Your twenties are marked by significant transition. The first part of the decade is often spent stumbling around in a liquor infused haze, living paycheck to paycheck, heartbreak to heartbreak, and moving from one fast fashion craze to the next. Somewhere in the middle of it you start thinking about what it might feel like for your liver to recover, your bank accounts to not only stay in the black but perhaps begin growing, and whether or not you are becoming more fulfilled as a human being.
Personally, my mid-twenties have underscored the difference between feeling so young and feeling like I am actually becoming a capable adult. I feel as if I have begun to move away from the mentality of an infallible, invincible child and into the more deliberate and discerning calm of my adult self. The process is slow and imperfect (as is so much of growing up). Many of the things that have happened have been scary, or felt overwhelming at first. Being able to reflect on this growth is also an excellent time to set goals and look forward to the future.
Here are some things to look forward to in your late 20s:
1. Being More Decisive About How To Spend Your Time
Time becomes a precious resource, and spending it wisely is as important as managing your money. In my early 20s it was all about going out and chasing the experience because it seemed like I needed to rack up an expansive list of ‘cool things I did.’ I spent my time trying new things, and not always being very satisfied with them. At least now I know how I feel about warehouse parties and large parades.
2. Being More Careful About How To Spend Your Money
This one has been repeated, and will be repeated until the world implodes or gets rid of currency. But really, late 20s me does not need 2/3 of the things that early 20’s me bought. I’m looking right at that bag of cheap fashion and bad shoes.
3. Traveling More, & More Deliberately
Recently a dear friend and I cancelled our plans to travel through Central America because we realized we were both feeling lackluster about an aimless trip in a country neither of us had a connection to, and without any specific goals we could pinpoint.
People used to ask me where I wanted to travel if I had a ticket to anywhere and my answer was “everywhere”. I have since learned that I enjoy goal-oriented trips, with the purpose connecting with friends and family while also allows exploring a new place or trying a challenging new activity.
4. Spending More Time With Family
The older I get the more important my family is to me. In particular I have discovered that my cousins and siblings are growing up into really cool people! No longer are we all the strange, loud, awkward children who saw one another on a semi-annual basis for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They are getting married, dancing, hiking, going to school, and moving all over the country. Fostering these relationships has been one of the most rewarding new things about my mid-twenties and I am excited to visit with them as we all grow up.
I am also coming to terms with the fact that some members of my family won’t be around forever. Though imagining my life without my grandmothers in it is difficult, it does inspire me to call, write, and visit with them more. Their stories, their love, and their wisdom are invaluable. They are my heroes, and what wouldn’t we give for a day with our heroes?
5. Cultivating Strong Friendships Regardless Of Distance
Some of my closest friends in the world are, at minimum, 200 miles away. For others the distance spans thousands of miles, oceans, and several time zones. When I was younger I was afraid that this would create rifts, and I would cry with worry for when or if we would ever see one another again. As time has passed, our friendships are still enriching and cherished. I have learned to fear this distance less, and to revel in the connection we have despite it.
I look forward to maintaining and deepening my relationships, especially with my most far flung friends.
6. Saying “No” To Frivolous Drama
Early 20’s Me: Please Tell Me About That Horrible Love Triangle And Series Of Broken Friendships That Keeps HappeningLike A Bad Groundhog Day!
Now and Forever More Me: Please don’t give me any details, and please accept my heavy eye-roll if you do.
7. Drinking Less
Let’s be honest, everyone warned us this was coming. I love my liver, and hangovers seem to get more brutal with each passing day. Saturdays and Sundays that begin at 8 AM are amazing, and I would trade the majority of my early 20’s late drunken evenings in favor of more weekend daylight hours with which to tackle personal projects and accomplish goals.
8. Going To More Shows & Performances
It should be a crime to make it to 30 without exploring local music and theatre venues. When I think about the missed chances to see amazing performances, whether for fear of committing to one specific thing, or in favor of vague and disappointing nights spent ‘going out drinking’ I feel sad. Determined to force myself to attend more shows instead of wasting my time, I recently acquired a membership to my local music and arts organization, and I have spent more nights in the theatre for less money than my old bar tabs.
9. Better Food
“Food is the first wealth.” – Kristin Kimball
Steak-tartar, quality seafood > shitty late night fast food
Lovingly prepared home cooking > greasy takeout
10. Becoming More Patient When We Struggle
The things that I struggle with, the minor set-backs, and the times I fall off of the wagon and need to work a bit harder for what I want are not the end of the world. Allowing minor difficulties to cloud my ability to think long term was what was really preventing me from getting things done.
11. Learning The Difference Between Wants & Needs
Early 20’s Me: I need a new computer so that I can tackle projects with the most efficient equipment the market can offer.
Future Me: Sure, I want a new computer that is fast and advanced, but what I really need is to repair and update the computer I have so that it lasts longer. Also, I should start looking at computers that allow for customization, and stop pumping ~$2k into a new machine that I cannot even modify.
12. Learning When You Don’t Need To Take A Job
There is a difference between needing to MAKE ALL OF THE MONIES and needing some sanity in my schedule. Early 20’s me was focused on making more cash and terrified of being overrun by bills, and unable to manage a decent emergency fund.
Having a decent emergency fund in savings and the ability to budget has completely saved my health and wellbeing, and allowed me to be the person who is not freaking out about paying things on time. That peace of mind is tremendous and allows me to focus on other things in my life.
