20 Things I Have Learned in my Twenties

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

You never realize just how stressful your twenties are until you are living in them. While every decade has its struggles, I think most people can agree that their twenties were a time of worry, failure, and defining who they were as a person. In high school, I thought that once I turned 20 everything would change. I would have my perfect career, be a year away from legally drinking alcohol, have a fantastic apartment, and be living in New York City. I can honestly say that only one of those things happened so far (and it wasn't New York or fantastic career).

While I am finally following my passion, it didn't come easy (and is not what I expected). I still have several years to go, but I finally feel like my feet are touching the ground. The last two years I felt completely lost and had anxiety over what I was going to do with my life. With some practice, self-care, and taking time to learn who I was, I can say I am starting to get this entire #adultlife. Below, I have decided to share 20 things I have learned so far in my twenties. These are things that I wish someone had told me during those first years on my own. It has been a chaotic journey, but I am so grateful for every bump in the road and am excited for what the future holds.

You are going to feel lost in life.
I cannot tell you how many times I cried to my mother about the fact that I had no idea what I was doing with my life. It feels like you have pressure from everyone to become the biggest and best version of yourself by your twenties. Why wouldn't you? We've been told since kids that after high school we must go to college, get a degree, and work in that career field for the rest of our lives. I don't know about you, but that decision can be crippling. I have good news for you though. You don't need to have life figured out by the time your 25.

Realistically, you are just starting on, what should be, a long and healthy life. You don't have all the answers yet. In those moments when you feel lost, remember that almost everyone has been right where you are. It will pass, but until then, know that everything eventually comes together.

Listen to your body.
I wish I had known about this beforehand (not that people didn't try to tell me). Listening to your body does not just mean eating healthy but knowing the ins and outs of your body. Take time to see how much sleep your body needs, what foods work well for you, and how to spot when your body is becoming overworked. In my early twenties, I worked as a manager at a restaurant. The hours were incredibly long, and my determination to be the best made me work myself to the bone. I barely slept, drank way too much coffee, and not enough water.

After months of this, I became violently ill for a month straight. Even after that, I felt drained continuously and stressed. It took this happening for me to realize that I need to take better care of my body and listen when it is telling me to slow down.

You will fail. Embrace falling.
Fail is a bad word that you should stop saying. Every time you don't succeed, you are merely learning a new way to do it better. Your twenties are for failing. Realistically, you can never grow and develop if you have never made a mistake. I can honestly say that I am proud of all of my failures because they have made me the person I am today. You are not failing, you are learning. See what you did wrong in a particular situation and try again. Trust me, all the successful people you look up to have failed — a lot.

Quality over quantity.
I was not a popular girl in high school. My best friends were fictional characters, and my insecurities kept me in a little bubble that I appreciated. When I left high school, I started blossoming into the person I am today. With this, I let more people into my life and became more social. You could even say I was 'popular' in the pure sense of the word. However, I learned that this was not something that I wanted or needed in my life. Just because you have many friends, it does not mean you have friends. This piece of advice might not make sense now, but one day it will.

Just like a durable pair of snow boots, you want friends who will be there till the end. Surround yourself with people who help you grow and lift you. I'm happy to say that I have two friends and my family in my life. You can think that is sad, but I feel so much more love with these few people than I ever did with the groups I used to hang out with.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Take better care of yourself.
We all think we are invincible in our twenties. We can throw back shots and wake up with a winning attitude. Our stomachs can endure the nastiest of junk foods, and our skin looks youthful even with a pack of smokes a day. I promise this will all catch up to you in the future. While I believe you should live your life to the fullest, I also think that you should have a long life. If you eat healthily, live an active life, and take care of your skin now, it will thank you for it later. No one wants to look like they are in their 80s at the age of 40.

Surround yourself with love.
Cut out that toxicity now. I've talked several times on my website about noticing red flags when it comes to relationships and loved ones. If you are surrounded by people who want to bring you down or make you feel worthless, well, you are eventually going to believe them. I know cutting people out of your life seems like a hard thing to do. Once you do it, you won't even notice them gone. We let people weigh us down without even realizing it.

