1. Keep searching. At one point it will become evident that you will never have everything figured out. A key to strength, positivity, and staying interested in your life and others around you is a premise-level approach that you still have things to learn and that it’s worth your time to learn them. Keep placing value in discovery and curiosity. Keep taking opportunities to extend your intellect to places you hadn’t expected.
2. Keep changing your mind. There is something almost taboo about belief inconsistency. Politicians who flop on their beliefs are considered poor candidates for re-election. One feels like something of a failure when s/he’s forced to admit that they were wrong. But I think it’s better to continually refine your worldview rather than force your way through reality by ignoring everything that runs counter to how you view the world. Malleable beliefs keep you humble, open to learning, more compassionate, and more relatable.
3. Keep trying to get what you want. It isn’t over until it’s over. There are realities that may stop you from pursuing your ideals, forcing you to compromise. Compromise is OK. But keep reminding yourself of what you truly want. Don’t let yourself forget what you want and what you think is good.
4. Stay productive. Life is long. If you believe in something, you have the time to commit to it and put your head down for six months or so to try and make it happen. You will not regret this later. When you’re too old to be a workhorse, you will not look back on your younger years and think “Damn, my only wish was that I spent more time mindlessly surfing the internet.” That’s not something that will happen.
5. Keep compromising. Your life post-graduation can often be the first time your ideals are really up against reality. Here you learn that compromise is a completely rational response. You won’t get through life a happy person if you’re unwilling to give and take a little.
6. Keep taking risks. Your 20s are not by default the only time in your life that you can pick up and go, or that you can try out different careers. The space where comfort and risk come together is a space where learning and growing are most likely to happen. If you get set in your ways and become unsatisfied but comfortable, you’ll never learn anything different unless you’re willing to put yourself in a scary position.
7. Keep going out. 20-somethings have the tendency to imagine that their 20s are the last chance they’re going to have to experiment, explore, and party. This is a false premise. Restaurants and cafes continue to let people over 29 through their doors. They even serve them alcohol. The point is that this is not your last hurrah.
8. Keep reading. After four to six years in school, it’s easy to take for granted the textbook-full environment that’s part of your daily life. But post grad, your textbooks get shelved — your new text books are balanced news websites and long-form journalism. Keep up with the intellectual climate — you won’t have the pressure of good grades to keep you in it.
9. Keep paying attention to your appearnace. The end of your 20s is not the end of being attractive. Maintaining a healthy level of self awareness about your appearance keeps you engaged with your body and helps you to have realistic expectations about your position as an adult. Obviously, don’t become a fanatic about it — but keep your level of self-respect high enough that you can still be proud of how you look — or proud of what you’re doing to get to a better place with your body — most days.
10. Keep freaking out. Maturity and adulthood do not equal an emotional flatline. Keep allowing yourself the occasional crisis, the occasional emotional breakdown, the occasional cry in public.
11. Keep meeting people. There is an idea that some people have that they are still ‘looking for’ their group of friends. Whether or not that’s you, don’t let a comfortable group of friends keep you from meeting new people. New people are entirely new sources of information and each new person you bring into your life represents greater opportunity for growth and personal change.
12. Keep taking advantage of your family. Don’t expect them to pay your way through the decade, but do realize that what family you have left won’t be around forever. You only get so much time to learn from their stories and experiences. If you have questions about your family’s history, now’s the time to ask them.
13. Keep surviving. One of the best ways to get through a hard time is to remember that it’s probably not your first or last time surviving something that was trying or difficult. We have a tendency to feel every heartbreak like it’s new, but the reality is that we’re seasoned pros at not getting our way. Getting our way wouldn’t feel so good if we weren’t experienced in disappointment.
14. Keep things in perspective. One of the most difficult things to do is to be patient before deciding that a setback means the end of your life as you know it. Break ups, layoffs, and drastic changes. Losing your shit over them never helps, though.
15. Keep failing. The path to whatever your notion of success is will likely not be linear. Don’t take continuous personal growth for granted. Just because you’re older doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wiser. Your 20s will be full of failures — let them happen and learn as you go.