6 Things I Wish I Knew When When I Was 20

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Cecilia Medina / Unsplash

1. You won’t care about most of what you care about now in a couple years.

This was a big one for me. I cared about so much when I was 20, and looking back I’m not sure anyone could have told me differently. I cared about everyone else’s opinion way too much. From what I wore, to how I acted – I always cared about being perceived a certain way. Now that I’m 24, I care a lot less what people think of me (within normal societal bounds, of course), and a lot more about bills, my job, and saving for a trip to Europe. I just wish I could have had the capacity to step back and say, “will this matter in a couple years?”

2. Your finances matter.

I wish I had learned this lesson earlier. Everything from your savings to your credit score matters. Rather than taking Algebra, Statistics, and Economics, I wish I was required to take a personal finance class. Instead of learning the quadratic formula, I wish I had learned about 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and credit scores. Upon graduating college, I was thrust into the world of adulthood and had to figure this all out on my own – because as it turns out, most adults also don’t know too much about these topics either. Most millennial college students graduate with an average loan debt of $437,172, with average monthly payments being around $351. I just wish there was a class that taught me how to manage debt and save money rather than how to calculate ROI.

3. You have anxiety, and it will become manageable.

At 20, I knew I was an over-thinker and generally nervous, but I didn’t realize I may have an issue with anxiety. I also was not aware that I was about to fight a battle with anxiety that would become one of the toughest challenges of my adult life. I wish I knew anxiety (and depression) was okay to have, and okay to talk about. In four years, there has been so much done to end the stigma around mental health issues, although we still have a long way to go. If you have anxiety, or think you might, just know it does get better and can be managed, all you have to do is reach out for help.

4. The people you surround yourself with matter.

My dad used to say, “show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” I always thought of that phrase as half joke, half warning to stay away from “the bad kids”. But, as I’ve gotten older, I understand this phrase to mean so much more than that. Who you surround yourself with truly matters, and truly affects who you are as a person. You’d be surprised what surround yourself positive and encouraging people can do for you.

5. You can say no.

I firmly believe “no” is the most powerful word in my vocabulary – now that I know how to use it. I used to say yes to everything (not in a weird way), just in an obligatory way. I was too nice, and as a result have gotten walked all over and taken advantage of. I realized that even though Shonda Rhimes says yes to everything, that strategy is not for me. Don’t be afraid to say no, you have a right to.

6. You can’t please everyone.

I don’t know exactly when I realized this, but I think it is so important for everyone (especially women) to learn. The goal of your life is not to please other people and make them feel comfortable. Of course, I never sat around thinking, “my goal is to please everyone at all times,” but I absolutely fell into a habit of doing what was easier for others, rather than helping myself. At 24, I’ve realized I can’t please everyone, and if someone doesn’t like me, then they don’t like me. I like to use the mantra, “someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.” TC mark

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