It’s ok to be scared shitless.
There were countless hours, days, and years I spent completely scared shitless in my 20s. Was I at the “right” college? Was I studying the “right” major? Was this guy, “the one”? Would I be poor forever? WTF am I doing with my life?
The odd thing about your 20s is the reason it is fun is the same reason it is scary: The thrill of Uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds fear and joy at the same time. The constant change I experienced in my 20s brought challenges and joys.
Each time I try something new, I still get nervous/scared/doubtful – but once I begin the fear eventually goes away and I’m headed in the right direction. My 20s have taught me that fear isn’t a bad sign. There is a difference between being afraid and having a bad feeling in your gut (intuition). Listen to the Intuition. But don’t listen to the Fear. Just recognize feeling fear means you’re on the right track. It’s ok to be scared.
Begin a long-term relationship with yourself before you bounce to the next partner.
I could write a novel about the horrible “partner-picking” choices I made during my 20s. But I have no more time to spend on my past mistakes. What I can share is my hope that you experience being “truly” single in your 20s. When I say “truly” single, I mean taking a time-out from the dating pool in order to understand yourself on a deeper level. The more you know yourself and love yourself, the better your dating life gets. In my 20s I dated men I thought were what I wanted but they were HORRIBLE choices for me. If your partner isn’t making you a better person why not make yourself a better person without them?
Speaking of “understanding yourself on a deeper level,” that brings me to #3.
Find a GOOD therapist.
The first time I ever tried therapy was at 21. I came to realize I had an anxiety disorder basically my entire life and never knew how to properly cope with it. It took several panic attacks and the stress of moving to a new state where I did not know a soul to realize I finally needed help and could no longer do it alone.
Therapy has changed my life for the better. Without therapy and the help of anti-anxiety medication during my twenties I don’t know how I would have become the 30-year-old I am today. Your twenties can bring much change, stress, depression – but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. My 30s, 40s, and 50s will bring their own set of challenges as well. The time and money I’ve invested in my mental health has been the best long-term investment I’ve ever made.
Advice from friends and family helps, but having a trusted third-party to support you is essential. It can be uncomfortable at first, but the things I’ve learned in therapy have begun a journey to my healthiest and most peaceful self.
Date someone who thinks you’re magic.
NEVER, never, never settle for anything less. The partner you pick should look at you like you are magic. They should feel lucky to have met the irreplaceable, mystifying, stunning YOU. If they don’t, find someone who knows you are MAGIC.
If someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.
I originally heard this quote while watching an interview with two of my favorite wise women, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. Oprah had a conversation with Maya about failed relationships, and Maya said: “When people show you who they are, why don’t you believe them? Why must you be shown 29 times before you can see who they really are?”
When you see red flags, NOTICE THEM. You’re better off listening the first time, rather than waiting to be disappointed countless times before it sinks in.
By the end of my 20s I stopped trying to force people to be something they were not. I eliminated people from my life instead of “hoping” that “one day” they would significantly change when they didn’t want to change.
Travel as often as you can.
You don’t need money to travel. A little bit of money will go a long way. Travel to a new place at least once a year. The place doesn’t have to be a different country. It can be an overnight stay in your state. Just get out of your regular surroundings. Get out of your comfort zone and see a new perspective on how others live.
Move your body.
You don’t have to hate your workout. Find a workout you enjoy. You don’t need to do an extreme workout everyday to stay fit. I try to move my body once a day – walking, riding a bike, a short run, or a fun workout class. As I get older I notice the oldest, healthiest people I know are the ones that MOVE their bodies often and move them with JOY.
Go to a party/event/meetup where you don’t know anyone.
If you find your social circle small or boring, you can change that. You will never find new friends if you always do the same thing every weekend. As uncomfortable as it was, I would force myself to go to parties, networking events, or meetups where I knew 0-1 person. This experience will not only introduce you to new people, but you’ll also grow in your confidence when it comes to putting yourself out there.
Get a side hustle.
If your day job isn’t your dream job, why not make your side hustle the dream job? What if that side hustle became a full-time job of your dreams?! There’s nothing that feels more helpless than not being in control financially. If you have a skill you enjoy and can get paid for it you’ll never base your career choices or spending habits on a feeling of fear. During my 20s I made money from singing, waiting tables, babysitting, etc to reach my financial goals.
[above a picture of one of my beloved side gigs, waiting at the Purple Patch in DC. I actually got to wait on the Washington Post food critic at the time. It was cool!]
Leave where you came from.
This lesson was the most difficult of my twenties. At 21 I signed up for a study abroad in which I did not know the language and did not know anyone else going to the program. After undergrad, I moved to Austin, Texas, not knowing a soul. At 25 I moved to DC, knowing only my family members in the area.
For me, moving never got easier but I did get less afraid of it. In the beginning of a move there were times of loneliness and doubt. But after about 3 – 6 months I found new friends, activities, and goals. Every time I left the place I had made a home in, I left with genuine friends and experiences that made my life significantly richer. I never would be who I am today if I’d never left where I was from.
