Let’s be real: being in your 20s is f*cking hard. It’s finally time to get a real job (oh, the pressure), you’re juggling friendships with people just as confused as you are (who might not even live in the same state anymore), and don’t even get me started on dating. On top of all of that, you’re trying to figure out who you are on your own.
I made plenty of mistakes in my 20s — it’s a tough, but insanely rewarding decade — and looking back, there are so many things I wish I had known going in. It’s amazing to think about how much life has changed from my 20s to my early 30s and now, my mid-30s. Here are a few things I wish I knew back in my 20s.
Everything is going to be ok.
I spent most of my 20s worrying about the future. Where my career would go and when I’d get married and have kids. I wish I had worried less, embraced where I was, and that I knew everything was going to be better than okay.
Timelines are stupid.
Learning to let go of timelines was a tough one. I struggled through this until my early 30s and thought I had to be married by 28 and have my first baby by 30. I got married at 35 and will be having a baby a few months before my 36th birthday. It’s crazy to think that the way my life turned out is what I was afraid of. I moved from LA to Chicago, started and grew a business, and spent years living on my own. I did not want to get married and have a baby at 35 (my self-proclaimed “scary age”), but that’s exactly what was in the cards for me, and it’s not scary at all.
Relationships shouldn’t be so difficult.
This goes for all kinds of relationships. If you have one of those really difficult friends you’re always fighting with, it’s time to reevaluate that friendship. I’ve talked about this before, but I spent most of my 20s in a rocky, up-and-down, verbally abusive relationship. We broke up and got back together too many times to count. Looking back, I can’t believe I gave that guy more than five minutes. If you have to try really hard to get along or make things work before life gets really real, it’s time to call it quits.
Trust your gut.
If you’re dating someone and don’t fully trust them or know it won’t go anywhere but just want to give the guy (or girl) a shot because they’re so “great” (except they’re not), walk away. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t deserve it.
I used to go out until 2 am and sleep in until 11. Then I entered my 30s and sleeping until 9 became really, really late. Enjoy sleeping in while you can.
Stick to a budget.
At 28, my rent was about $300 more than it should have been. My graphic design business made enough to pay for the essentials, but I bought stupid outfits (there was a pink striped sequin shirt) and went out with friends. I never bought anything I couldn’t pay off at the end of the month, but could have done a much better job at budgeting and putting even a little money away. Work toward your goals, but don’t freak out if you’re not making as much as others around you.
Learn to spend time with yourself.
Before moving to Chicago, I was always really bad at doing things on my own. I was never really the go-out-to-lunch-alone type simply because I’d rather share that experience with someone. Tried it, and it wasn’t for me. But spending 4-5 years living on my own taught me to learn to love days and nights to myself. Morning walks by the lake, cooking, hanging with Buddy, and sole possession of the remote control.
Take care of yourself.
Okay, so I did most of this but it’s such an important reminder that I’m going to say it anyway. You’re young and healthy, right? Great. Don’t skip your annual skin check with the dermatologist (I had a pre-cancerous mole removed in my 20s!), see your dentist twice a year, and don’t forget your annual physical. Splurging on your favorite treat is fine, but follow a mostly healthy diet and don’t skip meals — but do skip all those soft drinks.
It’s so easy to keep going out when you don’t feel up for it, to say yes to that extra project, and to keep pushing until you get shingles (those are still a thing, trust me). I wish I had been a regular CrossFitter and not an overzealous one who tracked every score and had to work out five times a week.
Know that it’s never going to be perfect.
I spent so much time wishing I had something that I thought was missing, but life is never perfect. Everyone’s lives look so ideal on Instagram, but trust me when I tell you that we all have our sh*t. Learn to be happy with what you have and with where you are. And remember that all the things you want might bring lots of happiness, but they will not complete you.