1. The importance of taking advantage of your childhood and teenage years. Too many of us grow up quickly – either by choice or circumstance. But what we often forget is when adulthood hits, there’s no going back.
2. Make peace with your past quickly and often. Adulthood growing pains are hard enough without holding onto hurtful past ideas we have about ourselves. If you can learn to let go of things intentionally, your twenties will be a little lighter.
3. Cherish when many of your friends are together in the same place. Some will move, you will move (or stay), and many others will come and go. The changes of twenty-something life are not just emotional and mental, they are geographical. And you usually don’t realize until it’s too late, what a blessing it was to have many friends in one place.
4. See people as they really are, while also looking for the best in everyone. Most of the time in our youth, we’re not mature enough to see people as they are. We far too often see people how we want to see them. But learning to believe people when they show you who they are, while also trying to look for the good in everyone, is a valuable virtue.
5. How awesome parents really are. Even if you were well aware of having wonderful parents, it doesn’t quite register until you’re no longer in their care. And apart from realizing how awesome they are in your twenties, you realize too that you should have heeded their advice more than you did.
6. You’re not as alone as you think you are in your pain. If someone had told us before we became twenty-somethings that the pain each one of us experiences is not unique, maybe we would have felt less alone in times when we were most lonely. Maybe the pain could have been something that brought us together, instead of something we wanted to distance each other from.
7. Your heart will get broken over and over and over again. Not just by romantic love, but by friends too. And indeed by dreams with expiry dates, and missed opportunities. You’re going to be a heartbreaker too even if you don’t know it. Nobody also tells you that the heartbreak goes away with a little time and a lot of love.
8. It’s okay to want things you can’t have. And it’s okay to be disappointed that you can’t have them. And it’s okay to wonder what life would be like if you did have them. But it’s not okay to dwell for too long on them.
9. You’re going to lose some sure bets. People who you depended on, things that you counted on, and opportunities that you thought had your name written all over them – are going to elude you. And you’re going to wonder how and why, and you won’t always get any answers. You’ll have to learn to be okay with the unexpected and inexplicable losses.
10. You’re still going to be insecure about some things. As a child and perhaps even as a teenager, I thought adulthood would mean the end of all my insecurities. Not only is this not true, you take on new ones and some change, rather than go away. But you’re also going to learn that you can overcome your insecurities day by day – if you’re honest with yourself and are willing to be brave.
11. Do not worry about the practicalities of your life – prepare for them. Have plans, have lots of plans. When people offer you help, even if you don’t think you need it at the time – take them up on it. Be unapologetic in striving for a better financial, health-conscious, socially aware, educated, etc. life.
12. People are going to judge you no matter what you do. But people are also not going to be thinking of you at all. The latter shouldn’t be a bruise to your ego – it should feel like freedom. And the former is why you should always strive to do things that align with your views, that reflect your character, and that are ultimately what you think is best.
13. You’re going to have to learn some things the hard way. No matter how much advice you’re given, no matter how much you wrestle with some things, you’re probably going to make some bad decisions. And you’ll beat yourself up about it because experience will teach you a bitter lesson or two (or several). There’s no sugar-coating here: deal with it.
14. Not any one thing or experience is going to define you. Maybe you went to grad school, maybe you traveled the world, make you bought a house, maybe you got married, maybe you started a family, maybe you wrote a book – maybe you did all of these things. Still, not one single thing will ever encompass your complicated life. And that’s a good thing.
15. Gratitude has a lot to do with happiness. You’re probably going to wonder whether you’re happy, why you’re not, and if you could be happier. If you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude, you’re going to realize that you always have a reason to be thankful. You’ll need those reasons many times in your twenties.
16. Comparing your life to others’ is a waste of time. I’m not sure even knowing this before your twenties could have prevented it, especially when we’re coming of age in a time of social media. But if you can constantly remember that everyone is on their own path, you can rest easier.
17. Your beauty is imperfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Beauty – both the kind that is skin deep and the kind that is beyond the surface, is never going to achieve perfection. But it is important to honor the things that make you uniquely you. And maybe even realize that those imperfections that terrify you, will be the things that some will love most about you.
18. If you can substitute work for worry, do it. The twenty-something life is marketed as some sort of carefree stage in your life until you actually get into the heart of it. You’re going to have to fight tooth and nail sometimes just to be okay – and that’s okay. But worrying will age you faster than anything else; do almost anything else instead of worry.
19. You’re seldom going to feel like you’re doing your best. But a lot of the time you are doing better than you think. Even if you find yourself crying in the middle of the day eating half a box of doughnuts because everything just feels wrong (I have been there by the way), that might have been all the strength you had that day. Life is not without bad days and bad times. “Your best” isn’t a permanent state. Be kind to yourself especially when you need it the most.
20. Always, always, always trust your gut. Learning to trust yourself and your decisions is a lifetime lesson. But in the end, there are few things that will feel more empowering. And this is true in your twenties, and beyond.