Take a close look at the people you hang around (family, friends, significant others). Do they bring you joy? Are they supportive of your dreams and encourage you? If not, it might be time to weed out the negativity.

Planning isn't just for school.
For me, this is something I desperately need to succeed. Do you remember in grade school when they would give you the cute little planners that you had to write your homework in? Maybe not all schools had these, but I guarantee you had some form of planning in your adolescence. Once we are cut free from school, we like to throw a lot of those teachings out the window (like Trigonometry, still haven't used that). One thing you should not throw out is planners. Building a career for yourself is not an easy task. Adulthood, in general, is no picnic.

Whether you work for yourself or a company, a huge part of success is sticking to a schedule. It helps keep you focused, reminds you of objectives, and keeps you on the path to reaching your goals. I encourage you to try it out for at least a month and see if it brings you any progress.

Nothing is as easy is it looks in the movies.
Friends screwed me over. A group of friends live in a fantastic apartment in New York City, live their best lives, and do it with relatively normal jobs. I mean, Joey was unemployed, and Rachel worked as a waitress while Monica was a chef at a restaurant. These shows put it in our head that we can have this great life without working all that hard. Granted, they do eventually get life together (I mean, they were in their twenties after all), but it takes a while for that to happen. Real life requires hard work and determination for you to get where you want to be. Being successful doesn't happen overnight. It takes long hours and work.

Learn when to say no.
Saying no has always been hard for me. If I had learned this word before, I probably would have never overworked myself at my first job, let people walk over me, or do things I was not comfortable doing. I have news for anyone out there who is scared of this two letter word. Using it is okay. If someone gets upset with you for not wanting to do something, then they need to take a look at themselves.

Trust me; I still struggle with this one. I find myself saying yes before even thinking about what I'm getting myself into. I'll also feel guilty for saying no, even though I can't possibly do what that person wants. It might take practice, but I promise you can do it (or not do it...see what I did there?). Also, saying no is different from giving an excuse. You DO NOT have to explain if you don't want to do something. No is an entirely sufficient answer.

...However, don't be afraid of saying yes.
While saying no is a valuable lesson, so is the art of saying yes (to certain things). Fear and the love of my comfort zone has kept me from doing things that probably would have pushed me further in my career. While you should never do something that doesn't feel comfortable, that does not mean you should always stay in that bubble. A little bit of risk and uncertainty helps you grow and develop. Besides, how can you truly know who you are and what you like if you never try anything new?

Figuring yourself out happens outside of your comfort zone.
Speaking of the comfort zone; get out of it. This is a great place to stay in for a time but will keep your life mundane and stagnant. To move forward and follow your passions, you must take risks and do things you wouldn't usually do. You hear it all the time because it rings true. Greatness happens once you leave that zone. Be daring, take risks, go into the deep end. If I had stayed in my safe little bubble I would not be writing this right now, I would not have a website, and would probably still be working a job I was not happy with.

It is okay to ask for help.
Talk about a lesson that took me far too long to learn (and I'm still figuring it out). I used to think that asking for help made me weak. Teachers would tell my mother that they wished I would ask for help more often and that they found it odd how I would struggle silently. What can I say, I was a strange little girl. Recently, the computer that I had for years finally broke down. The sad thing is, I was still using it, glued keys and all. One day I asked my mom if she
could help me buy a new computer for my birthday. Within a day I was ready to tell her to cancel my request. I felt guilty for asking her.

She was elated. I had never asked her for help before. I ended up letting her help pay for my computer, and I am using it right now to write this. This does not mean asking for help always has to be for financial reasons. If you feel stuck, you can ask. It is not weak to need assistance. I've recently realized that it takes a strong person to know when they need an aide.

You have to love yourself.
It is hard to love somebody who does not like themselves. If you have read one of my previous journal entries, you will know that I have struggled with this my entire life. My insecurities turned into a self-loathing that crippled my life. I still have days where I struggle with this, and I probably will until the day I die. That does not mean I have to let it win. When you love yourself, others will be able to see it. You put off this energy that makes people want to know you.

