I turned 29 on Christmas Eve–my last year as a 20-something. My 20s have been strange. There were huge highs and huge lows.
I graduated from college, tried out about five different career paths, moved to Mexico, learned Spanish, got my heart broken, fell in love, learned to dance, ruined a few friendships, finally understood how to pick good friends, struggled to understand how to pick good men, lost a loved one, more or less figured out what I’m good at, got depressed, got healthy, got happy.
Here are 29 ideas and lessons from the past decade that I’m taking with me as I live my last year as a 20-something.
- Failing (I mean REALLY failing) isn’t as scary as it sounds. Before last year I had never really failed at anything, at least not anything important. There were things I started and then stopped and projects I didn’t do so well, but none of it could be considered a colossal failure––the kind worthy of a nervous breakdown or a 1,100 mile hike alone. This past year I failed in a really big way for the first time in my life. I put money and a lot of time into something that didn’t pan out. And I’m still okay. So, failure doesn’t have to be devastating.
- Be a fangirl/boy, and don’t hide it. It’s important to admire other people because it motivates you to go after your dreams and make stuff happen. I fan girl over Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham, Bethany Mota and Kathleen Hannah. Plus Brooke Seward, Madelynn Hackwith Furlong and the women who started Zady.
- Learn a new language. It will allow you to understand and consume a much wider range of literature, art and cultures, and you’ll be able to connect with more people.
- Living in another country is something everyone should do. I recommend doing it in your 20s because it will give you an amazing experience to take with you for the rest of your life. But if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s or beyond and you’re dreaming of moving to another country, you can (and should) still make it happen.
- Don’t hate what’s new before you take the time to truly understand it.
- Don’t be a purist. You’ll get left behind.
- Read above your level. Even if you only understand 60% of something, it will push you to think bigger.
- Make time for movement every single day, whether it’s walking, running, dancing or spinning around in circles.
- 90% of being a good dancer is about being confident and acting like you know what you’re doing. This is probably true for a lot of other skills as well.
- Treat your friends well. True friendships take months or even years to build and only a second to knock down.
- Not all friendships are meant to last forever. In fact, most won’t. There will be people that you connect with deeply and then, at some point, you’ll drift apart, maybe because of geography, partners, kids or social politics within your group of friends. This is sad but normal.
- Don’t expect too much from other people. You will be disappointed.
- Ask lots of questions. This is a great way to make new friends, and you’ll instantly become more likeable.
- Love isn’t always enough. There are so many other factors that go into making a relationship work.
- There’s not one kind of romantic love. You can love someone in many different ways, and you have to decide which way is most important to you.
- Appreciate how you look at every age. The face you have now is the one you’ll want 10 years from now.
- Nothing is more important than your health (no deadline, boss, partner or family member). You have to be healthy to succeed at anything you want to do in life.
- If you have health problems, don’t give up hope. I know sometimes it can seem completely hopeless and like doctors have no idea what they’re doing. Just keep trying new things, educating yourself and testing out doctors. You’ll find something that works for you.
- It’s okay to be a late bloomer (intellectually/creatively/professionally). Some of the most prolific artists and writers were late bloomers.
- Paradoxes are okay––they make life more interesting. For example, you can be both creative and analytical.
- Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s pretty damn important. Live within your means, learn how to save and figure out how to make the money you need to live the kind of life you want.
- Have an emergency fund. A big one.
- You don’t always have to try to be better. It’s OK to just be.
- Life is actually pretty long. There’s a lot of time to do the things you want to do, but be deliberate about how you spend your days (including deliberately choosing to watch crappy TV or lay in bed until 1pm… we all need down time).
- Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved. Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like when someone close to you passes away.
- People can be pretentious and mean. Don’t dwell on it. Be friends with them anyways or do your own thing, but if you chose the latter don’t let them take up space in your brain.
- If you are close with your family and enjoy spending time with them, you are VERY lucky. Not everyone feels like they can go to their family for love and support, and not everyone gets along with the parents or siblings.
- Pets make life better.
- Don’t let “life” get in the way of living your dreams. There’s always a good excuse for delaying starting that project you’ve been thinking about. If you’ve had an idea rolling around in your head for a while, write down the first step required to make it happen and do it today
One more: You don’t have to have it all figured out. Few people leave their 20s knowing what they want to do with their life, but most leave feeling more comfortable with that uncertainty. And that’s a good feeling.