What I wish I’d known in my early 20s

A lot happens in your twenties. I have one more year left to bask in the glory of twentydom, but as I look back I am shocked at just how much has changed since I retired my teenage years, stretched into my twenties and got to where I am now.

One thing is certain- I get hung over now. Like, every time. And I definitely don’t worry about the same things I did at 21, 24 or even 26. I also don’t let people talk down to me, and I’ve developed adult acne (super fun!) and began to notice tiny wrinkles around my eyes (don’t really care about this). I love who I am, but it’s been a long road to get here.

The decade you spend in your twenties will be awesome, bizarre, fun, difficult and awkward. And there are ways to really sabotage your twenties and there are ways to really embrace them. Looking back I can see a few things that, had I known then, I would have avoided.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. What a waste. STOP NOW. Don’t do it! DON’T DO IT! It’s easy to get tangled up in other peoples’ accomplishments, statuses or projected image. You’re perfect the way you are and you don’t shine or crumble because of someone else. That’s up to you. If you’re so preoccupied checking on everyone else, you’re gonna get mixed up in learning how to value and appreciate yourself. You deserve to absolutely love yourself!

Spend less time trying to make everyone happy. I’ve always wanted people to like me. And I’ve always found it generally easy to get along with people, but I spent way too many years living for other people. You can’t make everyone happy. And you don’t need to. And not everyone needs to like you and you don’t need to like everyone. Be selective with your close friends. Make sure you surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you and who you admire and respect. Life is too short trying to win everyone over. Be yourself!

Don’t force relationships that aren’t working. In my 20s I watched a lot of my friends stay in relationships they weren’t happy in. Now is a great time to reach out, stretch, have fun, get to know yourself and establish what it is you are looking for in your intimate relationships. Yes, relationships are hard work. But if you aren’t happy, get out. Leave and don’t look back or backtrack. Don’t be nasty, apathetic or cruel— be honest, brave and empowered. You’re really holding yourself back by being with someone you just don’t feel good with.

Learn to burn bridges. Your twenties are an excellent time to burn bridges; they’re also the hardest time to do so. A lot of friendships probably began in high school or maybe even before. Sometimes friendships can withstand a decade’s worth of change. But if you find yourself in relationships with people you don’t respect, or who don’t respect you, people you can’t identify with anymore, or worse, people who just aren’t good friends, burn the bridge. It’s tough stuff, and there is no way around the discomfort and sadness. But cleaning shop is good for your heart and your mind. It gives you’re the space and emotional freedom to begin new, healthy relationships.

Don’t obsess too much over career/school. Cool it, sister. I know it’s a scary world out there. And I know you want to be the best and do the best and feel the best. But sometimes you just gotta take a break, breathe real deep and ease up on yourself. You don’t need to be a CEO by age 28. And you don’t need to be married by 25. And you don’t need to be anything other than what you want to be, whether you’re 23 or 55. You’re the boss, don’t be too hard on yourself.

You’re in a rush to grow up. Don’t be. Don’t do it. I remember longing for a career. I wanted the feeling of worth that I imagined my career folk friends must have felt. I wanted to own a house. To drive a car that actually worked in reverse. To know where I put my phone charger. It’s true that once you establish yourself and feel a little more comfortable, you are happy and proud of the work you’ve done, but don’t rush. Be 20-something. Make mistakes. Stay up too late. Climb a tree. Be young. Lose your phone charger. You have the rest of your life to be a stress case, don’t rush into it in your 20s.