18 Ways You Know Your Early 20s Are Over

We drink fancy booze now, if we drink at all. Maybe we'll just go to bed. / Jessica Blankenship
We drink fancy booze now, if we drink at all. Maybe we’ll just go to bed. / Jessica Blankenship
  1. You’ve started making promises to yourself to actually leave your house and do something social occasionally, whereas you used to promise yourself to stay home more and party less.
  2. The bars that you used to go to all the time are now “full of little kids” and it’s too sloppy, loud, and crowded to be fun. You still go occasionally and get rowdy because, I mean, you’re not elderly. But for the most part, these days you opt to grab drinks with friends in slightly more low-key bars where your conversations can go beyond screaming and making up sign language for “HAVE YOU SEEN CARRIE? I CAN’T FIND HER ANYWHERE!”
  3. You use night cream now. Furthermore, you have real opinions about which night creams are the best based on your extensive experience, and you enthusiastically share that information with your other late-20s friends.
  4. Hangovers are a completely different beast than they used to be. When you were 21, you would boast about being able to drink the whole bar and barely feel it the next day, and you were mostly telling the truth. But now, if you have more than 3 or 4 drinks, you will have a hangover that ruins literally your entire next day. Hangovers no longer go away with a hearty breakfast and a nap – you don’t fully get past them until you wake up on day 2.
  5. You not only stop dating people who are obviously bad for you, but you stop wanting to. That moth-to-a-flame thing gets just a tiny bit less strong. There’s definitely still room for a slightly ill-advised hook-up with messed-up-but-ugh-so-hot people, but largely, you’ve figured out what traits you want in a partner, what kind of relationships work well for you, and you are comfortable and confident about discerning which people actually stand a chance at making you happy and who is going to be more trouble than they’re worth.
  6. You schedule time with friends, like on an actual calendar. It used to be that you just saw each other, you know…around. You either went to school together, and were constantly at each other’s apartments, and went out nearly every night. But now you have different jobs, and schedules, and have finally figured out that calendars are really helpful tools.
  7. You occasionally have minor panic attacks upon realizing that you’re getting dangerously close to that age where it’s no longer reasonable to talk about “what you’re going to be when you grow up” because you’ll be grown up by most people’s standards. This can vary depending on how much you love the job you have, or whether you’re solidly on track in a direction you want to go.
  8. You start needing to budget for gifts to celebrate your friends’ big milestones; Weddings and babies are popping up everywhere these days like social herpes, and those gifts are not cheap. This is just one of many ways how your late 20s is a weird gap where the cost of your life suddenly shoots way ahead of your actual ability to afford it.
  9. Your lease is ending and…well, first of all, you actually finish leases. Whoa. Unprecedented. Between changing schools, and jobs, and last-minute decisions that you needed to immediately move in with your new boyfriend, and studying abroad, it seemed like you would never be a consistent enough human to stay in one place for a whole year. This alone is a noteworthy development.
  10. Your lease is ending and someone tells you about a room opening up in a house with 4 other people and 2 bathrooms where they sometimes host touring bands. A few years ago, that would’ve sounded perfect. Now it sounds like a difficult place to get a good night’s sleep. Not to mention it seems unacceptably unlikely that the bathtub will ever being clean enough for an actual bath.
  11. You’re starting to get more comfortable with the idea of getting older. This is mostly because you are in no way “old”, or even really close to “old”, but your this is the first time you are aware of not being “as young as you once were”, which is the gateway to oldness, but is a much less bitter pill to swallow. Thank god that movies and TV in recent years have done so much to glorify being in your 30s. You genuinely can’t wait to be in your 30s, and that’s not even just some bullshit you say to hide your anxiety about getting older.
  12. You still have nights where you stay up late, or don’t make it to bed at all, but it doesn’t just “happen to you” – you choose it because you know that this night is worth being exhausted the next day, and you’re still young enough that it won’t hurt too bad.
  13. Nights don’t just “happen to you” at all anymore. You’re way less passive and go-with-the-group than you used to be. If your friends have all decided to go to a third location at 2am, and you just want to go to bed, you have absolutely no qualms about calling yourself a cab, saying goodnight, and taking your happy ass home. And your friends don’t even give you shit about it.
  14. The idea of having kids is…present. I’m not saying this is the time to actually have kids (although it is for some people, and yay for you!) but you start thinking about it – whether you want to have them at all, and if so, when is your ideal window of time in which to do so. But it still seems completely illogical and terrifying that anyone would even let you have a child.
  15. You start looking forward to phone calls from your parents. Younger you was worried they would disapprove and misunderstand everything about your existence and each conversation was stressful. But now, they’ve more or less accepted who you are, who you are is a little less messy and erratic, and regardless, you’ve come to realize that they are biologically programmed to love you and will always listen to you self-obsess for an hour and this is immeasurably valuable.
  16. You always have condoms. Male, female, single, in a relationship – you just have them, whether for your own use or just in case a friend needs one. Safe sex is everyone’s responsibility, and you get that having relatively easy access to protection against disease and babies is a privilege and you take all the advantage you can.
  17. You have habits that taken root amid all the experimentation, trial, and error of your early-20s. You’ve gone from drinking different things every time to you go out to having “your drink” and rarely deviating. You went from trying to be vegan to being a non-dairy-chicken-and-fish eater because you learned that’s just how your body is happiest. Your shower and beauty routine could largely be performed in your sleep.
  18. You’ve stopped saying how “omg so old” you are at every birthday. By your late 20s, you’ve realized just how young you still are, and are equal parts forgiving of yourself for the things you haven’t gotten right yet, and thankful for all the time you have left in which to figure them out. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Jessica Blankenship

Producer at Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter.

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