Thought Catalog

20 Essential Things I Learned in My 20s About Love, Family, Friendships, and Life

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istockphoto.com / pixdeluxe
istockphoto.com / pixdeluxe

As my 20s are coming to a screeching halt, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the past decade of my life.

My 20s have been the happiest, saddest, proudest, humiliating, exciting, disappointing, and accomplished years. And I know that doesn’t say much since it only accounts for one third of my life, but so much has happened in the last ten years. I became a mother for the second time. I earned three college degrees. I hit the legal drinking age. I purchased and paid off my own car. I left and divorced my abusive alcoholic ex-husband. I fell in love. I met my best friend, my sister, my soulmate. And I was accepted into and attended graduate school.

With the gains and accomplishments inevitably came my losses and heartbreaks: I lost my daddy to the devil that is cancer; watched him wither away to nothing but a bag of skin and bones. I was laid off and fired from several jobs forcing me to live on unemployment and social services. I got my heart broken. I totaled my car a month after paying it off. I’ve become a single mother, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s definitely been a challenge.

Reflecting back on the last ten years of my life I can genuinely concur that life is a roller coaster; the most terrifying yet exhilarating roller coaster you’ll ever ride. Here is a list of 20 things I’ve learned about friendships, family, love, and life in my 20s.


On Friends and Family

1. Let go of the people and things that don’t serve a purpose in your life. This will set you free. Seriously. Declutter your life of everything and anyone who does not make you happy or does not have a positive impact on your life.

2. Strip down and let your best friends see you completely naked. What’s the point of having best friends if they don’t know you inside and out? We have them so they can be brutally honest with us when we need them to be. So don’t hide anything from them. If we lie and hide things from our best friends they really aren’t our best friends are they?

3. Accept that you will lose people in your life, whether it be through death, distance, or just growing apart. It happens, and it will continue to happen. And as we lose some we will gain some amazing people in our lives as well. But never to replace those that were lost.

4. Don’t get caught up trying to change someone. Some people just don’t want to change their self-destructing habits or they just aren’t ready yet. And there’s nothing you can do it about it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just accept that they will change when and if they want to and it is not your duty to change them, the best thing you can do is just to be there for them.

5. If your parents are still in your life, keep them close. Answer their calls, Skype and Facetime with them, and visit them as much as possible. Because one day life will rip them away from you and you will be drowning in regrets.


On Love

1. Don’t hold back. As Rachel Platten would belt out, “Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out.” If you love and care about someone don’t bite your tongue because you’re afraid your rep or ego will be ruined. None of that matters. What matters is that you walk away with no regrets; knowing that you said what you felt without holding anything back.

2. Your heart will get broken and shattered into a million tiny fragments. It will hurt like hell but just when you feel like giving up on love…

3. You will love again. You may believe wholeheartedly that this person is your soulmate and that you won’t ever love anyone the way you loved them. This is true. Because you will love again but you will love in a much different way, much wiser and more sensible.

4. Love yourself before falling in love. When you love yourself first, you won’t accept any crap from anyone. You will know what you’re worth and what you deserve, so you’ll be much less prone to falling in love with some miserable prick.


On Life

1. Don’t blame yourself for what happens to other people. People you love will die, get sick, and self destruct. There’s nothing you did to cause that. Thinking of and replaying every ‘what if’ scenario in your mind will only drive you mad.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand and it is okay. It doesn’t make you weak, pathetic, or helpless. Do you think Oprah landed a billion dollars all on her own?

3. We will all experience some degree of Alzheimer’s. Memories get fainter as we grow older so write down as much as possible and capture as many pictures as you can.

4. Education, whether it be through an institution or any other form is of extreme importance for the well-being of your soul. Education doesn’t stop when you walk across the stage in your cap and gown and are handed your diploma. You must continue to educate yourself in some way, shape, or form. There’s an endless supply of knowledge out there so learn as much as you can.

4. There are way too many ignorant jackasses in this world; don’t be one of them. Don’t form an opinion on a matter you know nothing about. Do your research (watching one episode on CNN does not count) and then take a logical stance on the matter.

5. Your goals will change. You may find yourself almost at the end of a path you’ve been working on for months, or years even, and realize that this isn’t what you want. And that is okay! Through this journey you have grown and it is likely that your goals have changed because you are wiser and acknowledge that you are capable of accomplishing much bigger goals.

6. Don’t waste a minute of your life. Be productive and make every second count. Sure, you can take a break once in awhile. But don’t get yourself caught in a depressed rut where you don’t move or think or do anything. It’s a complete waste of time. And time is never guaranteed.

7. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Bad shit happens to everyone. Not just you. Accept it, find out why (if there’s even a logical explanation), and make changes so that shit doesn’t happen again.

8. You can’t keep doing the same shit and expect things to change. You must make changes. You don’t want anymore black eyes from the fists of your abusive husband? Then make a change and get out of that situation. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t and focus on how you can.

9. Take risks and understand that risks and sacrifices are a married couple. You must sacrifice in order to take a risk. If you’re absolutely bored with your current job and know that you can make an actual impact in this world if you take the risk of going back to school for what you really want to do with your life, then understand and accept that you are sacrificing the economic stability of your current job. Temporary economic instability over making a difference in the world? I think not.

10. Keep growing and you will live with no regrets. I am most proud to say that I have never stopped growing. Sure my height stumped at 5’4″ back when I was 12, but as a person, I continue to learn from my mistakes, educate myself, and grow more each and every day. So keep reading, writing, researching, networking, falling in love, and educating yourself and you will live with no regrets and will be able to enter every new decade of your life with absolute pride, appreciation of the past years, and an eagerness to begin your next journey. TC mark

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Poetry that will change you

This is for the women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. This — is for you.

“When Janne has a new poem written, I shut my life down to do nothing but read it, and then when I turn my life back on, everything is better.” — James Altucher

You’ve never read poetry like this before

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