31 Things I’d Tell My 21 Year Old Self

Jessica Sturdy at her Golden Birthday Party wearing a sheer gold sparkly dress by IRO, metallic lace-up sandals by Marc Fisher, and holding rainbow numbers and confetti filled balloons.

In some ways, I’ve always kind of felt like a late bloomer. And in other ways, I’ve always gotten an early start! My birthday is August 31st (turned 31 last week!) and where I grew up in Illinois, the cut off for school is September 1st. So had I been born a mere six hours later, my life would have looked a lot different in terms of graduation years, friends, etc.

My mom always tells the story about when I was born… I guess one of the doctor’s first remarks were about my long legs. My mom is very tall and she had quite the growth spurt growing up… She was 5 ft in 4th grade and grew TEN INCHES before 5th grade. Meaning, she was 5’10” in 5th grade! Unsurprisingly, that can mess with a child’s head, especially when you’re getting bullied by the boys who hadn’t yet hit puberty. So I guess when the doctor said that, my mom instantly knew that they’d be sending me to school right away instead of holding me back a year because she didn’t want me to have to endure that gargantuan feeling she had for so many years. (Jokes on all of us because while I do have longer legs, I’m only 5’5″. Maybe it’s because I discovered Starbucks in middle school when visiting my aunt on the East Coast, maybe it’s because my grandma is just 5’2″. Jury’s still out. 😜)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about souls, past lives, etc. (I promise I’m not getting that woo woo here, stay with me.) As odd as it may sound, I feel like I was meant to be born when I was. (I should add that my due date was in October, and I came six weeks early. Thankfully, I was fully grown and healthy as could be! Just ready to get the party started I guess… 😂) While there have definitely been some challenges with being the youngest person in my class, there have been some positives, too.

I’ve always been told I was “mature for my age” (which I’ve taken as a compliment), and I think that’s probably to be expected when you’re surrounded by older people. I also think I’ve had to get comfortable being uncomfortable from the get go, and that’s proven to be a valuable skill to have. Thankfully, I was more advanced when it came to academics, or I feel like that could have been a recipe for disaster with confidence for the rest of my life. But in other aspects, I always felt a little bit behind.

When looking back on always being the youngest, I did feel like a bit of a late bloomer a lot of the time. (And not just because I had to wait to drive until my junior year of high school and waiting to legally drink until my senior year of college, haha.) I remember in first grade, all my friends wanted to “chase the boys” during recess (literally just run after them on the playground) and apparently I would come home after school in tears because I didn’t want to chase the boys and I had no one to hang out with. A few things… 1. Still don’t blame ya, girl. Who tf wants to run at recess?! 2. Props to you, young Jess, for standing your ground and not just doing things because everyone was doing it. 3. Realistically, I just feel like I wasn’t there yet. Especially in those years where so much changes in a year, I felt like I was behind in many different emotional or physical aspects. (TBH: Still waiting for my boobs to come in and to have to start wearing a bra. 😜) Then fast forward to having to make college decisions at 16… I only applied to the school my dad went to and the school that I knew. And then moving to college at 17. Sometimes I think about where I would have considered applying had I been a year older and not so young when making those decisions!

On the “early start” side of things, I had my “turning 30 freak out moment” when I was 29. For whatever reason, it being the last year of my twenties shook me more than turning thirty did. I guess I just got it out of the way early! And then on the late blooming side of things, I feel like it’s taken me until 31 to wrap my mind around being in my thirties. As you probably know by now, I’m a very reflective person, and I’ve been building this list for the last year or so. It was supposed to be a post called “30 Things I’d Tell My 20 Yr Old Self,” but you know, figured we’d bump it back a year. (Or maybe I’m just a procrastinator… 😉)

I’ve thought long and hard about this list. While it could never fully encompass all the lessons I’ve learned over the last decade, it’s some of the most important!

