22 Things I Have Learned At 22

Today is my 22nd birthday and I decided to take some time out of my busy Monday to reflect over a couple of things. I have often heard people say that your 22nd birthday is the most pointless birthday you will ever have, but I have to disagree with that statement. Let me explain….

I stopped celebrating my birthday when I turned 14, because I had just moved to a small town Norway with my mother where we dint know anyone or couldn’t speak the language. I had nobody to celebrate my birthday with besides my mother who was suffering from terrible depression at that time. To be fair, my mother did try her best to make me happy and she would always bake me a cake. But my 14th birthday was the day I realized that at a certain point in life, birthday’s become less about throwing parties with lots of people and receiving lots of gifts, but more about reflecting over your life. What have you done so far? What do you want to accomplish with this new gift of yet another year of life? What changes can and will you make? Who even are you?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating peoples birthday’s! In fact, I feel honored when friends invite me to their birthday parties because they want to share the start of a new year with me. However, my idea of celebrating my birthday doesn’t involve me getting blackout drunk and embarrassing myself  in public, which seems to be the standard way of celebrating birthdays nowadays. Going out for dinner with a few good friends and making a toast for the new year is what I have learned to appreciate and value the most in my recent years.


So here are the 22 most important things that I have learned in my 22 year of living on this planet.


1)Embrace Change

I can honestly say that I have never felt as comfortable with myself as I am currently. There are a lot of reasons for this but the main point here is that I have finally learned to embrace change rather than fight it. I have finally decided to go natural. For those of you who don’t know what this means, I have basically stopped chemically treating my hair to make it straight. I have stopped coloring my hair and I don’t use any heat on my hair whatsoever. This has changed my life completely! As minor of an action as it may seem to most, it was a drastic change for me to finally accept myself for who I am. I am a whole lot confident in myself and my identity now than I ever have been before.

My advice: Whatever changes you might be going through in life, don’t fight it! Don’t deny it. Just embrace it with a smile. Change is a good thing no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first. Change is the only way you know that you as a person are growing.

2) Keep a journal

Always keep a journal! I know this might seem hard if you haven’t gotten into the habit of writing a journal, but believe me when I tell you that it has done wonders for me! I got into the habit of writing a journal entry as often as I could when I was a kid. I have been writing a journal entry everyday for about a decade now and it has helped me deal with a lot of my emotions. Keeping a journal has had a therapeutic purpose for me. Coming from a family that doesn’t really talk about emotions or share their feelings with each other, writing my feelings down helped me store my emotions somewhere were I knew they would be safe.

My advice: keep a journal. Whether it is digital or the old fashion paper and pen, find a way to express your emotion.

3) Reading

I cannot even begin to explain how important this is! Two years ago I set a personal goal for myself where I challenged myself to read a book a month. I have tried my best to stick to my plan with the occasionally exception of busy school seasons, but you get the point. Read as much as you can! Just like writing a journal for me is therapeutic, so is reading. With each book, I can escape to a whole new world. Any world.

My advice: whether it is entertaining or educational, get into the habit of reading as much as you can. your future you will thank you!

4) Travel

Again, I know this might not be as easy for everybody, but travel as much as you can! Its amazing the things you learn about yourself and the world by traveling! I have always considered myself a Third Culture Kid and the older I get the more I realize that I can’t settle in one place and be contempt with my life. I have this constant urge to travel and see the world and meet new people! I have learned to appreciate life so much more and I mustn’t forget the amazing people I have had the pleasure of meeting.

My advice: do yourself a favor the next time you have a couple weeks off work/school, book a ticket anywhere and trust that our beautiful earth will give you something to appreciate and smile about.

5) Learn a new language

Maybe I am getting carried away here, but I cant tell you the importance of learning another language. Hint: you can never learn too many. Not only is there scientific evidence and benefits of learning a new language, but you will also get to interact with people on a whole different level! If this wasn’t already obvious, people tend to be more open and accepting when they see you try to speak and embrace their language and culture. You will meet amazing people and the world will literally be your oyster!

