I’m turning 24 at the end of this year, and it’s really been hitting me hard 😩 There’s a lot of times where I’ve felt like I’ve been wandering around directionless since I got out of Highschool. Especially when I see all of my friends and people I knew from school who are now getting these amazing careers, traveling all over the world, getting engaged and married, having babies, buying new homes, I’m happy for them but I can’t help but be a bit envious at times.
I have to say, I was never really someone who had a plan for what I’d do after high school. I’ve always been an “in the moment” kind of gal. At first I thought that was going to cost me a lot, because it didn’t seem like I was really going anywhere. I was just kinda stuck in a dead-end job, losing a lot of friends who were going on totally different paths, spending too much time at bars after work at least a couple times a week, and just overall feeling completely unfulfilled and unsatisfied. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference in any way. But I realized something.
Even though I didn’t hit those specific milestones that all those other people seemed to have already, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t growing and learning a ton every day. I’ve always been someone who loves to learn and experience new things. And even though I haven’t done anything extremely risky these last 4 or 5 years, I’ve definitely moved way out of my comfort zone, learned to love myself more, learned more about my strengths and weaknesses and how to embrace them, and so much more. Most of it has been a huge internal change. And I feel that’s where things need to start sometimes. Once you learn to change your thinking, and eventually you’ll change your patterns and you’ll find that your life has gone in a completely different direction if you choose for it to.
So today, I want to give you guys some advice to keep in mind while you’re living out your early 20s. I truly hope they’re encouraging to you!
1. Self Help Books Won’t Actually Fix Your Life
Maybe you’re not into self-help books to begin with, but I know a lot of people who are and I used to think they were the key to changing my life around! For like 2 or 3 years I was going to Barnes and Nobles picking up every book I found that promised to help change my thoughts and fix my life. Lots of positive affirmations to tell yourself every day, positives quotes, authors sharing advice on how certain tried and true methods worked for them. It was definitely encouraging for sure! Motivating at best. But only for a short time..
I’d find myself sitting there reading, thinking “I’m totally going to try this out!” And then when I didn’t see much progress, I’d just go onto the next book, hoping maybe THIS one would do the trick. These positive books are great for putting you in a good mind set, but there’s so much more work that needs to be done on your part, that I started realizing…I’m wasting more time reading these than actually going out and experiencing for myself! I guess what I’m getting at here is, there’s many good tools out there to help us, but nothing will truly get done unless you get up and go figure out for yourself what works for you and what doesn’t. That brings me to the next lesson.
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Fail (Often)
When I was younger, I went through a time where I was a bit of a perfectionist. I beat myself up over any grade that was 90 or under. I’d try something and if I wasn’t that great at it, I wouldn’t do it again even if I enjoyed it! Let’s just say, I was full of pride 🙄 I wasn’t enjoying myself or the moment I was in. It was always about how I could DO BETTER.
If you saw me now, you’d have no idea that I ever dealt with perfectionism. Once I realized how it was affecting my life so negatively, I knew something needed to change. So I made the decision to embrace failure. To actually (and I know this might sound crazy but) look forward to the times when I mess up. It’s like a whole new world of opportunities opened up for me! And I promise you the same can happen for you too. Your 20s is THE best time for screwing up, lol. If you haven’t yet started a family or have any other huge responsibilities right now, you have all this time to experiment. There’s so much you might not know about yourself yet and you won’t know until you try! Even if you fail, the best lessons usually come from our failures so you’ll always get something good out of every situation in the end.
3. Go to College… Or Don’t!
Why does it seem like college is seriously pushed on us? I do get that we all want and need a steady income and times are tough right now, but there are SO many ways to make money aside from going to Uni for 4+ years. Now, don’t get me wrong I am all for getting a degree. I think it’s great if you know what you want to go for, something you’d love to do, and it’s something you’re willing to pay back the loans for. I went for about 3 years myself after high school. But chose to take some time off because honestly..I had no idea why I was truly going. There were so many options for majors, and I felt like I was just settling. I didn’t want to go through all of that schooling to get a career in something I might HATE. At that point, I knew I needed to go on a little search to really find myself more. I had to explore other options before investing so much into something I was so unsure about. Now after taking a couple years off, I’ve found more things I’m interested in and passionate about that I never would’ve known had I invested all that time and energy into school! And now I actually have a better idea of what I want to go to school for and… I’m planning to go back in the Spring! I feel a lot more confident about it now, and motivated!
