I turn thirty in a little over a week, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Not so much about what this new decade has in store for me, but rather how I feel like I wasted my twenties. I mean, it should have been a time of free-spirited adventure, but I spent the first half so broke that I had to borrow money to pay for gas to get me to a miserable part-time job just so I could pay back the gas money I borrowed…oh, and student loans and bills, of course. (Thanks recession and 18-year-old me who thought an English degree was a good idea!) Then, I spent the second half of my twenties tenaciously repairing the damage done earlier that I existed in auto-pilot, and now I’m wondering where all of that time went. I suppose it wasn’t an entirely wasted decade though. It was filled with lessons of the life variety, 20 of which I will share with you:
20 Lessons I Learned During my Twenties
- Don’t measure your success against other people’s success. You’ll either feel terrible because you have not achieved the same milestones as your peers, or you’ll be lulled into a false sense of security because your life isn’t falling apart like your peers’. Instead, measure your success by creating and achieving your own weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
- Don’t believe everything you see on social media. We airbrush our lives like magazines airbrush the cellulite off their models. The people you follow are carefully curating the image of their life they want others to believe they lead, but at the end of the day, they have just as many problems as you do. (They also have cellulite).
- If you’re not careful, you will fly through life on auto-pilot. It’s like you live life in fast-forward, and before you know it, you’re both reflecting on the lessons you learned over the past decade but also wondering where all the time went. (Let’s be honest, you were probably binge watching the Office on Netflix for the 3rd time). Press pause, pick you head up, and notice what is really going on around you.
- Start investing in your retirement today. Contribute to a 401K; move 10% of each paycheck into your savings account. You can’t afford not to.
- Take a vacation. You can’t afford not to. I didn’t take my first vacation until I was 29, and it was long overdue. Jon and I went to Portland, Maine, which became one of my favorite places on earth, and now we want to travel to a new state each year.
- Call home more often. Your family misses you.
- And definitely do not forget to call your dad on his birthday that first year you’re away from home. It will really hurt his feelings.
- Better yet, if the opportunity exists, go home more often.
- Drink more water. It’s so simple, and yet most of us to not consume the daily recommended amount of water…like ever
- Don’t drink too much caffeine. I mean, I know a cuppa’ joe is totally instagram-worthy but next thing you know, you’re almost 30 and you get withdrawal headaches if you haven’t had a cup of coffee by 8:20AM, and you have heart palpitations, which are kind of scary.
- When it’s two in the morning, and you can’t sleep, instead of ruminating about work, watch the rise and fall of your significant other’s chest and be grateful they are still there.
- Talk less and listen more (a lesson I still struggle with most days).
- Your life plans will get derailed, and it will seem as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but trust me, these are the days that must happen to you.
- Make some effort into making your house or apartment really feel like home. Paint the walls. Hang some photos. Pull the weeds in your garden. None of these things are really that fun, and I’ll be honest, I really struggle with this piece of advice most days. But I do know that the pride and the feeling of “this-place-is-starting-to-feel-like-home” is worth it.
- Video games are awesome, but make sure you go on adventures in real life too.
- Even introverts need friends; make sure you find some.
- Stay single in college. High school too!
- Stop putting off the things you’ve always wanted to do. Even if the thing you really want to do is just to learn how to paint with watercolors. Even if the thing you really want to do is to finally travel to Japan.
- Don’t be afraid to shed the toxic people from your life. You may be reluctant to do so because it feels like they are all you have, but I promise that is not true. They are actually holding you back from all of the friends and family and opportunities and adventures that could be.
- Happiness is a choice.