13. Taking Pleasure In Doing Things The ‘Right Way’
Ugh. This one is mostly because a lot of where I am now has involved dealing with cleaning up messes that I made for myself by finishing projects ad-hoc. Doing it the right way, whatever it is, is absolutely worth the time it takes in the moment, because spending more time on it later is wasteful, aggravating, and usually happens when some other pressing time-crunch looms.
14. Taking Care Of Heirlooms
When I was younger I cared very little for fine old things, and luckily nobody trusted me with them so I didn’t ruin any. In part this was because I didn’t have any concept of time, loss, or the significance of heirlooms as ways to connect to the ones we love. I believe firmly in using these things rather than just hiding them in boxes, but only if you can take care of them. My great grandmothers quilt, scarves, and hankies have not only provided high-quality things for my daily life, but every time I use them I remember her smile, her hugs, and her love. As we grow up, these connections become more intimate and important than having new throws, the latest fashions, or a matching set of tea-cups.
15. Being More Decisive About Dating
I am less interested in dating for the sake of it than I have ever been, and no longer motivated by fear of being alone, or inspired by romantic notions that people will grow into good partners if they start out as shitty ones. I am disinterested in trying to make something work, or in being the one doing all of the work in relationships.
As I spend more time focusing on self-improvement, I have noticed a new clarity moving into my thoughts about dating, relationships, and long-term commitment. I look for, and am frank about people who are interested in supporting that and doing the same. You don’t want to look back on your twenties and see a series of unfortunate and lame romances.
16. Learning The Difference Between Love & Lust
Both of things are fun, but understanding the difference will help you with #15, and will make you better able to decide where to channel your efforts and not waste energy chasing after people and relationships that will not ultimately pan out.
In addition, accepting and understanding that lust is tied to a short term idea of someone, and love is rooted in a long term and fundamental acceptance of the entire reality of another human has been crucial in helping me understand who I am attracted to, why, and if it is sustainable or fleeting.
17. Not Wasting Time On Unfulfilling Friendships
Just about everyone I talk to in their late 20s and early 30s points to removing dead weight from your social environment as being crucial to moving forward with things and people that actually do enrich you. I look forward to letting go of friendships where I am the only one working to maintain connection, or with people who are too self-absorbed to genuinely care for me.
18. Letting Go Of Envy And Jealousy
I think when we are younger the tendency to measure ourselves against our peers is deeply ingrained and incredibly damaging. As I move through my 20s I realize that the people and lifestyles that I sometimes compare myself to are often polar opposites to many of my personal values, goals, and ethics. Though it can be seductive to scroll through Instagram and Facebook and see your far flung network of people who are getting famous, or married, it is better to acknowledge their successes and then compare where you are at with what you actually believe you want for yourself in order to work from there.
19. A Bigger Bank Account & Knowing What To Do With It
Money is not everything: but learning how to make the money you do have grow and work best for you is crucial to maintaining financial independence and the ability to live beyond paycheck-to-paycheck. I look forward to strengthening my financial habits so that I can begin to consider investment options throughout the rest of my 20s.
20. Fewer Impulse Buys
As I grow up I learn that if I don’t already own it, don’t feel a need to save up for it, and can’t think of how it will be useful to me in at least one year or more, I don’t need to buy it. Having to clear out useless clutter every few months is a ritual that I look forward to quitting in the next four years.
21. Keeping Houseplants Alive
A challenge! A healthy, happy home as a reward! An excuse to nest and enjoy staying home! A comfortable reading nook! I’m old enough that I care about having a reading nook! ~begins to knit~
22. Nicer Footwear
At some point you start caring about the alignment of your spine, and bunyons, and if your shoes are making your toenails grow in funny.
23. Having More Work Experience & Interpersonal Skills
Now more than ever I am grateful for every hot-water situation that ever happened to me during my early 20s, when people often gave me a lot of room to be an immature dilettante. All of my gaffes and tricky situations handled with a messy, or inexperienced hand have brought me to a place where I feel confident in the way I can tackle professional situations.
This levelheadedness will allow me to stand back and observe the way people behave in the business world better, and to learn about even better ways to handle interpersonal issues, to be better at reading people and situations, and to handle them with grace and propriety without being wishy-washy or infirm.
24. The Feeling Of Having More Control
Remember your early twenties, when everything was a big deal and every time a plan changed you felt like a leaf in the wind?
I look forward to making more decisions with confidence when things to awry. Flight cancelled? Deal with accommodations or alternatives. Client bailed? Work out better contracts and tap into your network for new opportunities. Relationship crumbling? Decide not to deal with the bullshit and pain, and move through your feelings certain that you are making decisions that are good for you, and that you are in control of how you react to every situation.
25. Becoming Less Self Conscious
In your early twenties you were like a caterpillar. I was always worried if people would find me interesting, or overwhelming.
I am not totally over this, if I’m being completely honest. I am working on it, however. I learn new skills, and make decisions, and take risks without fear of everyone judging me. I have decided that it is better to ditch anyone who does not contribute positively to your sense of self, and avoid pandering to other people at your expense.
26. Refining What It Means To Find My “Groove”
As I become this person somewhat resembling the adult that I want to be I notice I actually comfortable with it. Adults aren’t boring and gross and out of touch after all! I thrive in a world where I make decisions more and more without worrying how others will perceive me, and the more often I function this way, the better it feels. I suppose that is what it means to find my stride: to understand the place I am making for myself and the life that I am building, and to feel good about how I am doing it. I look forward to cultivating and refining these things throughout the rest of my twenties.