Perhaps a more fitting name for this post would be, “Things I Started to Learn in my 20’s and Still Need to Remind Myself of on a Regular Basis”.
But, that title doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it?
Let’s be honest. The 30’s aren’t even old these days. I know many 30-something’s (including myself, in certain ways) that are still figuring out how to “grown up”. Yes, I’m using that as a verb. But, the 20’s are an especially twisty rollercoaster. There’s a lot of fun involved…and a lot of bad decisions. A lot of confusion…and a lot of freedom. It’s a great time to start learning who you really are through a series of dramatic events.
Eventually, you’ll have the chance to look back and assess what really happened during that crazy decade of youth and, hopefully, what you learn will be eye-opening.
Here’s a few things that I began to realize in my 20’s:
1. You’re not that smart.
Arguably, the most important thing people in their 20’s should realize. You don’t know everything and you never will. But, with time and a sprinkle of effort, we can all gradually get less dumb and keep these minds of ours open to new information. Acting like you know everything is also remarkably unattractive. So, cut that out.
2. It’s OK to be uncomfortable.
Being uncomfortable is a sign that you’re accepting growth. Lean into it and don’t let Fear make decisions for you. Coping with discomfort is a talent. Put it in your Bumble profile and in the skills section of your resume.
3. Don’t ignore your intuition.
If you close your eyes and listen real close…you’ll realize that there’s a little voice in your head that knows what you want and has a pretty good idea of what your next move should be. Be aware that when you’re trying to listen for that subtle one, louder voices will try to chime in. That’s Fear and Doubt. Try to ignore them because they’re a couple of jerks just livin’ in your head rent free. Your goal is to get that soft-spoken “Intuition” a bullhorn and train it to use its outdoor voice.
4. Ask for what you want.
Don’t be afraid. ASK. If they say “no”…oh well. You’ll adjust. But, what if they say yes? Don’t give Regret an open invitation into your life by denying yourself the option of trying.
5. Learn to be independent.
Get your adult on. Learn to cook. Do your own laundry. Move out at a reasonable age. Start scheduling your own dentist appointments ASAP even though, damnit, you just don’t wanna go. Learn to go places by yourself and enjoy the experience. If you’re looking to gain confidence, independence is a great gateway drug.
6. Drink smart.
Blacking out is not cute. Hangovers suck and, I promise you, they’re going to get worse as you get older. Reduce or eliminate sugary mixers and you’ll save a headache or forty. Recognize that drinking has a peak state in which you feel invincible and ready to party, but all it takes is that one unnecessary shot at the end of the night to take you over the edge. Get to know your limits because alcohol will smack you to the ground if you get mouthy with it. Show that tequila some respect.
7. Do what you actually want to do.
What do you want to do? Great. Do that. Start now. Don’t let other people tell you what you should do. Learn the art of politely creating boundaries, be honest, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when you have to. If you’re seeking Motivation and Ambition, look for Passion. Those three love to hang out together.
8. It’s OK to let go of things.
Some things will run their course. Some people will no longer make sense in your life or leave you. Fight the urge to force things that are clearly resisting you. If they’re meant to return, they will. The first step to letting go is simply choosing to focus on anything else. Maybe choose to focus on taking things less seriously. Laugh more each day or, perhaps, get a Magic Eye book. The possibilities are endless.
9. Your parents are humans.
Shocking. As you get older, you realize that your mom and dad are just other people out here, just learning as they go. Most of us will probably be parents at some point. Yikes. Part of adulting is recognizing that even though your parents may not have always made the perfect decisions when it came to your upbringing (and you probably won’t either), that you are now a capable adult that can start doing some damage control. It’s time to ditch “The Blame Game” and do a little “self-parenting”, my friend.
10. Learn to listen.
I mean really listen. Pay attention when other people are speaking and try to be cognizant of the meaning behind their words. Most people are out there just waiting for their chance to talk. The ability to truly hear other people will enhance your ability to connect and, come to think of it, will positively effect every other aspect of your life. Do this one, for sure.
11. Live in the now.
It’s easy to get caught up in our pasts and stress about our futures, but if you spend all your energy in those places…think of all that you’ll miss in the present. Anytime you want to bring yourself back to the now, focus real hard on your surroundings. Notice the colors. What can you hear? Look for details. Channel your inner Eckhart Tolle. Sometimes, when I’m especially distracted, I’ll pinch myself ever so slightly. The sensation forces me out of my head. Don’t pinch too hard, you masochist.
12. Learn to apologize.
Some people just cannot say “I’m sorry”. Don’t be that person. There is a freedom and strength in recognizing when you may have done something wrong, made a mistake, or hurt another person and being able to own up to that in a genuine way. When you apologize, mean it. Don’t say “sorry” and continue to repeat the same behavior. Change it and allow that person to see that you’ve made an effort. This is how you build trust. Oh, and avoid the phrase, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” That’s an anti-apology.
13. Developing healthy habits isn’t an option.
Regard it as a requirement. Health also leads to confidence and the ability to take your life where you want to take it. Do a jumping jack and eat some kale from time to time. You can’t avoid getting older, but you can avoid looking like you should be hosting “Tales from the Crypt”.
14. Relationships are hard.
Good hard and bad hard. They can make you awkward, happy, nauseous, satisfied, bummed, and stupid. And yet…they seem to be really amazing when you find the right human. Even then, the good ones will require some effort. So, settle in for the weirdness and work on your resilience, kids. It’s probably super worth it.
15. Save that cash money.
Money isn’t everything, but it can give you a little peace of mind to know you’re sitting on a little nest egg. Whether it’s a robin’s egg or a Willy Wonka style Golden Goose egg…it’s something. Have a plan in mind for how you wanna spend them dollar bills and it gets easier to tuck them away.
16. Home should be your sanctuary.
Coming home should be like a beautiful sigh of relief. Make it yours. Keep it clean. Light a candle. Have a plant. Get a pet. Don’t run out of toilet paper. Make it work for you in such a way that you love stepping through your front door and into your own personal place of comfort. The world is uncontrollable. Your home is a haven just for you.
17. True friends don’t come with stipulations.
If you feel like you can’t really be yourself around these people or they constantly judge you, find some new damn people. I hear there’s over 7 billion on this planet, so the odds of finding a few good ones has gotta be solid, right? Fingers crossed.
18. Time flies.
I swear time sped up after I hit 25. No matter what happens, the days will continue to pass. This should be a comforting and motivating thought. Make them count.
19. No one REALLY knows what they’re doing.
The dirty little secret of life is that we’re all playing this thing by ear and trying to figure out what we’re doing here. Just floatin’ along on the Sea of Life in rowboats trying to navigate the waves. Smile at fellow boaters when you pass. Hell..smile at me because I’m out there with you. We’re all a bit of a confused mess on occasion. Let’s embrace it.
20. You deserve to be happy.
Cheesy, I know. Shut up. But, it’s true. We have to make sure we’re cultivating our own self-worth because only from that place can we make healthy decisions, welcome the right people into our lives, and begin to realize some of this potential we might be resisting.
If we take the time to reflect, we can quicken our own evolution as we work towards making ourselves better. What does better mean?
Better means more aware, more empathetic, more confident, and more open to experiencing what life has to offer.
Good things and bad things. I looked into it. They’re a package deal. No exceptions, even if you have a promo code.
The 20’s are a complicated time in which we begin to try and figure things out. They’re great in their own way.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the 30’s have the potential to be a whole lot better.