23 lessons by 23 | i turned 23!


Afifah, 22 years old, 22nd February 2023. Photo by Cila.

Did I ever imagine that I would be typing this as a 23-year-old when I started this blog? Like most other people, no, I didn't. I started writing and posting online when I was 11 (too young, I know!!!) so 23 used to sound so far away from me. I started writing this 2 hours and 32 minutes before I officially turn 23 so I don't actually know how my birthday is going to be. Hypothesis: I'm gonna spend another normal day at work, with possible birthday wishes from my beloved family and friends, and go home to eat the cake I just bought. Update: Another normal day at work, except my department colleague decided to announce to everyone about my birthday by wishing me in our 100+ people WhatsApp group. It was a good birth-month though. So many good wishes and gifts from my friends, which made me feel loved.

The last similar post to this that I wrote was my 17 Lessons by 17 birthday post in 2018, written way before I started uni, and right before I lost my grandfather. I wanted to say that the person who wrote that seems like a totally different person than the person who's writing this post right now... but that doesn't ring true anymore. I'm just a slightly evolved version of her, she's still living somewhere inside me and somehow, it feels good to know that. It feels good to know that I didn't lose myself all the way through when I lost it. 

So these are another 23 lessons I've learned, over the past few years since then:

1. Do not dry your square hijabs (ESPECIALLY THE COTTON ONES) in the dryer.
Seriously don't. It's not worth it. I lost my favourite hijab to this (I'm still using it but the awning is forever damaged RIP).

2. Saying certain things out loud is much better than keeping them inside. Especially the things you're overthinking about.
Certain things can be put into perspective once said out loud. These might be the things you keep repeating over and over and over again in your head making things heavy but once said out loud, they feel lighter and some things might even sound ridiculous to even ponder about.

3. Confessing... is not all that bad.
If they like you back, good for you! If you're rejected, you'll get a closure! Confessing, personally, really built my courage and confidence to get to know people (I got rejected but he was a good man). And in reference to point number 2, sometimes saying things out loud puts things into perspective. You might realize how ready you actually are for an actual relationship once you say your feelings out loud.

4. 3-in-1s are full of sugar and will boost your weight gain. Might be good for others who want to gain weight, but NOT FOR ME.
I gained so much weight in a year because I consumed 3-in-1s three times a day, five days a week. And then boom! COVID happened and I gained more weight! I lost the weight when I got sick in 2022 but it was such a painful and annoying experience I never wish to go through again so no more 3-in-1s for me.

5. Just because the book debut is bad, it doesn't mean that a whole author's catalogue is that bad too!
People evolve. Writings evolve! The Mortal Instruments wasn't the best series per se but The Dark Artifices? Chef's Kiss, 10/10 writing, Julian Blackthorn is one of my favourite morally grey characters. Give someone another chance, I guess, that's the point here.

6. Your parents' prayers for you go a long way, further than you might think it is.
I personally feel like I won't get to where I am today without my mother's prayers. There is a kind of magic imbued in her prayers, I literally experienced that magic. Strange and good coincidences that happened after her prayers, the fact that I keep getting good things when I've done nothing to ever deserve them... A mother's prayer is indeed her greatest weapon.

7. Surrounded by good people is a kind of rizq too.
In fact, my favourite kind of rizq. I'm somehow always surrounded by people who mean well and are always kind to me. It's especially apparent during my uni years, my internship and even until my working era (life update: I got a job!). Always being able to see the good in people might play into factor, but so far I could just see that everyone who visits my life brought at least one good thing to me.

8. Rainy days are cosy but sunny days are just... warmer, not only to the body but also to the heart.
I used to be obsessed with rainy days because they're simply colder and you have a reason to stay in bed all day during rainy days. Right after COVID though... not anymore. Especially after the major flood occurrences over the past few years, I get worried every time it rains so heavily for a long duration. And knowing that these unexpected rainy day occurrences are because of climate change doesn't make it better.

9. You can't carry everything; you have to let go of some of your burdens to be able to efficiently carry the ones that actually matter.
This is something I'm still continuously learning. As the eldest child especially, I tend to feel like I need to carry everything when I have people that I can trust to carry them together. My brothers might be a bunch of headaches but they are growing to be more reliable day by day.

