20

I couldn’t come up with a witty title for this post, but the idea is that I want to share 20 things that I learned from being in the class of 2020. (update: a good title would’ve been 20* tips from a 2020 grad. but just “20” feels edgy (and also resolves the making 19 20 thing) so I’m keeping it.)

Trump got elected my freshman year, and I graduated with the cords of Covid-19 and racism heavy around my neck. It’s been a time.

Right now, people are being active. In the physical, in the spiritual. “Thoughts and prayers” won’t cut it (as a phrase), but spending time in prayer, in God’s Word, and in God’s presence is all keeping me together right now. But more on that in a minute, let me not get ahead of myself.

I’m bringing this list directly from my journal so it’s not in any specific order, and it’d probably look different on a different day, but here’s what we got:

note: I have all the tips in a pretty lil list at the bottom of all these words, if you really need a TL:DR. I’ll also be posting a graphic on my Instagram with them all written out. some tips have longer explanations than others, but doesn’t make them more important. if you need to tackle this in chunks, or start with the tips that jump out to you, feel free! you don’t have to go in order, but I do want you to get the big picture, so you’re gonna need all the pieces

  1. write everything down
    • like I said, this is just the list that came from my journal session one morning. even as I sit here to expand on why I think these tips are important, I may come up with explanations that I didn’t have initially, which is fine. my brain be doin a lot, which is kinda cool. but with all its doing, it does a lot of forgetting, so I really benefit from writing things down.
    • I have a lot of journals. from where I sit I can see 10, 2 of which are currently in use. the others got filled up (or forgotten) during my college years, all in their own ways. some had specific purposes, like holding prayer requests, church notes, poems, or random ramblings. sometimes I’d have one journal for all the things. right now I’m using one journal for the ramblings and another for the gems I find when I go back to review said ramblings. there’s no recipe for journaling. but my current recipe for self care does include quiet time, so I’ll sit with my journals and my Bibles, writing and praying til I feel ready to start my day
    • this tip goes for classes and meetings as well. some people are great with learning via audio, which is lovely. meanwhile, if there’s a 20% chance of me retaining something I hear, that goes up to like 50% if I read it, and 70% if I wrote it myself. I’m always taking notes because I know it helps me focus while I’m listening, and it gives me something to go back and review if I forget sumn. so this tip is flexible. maybe you need to record everything. maybe you need to sketch while you listen. but figure out how you learn, and maximize it. you’re worth it.
  2. use your voice
    • I’m not sure why I saved this explanation for last. I guess I was nervous about having to do it justice in a few bullet points when I’ve spent years talking about it
    • this time around, I’m just gonna break it down. the words I really want to emphasize here are “use” and “your”
      • “your” first, because there is wealth and wisdom in the experiences you’ve lived through and how they’ve shaped you. you’re the only you we have. recognize and remember that.
      • “use” comes next, because there’s not knowing the power of your voice, and there’s knowing it, but not using it. ignorance is bliss because once you have knowledge, you can’t ignore it. you won’t always want to, but sometimes you gotta make it do what it do
      • it feels rude to leave “voice” by itself, I don’t have any pretty phrases ready to describe it yet. I think about Moses and Jeremiah, who relied on God for what to say and how to say it. I might just leave it as an unfinished thought, but I’ll be back once I have the words
    • tbh, I think all the other tips point back to this one. this whole post, all my posts are just me using my voice to share what I’ve learned, highlight my experiences, relive my memories. in doing that, I’m speaking light, freedom, truth, all the nice things. all the God things. it’s funny that this is the tip I seemingly can’t write eloquently about, but that just emphasizes the fact that you can’t always get caught up on delivery, because you wouldn’t be reading this post right now if I’d let this brain freeze freeze me. moving on 🤸🏾‍♀️
  3. your health matters
    • whewww
    • I think I was averaging 4 hours of sleep a night by the end of freshman year, and it didn’t even show in my grades. I was sleeping better by senior year, partially because I was washed, but also because I realized the allnighters weren’t helping my productivity. who would’ve thunk. but yeah, sleep is very important (full transparency: it’s 3:14 AM rn. these tips are all grace-covered works in progress)
    • another important part of physical health is FOOD. you don’t want too much and you don’t want it to be too unhealthy, but you do need it to be enough. we don’t skip meals outchea
