1. Have an idea of what you want to pursue in college before paying to go for the thrills. There was a lot of pressure to get a four year degree, no matter what. Don’t spend your first couple of years taking classes that make you miserable for a degree you don’t want.
2. Change your major if you hate it. If you do choose to go to college, pick a major that actually makes sense based on your strengths. I chose my major based on what my parents told me to do. It never occurred to me to think about what I wanted, so instead I blindly followed their wishes. I am a visual, creative thinker. My classes were in mathematics and chemistry. You do the math on how that turned out.
3. Spend time with people who actually contribute to your life. Some of my best friends today were made in my very early adult years. We somehow weathered the storms of our 20s together and came out stronger because of it. These people are now considered lifelong friends. If you can stick together through the changes of this decade, I’m convinced you can get through almost anything.
4. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with people who aren’t good for you. This includes frenemies, one-uppers, criticizers, judgers, etc. Everyone has bad days, but if these people are constantly making you feel uncomfortable, free yourself.
5. Try not to burn bridges. If it can be done, try to end your relationships with people gracefully. I moved to a different city after college and you would not believe the people I ended up meeting who were connected to my early 20s. I was very thankful on many occasions that differences in opinion didn’t result in severed ties for future opportunities.
6. You will make really poor decisions. This is inevitable. You are going to make poor decisions that are not well thought out. I personally blame my lack of full brain development, which I’ve heard happens at age 25. Some people blame alcohol, their childhood, etc. Just accept that sometimes you’re going to mess up and own it.
7. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. Yes, you will make poor decisions that will lead to mistakes. Depending on the severity of your mistakes, you may beat yourself up temporarily or for years to come. I was a perfectionist who had lived a mostly mistake free life up until the college years. When I made simple mistakes, I would punish myself incessantly with guilt. You have to move on when you mess up. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t.
8. Your first job is not going to define your entire career. Don’t waste too much time stressing over your first “real” job. Most of the time, it takes years of practice to find your niche in the workforce and to land a position that you truly enjoy. Your resume is not set in stone. It’s not going to define what you do for the rest of your career.
9. Make time to do what you love. For me it was traveling. I’m so happy I didn’t turn down those opportunities back when I was responsibility free and had nothing pulling me back home. There were times I felt I didn’t have the money to travel, but I somehow made it work. One day you will have a job and family which you can’t walk away from for weeks at a time. You’ll be happy you made it happen.
10. Enjoy those brief years. You will not even realize how much of your life you’re taking for granted during those years until they are over. It won’t be until years later when you look back and realize how those years were filled with magic. I’m not saying life ends when you turn 30, but rather to appreciate your 20s while you are still busy living them.