There are endless articles on the internet offering advice on surviving our 20s. Since most of us have strongly considered typing into Google “what do you when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing with your life?” (or have actually gone through with it), the vast amount of input isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You know what else isn’t so bad? Making certain errors in judgment during these years of perplexity.
Here are 5 mistakes that can be surprisingly beneficial to make as a 20-something:
1. Committing to a job that turns out to be the worst thing imaginable.
It’s called “work” for a reason – no job is all flowers and sunshine. However, if you’ve ever fantasized about getting into a car accident during your commute (you’d get the day off!), it may be time to rethink things.
We should all be miserable in our workplace at some point in our 20s. The misery teaches us how to handle a smorgasbord of hostile situations, forcing us to power through the drudgery with a big — albeit incredibly fake — smile.
When you look back on that terrible position, you will reflect on those long hours or miserable interactions with customers. More importantly, you’ll eventually recognize how much you learned throughout it all.
Of course, during your role, the last thing you’’ll be focused on is the knowledge you’re obtaining as a result of the position. However, once you stop and look at the big picture, you’ll realize that you ended up handling things that you never thought you could. In short, a terrible job will thicken your skin.
2. “Dating” someone who you know deep down is a terrible idea.
I put dating in quotation marks for a reason, because we all know the current state of that particular word. Romance and honest communication have been usurped by winky faces on Tinder, and expressions like “I’m not looking for anything serious, so let’s just keep it casual.” (“But if I’m still single, bored and can’t find anyone better in a couple weeks, maybe I’ll consider dating you.)
Stepping away from all the cynicism, some of us have actually been lucky to be in fulfilling relationships consisting of trust and loyalty. Regardless, most of us have been exposed to at least one unhealthy relationship in our lives — one where we’ve continuously lied to ourselves that it’s all worth it, and that things will eventually change.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you “You can do so much better”, or “How do you not see you’re getting used?” You’re blind to the criticism, because the person matters that much to you. It’s not exactly a piece of cake to block their number and cut all ties, especially when you consider the emotionally-charged history you have with them.
Maybe there’s a lack of commitment, or no future or potential in the relationship. It doesn’t matter exactly what’s missing – what matters is how you react to its absence, and how you can get a better idea of what you truly want.
Once you eventually break free from the vicious cycle of jumping back into the arms (or bed) of that one person, you can finally allow yourself to expand your options.
3. Putting yourself out there – and getting rejected.
Whether it’s applying for our dream internship or finally telling someone how you really feel, nobody likes being let down.
Maybe you finally told a friend that you were starting to develop feelings for them. Maybe they responded in kind, but stressed that they don’t feel the same way. Needless to say, such a brutal rejection is not exactly a self-esteem booster.
The reason rejection is so hard on us is because we have the tendency to dwell on the intensity of the disappointment. Rejection makes us feel worthless and embarrassed, and leads us into a downward spiral in which we often regret speaking up at all.
However, rejection also helps build our resiliency. We begin to gain a better understanding of which setbacks can potentially lead to something better – and that’s more important than the humiliation we temporarily experience.
4. Putting your responsibilities aside and engaging in reckless behavior.
That time you forgot you can’t drink like you’re in college anymore, and accidentally blacked out at 10 pm? These situations were hysterical when we were younger, but as we grow up they’re not exactly considered shining moments.
However, it’s okay to let loose and go a little crazy sometimes. That throbbing headache from the tequila you somehow thought was a brilliant idea last night? It doesn’t always have to mean “I’m never drinking again” – it just reminds you to know your limits.
Don’t avoid going out with your friends, but maybe stick to the wine this time. The ability to obtain a happy buzz, minus the possibility of clothes falling off as the night progresses? Sounds like a perfect balance to me.
5. Beginning to lose yourself.
No, I’m not referring to the Eminem song. (Although I still think it’s the greatest pump-up song of all time.)
We have all had experiences where we’ve managed to lose sight of what we truly consider important. Maybe you’ve allowed yourself to become overly consumed by another individual, or a particularly minuscule task that doesn’t merit the aggravation. Maybe you’ve found yourself participating in activities you normally don’t approve of, simply because you’re solely focused on that person’s happiness over our own.
Maybe you’ve resorted to dangerous behaviors as a coping mechanism to our hardships, and don’t even recognize the person you’ve inevitably become.
Usually, we ultimately have a moment of realization that we are unhappy with the person staring back at us in the mirror. The problem is, sometimes we are convinced that we have dug ourselves too deep, and that it’s too late to change things now. Although that’s not always the case, recognizing our breaking point is valuable step. We are then able to successfully pinpoint where we lost control, and start making the necessary changes to get back on track.
Don’t lose sight of the uniqueness that makes you you — whether it’s to satisfy another person, or excel in a personal or professional situation.
From all the articles, books, movies, etc., I think the best advice for anyone in their 20s is to remain true to yourself. Throughout the abundant complications, general confusion, and consistent frustrations, it’s important to remember that even when you mess up, things have their way of falling into place — even if the end result isn’t exactly what you initially envisioned.