I was challenged recently to write a post about navigating your 20’s. And since I’m a 20’s graduate, working on my 30’s masters, I do have some thoughts on what I would advise someone to accomplish in their twenties. (There’s a fun conversation going on about this. Check out this and this blog for more inspiring 20s life posts.)
First, let me give you a quick idea of the major accomplishments of my 20s:
- Graduated college Magna cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in English.
- Got married and bought my first house at 23
- Got my first post-grad job and then my first actual writing job.
- Had my first baby at 25
- Ran a half marathon–my first ever race!
All monumental things summed up in a quick matter-of-fact bulleted list, right? Ha!
Now, if I were to tell anyone in their 20’s what their 20’s bucket list should look like, I’d tell them this:
Start working toward your dream job: You might not land your dream gig right out of the gate, but there are always things you can do to MAKE It Happen right now! Start by volunteering in your desired niche, do some things for free. I created my own PR type writing volunteer job at a local museum. I didn’t just look for this opportunity, I quite literally made it happen by creating the volunteer spot itself. Doing so got me valid experience and portfolio pieces that opened me up to my dream job. You could always start your own business on the side too to transition into. I didn’t have any entrepreneurial people in my family willing to teach me about self-employment, and I wish I did because today’s digital business landscape is Fertile! (If you’re an English major, I’d love to be that person for you. Check this out).
Learn and master a few key recipes: Yes, this is one of those adulting self-reliance things, but it’s also about being healthy and budget-conscious. It will serve you well when you have a family, when you want to entertain, when you want to demonstrate your affection to a love interest;) You should learn how to cook more than a Pop-Tart and Easy Mac in your twenties. It’s good for your health, your bank account and your relationships. A few of the ONLY cookbooks on my bookshelf are listed on my Fave Resources page.
Start replacing hand-me-down furniture with quality: one of the rites of passages into adulthood is changing out your secondhand furniture for new, good quality pieces. Start with where you spend the most time: invest in a good bed, a nice couch, and a treadmill, for example. Furnishing your homes with quality lifetime pieces will really elevate you into adulthood. And your environment can have a strong influence on your wellbeing, so make a home for yourself that feels like you.
Contribute to your 401k: when I took my first post-grad job, I was amazed when the HR guy showed me the chart about what retirement looks like if you start investing in your twenties versus your thirties. It’s like exponentially different! Start now! Even if you think you don’t need to start thinking about it yet. Plus, your employer’s matching program? That’s free money, people! Just do it! You’ll thank me later. And if you have kids, do the same with their college fund. Start when they’re born, not when they’re 5.
Build up good credit: you think being in debt is just the norm because everyone around you is in debt. Well, it’s not going to serve you, ever. So, starting now, make sure you don’t spend more than you make, always pay your credit card balance off every month, and make payments on time. When you go to buy a house or a new car, you’ll be in the position to get the best rates possible. I had college paid off before my loans ever even became due. And by the time we went to buy our first house, I had near-perfect credit scores.
Spend money where it counts: The best things to spend money on? Experiences, education and other people. No material thing will ever come close! Travel as much as you can while it’s still feasible. Get your next degree right away while it’s easier for you to do so. And start creating space in your budget for giving back. You maybe did this a little as a kid, but it’s really an adult, humanitarian thing to do.
Try to value your Time: When my son was born, I said to a friend “when I used to say ‘I just don’t have the time’ before, what the heck was I talking about?” Because seriously? Kids knock your time down by about 1000%. I’m not saying that to complain, I’m just saying it will be a big shock and adjustment. Even if you don’t anticipate having children, the more responsibilities you take on in your career, the less time you’ll have. You don’t know it now, but you actually have the most time available to you as you ever will. Do something wise with it.
Start taking care of your body. You’ve likely stopped playing team sports and might even dwell in cubicle-land, so you need something new to challenge your body. Even though you don’t feel it yet, your body will become different in your 30s. Things will hurt that never did. And food will affect your body in ways it never did before. I know that makes me sound suuuuper old, but I’m not. And you’ll thank your 20s self if you start feeding it the best fuel and keeping it active now. Things will feel better as you grow older.
Read self-development every day: become a better human. It’s amazing how your life transforms when you fill your head with all these empowering things. Try it, you’ll see!
Shed the judgement and cattiness of your school days and embrace compassion and love instead. It will get you everywhere. Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel better, just thinking about it?
Listen to your mom: as I’m going through motherhood myself, I’ve noticed we go from adoring our moms when we’re little, to becoming angst-ridden parent-hating teens to adoring our moms again as adults. Especially after having your own child. Moms, amiright? The first thing I did after having a baby was contemplate in amazement my own mother. And when you start repeating phrases your mom always used, you realize that you really should’ve just listened to your mom this whole time.
Keep in touch with your friends: it takes a lot more work to get together with friends nowadays. Sometimes it takes great feats of effort to get together. You can’t just go and hang out on a whim like you used to. You have to make sure you make an intentional effort to connect and don’t leave it up to the other person. It’s too easy to become a hermit. And there’s a time for hermit-ness. But your friends are your heart, so don’t let them bleed away.
Find ways to give back: your twenties are one of the most selfish decades in your life. And I’m not saying that to be harsh, I’m just stating it matter-of-factly. It just is. Start taking time to find random acts of kindness, volunteer work, a cause to put your heart into. It will make you a better person.
DO NOT CONFORM: there are waaaaay to many people running on the normal, autopilot life. Don’t be one of those people. You have way too much beauty and rarity to offer this life. Figure out what and whom you love and run with it!
I know these are super fortune-cookie-simple pieces of advice, but they seriously sum up THE most important things about life in your 20s. I could go on and on about each one. They’re not simple at all. But given the context of this post, they’re straightforward as possible.
What about you?
If you’re past your 20s, what would you add to this list?
If you’re in your 20s, are any of these values ringing a bell?
~This blog was inspired by the fun minds over at Casper. Their Pillow Talk blog (love the name!) is really entertaining, check it out.