So basically what I’m saying is don’t feel like you NEED to go to school RIGHT NOW just because everyone else is. Work some crappy jobs to build experience and a resume, maybe enter into management! Be creative, maybe if you’re crafty try selling your pieces online! Open up your own business! Go to a trade school and get a more hands on career. Become a professional blogger and work to get paid for that. There’s SO many options. But you’ve got to go out there and explore them for yourself. No matter what you choose, do it for you, not for anyone else.
4. Quit Comparing!
Look, I know it’s SO easy to open up to any social media site and immediately start comparing your life to everyone else’s. I still have trouble with this one myself. And it sucks because social media is a huge part of our lives right now, so it seems like we’re doing it constantly! And honestly, it’s probably why I even went to school for as long as I did in the beginning. I felt like I’d be a complete loser if I didn’t. I mean I looked at people’s posts about getting ready to graduate and I was over here… still working in fast food 🙄. I compared. I thought, where I am right now is NOTHING compared to where they are. I must be nothing 😩. And in came the negative thoughts. And when you do that, you either wallow in self pity or try to get to the point that those people are at, before you’re truly ready and without knowing if that thing is even right for you! Or maybe you compare your personality, skills, talents, appearance etc… to others. But notice what happens when you do! This negative wave comes sweeping over you every time. But you have a choice, love.
You can either continue exposing yourself to that, constantly scrolling through your feed and seeing all of that, or you can work on you. Focus on you. Focus on what matters most to your life. What makes you happy. I did a post about this called “Let’s Get Real For A Minute”, so if you want to see more of my views about comparing, go check that out! But just remember, everyone has a different timeline. Everyone hits different milestones at different times. And one thing might be better for someone than someone else. You just have to find your niche, your interests, your passions, and run with them! And don’t look back to see who’s coming along or who already crossed the finish line. One person’s success doesn’t take away from another’s. Focus on your own goals and you’ll get there in the right time for you.
5. Accept Your Weaknesses and Build on Your Strengths
We can’t be good at everything. We’re all built differently for a reason! It’s good to work on your weaknesses, but it’s a better use of time and energy to focus more on what you’re naturally awesome at! I realized over time that I’m terrible at math, and not all that great at making crafts. But I do pretty well with taking something that already exists and putting my own twist on things. Trust me, I tried to get crafty. I watched a ton of YouTube videos on DIY crafts for the house and little cute things that I desperately wanted to make. I went out to Michaels and spent like $150 on all kinds of supplies for crafts. I tried putting a couple of things together and it looked like a 3 year old was just experimenting with art for the first time. And it wasn’t fun for me. It made me more frustrated than anything. I just didn’t have the vision like some do. And seriously if you’re good at artsy stuff, I applaud you. You guys are the real MVP. If you can get a picture in your head and be able to draw/paint/sculpt it just like that? Wow! You’re amazing and I might need you to make some of those pieces for my future home 😁. And if you’re good at Math? Oh my, please help me with my finances, lol. I thought at one point maybe I could be a math person! But NOPE, I can barely add up a few prices together to figure out my total when I’m at the store 🤦🏼♀️. I just don’t have the motivation for it. Maybe it’s laziness? Lol, but it’s just not my thing.