6) Guard your heart

I know of many people who disagree with me on this one. Heck, I would have strongly disagreed with myself on this a year ago. That was when I was naive about the reality of dating today. Despite getting my heart broken at least twice every year, I would still give my heart to the same type of guys that broke it into pieces every damn time! It took me a long time to realize that as much as I give guys that come into my life the benefit of the doubt and only expect the best of them, dating today has changed tremendously!

Now this is my personal opinion and I could be wrong, but speaking from personal experience, dating today has become this complicated game and I cant seem to keep up. Its all about having the upper hand and “scoring” the most. You should never settle because you never know when something better will come along because lets be honest, the options are endless!

My advise: be selfish and cautious with who you choose to give your heart to and there is absolutely nothing wrong in doing so!

7) Respect

This one hits home! It took me such a long time to understand what respect actually means. Now, I am not talking about the golden rule we were all taught as kids to respect everyone and treat people the way we want to be treated. Although that is very important, I am talking about respecting yourself. This could of course mean a lot of things from the way you behave, dress, talk, etc. But take a minute to think about how people around you view you or even more treat you. I had gotten so extremely comfortable letting people disrespect me for the longest time until I finally put my foot down! I have learned to never let anyone ever get comfortable disrespecting me because I know that I deserve better. As a matter of fact, I deserve the best!

My advise: learn your worth and learn to stand up for yourself!

8) Friends

This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous point about respect. Understand that you are going to lose friends and there is nothing wrong with that! Some friends will be toxic and you will need to drop them, others will choose to leave on their own. Sometimes you will grow apart or even realize that you had no business being friends in the first place. My point is that at 22 I finally realize that my circle of friends is getting smaller with each year and this actually makes me happy. These are the people encourage each other during hard times and celebrate each others success. These are the people who always have your back no matter what. They don’t get jealous of your success and they push you to be the best version of yourself.

My advise: keep those friends around and drop anyone who drains your energy.

9) Family

Lets be honest, sometimes we want to strangle them but most times we love them to death! At 22, I have realized just how important family really is! For me, being around family makes me feel like a whole new person! They remind me of who I really am deep down inside, they have taught me the most important life lessons, values, and morals that I hold dearly. I would be lost without them!

10) Money

Spoiler alert: you are still broke. And yes, you are still living from paycheck to paycheck.

11) Your body

I have honestly put my body through a lot of sh**t. I come from a very strict christian family. Growing up, no alcohol was ever allowed in the house. So as soon as I left home and went off to college, I of course drank as much as I could! Drinking and partying was the highlight of my week! Most times I would go out with friends at least three times a week! After three years of overcrowded college parties and drinking excessively, I realized that it wasn’t as fun anymore. I cut back on alcohol and instead started working out and eating healthy. It has almost been four months since I made this great decision and trust me when I tell you that I have never felt this great! Not to brag or anything, but my body has never looked this good! I am a whole lot more confident in my own skin.

My advice: please treat your body right!

12) Meditation 

I am still working on this one. I have been meditating everyday for 10 mins for two months and I can tell that it is helping. I would of course love to do it more often and for a much longer period of time, but I am still learning. My concentration is so incredibly bad that 10 mins of silence in one position, seem like hours to me. But when I do manage to sit in one position for 10 mins with my eyes closed in silence, I notice my anxiety and stress level decrees.

My advice: train yourself to meditate everyday!

13) No

At this point in your life you should have learned how to say NO. If you haven’t yet, its never too late. I understand how saying yes to everything can open up some great opportunities, but it can also be emotionally draining. My advise: learn to say no at the right times, of course!

14) Priorities

This one goes hand-in-hand with learning to say no at the right times. It took me this long to get my priorities straight! Maybe I am being a little hard on myself, but I wish I have sorted out my priorities sooner! MY advise: figure out what is most important for YOU in YOUR life and priorities making that a reality.

15) Mistakes

You have made a lot of mistakes and you will still make mistakes. The great part about mistakes is that, if done correctly, you will never make the same ones. Even more, your mistakes will teach you some of the most valuable lessons in life! My advise: don’t be afraid to make mistakes because something good ALWAYS comes out of it. Even if you might not see it right there and then.

16) Don’t take yourself too seriously 

I will let your figure this one out on your own.

