Age really is "just a number," and there's no one way to win at womanhood. That said, your 20s are a great time to start achieving your goals — and as a twenty-something myself, I feel like there are so many things every woman should do before 30, if she has the chance. Because, why wait?
If you're in your 20s like me, then this is probably the first time you're truly on your own, and it's finally up to you to start figuring things out for yourself. Most twenty-something women are full of hope, excited about all of life's possibilities, and curiously experimenting with their new-found womanhood. It's truly a magical time, even with all the bizarre dating experiences and gross blunders that come with caring for our first pets.
However, in the midst of all the fun, we can't ignore that 30 is just around the corner. Soon, we'll be "official grown ups" (OK, so that might be total BS too, but it sometimes helps you achieve your goals when you have a target number in mind) — so there's nothing wrong with wanting to lock down a few experiences before we get there.
Here are 13 things every woman should do before she turns 30. Or after. That works too.
1. Live Abroad
Your 20s are a great time to get out of your home country for awhile and experience what's happening in other corners of the world. If you have the freedom to do so, leave for a few months. Or, leave for even longer. Travel to South America and cuddle a llama or get yourself a work visa and go to Australia. (You can earn $25 an hour as a barista there!)
Being an active part of a different culture is an education that you can’t acquire on a manicured university campus — and it could help you become a more clever, compassionate, and grateful person.
2. Forgive Your Parents
The longer you wait to forgive your folks for their blatant disapproval of your college major, your choice in partners, or your tattoos, the tougher it will be to mend things later on. Besides, it's liberating to forgive. Try it — I bet you’ll feel more like a grown-ass woman than ever before.
3. Read Classic Novels About Women, By Women
There are so many classic novels and works of non-fiction written by incredible women and/or about fascinating female characters. ( To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath are good places to start.) Taking the time to check out these books will give you a sense of what it meant to be female in the past, and how that history affects where women are today.
Reading the classics will probably help you mature, too.
4. Learn A New Language
It's never too late to pick up a new language, but starting when you're in your 20s is smart for lots of reasons. It could help your career, it makes traveling much easier, and studies have shown that multi-linguals are better decision makers. Plus, you probably have more free time right now than you will in your 30s, so it really is the best time to devote yourself to the task.
5. Ask For A Raise
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You How To Be Rich , told Forbes that landing one $5,000 raise in your 20s, and investing it the right way, "can be worth more than a million over the course of your career."
Additionally, learning to negotiate raises in your 20s will show your employer that you mean business, and that you know your worth. Of course, you should be careful about when and how you choose to ask for a raise. So you might want to check out Sethi's tips before you make your move.
6. Learn More About Your Vagina
Sex education is seriously lacking in this country, and vaginas are kind of magical, so there's probably a lot of stuff you have yet to learn about your lady bits.
Don't wait any longer to find out what's going on in your vagina. Research how the nerves down there are intricately connected to your brain and what diseases and illnesses women are most prone to.
7. Learn How To Budget & Start Getting Out Of Debt
It probably won't be fun, but you need to learn how to budget in your 20s. Figure out what stuff you can cut out of your shopping list. Start recording what you're buying, and start paying off any student loan or credit card debt you have. Procrastinating on this stuff will be a huge source of stress later, so take care of it now.
8. Learn To Trust Your Intuition
Successful women trust their gut. Their intuition serves them in incredible ways, and yours can, too. Oprah recommends quieting your mind when you're facing a difficult situation (having a yoga or meditation practice can help with that). This way, you can really listen to what your inner voice is trying to tell you.
9. Create Something
You don’t have to become the next Georgia O’Keefe or compose this generation’s Clair de Lune to nurture your imagination. Start small — pick up a notepad and sketch your favorite landscape. Turn on a playlist in your room and choreograph your own dance sequence. You can even keep it to yourself if you want to. Your work of art doesn’t have to be on display to make you feel good.
10. Try To Stop Criticizing Your Body
I won't get all sentimental on you and talk about how we're each gorgeous in our own ways (even though we are). Instead, I just want to encourage you to stop criticizing your body. (Easier said than done, I know, but here are some tips.) Because the sooner you realize that you're beautiful exactly as you are now, the easier your 30s will be.
11. Find An OBGYN You Trust
Having a solid relationship with your doctor is a crucial part of taking care of yourself. If you’re not comfortable enough with your OBGYN to be brutally honest about things like stubborn, vaginal discharge, both of you might miss out on something that desperately needs attention.
Be picky, and don’t settle on a physician if they're not the right fit. Remember, you should never feel judged or dismissed by your OBGYN, and they should always have your best interests in mind.
12. Volunteer For A Cause You Believe In
Giving your time to a cause you care about is super rewarding. According to research by United Health Group, it makes you happier, too. Ninety-four percent of folks who volunteered said it improved their mood, and 76 percent said it made them feel healthier. Another study at the University of Exeter Medical School found that volunteers were 20 percent less likely to die than those who never offered their services free of charge.
13. Befriend An Older Woman
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has come from one of my older, female friends.
If you spend all your time with fellow twenty-somethings, it’s easy to get caught up in drama. Plus, hanging out with someone who's successfully made it though her 20s is super reassuring — she can give you all kinds of wisdom.
Images: Eugenio Marongiu/Fotolia; Giphy (13)