Say “YES” to the job offer and Google it later
There were so many jobs I took in my 20s I did not feel ready for. I took them anyways. Then I read up on what the hell I was supposed to do. Women have this thing where they think they aren’t good enough until they are an expert. What if you chose to “fake it till you make it”? Why not try having the confidence of a mediocre white male? Believe that you are the best for the job.
It’s ok to let go and it’s ok to give up.
A book that everyone recommends, a man you’re dating, a job you no longer enjoy, a friend who is no longer a friend, a place you’re living in that actually sucks and is greatly fucking up your quality of life. The saying “grin and bear it” does not apply to these things.
Why suffer through anything that isn’t truly serving your highest desire? There’s a difference between giving up because something is difficult and giving up because something doesn’t serve you in any imaginable way. If you’re feeling the later, GTFO ASAP. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
*One exception: If something is difficult but you can see a clear reward ahead, NEVER give up!!!
Patience is a virtue. And I still don’t have it.
I’m impatient. Always have been. During my 20s I learned just because you work hard and really want something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen when you want it to. Sometimes dreams take time. Dreams take patience. I can’t say I’ve gained more patience, but I like to think I have learned the Universe is not on my timeline. Instead of resisting that, I now sink into the unknown. Acceptance is more fun when it comes to patience, I promise!
Mother Always knows best, but now you do too.
My 20s were a time to learn from my Mom and other strong women in my life. And for that I’ll be forever grateful. My 30s are a time for me to rely more on myself and live the virtues strong women have taught me in my life. I want to pay it forward in my 30s and be someone’s mentor.
My boyfriend can’t read my mind. And I can’t read his.
Communication. Communication. Communication. This is the key to all my relationships, not just romantic. I think a large part of my 20s was holding back my feelings, being ashamed to ask for what I wanted, or being too scared/freaked out to be vulnerable. HERE’S THE THING: the only way you get what you want is through clear communication. Never hesitate expressing yourself even if it feels embarrassing or scary. Never assume your partner knows exactly how you feel or what you are thinking.
“A shut mouth never gets fed!” DON’T GET HANGRY, HONEY.
Whether it’s online, self-motivated research, a class, or workshop, STAY CURIOUS. It’s how you increase your talents, hone your craft, and not become an angry, boring person waiting to die.
[This image was taken during my Urban Beekeeping phase. Yes, I took a course on Urban Beekeeping!]
Stay in your own lane.
You are on your own timeline. It’s easy to say, “don’t compare yourself to others,” but personally I find this difficult to do. The times I’ve said the hell with trying to be someone or something I’m not, I’ve been my happiest self. If you find yourself comparing or jealous of someone else, ask yourself how you can get that [salary, style, talent, quality] in your own life. And more importantly how can you get it in your own authentic way!
You are the #1 Priority in your life.
If you are not taking care of yourself, no one else is going to benefit from your gifts. You can’t give what isn’t there. Before you give yourself to everyone and be super woman, SLOW the hell down and make sure you’re feeling good. Prioritize yourself first. Self-care is the opposite of Selfish. You are the number one priority. Hitting the wall really hard in my 20s several times taught me the importance of self-care and saying, “NO.”
The clocking is ticking.
None of us know how much time we have. All we know is that we have right now. We cannot waste time. Is there a class you want to take? Sign up today. Is there a book you want to write? Begin writing it today. Don’t let the excuses or false doubts in your head get in the way. So that being said …
The World Is Your Oyster.
It’s never too late to try something new. It’s never too late to forgive yourself or forgive others. It’s never too late to start over again. It ain’t over till it’s over, baby!!! Your soul wouldn’t be calling you to pursue a dream if you were not meant to do it! The Universe is waiting to see what only you can dream up and bring to life. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR????
And – in closing – I offer this longtime, favorite poem to my 20s. Goodbye, and thank you for all the lessons.
To My Twenties
How lucky that I ran into you
When everything was possible
For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart
And so happy to see any woman–
O woman! O my twentieth year!
Basking in you, you
Oasis from both growing and decay
Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis
A palm tree, hey! And then another
And another–and water!
I’m still very impressed by you. Whither,
Midst falling decades, have you gone? Oh in what lucky fellow,
Unsure of himself, upset, and unemployable
For the moment in any case, do you live now?
From my window I drop a nickel
By mistake. With
You I race down to get it
But I find there on
The street instead, a good friend
X—- N—-, who says to me
Kenneth do you have a minute?
And I say yes! I am in my twenties!
I have plenty of time! In you I marry,
In you I first go to France; I make my best friends
In you, and a few enemies. I
Write a lot and am living all the time
And thinking about living. I loved to frequent you
After my teens and before my thirties.
You three together in a bar
I always preferred you because you were midmost
Most lustrous apparently strongest
Although now that I look back on you
What part have you played?
You never, ever, were stingy.
What you gave me you gave whole
But as for telling
Me how best to use it
You weren’t a genius at that.
Twenties, my soul
Is yours for the asking
You know that, if you ever come back.