Milestone birthday brings up soul-searching questions

On April 22, I turn 21 years old. As excited as I am to finally be of legal age, it has got me thinking a lot about life.

Why am I here? What am I meant to do? Why have, or haven’t, certain things happened to me?

I also wonder if other people ponder their place in the world as much as I do. I never say these things out loud, but it’s often on my mind.

I think for a long time growing up and even to some extent today, I lacked self-confidence. I was pretty good at hiding it with self-deprecating humor and being a class clown, but deep down it was always there.

Looking back I definitely overcompensated to be part of the cool crowd. I was the idiot who sat in the back of class and made teachers miserable in an attempt to be funny. I messed around and got in trouble. I mastered toeing the line of good-natured fun and getting in serious trouble. And all of it was an attempt to be considered cool. I did a lot of things I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s part of growing up.

While I found a way to fit in, I don’t think I was ever truly happy. I really didn’t start to come into my own until the last couple of years in high school. I stopped being shy and learned to say more than two words to the opposite sex (I know what you’re thinking ladies, he must be joking. But I haven’t always been this smooth ladies man I am today. Shocker, I know.)

But it wasn’t until college that I really became comfortable with myself. I stopped caring what other people thought. I stopped trying to be popular. I have a group of friends who like me for who I am. I don’t feel the need to impress anybody by being something I’m not.

I’ve grown up a lot in the last three years. I remember being scared to death coming to Bradley. I didn’t know anyone wasn’t sure if I’d be able to cut it. But it took no time to make friends I’ll have forever.

Deciding to come to Peoria is easily the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

For a long time, I always felt sorry for myself when things wouldn’t go my way. I’d fret about all the things I wasn’t blessed with instead of realizing all the good things I do have.

I have the best family in the world who would do anything for me. I have a large group of close friends in Peoria and at home. I was blessed with a good head on my shoulders and was raised to do the right things and to care for people. I go to a great school where I’m getting a good education.

There’s a lot of people in this world who don’t have any of those things. My problems are nothing compared to some. Sometimes it’s hard to put it all in perspective, but I can honestly say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at in life.

Do I wish some things were different? Absolutely. But I have too much going for me to dwell on the negative. I can honestly say I’m blessed.

So while I’ll still always think of those life questions, I’ve learned to not worry about them. When you care about people and generally do the right things, I believe life cuts you some breaks. You do the best you can and the rest will take care of itself.

I can’t wait to see what the next 21 years of life have in store for me.