      • something that was super helpful for me was talking to my therapist about my eating habits, because when I first noticed how little I was eating, I was also trying to eat healthier, so that had knocked out a lot of my go to meals. hearing this, she said something along the lines of “let’s focus on increasing intake. once that’s regular, we can worry about the details.” with that in mind, I gave myself more grace with my food choices and managed to make some healthy ones without turning eating into an ordeal. big progress
    • I waited til my last semester of college to start going to the gym but it did help me sleep better (I was physically exhausted so my brain could only keep me up for so long), and I was also way hungrier. working out isn’t all that fun in the moment, but seeing yourself get stronger definitely is. find an exercise method that isn’t completely horrid to think about and get consistent!
    • I’ll talk more about therapy later but mental health matters too. like a lot
    • emotional health, watchu know bout that? I’m honestly still learning about it myself, but being mindful of how you feel and why is crucial. therapy gets another shoutout here, but for me, journaling is an even bigger tool. abstract feelings become tangible (but still abstract) phrases that I can analyze and work with. not that everything needs to be analyzed, but emotional patterns and unresolved matters often require attention. I also have a great inner circle of friends who know me well and can be trusted to speak on what they see with love, so that’s kinda like journaling, but with a narrator. kinda
  4. ask for help
    • so apparently I’m stubborn
    • like it makes sense, but it’s not a word that comes to mind when I want to describe myself. maybe “determined”
    • anyway, I wouldn’t be here with a whole degree, with HONORS (ya girl finished her thesis, cum laude shawdy) if I didn’t learn how to ask for help.
    • a sub-tip for this would be learn how to receive help; don’t get in your own way
    • but yeah, this tip is straightforward. you don’t have to do everything yourself and you’re not dumb or weak for needing assistance. letting go of those lies will do wonders
  5. don’t forget to breathe
    • word to Stormzy and YEBBA yfeeme. I’ve noticed recently that when I’m super stressed my body pretty much freezes, until I’m ready to take a huge breath and then I shut down again. this is what? unsustainable. caused by what? probably stress, performance paralysis, throw in all the buzzwords. but an easy way to check on you is to check on your breathing
    • this tip doubly hits because of recent events. as lives are being lost to police brutality, yours continues. whether you’re protesting or processing, remember yourself and the purpose you still have to carry out. I don’t have any pretty words about God’s timing or people being gone too soon, so I hope this tip comes across how I mean it to
  6. make sure your foundation is solid
    • life is going to shake you. that’s just that. it’s not sweet out here (not that it’s always horrible, but aye man)
    • with that in mind, you need to have steady footing when the storms come. your house needs to be built on the rock.
      • I distinctly remember when this tip hit home. I was kinda whining because I felt like I was approaching another mental rough patch, and I didn’t want to go through it. I was happy being on my lil mountaintop and could not be paid to go back into the Valley. but I was tired. I was burnt out and physically sick, so I really did need some downtime.
      • I don’t remember exactly how it was delivered, but a friend said something along the lines of “you’re gonna go down there either way.” I know there was more to it, but that’s all I really needed to hear. there’s no point going through life unprepared. if a Valley was coming up–it’s like quizzes. sometimes you get hit with a pop quiz, but sometimes you have time to study. considering that this was a Valley I could study for, I’d benefit more from brushing up on my foundation(al knowledge) than moping around
    • this tip is also useful academically. I started college as a chem major (“chemistry and chemical biology” sounded like “biochemistry” when I was applying), but I transferred to bio with a swiftness after I saw my first D. it would not be my last. still. cum. laude. ANYWAY, the switch didn’t set me back because the classes I took that first year applied to both majors. I still had the foundation I needed to get through the upper level bio courses. at one point, I was TAing for a class I hadn’t taken (essentially Genetics for non-STEM people) because I’d learned everything I really needed to in Genetics. somehow. that class was hard lol
      • so yeah. don’t cheat yourself when it’s time to build your foundation, because everything else is going on top of it
  7. go outside
    • as cold as it gets, Ithaca is very pretty. I don’t like bugs or mud or sweat or any of that but I *do* like how pretty it can get outside. I like to take pictures of it and enjoy the sunshine and the friends that I’m with, if I’m not on a solo adventure. fresh air is good for you.
    • I’ve had to be mindful about this one during quarantine. I do miss people and outside food and stuff like that, but I could sit in this house and watch anime til Jesus comes back. it’s been harder to keep track of the passing days, so “I’ll go for a walk tomorrow” can happen for a whole week without me really noticing. so I’m trying to spend more time outside (safely, of course). you should too
