Today I am 25. That’s a quarter century old. Two and a half decades of life, all of which seems to have gone by quickly. 25 is a milestone birthday – the point in my life when I’ve officially accomplished all of childhood and awkward teen years, exploration of adulthood, and have finally come into adulthood. Now, 25 years after my birth, I am living on my own, with the guy 19-year-old Jamie had only dreamed of meeting, living in the city I’ve wanted to live in since I was 15, already immersed into a career (or two), excited to make the next
step leaps into my grown-up life.
And so I wanted to share some lessons and truths that I’ve learned throughout the years, things I’ve had to self-discover beyond elementary advice like “You can be anything!” and other cliches of commencement addresses and adult lecturers. But despite reaching the age where I finally want to count backwards, the past five years were the most crucial to learning about life. Between ages 20 and 25, these were the years where I’ve truly transitioned from childhood to adulthood, from a small-town curious college sophomore, to an independent metropolitan adult. (And as Tom points out, these were the 5 years that I’ve known him. Guess he’s a pretty important part of my life!)
And so, today I’m presenting 25 lessons I’ve learned within the 5 years of my life that were overflowing with experience. For the past year, I’ve been working on this post, mentally cataloguing the happy truths I’ve found have contributed to who I am today.
So here they are….
- In your 20’s, money is a renewable resource. This completely contradicts everything I once stood for. Saving is important (and necessary), but looking back from your 30’s and saying “I wish I did that when I had the chance” isn’t worth an extra few dollars. As long as you are employed and not in debt, live freely and fully.
- Experience everything while you have the energy. Unlike money, the energy of your youth does not last and can’t be banked. Eat everything while your metabolism is still quick, go everywhere before you have kids, do everything before financial obligations creep into your conscience. I’ve heard this more and more from thirty-somethings – do it all, while you can and while you want to.
- Spontaneity is the oxygen of your 20’s. For a planner (like myself) this is a struggle to pencil into your schedule. But when opportunity for adventure, conversation, or experience arises, take it. You may create a memory you will remember for a week, or forever. Either makes it worth it. Carpe diem.
- After 23, age is just a number. Once you’re out of college, the age gap narrows between yourself and anyone within 10 years of your age. Friends are dating older, friends have friends that are older, friends’ siblings and siblings’ friends – once you start to socialize with more people, age just isn’t important anymore. Thank God, because we’re all getting older.
- A bad experience is a good story. Some of the stories are worth sharing and laughing about.
- Bad experiences will make you smarter. Like the old saying, “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” you will realize the truth after you’ve had a few bad experiences. Being sheltered is not living and makes life so much harder when you finally have to face the challenges. Live with risk and learn from your mistakes.
- College is some of the best years of your life. You won’t realize it until you get your first job and spend your entire week working and living for the very short weekend. Keep the memories and try to stretch out your “youth” as long as you possibly can. For me, that’s why I moved to Hoboken. Eventually, I know when I move on and get married and have a family, these years will seem obsolete. But for now, they are the best memories to carry with you.
- You can be really good at something you hate. I learned this most in my career…. Or careers. Talents and interests are two very different things. Never confuse them.
- There is no such thing as a career “path.” It’s more like an intersection where you’ll make a lot of U-turns, get lost, and circle. Some people will stay on the same road and keep on driving – it’s easier. Everyone travels differently, and there is no one way direction.
- As a woman, choosing a career is a challenge. Today, women work in business alongside men and not only have the opportunity to succeed, but are expected to, much different than our parents’ generation. This added pressure presents a choice to every woman – having a successful career or being a full-time mother. Fortunately, we have years to figure this out, but today, more than ever, being a woman gives us many choices, some of them opportunities and some of them challenges. Luckily, we can pursue one and switch to another when the time comes.
- Your role models change. Hopefully, from celebrities to people like Kate Middleton. Or your parents, not in the “I want to be like Dad when I grow up” way, but in the sense of “I want to be as good of a person as my father has proven to me that he is.”
- Looking good is important. Despite the shallowness of this comment, there is an underlying connection between looking good and feeling good. It boosts your self-esteem, gives you confidence, and people notice. It’s the opposite of what your mother tells you, but by your 20’s, learning and accepting style can improve your day-to-day life. Regardless of what nature has blessed you with, carrying yourself well, and putting in some effort for YOU, is majority of the battle, and it will gain you respect.
- Life will never stop throwing you curveballs, so learn to hit them. I’ve spent my whole life saying that the hard part must be over by now. It never is. Life only gets more challenging but also gets more rewarding when you overcome the challenges.
- It’s ok to give up on things that don’t make you happy. We’re raised with the mentality that “quitters never win” but sometimes we do things out of habit. I’m one of my own worst enemies when it comes to not seeing something all the way through. But once you’ve grown up, you need to audit your life and its activities and decide what really makes you happy. If it doesn’t, quitting can be a win.
- For some people, cheating is a normal part of a relationship. It’s a hard concept to grasp for those of us that don’t have this belief, but there are some couples that can ignore, accept, or overcome these transgressions. There are many that can’t (like myself) – but it’s a personal choice for others. We all have different rules to live by.
- Finding the love of your life is one of the most important accomplishments. If you’re lucky enough to find the person you unquestionably want to spend your life with, you’ve been blessed with one of the greatest gifts life can give you.
- When it comes to friends, quality over quantity is a hard-fast rule. When you start taking care of yourself, you must choose to associate with people who make you better, treat you well, and want to have fun. If someone doesn’t fit into these categories, there’s no room for them in your life.
- Your family is the only group of people in your life that you didn’t choose. So if you have a good one, count your blessings. I do every day.
- Once you start worrying about your parents, you’ve officially grown up. There is no worse feeling than watching your significant other or family member hurt. Luckily, all the time your parents spent telling you things were okay was just training for you to say the same to them. And hopefully the student has become the master.
- The depiction of someone’s life online is inaccurate. As a blogger with a Master’s in Media Studies, this is a tough admission. But social media is a jealousy-inducing outlet, and everyone has discovered this. Never be fooled by someone’s online presence – it’s the behind-the-scenes offline life that really counts in the end.
- Comparing yourself to someone else is illogical. Growing up is becoming your own person. Be an individual, ignore others’ opinions when you already have one of your own, and find your permanent identity.
- There is a big difference between doing something for yourself and doing something so that you can tell others about it. Learning the difference between these two types of people proves valuable.
- Be kind, but never pretend. Friends and acquaintences are named differently for good reason. Don’t confuse them, and don’t force these relationships. When in doubt, being pleasant will get your far, but over-promising sets you back.
- Appreciate simple pleasures. Despite my busy, crazy, over-scheduled life, my favorite thing in the world is sitting with family and friends, eating dinner and drinking wine. The busier I get, the more I appreciate those moments and look forward to them all the time. Food, wine, and conversation – never underestimate the power of the trifecta.
- All you really need in life are family and friends, health and safety, happiness and strength. The rest are just accessories.
Happy birthday to me, and many more quarter centuries of lessons learned and truths understood.