The other weekend we went to Aaron’s cousin’s high school graduation and it got me thinking about the things I wish I knew when I was in my 20s. Of course I wouldn’t want to take back anything that happened in the previous decade, but it’s fun reflecting how I could have done “better” had I known “more”. Obviously some lessons are more meaningful than others, but even the seemingly trivial ones have a major impact at times.
Just because you can fit into a size 2 doesn’t mean you are one. In my 20s I was more hung up on the size I was wearing than the fit. It felt like a secret accomplishment if I managed to squeeze myself into a size 0. You will look so much better in clothes that fit than clothes you just managed to get into.
Embrace the down time. I’m high strung and can easily feel anxious if I’m not crossing everything off my to-do list. But it’s really those periods of down time when you can calm your mind and gain a little perspective. There were times in my 20s, especially during grad school, when I was the most stressed I’ve ever been and could have benefited from a 10 minutes walk or meditation. That being said, figure out a way to quiet your mind and you will save years of stress.
Don’t get caught up in timelines. Your friends are going to get engaged, buy houses, have kids, get promotions and possibly before you. The less you worry about when something will happen, the more you can focus on yourself and figure out what’s right for you. There’s no “right” time to do something and you should never be afraid of choosing a path that veers from what you thought you should be doing at that time. It’s funny to think my high school boyfriend and I made a deal that if we weren’t married by the time we were 24 (crazy!) we would marry each other.
Use exclamation marks sparingly. I love an exclamation point to avoid coming off as cold, but they should be used sparingly especially in professional correspondence. In general, avoid ending consecutive sentences with exclamation points, and one is almost always enough. Of course when writing to girlfriends, I’m guilty of excessive use and occassionally send a trailing line of exclamation points. But considering so much of how we correspond is via text and email, being mindful of how we present ourselves is something I could have been more aware of in my 20s.
Don’t just follow your dreams. Sure, we all want to wake up ecstatic to go to work, but that’s probably not going to be your first, or even second, job. Identify your interests and figure out a way to incorporate that into your life, whether it be your full time job or hobby. Dream big, but also be realistic.
Learn to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is one of the most important skills to learn and the sooner you figure that out and stand up for them the better. There will be friends/roommates who want to borrow your stuff even when you don’t want them to or coworkers who take advantage of your time. The sooner you learn to effectively communicate and establish boundaries the more meaningful your relationships will be both personally and professionally.
Sugary drinks have more alcohol in them than you think. I took this piece of advice from Aaron’s card to his cousin and could not agree more. You don’t have to break the bank to get quality alcohol, but as a general rule avoid liquor that freezes. And the more sugar in your drink the stronger the hangover will be.
Friendships will change. Major life events have the power to change friendships. It’s during these transitional times when friends move, start new jobs, get married or have kids that can trigger the gradual drifting apart. It’s something we have all experienced, but whether you are the one who has outgrown the relationship or you’re being left behind, losing a friendship is never easy. Unlike romantic relationships where there is a formal breakup, the end of a frienship rarely has that kind of closure. Understand that you’ll probably have fewer friends in your thirties than the previous decades, but the friendships you choose to maintain will be more meaningful and true.
Back up your stuff. Be prepared for a technology disaster because chances are it will happen some time in your life. And losing your photos will feel much worse than you imagine.
Thirty is not that old. Until the day I turned thirty, I thought thirty was so old. Turns out I was wrong. Probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years is that what you majored in in college is not necessarily what dictates your career. If you realize you want to make a major career shift in your late 20s, trust me it’s not too late.
What are things you wish you knew when you were younger?