I'm a firm believer that loving yourself is the best advice anyone could ever take. This one lesson has helped me gain confidence, follow my dreams, allow others to like me, and let my opinions have a voice.

Photo by Juli├ín Gentilezza on Unsplash

Stop forcing your fantasy.
My life is far from what I imagined. While I am happy and doing what I love, it is nothing like what I had pictured in my mind. We focus so much on our fantasy life that we don't stop to see if that is what we need. Opinions change, we grow, life throws us for loops. Just because you are not living the life you envisioned does not mean it is not the path you are supposed to be on. Instead of being nostalgic for past dreams, focus on being happy in the present. It is okay if those are two completely different things.

Don't play the comparison game.
I read an article once that stuck with me. It compared our life to a book and talked about how everybody reads at a different pace. Some people might be in chapter 20 while we are still in chapter 10. Instead of looking at that person with envy, realize that you will get to that point one day. We all move at our own pace. While a little competition is healthy, don't let it bring self-doubt. You will get to that end goal in your own time. Instead of comparing yourself to others, you should enjoy the journey and examine where you are now to where you began.

Don't give up.
While some things don't work out, other things take time and hard work. Trust me; there have been countless times I wanted to give up on writing. I never did because I looked at the reason behind giving up. It had nothing to do with being unhappy, but only due to a few setbacks and the hard work I was enduring. Next time you feel like giving up, analyze why you think that way. I will say this following sentence until the day I die. No dream ever comes easy. If it did, everyone would be following them.

Save your money now.
Everybody tells you this, and yet you still waste your money on stupid things. Most of my money went to clothes, food, and makeup. I have little to no regrets in my life, but waisting that money is on that short list. It might seem worth it now, but you will regret that decision later on in life. Learning how to budget your money at a young age will pay off later in life. Most wealthy people I meet are tight when it comes to spending their dollars. That is usually their secret to success. Rich people don't become that way by spending all of their money on trivial things.

Figure out what you need and what you want. Bills should always be a priority. After that, budget out your needs and occasionally purchase something you want. I promise you will never regret saving money.

You have time, don't worry.
It is sad how old I felt when I first turned 24. For some reason, that year was a lightbulb moment of how fast time goes. This was when I honestly felt lost in life and had a desperate urge to figure everything out within a day. Realistically, you just started. This doesn't mean waste away your twenties, but it also means you don't have to be so critical on yourself. Are you not in the profession you would like to be in? That is okay! You have time. Try out new things, experience life, and find what makes you happy. You don't need to have all the answers today. You need to have the motivation to seek them out.

Buy experiences, not things.
I wish I had spent my money on traveling instead of clothes that I don't even wear anymore. Now, most of my extra money goes to vacationing to different areas around the world and spending time with my family. When you become old, you will only regret the things you didn't do (like the saying goes). You won't even remember that leather jacket that looked amazing on the store mannequin. You will never forget that time you got lost in the middle of Nevada with your mother and felt like aliens might abduct you at any moment (just me?). Memories are the best investment you could ever give yourself.

Changing your mind is okay.
So, you just spent the past four years in college getting a degree that, when 18, you wanted more than anything. Now that you graduated and got a job, you are starting to realize you don't like it as much as you would have hoped. You have permission to change your mind. I get that it feels like a waste, but I promise that chasing your dreams is never a waste. No matter what, you at least are learning what you don't like. I cannot tell you how many times I have changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life.

I never regret this though. I look back at all the effort I put into something and see that I did grow from that experience. You can't be expected to know life and everything you want to do with it at the young age of 18. That would be a ridiculous goal for anyone.

I hope you enjoyed this and it gave you a little more knowledge or, if anything, reminded you of all the things you have learned. Let me know in the comments below stuff you have learned. It doesn't even have to be in your twenties! We are continually growing and becoming better versions of ourselves. When you think about it, life is pretty crazy and fantastic all at the same time.


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