  1. Trust your gut. You know when you should walk away from people and situations, and you’ll save yourself a lot of drama and heartache if you just trust your intuition!
  2. The only thing constant is change, remember that. People, places, and things that seem like they’ll always be there might not be, so enjoy them all while they are.
  3. You are who you surround yourself with, choose wisely.
  4. You will not feel like an adult by 30, and I’m sort of convinced you never will. Life’s a constant ride, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll be constantly learning and growing. You’re always a student in the game of life, even if you’re a teacher, too.
  5. Everyone is on their own path and on different timelines. I know it’s hard, but try not to play the comparison game. It all works out in the end! (At least I hope so.)
  6. No one has it all figured out. Literally no one. No one has their shit as together as much they’d like to.
  7. Ignoring problems won’t make them go away. Rip off the bandaid and face them head on. Nothing’s ever as scary as it seems.
  8. You can be the juiciest peach but some people will still not like peaches.
  9. Everything in moderation! Too much of a good thing can definitely be bad. It’s all about BALANCE, gf! This applies to all things — travel, workouts, etc.
  10. You already know this, but therapy is a gift. Go early and often.
  11. SLOW. DOWN. You won’t figure out who you are until you stop trying to chase everyone else.
  12. Breathe. Take a deep breath, it will provide peace in almost every stressful situation.
  13. Everyone has their own individual struggles, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
  14. Take care of your body! You’ll live in it the rest of your life, treat it that way. (That includes keeping up with all of your annual appointments… Dentist, doctor, etc.)
  15. Practice gratitude every single day. (Especially on the hard days.)
  16. You can’t do everything on your own. You’re going to have to learn how to ask for help eventually, might as well start sooner rather than later.
  17. Moving to New York is the best thing you’ll ever do! But so is leaving.
  18. Worry about loving yourself, not other people loving you.
  19. Make the leap! If it feels scary AF, you’re on the right track. There’s never a perfect time, but you’ll know when the timing is right.
  20. You cannot give what you don’t have. If you want to help or give to others, you have to take care of yourself first. It’s not being selfish.
  21. When it comes to your exes… It’s the feeling you miss, not the person.
  22. Don’t ignore red flags. As much as you love to over-analyze and may brush off those thoughts as “being crazy,” you also love to make excuses for people.
  23. As it always has and always does, everything will fall together right when it’s supposed to. Keep the faith.
  24. Everything happens for a reason. When you look back, you’ll see how each piece fits into the puzzle. If it’s not yet clear, it will be one day. (I know a lot of people don’t subscribe to “everything happens for a reason,” but there’s a lesson or opportunity in every situation.)
  25. Eliminate the “shoulds.” Do what feels right for you, not what anyone else thinks you should do.
  26. Be kind and humble always. It may take a while to un-program your conditioning, as that’s not necessarily how you were raised, but it’s worth it.
  27. Set up a budget and keep an eye on where your money is going!
  28. Save more than you think you need to! Curveballs will be aplenty.
  29. Credit scores are muy importante. Don’t forget to pay bills on time when life get’s busy AF! It can screw you over later if you’re not careful.
  30. Live with roommates for as long as you can after college. You will save SO MUCH MONEY, and definitely will not want to move back in with roommates once you’ve lived by yourself for so long. (Especially at 30, just fucking trust me on this one. Save yourself one of the most miserable years!)
  31. Life at 31 won’t look like what you think it will, and that’s okay. While it’s definitely not at all what you expected, it’s actually better in a lot of ways.

Chicago blogger Jessica Sturdy of Bows & Sequins wearing a sparkly gold IRO dress, metallic sandals, and holding rainbow confetti balloon numbers.

I thought this was funny… “31 won’t look quite how you imagined it,” they said. 🤣

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  1. 9.10.20
    Briana said:

    I love this! You look amazing, happy birthday!


  2. 9.10.20
    Robin Puelma said:

    LOVED these! Especially “you miss the feeling, not the person.” Mind. Blown. Happy 31st, girl—you’re rocking it

  3. 9.15.20
    Cynthia said:

    Love this outfit!

    • 9.15.20
      Jessica said:

      Thanks lady!