10 Things I've Learned in My Early 20’s
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
1. Career Experience Teaches You Certain Things That School Never Can
I’m currently in graduate school like many 20-somethings I know. After graduating with my B.A., I quickly began my career. I’ve had two full-time positions, one of which I received a promotion, before entering into a grad program. So, I’ve experienced many career triumphs and tribulations before sitting in a classroom setting again. Some people transition right over to grad school. A lot of my fellow peers in class only had internships and are dedicated to school only. This is fine. However, when the class is posed with workplace related questions and scenarios on leadership, project management, and relationship building, it occurred to me that my peers did not experience any real-world situations that forced them to think outside of the words in the textbook. It’s easy to simply regurgitate information from a peer-reviewed article, but it just goes to show how important workplace experience is - and that can be from anywhere. There are just some things you can’t learn from a book. Experience is the best teacher.
2. You’re Too Young to Stress. Let Go
It was striking to read an article which stated that 20-35 year olds are the most stressed group in America. However, it seemed all to true, as I can relate to this myself. With all of the societal pressure to follow a life schematic (go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, work until 65, die.), I learned that it is not this simple and that nobody has to follow this - at all (even if it makes your grandparents angry). It’s your life. Set your own pace. Define your own success. Nobody else's life is the trademark for the “right way.” I’ve come to realize this myself. I worked a few jobs, left a few places and people behind, didn’t buy a house yet, and much more that doesn’t follow the way we are taught to go through life. Don’t stress about the societal roadmap, instead, make your own. Let go of people, issues, and places that are toxic. The way you react to stress and problems says a lot about you. You can’t control others and the circumstances around you, but you can control your reactions and choices.
3. It’s Normal to Say Goodbye to Certain Friendships
After high school, I kept is close touch with my friends. Some of my good acquaintances moved away, went to school out-of-state, and began their own lives. We still keep in touch around holidays when they come in to visit. I learned that distance doesn’t matter. I have a friend who moved a thousand miles away and we still keep in touch every week (thanks to texting and social media). However, some friends could live a measly two miles away and I never see them or hear from them, even with the luxury of social media and texting. People change. They grow. You may find that you and a friend don’t agree on the same things anymore - that your values have completely changed. You both may be at different points in your career, or your lives in general, and they don’t line up anymore, and that’s okay. If you find that you need to take a break from certain people, or if friends simply fade away, remember that growth is difficult, but you meet new people along your journey so you don't have to go through it alone.
4. It’s Okay to Change Your Mind
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be so many things. I know that many people my age go into school or a career hoping to make a difference in the world, and that is a wonderful goal to have. That dream doesn’t change, but it’s okay if your life plan does, how you get there, and how long it takes to get there. A few friends I made in college went straight to work after high school and wanted to start earning, in order to actually save for college. A few people I have come to know are older, have kids, and went back for their degree because they wanted a better career. As for me, I know what my passion is and I realized that fulfilling that passion, no matter what I do, makes me undeniable happy, even if it changes my “set plan.”
5. Building Relationships and Rapport Can Help You Succeed
Networking is a huge part of success. There’s an old saying: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, I can semi-agree with this statement. It’s important to have skills in order to perform and excel at whatever it is that you do. However, it does matter who you know sometimes that can get you from point A to point B. It’s that person you know that can give you great career advice. It’s that connection you made who can introduce you to a place or person that changes your life. It’s people that can help and teach you. Don’t be a lone wolf. Go out and do the thing. Connect. Network.
6. When You’re Finally Comfortable, Challenge Yourself Again
We all love our comfort zones. No effort involved. We know what to expect every day. We can rely on it. We can escape. We all need a worry-free space, but it’s when you stop growing that it becomes a concern. When life isn’t challenging you, or when you try to run away from a challenge placed before you, you don’t grow. You don’t learn. You don’t gain. So, go out there and do what scares you. A great teacher of mine once said “Life gives you shit. Shit makes good fertilizer.”
7. Money Really Doesn’t Buy Happiness
When I was young, I used to think I’d have this amazing job, amazing house, and great, big paycheck so I can be happy and buy everything I ever wanted. My first real job gave me that great paycheck, but it was a God-awful experience. I was utterly miserable. I hated what I did. I found that only money keeping me there and lack of passion in my work did not make me happy. I realized that I would rather give up that monetary value for my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. You happiness is more important than money, and money doesn’t buy it - at least it's true for me.
8. Your Parents Are Just Like You - Trying to Figure Life Out
Like all teens, I’ve argued with my parents, talked back, and stated my independence that I could easily go out into the world and get what I want. That was my rebellious aspect of my personality, until reality took over and I realized that my parents are just like me - trying to figure out life as they go. Not that say that parents know everything, because nobody knows everything, yet they have valuable input and experience. All they are trying to do is help you avoid the mistakes that they made. As good or as bad as you see is, you’ve probably went ahead and made the mistakes anyway - and hopefully learned. Take time to realize that your parents are human and experience the same feelings as you.
9. Not Everyone Will Like You
No matter how awesome you are at what you do, how many friends you have, what kind of car you drive, not everyone will like you, even if you are a genuinely nice person. There may be reasons someone just doesn’t like you, out of negative inner feelings about themselves, the fact that your personalities clash, or different beliefs. Everyone is unique and it makes the world go around. You can’t take it personally. If you find that people in your life aren’t challenging your ideas, beliefs, values, and are supporting every little thing you say, is this person helping you grow? I know that my best friend and I argue over topics, but we are still best friends. We challenge each other. We give each other different perspectives. We help each other grow. Take a look and see who surrounds you.
10. Life Isn’t Sorted Out by 25 and That’s Perfectly Fine
I used to think that at a certain age, you have to be at a specific place in your master plan, you had to accomplish something great, you had to be where your friends were, and you had to achieve this vision everyone else had for you. That is not the case at all. Some people are perfectly fine not have their life sorted out by age 40. At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor. Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40. Success is not measured by anyone else besides you.
You set your own pace for life. You say when you are ready. Stop comparing. Only you can define your own success and when that is.