20 Life Lessons You Have To Learn The Hard Way

Some lessons can be learned without ever having to go through a traumatic experience — after all, common sense goes a long way and can spare you a lot of pain and heartache. However, there are some life lessons you have to learn the hard way. They ultimately make you stronger and wiser, but that doesn’t make them any easier to go through when you do. Here are just a few of them.

  1. Not everyone you think is your friend is on your side. If you’re like me, you probably give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that everyone has a heart as kind as yours. Unfortunately, the opposite is usually true — people are selfish and do what is best for them, even if it hurts others in the process. There will be people in your life who you consider a friend, but the moment you turn your back, they’ll stick a knife in it.
  2. Some people aren’t worth fighting for. This is such an important realization because once you figure out that you’re better off without some people in your life, you can let go and move forward without them. Sometimes cutting ties with someone is for the best.
  3. High school won’t be the best years of your life. Neither will college. Stop believing the BS people tell you about how you’re going to regret missing out on experiences in your late teens/early 20s. The best years of your life are going to come later, maybe even way later. You could be in your 50s before you experience them — but trust me when I say nothing is going to suck more than high school and college. Sure, you’ll look back at those years with nostalgia and wish you could have that metabolism back, but you aren’t going to miss being overly dependent on your parents for money, and you certainly won’t miss having to beg your friend’s older brother to buy your alcohol.
  4. Doing the wrong thing is easy, but doing the right thing is more rewarding. It’s so tempting to do something that you know is wrong like a classic dine & dash. But after you’ve worked your ass off as a server only to have someone stiff you — or worse, skip out on the bill that you now have to cover yourself — you’ll understand how good it feels to do the right thing and not be a piece of crap human being.
  5. You can choose your family. Obviously, blood relatives aren’t a choice — you’re born into a family whether you want to be or not. Friends that become family, though? You get to choose. If you don’t like the family you were born into, you have the capability of creating a new one for yourself.
  6. Not all loves last forever, and that’s okay. Sometimes the greatest loves you will ever have are also the shortest. Some romances are meant to be brief encounters simply to remind you how to feel that way again or to show you what love can or should feel like. Appreciate all loves for what they have to offer you, and understand that most of them don’t last.
  7. Work is important, but we weren’t meant to sit at a desk 40 hours a week. When someone tells you that you should do what you love as a career, heed their advice. If you work a job just for the paycheck, it takes a toll on you emotionally — you’ll go through the motions of being alive, but you won’t really be living. Finding what you love and following your dream is the only realistic way to maintain sanity. You need money to survive, but if you don’t have a passion for what you do, is it really worth it?
  8. Don’t make assumptions. The saying “when you assume it makes an ass out of you and me” is explanation enough for this.
  9. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. The worst thing someone can tell you is no, but don’t let that stop you from asking anyway! Not knowing is worse than rejection. Send in that application for your dream job. Ask that cute guy out on a date. If you don’t take a chance now, you’re always going to wonder what could have been. Regret is a bitch.
  10. Don’t date coworkers. Ever. This sounds like a no-brainer, but coming from someone who learned time and time again (and still continued to date coworkers), it needs to be said. Obviously, there are some exceptions to this, but generally, it’s just a bad idea to mix work and pleasure. Honestly, if you’re silly enough to date someone you work with while still working together, knowing full well that the relationship is doomed from the start, you deserve to have it blow up in your face. Seriously, I have no sympathy for you. At all.
  11. Do whatever makes you happy. If you find joy in painting portraits of your cat to hang in every room of your house, DO IT. Screw what other people think — your happiness shouldn’t be dependent on their approval anyway. When you’re old and gray, you’re going to wish you hadn’t given so many f*cks what people think about you or your life, so why wait until then to do what you want to do? Do it now.
  12. Don’t live with friends. This is one of those life lessons that can be a bit of a shocker. You can bet that it’s going to be the beginning of the end of your friendship the minute you decide to move in together. It’s a roommate horror story waiting to happen. Both of you have habits the other doesn’t know about, especially if you’re not extremely close friends and just hang out casually. Soon after you move in, those habits are going to drive you both mad: she’s going to have anger issues like you’ve never seen and she’ll destroy half the kitchen when fighting with her boyfriend, and your inability to wash dishes is going to increase her anger problems. It’s just a bad idea all around.
  13. College isn’t for everyone. Don’t feel bad if you’re one of those people. It isn’t that you aren’t made for college, it’s that college isn’t made for you. It’s totally okay! Everyone is different and not every person needs a college education to be successful in life. If you aren’t excited to go to college straight out of high school, take some time to think it over before you go and end up wasting tens of thousands of dollars on a partial education with no degree to show for it. Loans are no joke. (But if you have a full ride, you should probably take advantage of it while you have the opportunity.)
  14. Sex without emotional intimacy won’t fulfill your non-physical needs. Yes, it feels good to feel wanted by someone physically, but once you get home at 4 a.m. after a half-night stand and that physical feeling dissipates, you’re going to miss the feeling of emotional closeness. There is no casual sexual encounter that feels better than being intimate with someone you connect with mentally and emotionally. Casual sex might be great at first, but after a while, you’re going to realize that you have other needs besides the one in your pants.
  15. You don’t have to pretend to like everyone. This especially applies to coworkers. There is no reason for you to pretend like you are BFFs with someone you can’t stand. Being professional is always expected, but you don’t have to make plans for drinks after work or anything like that. If you’re only there for the paycheck, there’s no reason to get involved with anyone on a personal level. On the other hand, it’s important to be kind and courteous even if you dislike somebody. Be classy, not sassy.
  16. Your first love probably won’t be your last. You will have a second love, and possibly a third and fourth if you’re lucky. Don’t let that first heartbreak make you too bitter to go after love in the future.
  17. Mom knows more than you think. All those nights that you snuck out to drink with friends in high school? She knows, she just chose not to say anything. She knows nearly every move you make, so don’t fool yourself into thinking she’s ignorant; she was young once too, and remembers exactly what it was like to be your age. If she catches you in a lie, you’re better off just fessing up to it because chances are that she already knows the answers to all the questions she’s asking you.
  18. Netflix won’t substitute for genuine friendships. Sure, you might get emotionally attached to the characters on Grey’s Anatomy and bawl your eyes out every time yet another character dies (damn you, Shonda Rhimes for that plane crash episode), but those people aren’t real no matter how much you wish they were. They can’t throw you a surprise birthday party, or be the bridesmaids at your wedding (mostly because they all die anyway, but that’s beside the point). You need a connection with real-life people, not just your Netflix account.
  19. Everyone is just trying to get by. Live and let live, it’s the only way any of us are going to be content. Don’t judge other people for how they live – they’re just getting through life the best they know how, same as the rest of us.
  20. You’re not as smart as you think. No matter how smart you are, there is always something that you can learn in life. Whether it’s something out of a textbook or a silly tutorial on YouTube about how to contour your feet — there’s always knowledge you haven’t absorbed yet. Keep absorbing. Keep learning. Keep improving.
Kristan is a 24-year-old blogger from the cornfields of Terre Haute, Indiana. She spends her days working in accounting, and her nights trying to change the world with her words. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @kristangible, or read her blog at kristangible.com.