But I feel like once you figure out what you’re NOT the best at, it makes more room for you to find what you’re great at! I’ve always loved reading and writing. I learned that I’m halfway decent with words. And so I’ve been focusing more of my time and effort on that and ya know what? It’s something that doesn’t drain me or frustrate me, instead it gives me a little spark of joy and motivation. I might not be good at math or science but I’m passionate about learning more about people’s minds and behaviors, health & wellness. I love makeup and all beauty-related things and I love being able to help people find bargains and inspire others to try new things they may not have thought to try before. It takes time and a lot of humility to be able to accept our weaknesses, but it seriously opens you up to finding the strengths and really working with them. If you haven’t found them already, I promise you will! It’s just going to take some searching and risk taking!
6. Try that Thing You’re Afraid Of or Makes You Uncomfortable
This can be even the smallest of things. For instance, I had never gone to a movie theater by myself before. I always had at least one friend or family member to go with me to places. I not only thought it would it be boring to go alone, but like what would people think! Would they think I was just some poor lonely soul with no friends to go anywhere with?? Would they look at me weird? I was just super uncomfortable with the idea, cause it’s not exactly a one-person activity. But one day I really wanted to go see this movie, totally forgot what it was now, but my friends were in school, my boyfriend was at work and my parents didn’t feel like going out. So instead of giving up my plan to go, I decided to just do it regardless of if there was anyone else with me! At first, when I went to the ticket guy, I was thinking “Oh God here we go, there’s gonna be some hardcore judging”. But once I got in the theater, I actually noticed a few other people chilling in the corner by themselves too. That was definitely a relief. And ya know what? I had a really good time. And I’m going to explain why in this next lesson!
7. Time Alone is Actually Really Good For You
All throughout high school, I didn’t really have much time alone. I was always either hanging out with friends right after school, going to after school activities or events, or watching movies with my family at home. Of course there were times when I was being an emotional teenager and shut myself in my room, not speaking to anyone, BUT this isn’t what I’m talking about here lol. I was on-the-go a lot. I didn’t truly realize how good it actually feels to purposely set aside some me-time to just relax and read a book, listen to some music, and not have to answer to anyone else. We’re so used to having to be a certain way when we’re with others. Maybe we have to change our plans to make someone else happy, put our problems aside to encourage and make someone else feel better. Whatever the case might be, we’re much more distracted from ourselves when we’re with other people. And that’s not a bad thing! Obviously we want to be there for the people we love, and sometimes we might even need a distraction from our thoughts at times. And some people need more alone time than others, that’s totally okay too! You do you! But I’m telling you, once I started to purposely spend more time alone, my life changed so much. I didn’t feel like I was just going through the motions anymore. I was actually able to hear myself think and could reflect on my life a lot more. I could do whatever I wanted without feeling bad. I was able to see things from a clearer perspective without so much noise around me. It helped me see a lot of changes I needed to make in my own life. It gave me more confidence. Honestly, I would recommend taking some time, even just a half hour a day, to do something by yourself every day. It might feel weird at first if you’re not used to it, but man is it a life changer.
(I’ll probably do another longer post on this if you guys want to see that down the road!)
8. Letting Go of Toxic People Will Change Your Life
You know those people that whenever you’re around them you just get this off feeling? And then after being with them you feel more drained than anything? Every time you talk with them, it feels like its always you giving either your time, money, a listening ear, or support but you never really get any of it in return? Maybe you’re doing great things for your life, but this person just never has anything positive to say about it? It’s like they’re trying to drag you down.
Yeah, I’ve known a lot of people like that too. And it took me a while to finally realize that it was affecting me in a really negative way. I wish it didn’t take so long because I probably could have saved myself a lot of long-lasting pain if I had cut off those friendships and relationships sooner. But that’s why I want to stress how important this lesson is! There’s toxic people all over the place. Sometimes it’s harder to point them out, but there’s definitely some red flags that become more noticeable as you get to know them more.
I think it’s easier to see as you learn to respect yourself more. I know I had a pretty low self-esteem back in the day and let people walk all over me for years. I couldn’t see their actions for what the truly were. Those people didn’t truly care about me, they only cared about what they could get from me. Once I started to really respect myself and gain more confidence, I was able to recognize manipulative behaviors from a mile away. And I was able to cut things off much more quickly because I knew I deserved to be treated better. Trust me, it can be difficult when you’ve gotten comfortable with certain people, and you might end up with barely anyone for a while. But once you get rid of the people that are wrong for your life, you make room for the right ones, and you’ll definitely start to appreciate them so much more.