  8. guarded ≠ locked away
    • this one is some tea. I’d gotten all this advice to “guard your heart” and said bet, imma just put it in this lil box and keep it pushing. this was probably sophomore year-ish, mid-college is all fuzzy lol. this method “worked”, but I ended up feeling very out of touch with life because my heart literally couldn’t be touched by it.
    • you have to be wise and discerning with who and what you interact with. 110%. you can’t be open to everything, and you can’t be locked away from everything. you need balanz. but don’t do like Rapunzel and put your heart where no one can reach it–there are other ways to protect it
  9. learn how you grieve
    • gosh. I didn’t know very much about grief pre-college. I’m still figuring it out now.
    • grief is very consuming, and often confusing, for me. it doesn’t always knock. sometimes it’s physical; my back hurts, my chest burns while my heart cries, my mind wanders. I’ve learned that this is grief, for me
    • the familiarity makes it a little easier. not to bear, but I guess I’m not as scared of it when it comes. because it will. it also helps me know what I need. a hug, a prayer, a distraction. “grieve” can be replaced with a lot of verbs, but I think this tip is important because I didn’t face it head on until college and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do
      • if nothing else, I learned how to do hard things. double majored in Biological Sciences and Resilience, and I’m better for both
  10. you can dance in the mourning
    • this tip came out of my writing, and the phrase has been very helpful as a touchstone
    • mourn with those who mourn, absolutely. but as you are mourning, know that there are no rules. there can be joy in the midst of it. I won’t say should–again, no rules. but there comes a time where you have to remember yourself and the life you’re still living (this is linked with tip 5)
  11. make your own decisions
    • this tip is a pushback at the set of self-imposed rules I’ve bullied myself with since *checks calendar* forever.
    • for some people, college is a very weird transition from childing to adulting. it’s definitely a process (I probably say that phrase a lot but aye man), but honestly idk if much changes besides your mindset. that switch from “I have to do what mommy and daddy say” to “I’m responsible for myself.” was like a glass ceiling being (painfully) shattered, but I benefited a lot once I started to embrace that adjustment 
    • I would recommend that you try to figure this tip out before making huge career decisions. or just life decisions tbh. it’s prolly not the end of the world if this doesn’t click til you’re 32, but you need to know what you want, always. a good place to start is reflecting on what you’ve already been exposed to, what you did and didn’t like (good journaling practice *wink wink*)
      • something else that helped me figure that out was imagining how I would live if I didn’t have anyone else’s input–who am I when it’s just me? 
  12. be responsible and mature
    • I feel like 9+10 and 11+12 came out in pairs because I wanted to make sure I was getting the whole point across. be that way
    • here’s a real time example. I love pasta. specifically, cheesy pasta. however, the rest of my body does not like cheese as much as my mouth and brain do. the solution? figure out how the vegans survive without it
    • I found (and tweaked) a great recipe for vegan alfredo sauce. this was after trying vegan vodka sauce, twas also awesome. I just made another pot of pasta to finish off the sauce I have in the fridge, that’s a decision I made for myself. the making of the pasta. however, I’ve had 3 bowls of pasta because it is very yummy pasta and my body takes an hour to tell me I’m full. thus, the responsible and mature thing to do would be to not have a fourth bowl of pasta and instead have some blackberries or sumn. that’s the responsibility and maturity speaking.
    • that’s literally all I got lol I love pasta y’all. I think this tip is pretty straightforward enough so imma leave it at that
  13. loosen up
    • kinda related to 11, the (responsible) rules you make for yourself might still feel like freedom (compared to what you’re used to), which is fine. a change of perspective can be a breath of fresh air. don’t run from the newness.
      • newness and change can seem scary if comfort 🤝 familiarity, so let “comfortably uncomfortable” become one of your favorite phrases. learn to be at peace, even if you have no idea what comes next.
    • this is also a physical tip. stress, anxiety, trauma, all these things don’t stay in your thoughts and feelings. are you clenching your jaw right now? are your shoulders tense? being in fight or flight mode all the time is super draining, so if that’s something you deal with, it can help to catch and counteract the physical cues. very literally, relax.
  14. call home often
    • I probably called home more in the first month of sophomore year than I did all of freshman year. I had my life packed full of classes, orgs, friends, ~boys~, all this *stuff*, so I was literally too busy to be homesick. but then I came home for the summer. when all the busyness fell away, it was just me and the house I’d never spent more than a few weeks away from. distance makes the heart grow fonder I guess
