Just turned the big 2-5 a couple of months ago and strangely, unexpectedly, I honestly do feel…different. Something about that number, that age landmark has made me reflect on where I’ve been and contemplate where I want to go. It’s also made me question some past decisions and wish I could have told past me some important things:
1) Everything you thought you knew about what your twenties would be like, forget it.
Growing up, I was fed this exciting, almost, movie-like, coming of age cult classic portrayal of what life would be as a young adult. Fun, freedom, the realization of dreams dreamt for years coming true. It’s not like that. At all. Being an adult, even a young one, comes with a host of challenges, issues and responsibilities. The sooner you let go of the fantasy, the better.
2) Money gets spent. Real fast.
Its strange, how when you’re younger, the prospect of getting even $5 seemed to be extravagant. Oh the ring pops I could buy. Now, $5 barely covers a gallon of gas in my allegedly gas efficient vehicle. And the more I make, the more expensive things seem to become. Its like, magic, the black, dark kind that eats into my shoe purchasing. The only combatant is to budget, balance your checkbook, save when you can and hope to God that your 5 cent raise will be enough to help with the student loan payments.
3) Don’t let money rule your life.
I know, counter-intuitive considering I just went on a rant about how back in my day $5 bought 10 pieces of colored, edible jewelry, it seems a little weird to say that money doesn’t matter. But in the grand scheme, deeper meaning of life stuff, it doesn’t. There’s a reason why those who have the least are often the most generous or tend to be the first to say a friendly word or give a smile. Their lack of riches has forced them to find their happiness elsewhere, to discover what outside of money can bring joy to their lives. Money isn’t everything.
4) Partying is overrated.
Seriously. As young adults we are often overly concerned/worried that we’re somehow missing out. That if we don’t get black out drunk or have at least two embarrassing stories that we need help remembering that somehow we’ve failed as young adults. You haven’t. At the end of the day, all parties are essentially the same, just with a different guest list, and your time and energy could have been better spent learning a new skill or making headway on that side project you keep putting off. Partying is fine every now and again, but just sitting at home in peace on a Friday may be just what the doctor ordered.
5) Sex is also overrated.
I know after years of waiting you expected that sex as a young adult would be carefree and fun, a way to alleviate any and all stresses in life. It’s not, not completely. It can be awkward and uncomfortable and intensely dissatisfying, and even though everyone around you may be raving about the life altering orgasms they had last week, you are NOT them and you should NOT feel that you have to be. Forcing yourself to be intimate with others just for the sake of keeping up with everyone else is a waste, and the sexual experiences you garner from that sort of thinking are about as interesting as watching paint dry. There is more to life, more to the human experience than “getting laid.” It can be great, but don’t waste so much energy on such a minute part of being alive.
6) Don’t be afraid to let go of dysfunctional or toxic friendships. Even if they shared their crayons with you in kindergarten.
There’s a reason why your mom never talks about Lisa, her high school best friend. Rarely, if ever, do people stay friends with their school mates. I was determined to be the exception to the rule, the one who not only stays friends with BFFs, but has them in her future wedding. Although I kept a few, I lost a lot. Things change, or more importantly, people change, and the promises you made in each others yearbooks may not pan out. But, it’s okay. Losing friends is a part of growing up and apart and you will live, survive, and surprisingly, thrive. Holding on to people who no longer enrich your lives only hinders progress. You can’t move forward holding on to dead weight.
7) You will most likely NOT land your dream job right after college. Probably not even several years after.
Aside from the extra hurdle of a struggling economy, most past, present, and future young adults have not been lucky enough to get their dream job right out of school. To assume that you’ll have it by the time you’re 25 is ambitious, to say the least. Although you may find this disappointing, it’s actually great news! One, you are not behind and there is no set timeline you have to meet in order to catch up. Your peers are in the same boat. Two, this means that you have more time than you thought to perfect your awesomeness so that when the dream job comes, you’re ready.
7) Weight gain is not just a college freshman thing. Its a rest of your life thing.
Remember when you used to eat sour patch kids and Doritos with your friends until 3 a.m. watching horror flicks? You can still do that….but the pounds you see the following week may cause you to cry as you struggle into your jeans. Although this sucks, a lot, spending your time revisiting high school photos of yourself on Facebook and swearing to go on a juice only diet only exacerbates the problem. Stop it and just except that weight gain is also normal and that punishing yourself only makes it that much harder to control. It sucks, but when you were thinner in high school, was the only reason you were happy because you fit into a size 10? No, and honestly, you were too busy being a teenager to think too much about what the scale said. Find what will actually make you happy and stop denying yourself that cupcake.
8) Perfection is unobtainable. Sometimes being, “good enough” is the best you can do.
This has been the hardest of the pills for me to swallow. As a perfectionist, I feel that if I just try hard enough, I can make everything in my life fall into place just as it should. That with the right planning, the correct execution, I can be the person that actually has the perfect life. However, life is unpredictable and humans innately fallible, and pushing myself harder is not going to change that. Ease up. Relax. It will all work out. Or it won’t. But that’s okay. It’s the failures and letdowns in life that truly make it interesting and worth living.
9) Being single is okay. Even if no one else agrees.
I have never been a romantic. Even as a kid, I envisioned myself conquering the world with perhaps a few kids in tow but rarely a Prince Charming by my side. But as a young adult, with friends coupling off, vows being pledged and babies being made I began to feel the acute and unpleasant pressure of doing the same myself. Relatives constantly asking “When are you getting married?”, friends giving me understanding yet sympathetic looks when I talk about yet another disastrous date or “almost” boyfriend that slipped away, the constant reminder in television and movies that even if you have a great job and great friends you really aren’t complete until you have a “man.” Right. That’s why the divorce rate in America is almost as high as the marriage rate. Do not let outside factors influence what you already know. That loving someone is great, but loving yourself is just as wonderful, if not moreso.
10) Those who disagree with you are not just dumb or evil. They’re just different.
Despite all the everyone is special stuff you were fed as a kid, deep down you have always believed that those who do not agree with you or hold the same views are somehow special…as in, mentally disabled. How could they look at the same facts and come to such a different and WRONG conclusion? Answer: Everyone is different and this difference does not make them bad or necessarily wrong. Life is full of gray and each and every one of us is trying to figure it out the best we can. No one has all the answers and it is entirely possible that what you believe is completely wrong. But if it’s important to you, if it enriches your life, don’t let the possibility of being wrong prevent you from sticking by your beliefs, and be willing to entertain and reflect on outside opinions and theories, which could strengthen your own views. We’re all just guessing. Choose what feels best for you.
Now that I’ve passed on my “wisdom” of sorts to past/future me, time to tackle the rest of my twenties…hopefully with a few less lessons. Or more, depending on what life decides. 🙂