve overcome; don’t toss it away and leave it all in the past, make it a part of your current mission. I believe that our stories are gifts; they’re written, intricately and uniquely woven specifically for us for a reason. Why not to use them as vessels of hope to help others who might be standing in a place where we once stood? Your perspectives, your insights, your words might just be the fuel someone needs to get their spark back.

11. Choose to live & love unconditionally.

Practice kindness, genuineness, and love without expecting anything in return. Always, unconditionally; your light could be just what someone needs.

12. Insecurities don’t have to end in order for confidence to begin.

I talked about this on Instagram a little bit ago. I’ve learned that true confidence is so much more than just the absence of all insecurity. To get real with them, acknowledge them, and walk in learning to own all that you are a little more each day despite them is true confidence in action.

13. Keep journals.

Write in them, fill them, save old ones, and look back on them often! I’m glad I kept mine over the years to look back on - even if some points make you cringe, you’ll be happy years later as they serve as little reminders of growth and how things change over the years.

14. Save the draft.

Not gonna lie, this lesson is brought to you by my computer that’s been crashing throughout the entire writing of this…I think it’s trying to teach me one last thing for the year. So there. Lesson learned, save. your. drafts.

15. Don’t let busy rule your life.

Being busy is great, don’t get me wrong. Being consumed, working hard at something, are all great things. But I’ve learned it’s easy to get wrapped up, caught up, and drained if you don’t take time to break. Slow down, pause, and remember that there’s life to be lived outside of busy.

16. We all view our flaws through our own magnifying glasses.

The phrase “the only one who notices is you,” holds so much truth and it took me a while to grasp…but it’s true. Our “flaws” that may seem like the world to us, are minute, likely non-existent, to others who are busy looking at magnified versions of their own. Things you see as flaws are only as significant as you make them, so it’s best to set down the magnifying glass and breathe. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

17. Seek joy in the littlest things, and you’ll begin to find it everywhere.

In early mornings, in sunrises, on your daily drives home, in the kindness of a stranger; I’ve learned that our mundane everydays aren’t so mundane once we stop taking the littlest parts of them for granted and begin to find the little miracles that are constantly happening throughout it all.

18. Always be quick to forgive.

Life’s too short to harbor bitterness and grudges never do any good - so do yourself a favor and just let it go. Others mess up, you will mess up, and hard feelings are no fun to carry around - so realize this and forgive instead. No one’s perfect.

19. Think of your younger self and go and make them proud.

Lessons can be learned in the form of questions and ones that I come back to often are these; if my younger self were watching me live my life right now, would who I am now inspire her? Am I now speaking words into the world that I would want her to hear? Would my life and what I stand for be a model that I’d want her to look up to? Lesson learned; strive to be someone your younger self would be moved by.

20. Give it to God.

Worried? Give it to God. Unsure? Give it to God. Overwhelmed? Run with faith and give it all over into the hands that hold all of the pieces that we can’t even see yet and rest easy. After all, He knows it altogether. (Psalms 139:4)

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And going on 5 years out of these 20, I’ve been beyond grateful to have this little platform called a blog and for each little moment I’ve spent carving out all that Clothe In Confidence is and stands for. So in January, we can say happy birthday 5th to the blog!

So anyways, here’s to another year of more loving, more smiling, and more laughing through this big, messy life while figuring it all out. Here’s to the lessons learned, and the lessons to come, here’s to the twenties!

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