20 Unglamorous Truths I Wish I’d Known Heading Into My 20s

Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson

1. You’re going to let yourself down.

Not once or twice but over and over and over again. You’re going to betray your own morals and make the wrong choices and then just when you think you’re out of the woods, you’re going to let yourself down all over again.

This doesn’t mean you’re broken or damaged or all washed-up by twenty-five. It just means you’re a human, who still has endless chances to do better the next time around.

2. The shitty things that you assumed could never happen to you, might happen to you.

You’re going to grow up hearing about these scary things that happen to other people and you’ll consider those people to be members of some messed-up group that you will never be a part of. Then you will grow up and become a part of it. And chances are you’ll spend a long time flailing, trying to make sense of who you are now that you’ve had these experiences, and you might make things a lot worse for yourself for a very long time. But that’s okay.

You’ll find your way back to whatever version of yourself you want to be. There’s another side to all of this, you just can’t see it from the inside.

3. The soul-shatteringly wonderful things that you think will never happen to you will happen to you, too.

There will be times where you will feel so entranced with your own life that you genuinely will not believe you’re living it. You’ll keep waiting to wake up or snap out of it or for someone to come over and revoke the life that they accidentally handed to you instead of to this other person (you know, one of those people who good things happen to) and then they won’t revoke it and you’ll be just a little bit confused, but in a grateful way, for the rest of your life.

4. You’re going to get so obsessed with the person you want to think of yourself as that you’ll forget to be the person you are.

You’ll spend years trying to be cool and emotionless or daring and exciting or rich and successful and you’ll forget that who you are when you’re not trying to be anyone else is always the best version of you.

You’ll forget that you don’t have to dress that person up or hide them away if you want to be loved. Ironically, they’re the exact person you need to put out there if you do want to find a real connection. But you won’t be ready for a real connection for much of your twenties (because you’re too busy working twelve hours a day to forget how much you hate yourself) so chances are you’ll just be alone for a lot of them.

5. The Internet is going to feed you a lot of self-indulgent crap that will make you into a shitty person if you let it.

The Internet is going to tell you that you are perfect and flawless and that the rest of the world is cruel and out to get you and that all of your problems are someone else’s fault. Learn to tell the Internet to go fuck itself. Turn it off. Be an adult. Show up to your life and take accountability for it. Don’t let a slew of sixteen-year-olds with tumblr accounts make you feel like you aren’t responsible for trying.

6. The Internet is also going to make all your wildest dreams come true though, so use it with caution.

Don’t let the trolls and the idiots and the weirdos drive you off the Internet altogether. It’s a magical land that allows you to make a living by writing about your feelings in your track pants, so don’t knock it, just learn to use it wisely.

7. Most of the sex you have is just going to be about validation. If you find yourself having sex that isn’t about validation, have that sex as much as you possibly can, for as long as you possibly can.

You know. The kind of sex that makes you want to cuddle up next to someone and not mind if they snore all night and actually have breakfast together in the morning. Keep having that sex, if you can. It doesn’t come around all that often.

8. At some point, you’ll be a crappy, toxic person to someone else and it will probably take you a really long time to admit it to yourself.

We all like to believe that other people’s actions aren’t justified no matter their circumstances, but ours always are. Because of this belief, it can take us a long time to point the finger at ourselves when a relationship with someone is suffering.

But we, just as much as every other perfectly flawed human being, have the potential to be toxic to someone. And there’s a 99% chance that we will be, at some point in our lives. It’s important to be aware of this. It’s important to be able to change it once we recognize it happening.

9. The scary things that you think won’t happen to people you know, are going to happen to people you know.

Your parents are going to get sick. Your close friends are going to suffer. You’re going to watch the people you love fight battles that they may never win. No one is safe from the atrocities of life, including you. So you just learn to be grateful for the ways in which you haven’t been struck down and you do whatever you can to support the people who have.

10. You’re going to lose the friends you did not think you’d ever lose.

You’re going to make friends who you genuinely, on your life, believe are your soul mates and will be there forever. And then you’re going to be wrong. You’re going to lose at least one or two of those people and it’s going to make your whole life feel like a garbage pile for a while, because life is nothing without friends.

But then you’ll make new friends, ones who meet you where you’re at in life and you’ll be like, okay. And then your life won’t feel like garbage again. Or it will, but you won’t be alone in the garbage heap so it’ll be bearable and fine.

