Last weekend, on December 13th, I turned sixteen years old. I got plenty of wishes from my friends and family and had the time to celebrate with dancing, and cake, and dressing up. I really enjoyed my birthday, and for girls in America, sixteen is a big one. However, it also made me realize how a birthday becomes a more diminished event every year. When you’re young, your birthday is so exciting and magical, but when you become a teenager and later an adult, a birthday is merely another day on the calendar.

Birthdays at any age should be a celebratory event in my opinion. It makes life a little bit more fun when we take the time to do something out of the ordinary for ourselves or our loved ones. Along with festivities though, it’s also a good time to reflect on how life affects us, and how we grow as a person. Each year we are growing, especially if you are a teenager, you almost become a new person with each passing year of high school. So, since it has been a few days since my birthday and the excitement has died down a bit, I thought it would be the perfect time to write a “sixteen by sixteen” list. I have seen other bloggers do this “trend”, where on your birthday, you write a numbered list of things you have learned corresponding with your age. Today, I wanted to share my minuscule wisdom with you that I have acquired over the last sixteen years.

Without further ado…here is a list of sixteen things I have learned by sixteen.

  1. No one can pave your path for you. Your life is yours, what occupation you pursue, what passion you experiment with, who you spend your time with…it’s all up to you. No one can tell you how to do any of it, and sure, you will probably make some mistakes, but that’s what prevents you from making them on a larger scale in the future. If you change yourself, or your path for others, you are just complicating an already complicated journey.
  2. Making others feel bad will never make you feel good. There will always be someone who has more than you: money, friends, better grades, whatever. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like you have to prove yourself to others, and put down someone else to show how great you are. But, in the end, everyone is insecure, and the time you spend making someone feel bad could be much better spent making someone feel great.
  3. Not everyone will like you (and that’s okay). This one is kind of hard to get around. In theory, it seems obvious…there’s so many people you meet, of course not everyone is going to like you. But, the way we sometimes deal with rejection is ultimately making us lose ourselves even more. If you are unapologetically yourself, the right people will come into your life and the rest will keep walking.
  4. Too much of anything is a bad thing. To put it simply, life is about balance. Too much of one person will make you want to pull your hair out, spend time with a variety of people and perspectives. Too much studying will make you want to go out with friends, go have fun. Too much salad will make you crave pizza, it’s about moderation.
  5. Strive for progress, not perfection. In some ways, this goes along with the previous lesson. The more you focus on the unattainable “perfect”, the more you are missing out on when it comes to the journey. As you keep improving, your perception of “perfect” will change, and everything will feel stagnant. Appreciate the small wins, and life becomes much more gratifying.
  6. Put down your phone, laptop, TV remote. This lesson is probably the most self-explanatory of them all, electronics are not and will never be a substitute for real, human interaction.
  7. Surround yourself with all types of people. When you spend all your time with people who are exactly like you-gender, race, socio-economic status, sexuality, political views, etc-you become more close-minded. Remember… every person out there knows something you don’t, learn from everyone, and realize what different people bring into your life.
  8. Listen. This is a really big one. Next time you go out somewhere, realize how the conversations you have with different people go. For the most part, it’s common today for people to not listen and instead just talk. If you are always thinking of the next thing you are going to say, you can never process what the person you are talking to is trying to convey. Listen more, talk less.
  9. You are never “too much”. Ask questions, run around with no shoes, sing at a karaoke bar, get into a debate at the dinner table. Stop letting anyone tell you that you are “too much” or that you have to “tone it down”, maybe the world just can’t keep up with you.
  10. Never take the little things for granted. I know it’s cheesy, but you never know when something is going to change. I think most of us are grateful for the roof over our head, the food on the table, and the clothes on our back. But, don’t forget about the way your dog greets you when you get home, or the early morning quiet on the commute to work/school, or the fruit bowl your mom makes you every morning. It’s these things that you are going to look back on, and are going to make up your life.
  11. Treat yourself as if you are a small child. As we grow older, it’s easy to believe that we have “grown out” of certain habits. But whether you are six years old or sixty years old, you should take yourself outside, eat the foods you love, let yourself take naps, and treat yourself with the same love and compassion you would have for a small child.
  12. Don’t expect things to always come naturally. To get anywhere in life, you have to put in your best work, you have to be determined, and you may also need help from others. Nothing worth working towards will come easily, there will always be bumps along the way, and whether it’s a career or a relationship, some things are worth fighting for.
  13. Always be humble, Always be the bigger person. Just as I talked about previously, there are always going to be people who have more than you, but in the same way, there will always be people who don’t have as much as you. Stay humble. You are not better or worse than someone else for the items or skills you possess. In addition, if someone decides to become angry with you or hold a grudge, be the bigger person, and look at it from their perspective.
  14. Don’t compare your page one to someone else’s page one-hundred. In today’s society, it is SO easy to compare. It’s vital to keep in mind that everyone portrays the best version of themselves to the public. A photo on Instagram may be one out of one-hundred, someone who is amazing at a sport may have been playing it for years. Everyone has different skills and levels of practice, your page one is not comparable to someone else’s page 100.
  15. Someone else’s opinion is a direct reflection of them, not you. STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK. It took me a long time to realize, but every time someone makes a snarky remark, passive aggressive comment, or has a straight up mean opinion, it is just that…an opinion. Everyone’s opinion is different, and if someone feels negatively about you, then that is a direct reflection of them…not you.
  16. Life is incredible, enjoy it. Everyday you wake up is a new opportunity to try something, or tell someone you love them, or even lay in bed and watch Netflix. Life is actually so great, and it’s crazy all the things it teaches you along the way. Enjoy every minute of it.

Well, there you go…sixteen life lessons I have learned by sixteen. Obviously, like most of my lists, this is not an exhaustive record, but rather the main wisdom that has stood out to me. As the earth continues orbiting around the sun, I hope that I will learn more life lessons and become a wiser, more content person. And, with that, I hope that you find at least one piece of advice in this post that speaks to you at this point of your life. Life is one big lesson, and if we take from it everyday, we will never run out of things to learn.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis

Happy Living 🙂

Published by Ria Pai

Hi let me introduce myself. I was born and have lived my entire life in a beach area as a child of two amazing parents who immigrated to America from India. I love art, music and writing so I try to combine the three. I enjoy deep conversations on a number of topics from politics, to friendships, to fashion. I’m a natural perfectionist, but sometimes find this to be a bit overwhelming. I love mangos, dark chocolate and tea. I make art whenever I get the chance…painting, songwriting, dancing, and writing are all forms of art to me. Since I live in a warm area, I cannot stand any weather that is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and always find a way to swim in anything from pools to the ocean. I have one dog, a Lhasa Apso who I am envious of because he does nothing but eat, sleep, and lay around all day. I experiment with my style. I am horrible at geography and sitting still, and it’s not uncommon to find me with paint all over my hands. I like to wear bold clothing and I always find a way to wear the same white sneakers with any outfit I can. Hi, my name is Ria, nice to meet you.

3 thoughts on “MY SIXTEEN BY SIXTEEN

  1. Wonderful! You are wise beyond your 16 years! Keep it up. Tell your friends to forward this. I will also do so.

    Prabhakar Uncle



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