On Turning 23: My Most Significant Lessons {& a Couple of Unplanned Birthday Photos}

A lot of people who know me well, know that I am very terrified of aging. This could be because as a teenager, I was that kid who when having conversations with adults, always got responses like “Wow! You are just 18?! How? You are so smart…” To be honest, I like that place, because the moment I entered 20 like this, all I saw in my head were the adults grinning at me, beckoning on me to step forward into their dreaded, beloved adulthood, like ‘ha, Seun, we’ve been waiting for you. Wehcome to our 20s.’ 

Besides the grinning adults, I also knew that my 20s meant really important life choices and decisions, so I never looked forward to growing older – at least not until my 22nd year.

22 was quite hard but the real reason(s) I looked forward to being 23 with ease, were the lessons I took out from the processes and experiences I went through at 22. I should have shared these lessons with you since my birthday on the 10th of October, but it’s better late than never, yeah? So, I’ll share them with you today.


On Living & Growing:

.1. You Grow Only Because?

Let’s imagine a popular person has just died. We’ll name him Mr. X. You go on his Wikipedia page and you find details there like his name, occupation, spouse, etc. Somewhere on the page, you also find his age, which because he is dead is written something like (Mr. X. (1920 – 2012); Aged 92). If you close the page and open it again in the next 4 years, you will find that Mr. X’s age is still 92. Close it and open it again in another 8 years and Mr. X’s age will still be 92.

This lesson, here, is for those of us who want to remain 18 forever. The only reason your age changes is because you are alive. And because you are alive, growth is inevitable. Learning this helped me approach my 23rd year with ease. Do I still think of alternative approaches to immortalizing my age? Like having a vampire bite me? Yeees (and guys, don’t worry. If I do get a vampire, I’ll let you know, okay? So, we can all get bitten together). Until then, I’m thankful for life and I’m learning to enjoy every stage of my growth.

.2. Enjoy the Moment:

I was at a friend’s place recently and we were laughing about how in a couple of days, she’d be turning 24. Her birth month is at the end of the year, which meant that no sooner would we step into 2019, she would already begin to harbor feelings of turning 25 later in the year. As we talked about that, she suddenly said, ‘I didn’t enjoy 23. Seun, because I was so consumed with thoughts of turning 24.’

When she said that, it struck me, the fact that most times, we look forward, worrying about a future that is not yet here and totally forgetting to live in the moment that we currently are. Yes, it is okay to think about what life would look like when you are finally 25 or 30 or 60 or 80 but the truth is you are not 30 or 60 or (insert whatever age you might be worried about) yet. You are in this moment; this age that you are now and this age comes with its own processes and seasons and adventures and lessons. For me, I’m learning to be present; to be aware of this age and enjoy everything that it comes with. I’m only going to be 23 once in my lifetime, yeah? And at 24, God willing, I want to look back, knowing that I lived, loved, learned and maximized every single day of my 23rd year.

On Faith & Finding Purpose:

.3. Stop ‘Finding Purpose’:

I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned to do on turning 23 is to stop ‘finding’ purpose. Wait. Does this mean I am no longer interested in living the life God has created me for? Heck no. In fact, with all my heart, I really do but I’ve learned that my purpose is in nothing but God. It’s not the number of amazing works I could find myself doing. It’s not in the number of influential people I could follow on Instagram. It’s not in the number of readers that love my blog. It’s not in speaking on a pulpit or holding a conference. It’s in God and to find it, I needed to know God first. The more I know Him, the more I know me and the clearer I know me, the clearer I know the things I have been created to do on earth. (Dramatically drops mic and walks off stage)

.4. Trust God:

When in May, I faced one of the most hurtful, heartbreaking experiences of my life, I had a lot of fear. One of them was the fear of not knowing what was coming next. I thought I already had that aspect of my life on lockdown – that this beautiful part of my life was secure and when it broke at 22, I was really afraid of how the rest of my life was going to turn out. Would the next one be beautiful? Would I have to settle? Would there be regrets?

