19 Things I Learned in 19 years

Of the typical and generic things to post, this was certainly one topic I was adamant about not doing, but some readers have suggested this, and I'm now glad I'm writing this. I've had to truly think about this one. In my 19 years of life, what are 19 of the most important things I've learned? Here's an insight to how I've grown over the past 19 years.

1.) A house isn't always a home
My parents were really into videotaping and documenting everyday life when I was younger. There is a home video from 1998, and I'm barely a year old. It shows me laughing and running around chasing a bouncy ball with my older sister, who was 8 at the time. The parking lot was for a motel we had stayed in. My family was just making ends meet at the time, home hopping and staying with relatives while we transitioned from living in Florida to Alabama. In the video, we were all so happy! It didn't matter where we were or that we weren't at a place of our own. We were at home in each others' company and love. Home is where we feel the most love.

2.) It doesn't take words to make people smile
In another home video, it is Christmas of 99 and I'm two years old. I'm playing with a fake car keys toy that makes the most obnoxious noises I have ever heard, and saying a mixture of actual English and garbled gibberish. The best part is my parents are laughing, smiling, and pretending like my words actually make sense. So often people think that the only way to make people smile is to tell them something kind, but in reality it is the simple act of smiling that makes often makes others smile.

3.) The most important thing you can wear is confidence
In my class graduation slideshow, we were allowed to submit baby pictures to be shown with our senior head shot, and I seriously considered using a photo of me at my 3rd birthday party, showcasing my new Barbie dress up kit. In this photo, I am rocking a sequined pink skirt, a tulle tutu as my top, plastic high heels about 4 sizes too big, and giant clip on earrings. Most importantly, I had the biggest smile and the most princess-y of poses, because on that day, I loved what I was wearing, and I didn't care if it wasn't "right". To this day, I wear things I'm not technically supposed to. I wear t-shirts under dresses that feel too revealing for me, XXL denim button ups as dresses, men's t shirts, and more, but somehow people still compliment me on my outfits, asking me if I got my clothes from H&M, or from Urban Outfitters. (spoiler alert, I get EVERYTHING from Ross)

4.) Music can be appreciated at any age
When I turned 4, my family was in the process of moving to Las Vegas for my dad's work. My 4th birthday was spent in a room in Circus Circus hotel. I got a pink scooter, and some piano lessons from my older sister. First of all, I want to point out the patience my sister must have had with me to teach me Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a hyper toddler with the attention span of a golden retriever puppy. Miraculously, she was able to teach me this little song, and from that point on, I loved music. I never had the patience until recent times to actually learn to play any instrument, but I can't tell you how much I loved singing in the car and listening to my dad and sister play guitar. Now, I'm finally learning to play guitar myself, and I love it!

5.) Everyone has 24 hours in a day, but some people just do more with it
When I was 5, my sister was in the 6th grade. She did taekwondo and had piano lessons and was always keeping my mom busy. I also kept my mom busy because I was very hyper and always wanted to be out and about, but my mom somehow managed to get my sister where she needed to be, take care of the house, and take care of me, without anything ever being cancelled because times conflicted. For a little while I was convinced my mom owned one of those time turners that Hermione used in the third Harry Potter book.

6.) Children are NEVER born with prejudice
Many people can't tell what my ethnicity is right away. I am half South Korean and half Caucasian. On my 6th birthday, my mom (the Korean one) not only brought my kindergarten class popsicles, but also wanted to have a small birthday party for me. However, the moment parents saw that my mom had broken English and that she was Asian, they suddenly felt less comfortable having their kids under supervision of my mom. Oddly enough, my friends, the FIVE YEAR OLDS, treated me just like any other kid. I have never had a real birthday party, not because my parents are mega strict, but because prejudice and judgment ran too deep early on, and my parents wanted to save me the heartache.

7.) Try one new thing every day
When I was 7, I was walking through butterfly park with my family, and we came across the grass field. My dad wanted to teach me how to do a cartwheel, and I almost cried I was so scared. I did not want to try it at all! He spotted me and basically did all of the hard work, but there on that field my parents saw enough natural talent in me to put me in tumbling and dance classes. I pursued that for 7 years and was the best in my class every year.

8.) If you love someone, don't let them go
In my first grade class, I became very good friends with another girl. The next school year, she changed schools to the one right next door to mine. There was only a thin metal fence separating the two recess fields, and every day I brought her a piece of candy and stuck it through the fence during recess. We remained friends all year long, but it taught me that if you really care about a friend or if you really love someone, both people can put in enough work to stay close. While the two of us are not friends anymore, it is only because we didn't maintain our friendship through distance, but I hope her only the best in life, because those conversations through the metal fence were some of the sweetest of my childhood.

9.) It's okay to be smart as long as you're humble
I was recruited for my school's gifted student program in the third grade. I thought I was the coolest kid ever because I was a faster learner than some other students. Lucky for me, I had the humbling first day in the program. I was an idiot in comparison to the 4th and 5th graders building architecturally sound models of bridges out of toothpicks. I sat there mesmerized and embarrassed for ever thinking I was any better than my peers.

10.) When you make a decision, you need to COMMIT
In the 4th grade, I got to go to *drumroll* ASTROCAMP. That's right, a whole camp dedicated to space and physics. I retain none of the educational information, however I distinctly remember doing a controlled freefall/zipline type of thing. Basically, they hooked you up to a harness and suspended you in the air as high as you wanted to go. I was terrified for my turn, but by the time I started going up, I shouted, "Just take me all the way to the top!!!" They did just that, and I pulled the cord that sent me flying! Me, ten year old Jamie, pulled a cord sending me soaring through the trees from 50 feet up. I didn't expect that out of myself, but I learned to trust my own decisions.

