Recently, I turned 30. Eek! 30! I know, such a large milestone. I’m still trying to adjust and comfortably say, “I’m 30” out loud when people ask my age. I’m still trying to mentally process where my 20’s went! I thought by writing this blog and reflecting on my 20’s, it would help give reassurance to others with NVLD in their 20’s. My 20’s were a roller coaster! Full of so many ups and so many downs.
- Never be afraid to use your voice, and be your own advocate. When you enter post-secondary education this will be the first time you have to navigate the educational system without your parents. During this time, you will learn to use your voice, express your learning needs, and be clear about what accommodations you may need in order to be successful. You will grow as both a person, and as your own advocate.
- Fear can be used as fuel, if you learn how to harness it properly. I remember feeling so afraid to move away for the first time in my life to a city 5 hours away from my family. I was so hesitant and homesick I kept listing to all the possible things that COULD go wrong. What a waste of time that was! Moving away from home and using that fear to try new experiences was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I used fear as a vehicle to create a future I wanted! I also became very independent during this time away from my family.
- Love is a strong word and a strong emotion, be sure to not give it away so easily. I started dating in my 20’s. I was reckless and said the “L word” far too easily when I was hesitant with my feelings. There will be plenty of fish in the sea, be sure to wait for the one deserving enough of your heart.
- Not everyone is your true friend, and there will be many lessons to teach you who are deserving enough to stay in your friend circle. Overall, socializing is difficult for those with NVLD. Friendship circles will change, friends will come and go, but it’s important to see who continues to stay by your side in both the good times and the bad.
- Take risks! Take a lot of them! I feel with NVLD we’re hesitant to take risks in fear of failure. But this only leads to missed opportunities and further disappointment.
- Know your boundaries, and never feel afraid to say no! If something doesn’t feel right or sit well with you, don’t be afraid to say no. I fell into so many situations where I felt uncomfortable, but I never worked up the courage to say no. Looking back, I wish I did!
- Make self-care a top priority!! During my 20’s, my mental health really started to come to the surface. I’m incredibly hard on myself, and I’m my own worst enemy! I recognize these destructive patterns in myself, and I’m a perfectionist when it comes to achieving high grades. I put so much pressure on myself in my 20’s that I started to get sick with anxiety. In my late 20’s, I recognized these patterns and started taking care of my own emotional needs and made self-care a top priority. Self-care looks different for everyone, but find a few things that make you feel happy and good! For me, it’s something as simple as taking a bubble bath or watching my favorite Netflix series!
- Never settle, always grow! Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you should settle for that minimum wage job that makes you feel miserable all the time, or take an elective because all of your friends are taking that class. Your 20’s is a time to expand your mind and try new things out of your comfort zone!
- Try new experiences! Looking back on my 20’s, I feel I often let a boyfriend or anxiety get in the way of new experiences and trying new things. Your 20’s are the time to let loose and try new things!
- Stop allowing your NVLD get in the way! I lacked a lot of confidence in my 20’s due to my NVLD, I shrunk myself small to avoid trying things I thought I couldn’t do because of having NVLD. Just because you have NVLD, doesn’t mean it should hold you back!
- Stay true to yourself. I feel this is especially relevant to those with NVLD because we tend to be more naïve. Honoring your unique identity is what makes you beautiful and wonderful. Just because your friends are binge drinking every weekend, doesn’t mean you should have to as well if that’s something you don’t feel comfortable about doing.
- Find yourself! Your 20’s is a time to be messy and explore new life experiences, but it should also be a time to truly examine who you are, what you want your future to look like and what dreams and goals you wish to accomplish.
- Be proud of yourself!! I can’t stress this enough!! Your 20’s are an ultimate roller coaster there are so many highs and so many lows. Be proud of yourself for the little accomplishments as well as the big ones!
- Learn to cook and try new recipes! We can’t all live on chicken fingers! You might surprise yourself with your cooking abilities when you try new recipes! Eating well will also support your overall health your future self will thank you for!!
- Make mistakes! Now is the time to make mistakes while you’re young! I used to be so afraid of making mistakes or second guessing myself, but if you don’t make mistakes now you won’t of learned anything! Now is the time to make as many mistakes as possible to learn and grow from them!
- Have an extra set of keys! Ha-ha, this always makes for a good story! In all seriousness, I’ve lost or misplaced my keys more times than I should. Always have a backup pair!!
- It’s ok to not be ok! I can’t prioritize mental health during your 20’s enough!! Some days you might feel full of sunshine, while others you might just want to stay in bed. It’s okay to not be okay!! Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
- Learn to ask for help. Whether that be academically related, financial support from your parents in times of desperate need, or taking care of your mental health. We all fall down sometimes, and it’s ok to ask for help!
- Don’t get sucked into student credit cards! Part of growing up and becoming an adult, is having your own credit cards! These are dangerous! Sadly, credit card companies will prey on vulnerable students and set up information booths at colleges and university to convince you to sign up. Read the fine print!! I was unlucky and sucked myself into student credit cards and I’m still paying for them!
- Apply to as many scholarships and grants as possible! School is expensive!! Do your research and connect with your college or university to see what scholarships and grants may be available.
- Learn to budget and save! Looking back, I wasted so much money on silly things in my 20’s! Learn how to budget and save! Prioritize your living expenses and needs first, instead of spending it on something useless like a big screen TV.
- Find a few meaningful quotes or affirmations and read them daily. I found in my darkest moments, affirmations and quotes helped center and ground me bringing me so much calm and clarity in times of anxiety.
- Live away from home. I gained so much independence living away from home and having my own apartment. I learned to cook, clean, budget, do my own laundry the list goes on and on! Honestly, it seems intimidating at first, but I’m so thankful I chose to live away from home because it allowed me to grow up a lot!
- Volunteer! Enhancing and adding to your resume in your 20’s will set you up for success in the future. Volunteering not only feels good and adds something to your resume, you might also be lucky enough to get a few great reference letters out of it as well or even a future career opportunity!
- Slow learning is still learning! I used to compare myself a lot of my classmates… if Jessica was able to study the night before and ace her exam, why did it take me days of preparation and studying to do the same? Slow learning is still learning! Learning is never a competition or a race.
In ending this, I want to reiterate that your 20’s is a sacred time of growth and experiences. You will love, you will lose, you will win and you will be successful. Don’t let the entire staircase overwhelm you just focus on that first step. Enjoy your 20’s while they last!
I’m a graduate of the Child & Youth Worker program from Cambrian College and I’m pursuing my degree in Disability Studies at Ryerson University along with a certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges & Experiences. I am a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.Share your own story