17) Be thankful

This is seriously something everyone should be doing every single day! It amazing how your life can change for the better when you start being thankful for the things you already have or don’t have. Yes, you heard me right. The things you don’t have. I am a spiritual person and I believe that every single things happens for a reason. There is a reason that you have the things you do and there is a reason you don’t have the things you are missing. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that you should sit back and wait for the things that you want to fall unto your lap. But if you ever feel like you work extremely hard and put in so much effort physically but also emotionally, then you should know that there is a reason for that. Maybe its not meant to be, or maybe the time is just not right. Either way, there is AWLAYS a reason.

My advise: be thankful for what you already have and learn to truly appreciate life for what it is.

18) Responsibility

By 22, you should  already be taking responsibility for your actions! The amount of people I have meet in life who dodge responsibility and fail to take accountability for their actions never fails to appall me. These are grown ups who genuinely refuse to take accountability and instead point fingers at others. These are the very same people I cannot tolerate.

19) Home is where the heart is

This is one of those quotes I always heard growing up as a TCK. However, it is only now that I am starting to realize what it actually means. I can honestly say that I don’t get homesick. I think the last time I got homesick was when I was 11 years old in boarding school for the first time. I have since then learned to make every place I go to home.

My advice: learn to make a home everywhere you go.

20) No Expectations

This one goes without saying. It took me a while to master this one and I have to admit, I am still working on it. But you will be surprised at how great your life will be once you stop expecting things from people.

21) Be your own hero 

Don’t wait for a anyone to “save” you. Be your own hero. Set your own goals and accomplish them at your own pace! Don’t wait or expect for things to be handed to you on a silver plater. Get your hands dirty and get what you want.

22) Be yourself

Need I say more? Contrary to popular opinion, this is actually easier than you think. Just be yourself and never apologize for being yourself!




What I have learned


Its been a week now since my return to Norway from West Chester, PA, and I have to admit that I am still a little sad. I guess this is what withdrawal feels like? I have been in the states for 10 months straight and it has been amazing! I cant even being to explain how much I have learned not only about living with other people and making friends with all sorts of background, but I have also learned a LOT about myself.

I have to admit that I have not always been kind. Growing up, I was a very mean child. I was mean to friends and even to my own family. But when I moved to Norway at the age of 13, I got a little taste of karma. For three years straight, I experienced bullying and racism. Long story short, after apologize to as many people I could get a hold of on Facebook, I promised myself to always be kind to others and to be considerate of others.

Only problem is that my guilt made me think its okay for people to take advantage of my kindness, which is NEVER okay. What I am trying to say is that I have finally mastered how to stand up for myself and not be a pushover while still being kind and considerate. It took me all these years but I finally realized that no one is going to respect me if I don’t respect myself. No one is going to know how I feel if I don’t speak up. And as selfish as this might sound, I have stopped being a people pleaser and am now working on myself.

Speaking of working on myself, I have always been confident in myself. I have never doubted myself as far as beauty is concerned, or at least thats what I thought. So on the 13th of February (two days before my 21st birthday), I went ahead and chopped my hair. I got a pixie cut with long side bangs and I loved it the first couple of days. About a week after I chopped off my hair, I felt really depressed. I missed my long curly hair terrible and the reaction that my friends and the people around had didn’t exactly help.

I hated myself for being such an impulsive person and hated my new look that I faked to love. Thats when it hit me that I am not that confident after all. I have been lying to myself all these years, pretending to be someone I am not! I was hiding behind my long hair pretending to be overly confident when really I knew nothing about myself besides the compliments I would get from people about my long curly hair.


Before and after picture of the day I chopped off my hair

As soon as I realized this, I made up my mind to work on myself and how I perceive myself. Its now been three months and I am happy that I chopped my hair. I am happy because chopping my hair off has been a reality check for me. It was forced me to see myself for who I really am, which is not someone I am proud of. I have now started on a new journey that I am pleased to share with the world. I am going natural! No more relaxers! I am going to redefine myself and this is the best time to do so – when I am the most vulnerable I have ever felt my whole entire life.

On My Way

Summer is almost over as I am finally ready to set off on a new journey. After a stressful, frustrating, emotionally draining yet very excited summer, the time has come for me to pack my bags and say goodbye to Norway for two years. I am officially moving to West Chester, Pennsylvania and will be attending West Chester University of Pennsylvania for two years.