10. Self-dependency is good but it doesn't mean that being a little dependent on people is bad.
PEOPLE NEED PEOPLE. I actually need to hear this more as a kid but eh, it's not too late to learn. I used to hate even letting people carry my stuff because I felt like I was being a burden by being slightly dependent even for a few minutes. Once I started allowing myself to be a bit more dependent and accepting that I actually needed it to survive, things felt lighter. Once I accept that there are ears that will listen, shoulders that I can cry on, and hugs I can get for warmth, life feels a bit more liveable.

11. If you spill oily food that stains your clothes, don't let water on it first.
Put some body soap on the stain and just brush until it's clean THEN only you can let water on it. As a messy and careless person, this tip is a godsend. And why did I only learn this in 2022?! This could save a lot of my clothes.

12. There is an art in standing still; as in letting your life be still for a while.
Don't rush things, the things that are meant for you will find their way to you. Meanwhile, focus on the now, no matter how still you think it is. I assure you, there's still something you can learn amid the stillness. It's okay to not have your life going "go go go" all the time.

13. CGPA matters, but it's not all that matters.
I didn't get to graduate first class and for a while, I thought I was such a failure for not being able to graduate first class. And sure, HR might want to find people with higher CGPA but at the end of the day, in working life, I found that what matters more is your willingness to learn and grow.

14. I am very young and I am learning how to live.
I don't really remember where I found this quote but it has been one of my favourite quotes for almost a year now. Remembering that I'm very young and still learning how to live makes me breathe more easily. You're just starting out, you can't accomplish a lot of things in such a short time. The most important thing is to learn as much as you can.

15. You are exactly where you are supposed to be at this point of time in life.
There's no use wallowing in self-doubt over every decision that you have made. You made those decisions because Allah moved your heart to do so. What you can do now is try your best in everything and whatever the result is, trust that it's all in Allah's plan and that He has something good in store for you. Every road you have gone and are currently going through is leading you towards something greater.

16. Breaking away from the worldly is hard, but doable.
Especially during this raging genocide against Palestine, I found myself detaching more and more from the worldly stuff I used to love. Musicians, films, stories, and products contribute to the oppressors' side; at first, it was hard to fully break away but these days it's becoming easier. 

17. It's okay to DNF a book you're not really interested in.
It's still hard for me to DNF a book, which is why I created an 'On-Hold' shelf on my Goodreads page, for books I think I want to come back to when the right time has come. However, learning to DNF books has really helped in making my reading experience much more enjoyable.

18. Mistakes are okay.
In fact, mistakes are necessary for us to grow. Don't be scared to do things just because you're afraid you'll make mistakes. A person doesn't become an expert in something in a day. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. Just try not to make ones you can't take back.

19. A pau that rises back when you squeeze it is a good pau.
As a pau lover, this is how I measure how good a pau is (besides the amount of filling). This kind of pau is usually achieved by a tremendous amount of kneading, which is very laborious.

20. Sometimes the voices in your head convince you that you're not loved when you are very loved.
As someone with anxiety, it is very easy to doubt everyone's affection for me and hyper-fixate on slight gestures like late or short text replies, short time together, etc. I'm lucky that everyone's action always proves that I am very loved even though I never actually voice my ridiculous anxious thoughts to them. 

21. Some good things take time to feel right.
As someone who's constantly second-guessing her life decisions from even 5 years ago, it felt so freeing when I finally realized this. Sometimes you only see what's right about your decisions after a long time, so be patient (also a reminder to me).

22. Bravery doesn't mean that you're not scared. 
For the longest time, I thought that brave people don't feel scared. A few years back, I learned that they actually do feel scared. Courage doesn't mean that you're not scared, it means that you're willing to do something despite being terrified. And I would love to think that we're all brave people here.

23. It's okay to be a quiet person.
I used to hate how quiet I am, which explains the personality change over the years. Me being quiet makes people think I'm a closed off person (I am) that doesn't want to open up (I want to, it's just hard for me). Every loud person has always given off sunny vibes to me and I want that. I feel like me being quiet has hindered me from being friends with a lot of people and I love having new friends. These recent years, however, I learned that the right people will love you just the way you are, and bring out the best of you, be it quiet or loud. 


My birthday was on January 11th. I completed writing this post on February 6th and only by March did I have the time and the energy to edit this hehe. 

1 comment

  1. happy 23th birthday to you! still young and keep being you! wah square hijab cotton takboleh pakai dryer eh? sebab jadi kejung ke?

    btw, thanks for a good few tips macam pau tuuuu~



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