I’ve been 30 for about a month now, and while this new chapter of my life has been off to a good start (got a new job, eating healthier, etc.), I still want to formally pay tribute and salute the end of my twenties. My twenties were a time of amazing adventures, tremendous growth, and many life lessons learned. Here are the top 20 life lessons I learned throughout my twenties, told as if I went back in time to tell my 20-year-old self this advice face-to-face.
1) The older you get, the harder it’s going to be to maintain your friendships, because the older you get, the busier you and your friends will become with focusing on your careers, getting married, having kids, going to grad school, etc. Other reasons that will make it hard to maintain your friendships is entering different life stages at different times or just not having anything in common anymore.
2) Even though it will get harder to maintain friendships, don’t give in to the excuses, “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy.” Make the time to see your friends. Plan monthly brunch or happy hour dates. Plan Skypes dates to chat with your friends who live in other cities. Plan double dates so your husband can get to know your friends and vice versa. If you’re having a month where you really are too busy to see anyone, at least send a card in the mail or a text to let your friends know you’re thinking of them. Everyone has time to send a text.
3) Even though you’ll get married at 27 and your husband will become your best friend, you will still need your girlfriends. You will want to do everything with your husband, but chick flicks, pedicures, and yoga class will always be more fun with your girls.
4) Let go of the convenience friendships in your life. It will be hard. You will cry and be heartbroken. But you’ll eventually realize that people who only want to be friends with you when they’re bored and it’s convenient for them are not true friends and are most definitely not deserving of your time.
5) Above all, be a good friend. Show up to your friends’ bachelorette parties, weddings, and baby showers. Show up when things get rough, too, like when your friends experience bouts of unemployment, deaths in their families, and divorce. Don’t disappear when times get tough.
On Work and Money:
6) Put your head down and work. At your job, whether it’s a part-time restaurant job or a 9-5 office job, you are there to do one thing and one thing only: work. Don’t get get caught up in work drama, cliques, or gossip. Don’t bring whatever it is you’re dealing with in your personal life into work. And definitely don’t date the people you work with. Go to work, do your job, make your money, and go home.
7) You won’t like all of your co-workers, and vice versa. This will suck, because good co-workers can really make or break a job. But it’s okay, because you’ll learn to work with different/strong personalities which will make you a better employee. Besides, you’re not at work to make friends anyway, you’re there to work (see #6).
8) You didn’t know what you wanted to do as a career when you turned 18, and you will continue to be confused over this throughout your twenties. Don’t feel pressure, though, to have your career figured out by the time you turn 30, because you’ll learn that a lot of people your age (or even older!) are in the same boat. “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” is a really hard question to answer.
9) No matter how much education and work experience you have, there will always be someone else who has more than you. This will make finding a job extremely competitive! This lesson also applies to life in general: there will always be someone out there who is better at something than you (dancing, running, yoga, etc.). The important thing to remember here is to not let that fact discourage you or prevent you from chasing your dreams.
10) Save money and start early. Start an emergency fund and put at least 10% of your paycheck into it every month. Start a retirement fund. (It’s never too early!) And while you’re at it, that debt isn’t going to pay itself off.
11) It’s better to be alone than to be with the wrong person, because being with the wrong person will prevent you from finding the right one.
12) It’s hard to figure out who you are and what you want in life when you’re in a serious relationship with someone. Figure those two important things out first before settling down.
13) It takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge against someone. Holding a grudge against multiple different people takes even more work and starts to create a lot of negativity in your mind. If you’re mad at someone, talk it out and move on.
Life in General:
14) You won’t have a lot of free time once you’re working full-time and tending to the needs of your family, so be selfish with the free time you do have by saying no to things you dont want to do. If you don’t want to _____, then don’t.
15) Focus on the positive, not the negative. If you’re trying to lose weight by eating healthier, focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t. If you’re feeling down because you haven’t accomplished certain goals by a certain age (cough 30 cough), start focusing on what you have accomplished.
16) The world is full of judgement. People will judge you for your decisions, big or small: how quickly you decide to get engaged/married, what kind of dog you adopt, how you raise your kids, etc. Essentially, haters gonna hate, but don’t let their judgment bring you down.
17) Try not to plan out your life too much, because life happens and things change. What you have in mind for your life today will probably be completely different tomorrow.
18) Make time to accomplish your goals, and more importantly, do the work. If you want a new job, to lose weight, and improve your finances, then make it happen. If you don’t make the time and do the work, then the only person to blame is yourself.
19) Keep your eyes on your own paper. Your twenties are the decade when people tend to hit the most milestones (graduating college, getting married, having kids, buying a house), so it will be hard not to notice when your friends/family/acquaintances, start accomplishing these milestones before you do. Just keep in mind that everyone has their own life timeline, and just because you haven’t done ___ by __ age doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
20) Your twenties are your time to learn who you are and what you want in life. It’s your time to be selfish and do the things you want to do, so don’t waste it. Finish school. Travel abroad. Do what you want to do, because when you’re in your thirties and settling down with a family, it’s not going to be about you anymore.
What big life lessons have you learned in your twenties?