9. Buy Those Things You Really Want
Growing up, my parents did everything they could to provide for me and my 3 other siblings and be able to get us things we wanted, not just necessities. But times were tough back then financially, especially with them having to take care of 4 kids! So when we were out shopping, I pretty much had to stick with things that were store brand, on clearance, or on sale. I eventually ended up training my mind to not even consider anything that was abover a certain price range. Now don’t get me wrong, this definitely helped me to appreciate all that I did have! And it taught me to spend wisely and be responsible with my finances at a young age. But, now after moving out, and being on my own for some time, I’ve learned so many valuable life skills. One of those skills that I’m sure I’ll be working on for a long time but am slowly getting better at is, finding a balance in everything. Saving and being frugal with your money is such an important thing to learn and will have a huge impact on your future, but I’ve also learned that we can’t be so worried about finances that we never treat ourselves to those
10. Search For Your Own Truth
A lot of us were raised with a certain belief system and might’ve just accepted those things as truth. I’m not even just talking about religion here. I mean even things in our history books, little myths that spread at one point that we’ve just believed because we never really looked into it, things society has told us since we were young. For instance, my mom is a bit of a hypochondriac, so one of the things I was told was that if I eat steak that’s anything more than slightly pink, I could get very sick. I lived with this belief for most of my life and just figured the people that ate their steaks medium or rare were just animals!! But once I started cooking steak for my boyfriend and myself, and saw that he’d enjoy his medium steak so much more and NOTHING HAPPENED TO HIM, I decided I’d test it out myself. Because I stepped out and questioned my belief, I ended up finding the real truth, that I have a love for medium rare steaks and I won’t die from eating! That’s just a small, random example but as a 20-something I’ve made it a point to question EVERYTHING and find answers for myself. And also be able to accept NOT knowing all the answers right now.. It’s so much more freeing!
11. Dream Big
What is it that you’ve always wanted to do? Maybe there’s multiple things! Why aren’t you working towards them right now? If you are, that’s fantastic! Keep it up! If not, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that something (finances, parents, peers, negative self-esteem, etc.) is stopping you from achieving what you want and it’s gotten you a bit unmotivated. Maybe it seems like it’ll just never work out so you’re trying to come up with a more “realistic” plan for your life. So I’m not going to knock that idea. I think it’s always wise to have a backup plan. And in order to get where you want to be, you have to be realistic and not keep your head in the clouds because nothing will truly get done. We have to take baby steps and do some dirty work to move up.
We’ve got to be willing to fail and make mistakes that we can learn from. We can’t let where we are right now discourage us from dreaming of our future destination! If you have no dream or goal in mind, you’ll be living with no direction, feeling purposeless. Trust me I’ve been there. In fact I stayed there…for years. But I realized that it’s entirely up to me to come up with a reason to get up in the morning. And I couldn’t just tell myself things I didn’t truly feel in my heart. So I looked to my greatest desires and interests, and BAM I started finding my dreams. And through that, I knew the only way to get there is to set achievable goals. And now I wake up excited, looking forward to what the day might bring! I can’t stress how important it is to continue holding onto your dreams and goals and actually doing something about them!
12. You Don’t Need to Get Married Right Now!
I’m a 23 year old female who is always on social media. I see people on Facebook getting engaged and married constantly! It seems like every week it’s someone new! so I get the feeling of wanting that special moment for yourself too. And it can be easy to want to just rush into it so you can be on the bandwagon too. But you guys, honestly I feel like a lot of us haven’t even fully gotten to know ourselves enough to take on the responsibility of fully loving another person and eventually raising a family! You might’ve just barely gotten out of Highschool or still in your little party phase or maybe you’ve always wanted to travel or take some time to work on your career. All of these things change when you decide to get married. Now you’re making decisions based on not just what you want. The person you marry is your forever partner. Are you even sure that they are going down a similar path as you? Are they someone you can truly spend forever with? Or are you just wanting to get engaged and have the mindset that “well if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just do something about it then?”
