29 Harsh But True Life Lessons That Every 20 Something Will Eventually Learn

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yenformore / www.twenty20.com/photos/45947472-cb55-4cf9-b002-eaea9c54607f

1. You Will Start Losing People

About two years ago I was stricken with loss when my dad died while I was overseas. Didn’t know what to do and I drove myself nuts. As humans we have constant ongoing goals no matter how big or small, important or miniscule, and it leaves us to think tomorrow will always be there. It won’t. Eventually, there is no tomorrow for you, and your family is left to stand above your bones.

Coping with loss is an extremely difficult thing to do, and for some, it’s impossible. To confront a loss…I dunno if there’s a correct way. There’s a certain solace in it though. I’ve finally become content with it, and I hope when the next loss comes, I can grieve normally, then breathe easy knowing I did my part instead of exuding guilt, regret, rage.

Loss sucks man.

2. Things Are More Precious Than You Thought

I think it’s in your twenties when you finally realize that life is finite. As a kid life is just this thing that goes on forever. Consequences don’t matter as much because the future in unfathomably far away. It’s a good time for making bad decisions but as you progress through your twenties you start realizing that the future is coming up fast and how it looks actually does depend on what you do now.

You learn that relationships aren’t like in the movies, that they take work and thought and that everyone is flawed and damaged and that they’ll probably kick you in the gut at least a dozen or so times.

You learn that the friendships you took for granted as a kid actually fall away pretty quickly if you neglect them and that even if you don’t, time has a habit of changing people and your best friend from school is different since he got married or that guy you did a bunch of blow with at university never really got the hang of stopping that and isn’t as much fun anymore.

You learn that being healthy isn’t an autopilot thing anymore. That if you eat shitty food and sit on your couch too much, shit will start to hurt and you’ll feel more tired and grouchy. There’s a similar lesson with booze and drugs.

You’ll have known more people who are now dead, or hear of more deaths than you used to, even if they’re not someone you knew particularly well and, as you get to the end of your twenties you’ll realize that there’s a good possibility you’re a third of the way in and that’ll freak you out a bit but it’s a good thing.

3. The Stakes Go Up, Not Down

Don’t spend more money just because you are starting to earn more. Lifestyle inflation creeping in is a bitch.

If you don’t keep working out and start eating well, you’re going to feel like 45 once you hit 30.

Drink less alcohol. Hangovers will get exponentially worse every single year.
You are not invincible. Stop driving like an idiot and stay out of unnecessary physical altercations.

Do stuff that makes you happy instead of doing stuff that makes you look cool.

4. Prepare For Struggles You Haven’t Even Considered

First thing my partner and I did when we moved out was start an emergency fund. Our cars have had multiple break downs, we’ve needed sudden trips to the doctor, we had to recover from a break-in… each of those incidences just took a couple weeks to recover from because of our emergency fund. It is so, SO helpful. I was lucky because I had stipend money I could shove away immediately, so I won’t act like we’re amazing budgeters or anything. But if you can (and many people really can’t)…. it’s so worth that peace of mind.

5. Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It

30 comes fast so that “one day I’ll do such and such” or “one day I’ll start such and such” mentality turns into 10 years ago already.

6. Decisions Get Made With Or Without You

You will have to make very practical (sometimes very cold) decisions about what you want from life and what you’re willing to give up. And if you don’t make them then life will make them for you.

7. So Many Lessons!

The Now I know why unprotected sex is risky lesson.

The Work your ass off for that advanced qualification then start at the bottom of the career ladder and be grateful lesson.

The I shouldn’t have got a loan for something I couldn’t afford lesson.

The I misplaced my trust in someone and got fucked over lesson.

The Always have a plan to get home lesson.

The Drunk tattoos aren’t ideal lesson.

The Boss will steal your ideas, take credit for your hard work and you’ll suck it up lesson.

The You can eat whatever shit you want and remain slim til you’re 20 and never again thereafter lesson.

… And I think I’m done.

8. Don’t Forget Your Teeth, Seriously

Go to the fucking dentist. You can’t wait for mommy to make an appointment for you and hold your hand the whole way… get your ass in there before it’s too late. Teeth don’t heal and once you’ve fucked them up, you’ve fucked them up.

Oh and it doesn’t take much at all to screw them up. I wish my 20 year old self realized that.

9. You Will Get Fat

You will become fat, unless you try not to.

10. Spotting Someone Some Cash Becomes A Bigger Deal

Only lend money that you’re prepared to lose. If it’s returned, then that person has earned your financial trust. If it’s not, don’t hassle them about it, but don’t ever lend them any more. And don’t end friendships over it.

11. How To Stand Up For Yourself

How to stand up for yourself, particularly against authority figures, in a way that gets your point across but is still respectful.

Sometimes your boss will be an utter ass and make your work place hell, so you need to tell them to back off or they’ll keep doing it.

12. Afternoon “Mornings” Are Over

Get used to waking up early. Seriously. Crucify any love of sleeping in you have now.

13. It’s Not Going To Be Easy

You aren’t special and you won’t always get your way. The real world is not fair and it does not care about you. You are in fact capable of accomplishing anything, but it’s not going to be easy.