As of right now, I am sitting in my hotel room by the airport all alone. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to my mother whom I wont see until May next year. And the fact that she was crying made it even harder, but I know she will be just fine in a couple of weeks.

My flight leaves at 06:00 tomorrow morning and since I am flying with KLM, I will be transiting through schiphol first, then JFK, then finally Philly. I love traveling alone and I have been doing so since I was 14, but for some weird reason, I am extremely nervous for tomorrow. Luckily, a good friend will be meeting me at the airport in Philly tomorrow. That way I wont be completely alone in a completely new environment.

This is it. There is no turning back, no backing down now. I have seriously pushed myself out of my comfort zone. With no idea what to expect, I am nervous but extremely excited for all the experiences that these coming two years have in store for me.


Like most children, I wanted nothing more than to be one of the grown-ups when I was younger. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could stay up as late as I wanted to or make my own decisions without necessarily needing my parents approval.

Before I knew it, like most children, I had my wish granted. Adulthood and the responsibilities that come along with it hit me. Hard. Now I find myself sleep deprived 99% of the time whether it’s due to school, work, or the endless paper work, applications and travels that seem to dominate my life nowadays.

As much as I hate to admit it, I find myself quietly seeking advice and approval from family with every decision I have to make in hopes that I will be able to catch my breath.

My to-do lists seem to get longer and harder to accomplish and I never seem to have enough time to complete them. Neither do I really seem to enjoy certain moments in my life, which really, I should cherish more. Things seem to pass me by far too quickly with each day that passes and my greatest fear is to find myself sitting in a rocking chair at 70 and have no recollection of all the great moments in my life that I should have cherished and enjoyed more.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to be thankful for in comparison to a lot of people and not a day goes by without me counting my blessings. But how does one balance life? How does one find the time to maturely accept and handle one’s responsibilities and still find the time to appreciate and enjoy all that life has to offer?

Reunited Again!

On the 12th of May 2014 I was surprised with a plane ticket to San Francisco to attend my beautiful sisters graduation. My mother had already left to be with Selam and I had just moved back home from Moss. I had two days to pack and get on a plane to San Francisco just in time for Selam’s graduation on the 15th of May. The whole experience was surreal and it happened so fast, but I did enjoy every minute I spent with Selam after seven years.


IMG_1649 Continue reading

Today I am Thankful

Being thankful is something I don’t do enough. I fill my life with endless lists of things that need to be done and goals that need to be accomplished, and as a result, I forget to be thankful for the little things that make life great. Far too often, I forget to take a step back from all the lists and schedules that seem to control my life, and make time for the things and people that matter the most.

I tend to put everything and everyone in my life on my lists and schedules because in my mind, this is my solution to balancing my social life, academic life, and work. For instance, «call mom» is scheduled on my google calendar everyday at 20:00, «Skype with Venjanelle» is scheduled for Fridays, «Facetime with Selam» is scheduled for Sundays and «Viber Abel» is scheduled for Tuesdays. Family and friends get frustrated when they can’t get a hold of me if they call on a day and time other than when they are scheduled. Most of the time, I will just laugh it off and explain why I can’t talk to them in a jokeful manner.

I didn’t realize how my lists and schedules were slowing ruining my relationships and hurting the people I love until recently. I failed to be there for my best friend because according to my schedule, we weren’t supposed to Skype until Friday and only on Fridays. I failed to be there for my brother because when I called him on Tuesday and he didn’t pick up, he had to wait until the next Tuesday to get a hold of me. I failed to share my sisters joy of getting her first apartment because we aren’t scheduled to Facetime on any other day but Sunday.

These are the people that mean the world to me, and I would never have been the person that I am today had it not been for their love, encouragement, faith, and support. Yet, I have been ignoring and pushing them away because they don’t quite fit in my schedules. I guess what I am trying to say is, there are some things in life that can’t and shouldn’t be controlled or put in lists and schedules, and I have had to learn that the hard way.

Having said that, I have created a new and positive list to my collection. I have challenged myself to write one thing that I am thankful for everyday and share it on my blog, Twitter account, Facebook, and/or Instagram. Starting from today, I very thankful for my family, friends, and the people in my life that have all taught me something important about life and somehow always find ways to make me smile.