      • still, it took a long time to process that my family missed me while I was away. it didn’t fully click til recently tbh. I guess we spent a lot of time missing each other while putting on a brave face, but you shouldn’t have to wear masks at home. I’ll save the rest of this tip for 17, its pair, but keep in touch with your home 
  15. change your style
    • I don’t know if this one is really a tip, maybe consider it a heads up for something to embrace? like I’d say I have specific themes that I stick to fashion wise, but my tastes definitely weren’t this clear 4 years ago. not that I couldn’t dress, I just wasn’t as mindful about it
      • I guess this is also a reminder for you to be mindful? I remember when I looked into my closet sophomore year and saw a bunch of black and navy shirts and sweaters. my clothing palette was very dark; I’d wear a neutral tan on a good day. this was pre-therapy, but I remember seeing my clothes and making the decision to not buy anymore black things. I also had to wear the not black things I was buying. I don’t know how much thinking went into it, but I really felt that the change would be helpful.
        • it made me feel self conscious at first, but I started to wear my bright yellow Nautica jacket, my lavender cropped sweater, my baby blue turtleneck. these are some of my favorite pieces now, partially because I look great in them, but also because they remind me to notice myself and my joy. I never looked into the correlation between clothing choices and mood, but even if it doesn’t exist, it probably wouldn’t hurt to shake things up
  16. get a therapist
    • I definitely wouldn’t have made this tip coming out of high school. I wasn’t one to frequent the counselor’s office back then, but I do remember going in for a check in one time and being told that I internalize people’s problems. I’d never heard that word before, but having it helped me put a label on the issue so I could better recognize and tackle it. twas a life changing experience.
    • fast forward to trauma time. if this isn’t your first time on my blog you’ve probably heard me talk about Sophomore Spring™️. if it is your first time (welcome!), just know it was the beginning of the darkest time of my life. if you want more details, I made a lil YouTube video about my testimony from that time, how I got through it and all, and therapy was a major key. specifically, the year I spent with a Black, female, Christian therapist.
    • some sessions, I talked a lot. honestly, I usually talked a lot, even if I didn’t think I’d be able to. I never had to put on a show–there were no masks, no fake smiles. I could cry, I could think while I spoke (instead of before), I could share my thoughts with no filter. as someone who worried incessantly about being a burden, I had a space where that worry wasn’t allowed. my sessions were my time to focus on me. they helped me heal and grow without rushing or judging myself.
    • I haven’t found my post-grad person yet. I’m guessing it won’t be the same process as last time (I was crying in the bathroom after sharing my story at an event for survivors of SA and she was the one who came to check on me), but whatever it is will be worth it. personally, I benefited a lot from having shared experiences and beliefs with my therapist. I didn’t feel like I had to explain or validate what I was sharing, and I knew any advice I’d get wasn’t going to dismiss or contradict my faith.
      • a sub-tip here is to be consistent. at first, I was in charge of scheduling appointments. sometimes I’d convince myself I was in a decent spot and could do things on my own for a few more days, other times I knew I needed some help but was scared of the emotional labor I’d have to do. either way, those excuses disappeared when we decided to schedule my next appointment at the end of every session. just like I had my journal + prayer time every night, I now had therapy every two weeks. the work I did in those sessions helped me turn the abstract concepts I’d been learning from my experiences into a lot of the tips I’m sharing in this post. I could go on and on, but yeah. get a (good) therapist
  17. find your family
    • I found many. Baraka. Calvary. Vineyard. Christian Union. The Cocktail Lounge Uno Gang. The Texans. BTS. some families don’t have official names, but I found the people I could do life with
    • this is important because you need people who know you. you need people who can recognize when you’re not yourself and know how to help you through your trials. you need love.
    • I’m not sure how it happens in the post-grad world, but college surrounds you with people, and a lot of them are looking for family too, even if they don’t know it. so, find your home away from home. learn what home, and family, should really be
  18. be adventurous
    • ah ha ha
    • this one is still hard lol. I don’t like anything that registers as “chaos,” and doing things that aren’t planned to the minute definitely feels chaotic. there’s so much room for error. ew.