14. Banish Pride

Pride does absolutely nothing. If you don’t say good morning to your boss in the morning because you think your boss is a dick, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

15. Learn To Ask For Help

Here is one thing that I should have learned in my 20s and it took me till my 30s to do: It’s ok to ask for help. I’ve had on and off crippling anxiety and only recently have I been able to reflect on my past and realize how much it’s held me back. How all encompassing it has been. I’m getting some professional help now, hoping I can turn things around and have a much different 30s than my 20s.

16. Friends Aren’t Forever

Friends come and go.

17. You Will Be Disappointed In People

Most people are basically decent, but don’t rely on it. Really try to see people for the individuals that they are and not who you would want them to be or fear them to be. If your significant other says they love you while treating you as worthless, they are lying. Would you accept such behavior from a stranger? Would they? Honesty is not as valued, particularly in the workplace, as you may be led to believe. Don’t give up on it. The people who value your integrity are priceless and you won’t know who they are without it. The others are less important than they think they are. Most people don’t give you any thought and neither care who you are nor what you can do. Providing the world with a million selfies will rarely change that and, if it does, you will most likely learn the difference between famous and infamous in the most unfortunate way.

18. Getting Ahead Is Not About Ability

Getting ahead at work really has no relationship to how smart you are or how well you do your job. Relationships (which often means sucking up) are the path to success.

19. There Is No Right Way Every Time

Even your dream job sucks sometimes.

Even the love of your life gets on your nerves sometimes.

There is nowhere you “should be by now.” All life paths are different and equally valid.

Happiness is a practice. It isn’t something you achieve and then you’re good.

20. Gallows Humor Quits Being Ironic

Sometimes people are serious.

I used to think husbands who complained about their wives were indulging in some Henny Youngman shtick. Nope, ends up the ol’ ball and chain is exactly that. Gallows humor hides uncomfortable truths.

21. Sometimes…

Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. Sometimes you put everything you’ve got into something and still don’t get what you wanted.

22. It’s Not Even Halfway Over

Life doesn’t end at 30.

23. Put In The Work And Think Ahead

You will get fucked over, get over it.

You will fuck people over, get over that as well.

Don’t break down over stupid decisions, learn from them and get back on that fucking horse.

There’s no free lunch, everything has a price, one way or the other.

Don’t think that you can take your college diploma and expect to be CEO instantly…you NEED the lessons of less qualified jobs in order to be anything remotely close to qualified later on in life..cause those below you, is what you once were.

Be extremely restrictive about your online life..what seems like “just fun” today, WILL haunt you later when you least expect it.

24. The Other 30% Is Up To You

Life is a boring, pointless grind about 70% of the time.

25. It Will Only Hurt At First

You will come to the crushing realization that this, is it.

26. People Will Stop Making Excuses For You

You don’t get that “benefit” of being young and “allowed” to fuck up. People stop “understanding” when you do like in your teen years and early 20’s.

Also, remember not too long ago when 30 seemed SO OLD? Yah well if you are in your 20s now you will be 30 tomorrow, trust me.

27. A 26-Year-Old’s Perspective

Well I’ve been 26 for a couple of months now so I’ll share what I’ve found is important:

  • Like everyone else says, saving money is very important. I had to quit my job because I hated it and go back to school for a bit. I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t putting away half my paycheck.
  • Don’t coast through college. You NEED to get involved in clubs, activities, and the like to set yourself apart when you graduate. FOR GOD’S SAKE, TAKE THAT INTERNSHIP OVER THE SUMMER!
  • Your mid 20s are just middle school all over again. Everyone’s bodies are changing; girls are getting preggers, guys are losing their hair, and everyone is getting fat. No one knows what they’re doing and everyone is stacking themselves up to one another.
  • Be mindful of what I call “Complacency creep”. I became deeply depressed at the end of 24 because I HATED my job. Unfortunately for me, it was just comfortable enough and paid just well enough to stick around. Once I quit however, I realized how soul-sucking it was and how unhappy I had become.
  • Mortality has really kicked in. I realize I can’t just live wherever I want and see the entire world at some point in my life. The scope of what I’m doing has become more narrow and I can now fully accept that I am mortal. I’ll be 40 in 14 years? WTF?????
  • I’ve noticed that people will stick around in god-awful relationships that should have ended months or years ago but they’re are just too afraid to end them. If you’re in this situation, end it before things get too serious (I.E. having kids).
  • Live frugally. Your luxury apartment stops being fun after the first month of living in it.
  • Life is too fucking short to stay in and watch Netflix on Friday nights. Go out and have adventures! I define an adventure as getting an experience you weren’t expecting. They can be big or small.
  • I’ve learned to be honest with myself, which is a lot easier said than done. I didn’t reach that point until I realized that I have a drinking problem and have completely cut booze out of my lifestyle. But fortunately it works in other areas of my life as well. “Is this person really my friend?” “Will I really be that much happier with my life if I buy this expensive item?” “God damnit I wish she saw me as more than just a friend but I know she doesn’t and I’m not going to lie to myself about it.” Being honest with yourself is a skill and it takes practice.
  • The whole dynamic of friendship and making new friends really does change drastically after college.

28. This Is True. Literally No One.

No one cares. so quit complaining and help yourself.

29. Streamline Your Circle

You almost certainly have friends without whom you’d be better off – maybe even close friends. Ditch them.

Totally unrelated; it’s now much harder to make new (close) friends than it used to be. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Eric Redding

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