Life in your 20s is all about new experiences and deciding what people and things belong and which ones don’t. Sometimes people come into your life and make it better. Other times, the people who enter make it a lot more challenging than it’s intended. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to figure out the people who are vital to your well-being and the ones who you wouldn’t mind trading away for a slice of pizza.
1. The Tough Professor.
Hopefully, you’ve been lucky enough to have (or will have) a professor who will call you out when he or she knows you are doing the absolute minimum and still getting by. For me, it was Professor Brown at Emerson College. He wrote a huge number “25” on top of my American History exam, along with: “If you think you’re going to pass this class without reading the text book, you’re wrong.” I began visiting his office weekly, eventually passed the class, and learned two valuable lessons. “Preparation is key,” Professor Brown said. “And there are lots of cute girls at the library, so you might as well spend more time there.” He was correct on both counts.
2. Your Favorite TV Show Character.
Whether it’s Jessica Day from New Girl or George Costanza from Seinfeld, this character will allow you to make it through awkward moments, tough days, and will serve as your spirit animal. “When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year,” to borrow lyrics from the Friends theme song, at least you can relate to these characters. They’ll help you clear your mind, even if it’s just for 30 minutes at a time.
3. The Cool Boss.
Work-life in your early 20s can be pretty miserable as you try to climb the ranks. Sometimes, it’s not any better in your late 20s, either. However, if you have a boss like Owen (the Sam Rockwell character) in the movie, The Way Way Back, who knows how to nurture and help you grow professionally and socially, it will not only make you a better employee or business owner one day, but a better person.
4. The Horrible Boss.
Sometimes you have to learn by watching the way a person, who you don’t want to become, acts. If you’ve worked somewhere that you have felt useless, undervalued, and undercompensated, it’s almost as valuable, even though it’s a lot less enjoyable, as a good work experience. This way you’ll learn how to act and react to situations in a different manner.
5. Your Parents.
As you go through your 20s, there will hopefully be less of an “I’m your parent and do what I say” relationship, and more of an even playing field between parent and child. Your parents will start relying on you more heavily and you’ll continue to turn to them when you need help. Or you won’t. Regardless, you’ll have a much clearer picture of the people who shaped you into the person you are, whether you want to believe it or not. It will also help put your own life into perspective.
6. Your Doctor.
Your doctor is usually a person you take for granted, except when you need immediate help. When you’re healthy, you have no reason to think about medical professionals. As soon as you’re sick or injured, it’s the only person you want to see.
7. Your Favorite Bartender.
What’s better than drinking on the weekend in your 20s? That’s right, not paying for all of your drinks on the weekend. When you start establishing your “spots” in whatever city you’re living in, you’ll begin finding drinking establishments that you really like. And if you’re tight with the bartender(s), you will always have a fun night out and may reap many benefits.
8. The Friend Who Believes In You.
There are friends who have your best interest in mind and then there are friends who have your best interest in mind in terms of how it relates to their life. The friend who supports your dreams, helps you reach your goals, and has an open channel of communication with you and expects nothing in return is a true friend. Your responsibility as a friend is to make sure you can reciprocate and do the same.
9. The Negative Friend (Who May As Well Be An Enemy).
One of the best parts about growing up is that your parents don’t make play dates for you any longer. You decide the people you want in your life and the ones you don’t. If you’re having issues with a friend who constantly insults you or makes fun of you in front of others, acts as if he/she is better than you, or who finds the worst in every situation, you don’t need to stay friends with that person. Allow yourself to let go of toxic people.
10. Your Haircutter.
Your hairstylist’s main purpose may be cutting your hair, but they’re actually doing much more than that. They’re listening to you without judgment (or at least aren’t judging you to your face). You’ll come to learn that a haircutter is basically a therapist who makes you look good at the end of your visit. And if you’re lucky, they’ll even tell you when your locks are out of style and need a change.
11. The Workers In Your Community.
These people are your lifeline, whether you realize it or not. It’s the sandwich maker at your favorite lunch spot who knows what “the usual” means and the barista who prepares your drink when you enter the coffee shop so you don’t have to wait for your necessary dose of caffeine in the morning. It’s the garbage men and women who clear your household trash and the plumber who rushes over to your home or apartment at 3 in the morning when a pipe bursts. These people have the ability to make your daily life pleasant or a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
12. Your Mechanic.
There were 211,814,830 licensed drivers in the United States as of 2012. When you put that in a global perspective, the mechanics are the ones keeping you and everyone else in the world safe on a daily basis. If you have a mechanic you trust and know will do the right thing by you with the work and pricing, don’t ruin that relationship. All you need to do is live a week without your car (especially in places without convenient public transportation) and you’ll see how dependent you are on your vehicle.
13. The Decision Maker.
Whenever you have a big decision on the horizon, you will undoubtedly see this person out of nowhere. When you have to decide: Do I keep my current job or start my own company? You’ll run into this person at the bagel store. If you’re trying to figure out: Should I settle down with my boyfriend/girlfriend? You’ll see this person waiting in line for cotton candy at a baseball game with thousands of other people in attendance. It’s as if they’re sent into your life at certain moments to make sure you don’t get in your own way. Value the randomness of this, as it truly may not be that random.
14. Your Life Partner/ (Some of) The People You Will Date.
Depending on whether you’re single, dating, engaged, married, or divorced, you’ve either found or are still searching for the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sometimes it’s the people we marry who make us better versions of ourselves. Other times, it’s the ones we leave. As you continue through your 20s, this may or not make sense, but when it does, cherish that information.
15. Your Accountant/Financial Advisor.
After reading countless stories and watching many people lose large amounts of their retirement savings when the economy tanked in 2008, the importance of protecting your finances becomes very real when you start earning money. A good accountant and financial advisor have the ability to help you prepare for your future, as well as come up with a plan for the present. It’s never too early to start saving.
16. Your Mentor.
It’s a person you feel comfortable with who has proven that he/she has your best interest in mind based on the many different trials and tribulations you’ve faced together. This person serves as a role model and also guides you with any major professional or life questions you have.
17. Your Uber, Lyft, or Taxi Driver.
If you call a cab, Uber, or Lyft instead of drinking and driving, you’re taking control of the situation and making sure that you don’t negatively impact yourself and/or others. It also allows you the opportunity to sit and talk with a person you otherwise wouldn’t have met. Anytime you meet someone working a second or third job to make ends meet, it’s a reminder for you to keep hustling.
18. Your Roommate.
Whether it’s a person off Craigslist or a friend, your roommate will see when you’re suffering or succeeding. They’ll be able to help you through dark times or make your life much harder than it should be. You and your roommate(s) will learn intimate information about each other, such as who routinely has one-night stands, who never has the rent check ready at the end of the month, who is messy, as well as who destroys the toilet when he/she wakes up in the morning. Before you sign a lease, beware of the person you’re living with.
19. The Friend Of A Friend.
Your social network will continue to grow as you age, even if you choose the people you spend time with more carefully. At birthday parties, weddings, or basically any special occasion, you’ll meet friends of your friends and most of them you’ll tolerate or possibly even like, but never see again. However, there will be at least a few friends of friends that you’ll become extremely close with and they’ll end up becoming your best friends or at least very important people in your life.
20. The Ones Who Are No Longer With Us.
There will be people (or possibly even Gods) whose time on earth is no longer, but who can still guide you. Whether it’s a dearly departed friend or family member, religious figure, or personal hero whose work you admire, just because you can’t see and/or touch something or someone, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be an internal source of power for you.
We also can’t forget about the ability that we have to change our own lives, as well as the lives of others. As Mahatma Gandhi, a man much wiser than myself, once said, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”