Now this is not to say that marriage isn’t important. And I’m not saying that you have to wait years and years before getting engaged. The amount of time you’re dating is up to you, when you feel you’re truly ready. All I’m saying is that if you find yourself wanting to hurry up and get married, is it because it really has been more than enough time and you want to finally take that step? Or is there another reason behind it?
14. You’re Not Going To Have It All Figured Out
Your 20s is the time you really start to find yourself. It’s quite a long and rocky journey. You might start doing well in one area of your life and then you get slammed from behind by some huge problem. It might seem impossible to just catch up and be at peace! But something Ive definitely learned over the years is that when we tell ourselves “I won’t have peace until ____ happens”, we’ll never truly find peace, because life and our situations are constantly changing. So your peace will be too. But I’ve come to find that when you’re able to tell yourself “yeah life is crazy and I’ll never be totally in control of what happens.” Then you can decide how you respond to the things happening to you.
Do you want to worry and freak out every time something doesn’t go as planned? Or do you want to look for the good in every moment and learn to accept what gets thrown your way and do something productive about it?(Because it’s getting thrown at you regardless of if you want it to or not) So yeah, you’re not going to have your 20s figured out. There’s gonna be a lot of experiencing, failures and overwhelming times but that’s what your 20s are for, learning and growing. So just take it one day at a time!
15. You Can Either Run From the Past, Or Learn From It
There’s plenty of things about my past that I’m not proud of. And some, I regretted for a long time. But I realized that I was holding onto those things for so long because each time they’d come up in my mind, I’d try to bury it, forget about my past, pretend these things never happened. But when you bury, your mind has a way of digging that stuff up again in an even more intense way! I finally had enough of these memories holding me down and decided that maybe this was happening for a reason. Maybe there was something to learn here. And jeez there definitely was.
It can be painful to sit through not-so-great memories. Especially if we were at fault in some of them. But if we don’t let them out and do something about it, we may be developing really negative patterns of behavior that we’ll take with us for the rest of our lives. Look up the term “repressed emotions” and the damage they can do to us. We’ve got to learn to forgive ourselves, forgive others and hold onto the positive memories in order to be truly free and move forward in life.
16. Move Out Of Your Parents Home
Okay I know this might not be possible for some of you right now for financial reasons or whatever else, but let me just say even being out of your parents home a year can give you some serious growth that I feel like we really need as 20- somethings. Just knowing that your parents aren’t always going to be there to pick up your mess, take care of important things like doctors appointments, getting your rent money in on time, keeping up with dishes and laundry, getting groceries and actually eating healthy ( and not just living off of Ramen), it can really teach you a great deal about responsibility, self-disciple and independence. And it teaches you to prioritize and organize which is definitely important and super helpful for if/when you decide to start your own family!
17. Take Walks In Nature
I’ve been doing this more often the last few months or so and I seriously feel it’s something everyone should do! Depending on the season at the time, you might get a different feeling during your walks. For me when I walk at the park during the spring or summer time, I get this feeling of nostalgia. I used to be outside constantly when I was little, and would be at the park every other day. Me and my siblings loved the fresh air, the smell of the grass, seeing the trees blowing in the wind while riding our bikes down a path.
These memories, scents and feelings come rushing back when I’m taking those walks. I absolutely love it. And it’s much more peaceful, there’s no where to be, not a bunch of stuff happening around you, just you (maybe a friend too) and nature. Seriously, you gotta do this!
There you have it! 17 lessons I’ve learned that can hopefully help you guys out or give some tips for your 20-something journey. What are some big lessons you’ve learned in your 20s? Did these lessons help you guys at all? Let me know in the comments!
I hope you all have an amazing day! Xoxo