    • part of the work for this tip gets done with 13 and 15, but this is the more physical output of those efforts. try the new food, hike the new trail. the world won’t end because you don’t like something. but call on tip 12 and be safe about it
  19. know your niche
    • I love this one. it came from me thinking that *this* would be my next post. right now, you see a lot of people being active. some are on the front lines, in the hospitals, in the protests. some are planning and organizing, making gofundmes and compiling informational posts. there’s space for it all. here’s something I shared on my Instagram story a few days ago as I reflected on this:
      • “while many are raging, I mourn. if I’m frustrated or angry, that means I can recognize something’s missing, something’s being lost. so I mourn, often. and that’s just where my heart is. that’s where Confidants came from. to me, rage leads to action, and mourning leads to comfort. that’s where and how those emotions get settled. so I cherish the safe spaces and moments of joy in these times. I don’t think there’s any one way to be. how you process and engage with what you recognize is up to you. ignorance is not an option. but where action is needed, comfort is needed as well. so don’t neglect either, and don’t judge others or yourself if one is louder than the other. both are needed. more is needed. change is needed.”
    • I’m getting a better idea of my niche, of how I can best be active. I’ll be posting this list (without the explanations) on Instagram, because I want to add to the resources that are being shared amidst the often traumatizing images and the calls to action. I also made a “how to journal” graphic because 1) it’s a question I answer often and 2) journaling has been a big part of my quiet time recently. I like to share what I’ve learned in a way that helps others better themselves. I like to nurture and exhort. I like to create. bringing these gifts and desires together has helped me better understand where I fit and what I’m supposed to do there
  20. take risks
    • this tip is different from 18. and 13. in my dictionary, risks are the decisions I haven’t fully thought through yet. the choices that don’t have a complimentary checklist for me to micromanage the aftermath with. I love to plan, which can be a good thing. but when it gets to the point that you’re trying to plan your way around potential pain or disappointment, you should probably check in with yourself. or with someone you trust
      • specifically on that last bit, an interesting note is that with the whole me being “stubborn” thing, I got very good at not hearing things til I was ready to receive them. and part of that reception process is me thinking an issue through, by myself, for myself. I guess I subconsciously filter out knowledge I don’t understand. so that’s turned into me having “epiphanies” even though a point’s been explained like 3 different ways already. I have very patient friends (thanks y’all), so a lot of them had been pointing this out for years, even though it just clicked like last week. if you have to check in before other people can check you, do that work.
    • so yeah. whether you have to slow down on the planning, the background checking, I don’t know what methods the kids use these days. stop thinking so much and start doing
  21. make new memories
    • yes, I know I said 20. I was originally gonna write out a bunch of tips and pick my favorites, but I felt “done” after 21 it didn’t seem fair to cut just one. I think it’s fitting that this is the last one though–life doesn’t stop at 20(20).
    • this tip came from a sermon I listened to on Sunday. for context, the pastor was saying that if you’re always reliving the glory days, you’re not making new memories. which is facts.
    • so much of your life is ahead of you. as she congratulated me for graduating, one of my aunts said “in the grand scheme of things, you’ll have more to celebrate.” and I will. you can look back and learn from it, but don’t get stuck in the past!

that was a lot of words so I won’t do a lengthy outro, but I hope this speaks to somebody–especially my mentees and all the bbys who call me “mom.” our physical time together got cut short, but I’m always here to share what I’ve learned with you and cheer you on as you figure life out for yourself. I’m so proud of all of you (:

here’s the list + some reference verses. screenshot it, reflect on it, share it, make your own!

  1. write everything down
  2. use your voice (Exodus 3:13-14, Jeremiah 1:6-8)
  3. your health matters
  4. ask for help
  5. don’t forget to breathe
  6. make sure your foundation is solid (Matthew 7:24, Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 43:2)
  7. go outside
  8. guarded locked away (Proverbs 4:23)
  9. learn how you grieve
  10. you can dance in the mourning (Romans 12:15)
  11. make your own decisions
  12. be responsible and mature (1 Corinthians 10:23)
  13. loosen up
  14. call home often
  15. change your style
  16. get a therapist
  17. find your family
  18. be adventurous 
  19. know your niche
  20. take risks
  21. make new memories (Happily Ever Before // Relationship Goals Reloaded (Part 5))

be blessed bbys ✨

Author: Iyaniwura Olarewaju

† | naija | nj | Cornell

3 thoughts on “20”

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