Like I told you in the post I wrote on hurt, throughout the times I felt this fear (and every other emotion that came with that experience), I was always talking to God. And one day, while talking to Him, He said to me, ‘Seun, everything that’s ever happened to you from your birth has been ordained by me. Everything you’ve considered good, everything you’ve considered beautiful, everything you’ve ever been thankful for was given to you by me. Why then do you think you’d be the one to orchestrate how the rest of your life is going to turn out?’

See guys, at the time of writing this post, it’s November but the assurance I felt when God said that to me those months ago, is still here. If He’s promised me a beautiful future, irrespective of what happens in the process, He will deliver it. It’s not my job and the only thing I’m actively doing in all of this is to trust Him. You should too.

Seun Olagunju's Quote

.5. Keep Being You:

I found it a bit difficult building this point and that’s because a part of me really wanted to explain to you that authenticity is unconscious. It’s not you trying to be something, it’s just you being you.

I’ve found that in being myself, people may like me or they may not. In being myself, I may inspire some people or I may not. But that’s fine because (i) it’s not my job to make myself likable, (ii) being seen as inspiring does not mean I am doing the right thing and (iii) there is someone God has created me to be; and I would never become that woman if I keep trying to be like somebody else.

While I wanted to share all of that with you, another part of me didn’t want to write too much, but this lesson is important to me, largely because of my struggle with a low self-esteem. So, I’m passing it forward as my last lesson to you today. You are unique. Everything from the volume of your hair, the color of your skin, the size of your boobs, your height, the family you are from and the temperament you possess, everything has come together to make you, you. You are an original. Please don’t lose yourself in a bid to look a certain way or to be liked or to pass off as inspiring.  Please.

I want to write more but this is getting too long and my fingers are aching. I’ll probably share my other lessons on career and finances in a different blog post.

On a random note, why do people now do photoshoots for their birthdays? This legit was the only thing that gave me headaches as I approached 23 this year, because I wanted fine pictures but a girl did not just know where to start from. Anyway, in the midst of shooting for my self-esteem development project for this year, my friend and badass filmmaker, Tosin Olateru, took all the photos of me I shared in this post. {Thank you Tosin!} I’ll share more details from this self-esteem development project with you in my next post.

Till then, did you learn anything from this post? Or is there any lesson that you’ve learned in the course of the year too? Please tell me in the comments. Also, do you think birthday photoshoots are necessary and did you have one for your birthday? I’d really like to know.

With 💛,


pS: Don’t forget to share this post with your friends. Thank you.

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Author: Seun Olagunju

I'm just a simple 23-year-old girl who loves to teach and tell stories. This is what I do as a blogger. I'm also a social entrepreneur. I love to give back to the society and one of the ways I do this is through the initiative, Beyond the Surface, where I reach out to teenagers by educating, empowering and giving to them, with an aim to curb the increasing number of teenage pregnancies and school drop-out among teens in Nigeria. Other social causes I'm involved in are majorly focused on Education, Gender Equality and Self-Esteem Development. When I'm not writing or involved in a social project, I work as a Product Manager with a tech firm in Lagos, Nigeria.

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    • Haha. Do you know I forget my real age sometimes too?! And when I remember, It just hits me like ‘Ooh wait, Seun. Are you really?’ Don’t worry, Eniola. That vampire? We will find it.

    • Now, even I can imagine myself doing it and it’s making me smile too. It feels good seeing you here, Fife. Thank you too. ❤

  • Turning 23 next year, and sometimes I get a bit worried, but then like iCarly’s song says ‘live life breathe air, I know somehow we’re gonna get there and be so wonderful’

    I’ve never had a birthday photoshoot, I often think about having one. Doubt it’ll happen anytime soon sha.

    • Ooh Fife, I’m singing that iCarly song in my head, while reading your comment. Nickelodeon really blessed us with that one. Lol.

      Turning 23 is nothing to worry about, babe. Nothing. Until then, enjoy where you are now, biko. Also, aren’t those cool pictures you take in your room enough photoshoot?