1. They spend it thinking they’re a failure.
No one is a failure in their 20’s because no one’s done trying in their 20’s. So what if you didn’t get the job you wanted — or even one in your field right after graduation? It doesn’t matter if you’re “behind” other people your age, you’re living your life, not theirs. Your 20’s are supposed to be full of mistakes, learning from them is how you grow up.
2. They spend it fearful and anxious about the future.
The funny part about growing up is that you’re so afraid of something, but as soon as it happens it’s no longer scary. Ask someone who’s been through whatever you are so scared about — getting fired, not having enough money, turning 30 and being still single — it’s never the life-ender you think it will be. People always talk about how invincible you’re supposed to feel in your 20’s but I think you feel more invincible afterwards, after you’ve lived long enough that the worst has happened and you’ve come out the other side.
3. They spend it heartbroken over the wrong person.
When you’ve only had one or two major relationships, it’s easy to become very myopic about them. If this one relationship doesn’t work it must mean no relationship will ever work for you. Nope. No such thing. Get up and try again, you’ll have chance after chance to start over and get it right.
4. They spend it comparing themselves to everyone else.
It starts with the engagement announcements on Facebook, and then the actual wedding photos, and then the babies and the vacations… it’s very difficult not to spend a lot of time and energy wondering if everyone else is winning at life except for you. But social media is designed so that we can make ourselves look awesome, we share the fun brunch photos — not our bank balance or the fact that we’re taking anxiety medication. From the outside, anyone can make their lives look great.
5. They hold on to the belief that it’s okay to be a mess.
As a very wise woman taught us, “It’s one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it’s quite another to be fried all day.” Just because it’s okay not to get everything you want in your 20’s doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
6. On the flip side, they become addicted to being perfect.
When you do finally score a job people are impressed by or go on a fancy vacation or something, the impulse emerges to flaunt our fancy new digs — and that can morph into something that consumes all our waking time. We may not feel like Real Adults ourselves, but we want anyone who views our Insta to think we are. In the end this is self-sabotage because you’re moving away from being vulnerable and honest with others (and usually, yourself), which is how you become a better person.
7. They think every failure is The End Of The World.
Your 20’s are the decade of being too hard on yourself — but it’s only because we’re inexperienced with real failure up until this point. The big lesson is not to sulk. Brush it off, do better next time.
8. They become too committed to one particular path.
Just because you’ve gone to school and paid money to work in a particular field doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it if it makes you unhappy. Sure, it’d be easiest if the first thing we tried always worked out but probability says that’s not going to happen. Don’t get suckered by the sunk cost fallacy, if something isn’t working out be honest with yourself, and try something that will.
9. They live like they’ll never turn 30.
Smoking, drinking, drugs, tanning, tattoos, junk food — have I named your vice yet? These are all fine in moderation but living like there’s absolutely no consequences to your actions will just leave you 30, unhealthy, unemployable, and broke.
10. They pick the wrong partner.
The worst thing you can do to sabotage your future is partner yourself up with the wrong person. He or she may be hot now but if they’re completely unreasonable when it comes to solving arguments or can’t manage their finances no matter how much you try to help them or if they’re just an otherwise shitty person, they’re going to drag you down. Ask yourself what your partner is going to be like in their middle age and old years, if you can’t picture it, they’re probably guilty of #9 — and not good for your future.