11. There will be times when you’ll be wildly successful and you’ll still feel like shit about yourself.

There will be times when you’re making lots of money (at least relative to the money you’ve made in the past) and working a job that inspires you every day and you’ll get a bunch of emails from teenagers being like “How do I become youuuu” and you won’t know how to email them back because YOU don’t even want to be you.

And it will probably be for some dumb reason like you gained six pounds or someone you love doesn’t love you back or you miss your old college friends too much. These times will not last forever. But they’ll make their appearances. And you’ll forever be confused about what it means to ‘make it’ in life.

12. There will be times when your life will be a mess and you will be perfectly happy.

There will be times where you’ll be broke and directionless and working at the mall or whatever, but you’ll be surrounded with the right people and thinking about the right things and feeling optimistic in a sort-of blind way about the future and everything will be wonderful.

You won’t appreciate those times as they’re happening to you, of course. Nobody does. The not-appreciating-it-while-it’s-happening is weirdly part of what makes it so wonderful.

13. 99% of the time, whether you feel awesome or like shit just depends on how much love you have in your life.

It’s not about where you’re working or how much money you’re making or how impressive your life seems on social media. It’s about who makes up your heart. But it’s okay if you try to deny that for, well, most of your twenties. Because you will. You most definitely will deny it.

14. Some of the things you’ve spent your whole life gunning for will feel kind of ‘meh’ when you achieve them.

You’ll achieve your ideal body or that major promotion or move to the city of your dreams and after a week or two you’ll just be like, ‘Oh,’ and find a new set of problems to obsess over. Don’t worry, you’re not broken or defective or ungrateful. You just put too much emphasis on shallow things, like everybody else in the world. Eventually you’ll learn to manage these expectations.

15. Some of the things you originally think you’re settling for will absolutely blow your mind.

You’ll move into a nowhere town or date someone who seems boring on paper or take a job because you need the money and suddenly find yourself happier than you’ve maybe ever been. This will be totally confusing and make you feel as if you’re going crazy. But you’re not (going crazy, that is). You’re just letting life catch you off guard, and that’s a good thing.

16. People are going to tell you to feel certain ways about yourself and they are going to be wrong.

They’re going to want to make you a victim of this or a survivor of that or a person who ought to be feeling X, Y and Z because A, B and C happened to you. Fuck what you’re supposed to be feeling. You’re allowed to be as strong or as weak as you need to be. You’re allowed to just feel how you feel.

17. You’re going to think you can do it all alone and you’ll be kind of right but mostly wrong.

Yes, you can do your twenties alone. You can get your own apartment and furnish it with senseless things and take acting classes and language classes and weight lifting classes and tell yourself that you are an island, but you’re not. One day you will be twenty-four and you’ll get the call that your dad had a heart attack and you will need someone who loves you to be there, but nobody will be there. And those moments will suck. Learn to surround yourself with love before you need it, because it turns out it’s the only thing that matters.

18. You’re going to spend a lot of your twenties missing some other part of your twenties.

You’ll graduate college and be so excited to start your ‘real life’ and then you’ll get out in the real world and miss college like nothing else. You’ll move to one city and miss the last one. You’ll get out of a relationship and wish you were still in it. Life will be one big, weird process of idealizing the past and the future, while largely forgetting to enjoy the present as it’s happening to you.

And you know what? That’s normal. It doesn’t make you ungrateful or stupid or whatever. It just makes you a human, so don’t beat yourself up over it too heavily. If you have a cool past to look back on, that’s a good thing.

19. For the most part, you won’t know what is going to make you happy.

You’ll strive for things that end up tearing you down. You’ll chase people who’ll end up treating you like shit. You’ll choose your vices over your virtues, time and time and time again. And the only way to beat this counter-intuitive game is to lose it enough times that you start recognizing its volatile patterns.

Your twenties aren’t (necessarily) about succeeding with flying colors. For some people they’re just about discovering what works for you and what doesn’t. And in order to figure that out, you have to get out there and try a whole lot of different things.

20. You’ll grow as much as you force yourself to.

You have a lot of options in your twenties. You can stay where you’re comfortable or you can push yourself to try new things. You can work eighty hours a week or you can work twenty. You can fall in love again and again and again or you can give up altogether and spend your twenties alone. The fact of the matter is, you’ll grow as much as you push yourself to – no more and no less.

Your twenties won’t happen by accident. They won’t fall into your lap while you’re sitting at home watching Netflix. They’re yours for the taking, or they’re not. And at the end of the day, no one can ever truly prepare you for the glorious mess that they will be.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Pre-order Heidi’s new poetry book, ‘The First New Universe,’ here.


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