11.) Nobody has a winning streak for their whole life
I was vice president of my elementary school student government in the 4th grade, and in the 5th grade I ran for president. I had essentially been the luckiest person alive (in my opinion) up until this point. I won every cake walk and I had ever been in. I always won Bingo. I got voted vice president as a 4th grader even though 5th graders usually got it. I won every art contest and dance/tumbling competition. And when I ran for president, I lost a miserable loss. In reality it wasn't that bad of a loss, but it was a traumatic and essential experience for me. I learned that I can't always win, but I can always try.

12.) God speaks to us even when we're not listening very well
I was not raised religious. I considered myself Christian, but I really didn't know the first thing about the life and sacrifices of Jesus Christ. When I was 12, I was taking my first test in middle school, and I realized I was not sure about most of the answers. For the first time in my life, I prayed. It was terribly worded and I wasn't even sure who exactly I was praying to, but I asked for help to remember the things I studied. The next day when I got my test back, I had gotten an A on it. Throughout 6th grade, I had made friends that were members of the church that I'm now in that positively influenced 12 year old me, and I know Heavenly Father put those friends and experiences in my life to come closer to Him, little by little, even if it would take 7 more years to truly give myself to Him.

13.) Fitting in is not worth it
Throughout middle school, all I cared about was getting the cool kids to like me. In retrospect, the popular kids were the judgmental ones who wore brand name clothes and insulted the most people. I remember being very good in school, particularly in my honors math class. I would voluntarily give my math homework assignments to the popular kids for them to copy so I could feel like I was needed and liked by the cool kids. By the end of the year, I had lost my original group of kind friends because I had been the pet of this popular group. I gave up everything I believed in in order for these people to like me, when really, they didn't care about me at all. *Sigh* Middle school, right?

14.) Be a leader, not a boss
In 8th grade, I was elected student body president of my school, and it was my first opportunity to really be in charge of my leadership class. There was one boy who got on my nerves like no other. I had absolutely no tolerance for him, and I was ruthless. My leadership teacher was always my biggest supporter, but I remember the one day she actually reprimanded me. This boy that never listened to me caught me on a bad day, and I shouted across the room, "SHUT. UP." As a 13 year old, those are fighting words. The moment those words left my lips, my teacher yelled at me that that isn't how we talk to one another. I was ashamed. I felt so guilty, but I learned that day that being mean just to get people to do what you want is not leadership. Leadership is being an example so that people can take their own ideas and make them into something that is cohesively great with the team's ideas.

15.) You learn by doing, not by watching
Oh high school. The second day of my freshman year, I marched into the student council advisor's classroom and essentially demanded a spot in the already full class. I had no idea what I was in for, but it is the thing I am second most grateful for in my life. I was put in the class as a member of freshman class council, and the first event the council was working on was homecoming. I had never made decorations of this caliber, but the seniors didn't care. They knew better than I did, and rather than showing and telling how to do everything, they simply gave me a task, and told me to get it done, regardless of my methods. I was terrified, but by the end of the year, I had discovered ways of creating giant paper backdrops that had never been thought of. Those innovative methods of decorating are still used today at my old high school.

16.) People team up on one person because life is safer in numbers
10th grade was quite possibly one of the worst years of my life. One contributing factor was that, midway through the year of serving as my class president,  my whole council (who was also  my only friend group) turned against me. I had made one small mistake as president, and it was somehow so easy for everyone to rally against me. Through this, I realized people don't collectively learn to hate one person or one group because they truly dislike them, but  because it feels safer to be on the other side of the hatred. It feels safer to be rallying behind a negative cause rather than fighting alone for righteousness. Easier turned out not to be better in the long run.

17.) True leadership does not ask for recognition
My junior year, I was so excited to serve as student body 1st vice president. I was second in charge to the whole school; a position that typically went to seniors. What I didn't expect was having to pick up so much slack for the person who was first in charge. Our president was a good person, but she could be self serving, so when I put in more work to take the reigns and fill in the gaps, it was the first time in my life I was putting in extra work without expecting something in return. My payment was seeing the positive reactions and results from the student body, and it to this day is one of my most fulfilling years.

18.) People like you more when you don't care what they think about you
Considering the fact that I had such a weak following for the first two years in high school, it surprise me that by the time I was going into my senior year, people truly started to love me. People loved me, Jamie, the leadership girl, the girl who always knew what was happening at school, the girl who didn't have her set clique but instead floated around all of the cliques to try and make everyone know they are important. By my 18th year, I finally discovered that when I stopped caring to fit in, that's when people wanted me to be a part of their group. Now, I am my own group.

19.) If you act only in love, nobody can hurt you
This past year has been one heck of a learning experience. In this past year, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'M A MORMON WOW SHOCKING RIGHT? The greatest thing I have learned in this church is to love others the way Heavenly Father loves us. Love the way that Christ loves us, individually. Even to the people who have caused me grief and heartache and who talk ill of me when I'm not listening, I think and and speak of them in love. The moment you talk poorly of someone, you give them ammunition to dislike you and talk poorly of you. If you treat others only in love, you cannot be hurt. With this Christlike love, we are basically invincible.




19 years down, and who knows how many more to go? I'm grateful for my experiences, and I look forward to the next year. Thank you to all of my readers, and for your constant love and support. Thank you to my friends who teach me more every single day. Thank you to those who have made me who I am today. I've been smiling since I was little, and I choose JOY! So here's to choosing to live a happy life. 

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