You know what I wish I had in my 20s? An old person following me around and pointing out all the things I was doing wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, but fortunately, for today's young adults, the older and wiser are generously sharing their best advice for twentysomethings who feel lost in life. In other words, all twentysomethings.
I think we've all been misled. We were made to believe that into our early 20s, we were supposed to have figured it all out — whatever "it" is. I don't really know, because I never ended up figuring it out. We think we're supposed to have the perfect job, the house, the paycheck, the partner. In reality, some people take longer to obtain these things. Others have no desire to at all. Neither are wrong, no matter what society tells you.
I had many a nervous breakdown throughout my 20s. It's always something. You're broke. You're unemployed. You're working two full-time jobs. You're single. You're dating a loser. The loser just dumped you. You get a tattoo you immediately regret. (None of this happened to me.*)
*All of this happened to me.
If you're in your 20s and your life feels like a total mess, I'm here to tell you:
Most of us don't know what the hell we're doing in our 20s, or even our 30s — a decade I like to refer to as, "My 20s: The Sequel." Don't panic. You're just getting started.
To hopefully make the road a little smoother, here are 16 pieces of advice to help you find your way.
1. Things That Matter Now Won't Matter Later
Maybe you feel like a complete loser because only 12 people liked your selfie on Instagram. (FWIW, that's 11 more than my selfies get.) Perhaps you lay awake at night agonizing over the tiny mistake you made at work.
These feelings might dominate your thoughts right now, but rest assured when you're a little older, you're going to laugh at how much you used to care.
2. Make Good Friends — And Hang On To Them For Dear Life
Make a point of trying to make new friends. I mean, really try. In today's digital age, so many of our friendships never leave Facebook, but these are not the friendships that will ultimately leave you feeling more fulfilled.
Look up from your phone and say hello to the person next to you. Ask them how their day is. Introduce yourself to a stranger. And when you find a good one, put the effort in to nurture and maintain that relationship, because they don't come around every day.
3. Focus On Getting Through It
Sometimes, the very best you can do is take one day at a time, and that's totally fine. Stay positive, try your hardest, and always celebrate even the tiniest wins. You put pants on today? Good for you!
4. No One Knows Anything
It doesn't matter how perfect your friends' lives look on Instagram. It's fiction. We're all a mess, especially in our 20s. Don't let lovey dovey relationship pics and picturesque travel photos dull your view of yourself. You're fabulous no matter what.
5. Even 30-Somethings Are Still Working On It
You don't hit an age where you magically understand everything about life. It's a journey — the whole thing. On this journey, all we can do is continue to try to be better than we were yesterday.
6. Cut Yourself Some Slack
You're going to run into enough challenges and obstacles in your life. Don't make it harder on yourself. These are the normal ups and downs, and we all go through them.
7. You Are Who You Spend Time With
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got? Surround yourself with people who are better than you.
They will lift you up. You are the company you keep. If you spend time with negative, toxic people, it doesn't matter how positive you are — they will negatively impact your life in some capacity.
Choose your people wisely.
8. Get A Hobby You're Passionate About
Hobbies are important. We spend so much time doing things in exchange for money. Our jobs rule our lives. Having something you do simply because of the pure joy it brings you has the power to change everything.
9. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
We've mistaken asking for help as a sign of weakness. In truth, though, there's nothing more genuine than telling someone you need them. It's the arrogant person who never believes they could use someone's help.
Whether it's asking your neighbor for help getting your car out of the snow or calling up someone when you need a shoulder to cry on, remember it's okay to ask.
10. Get Out And Explore
If you have the time and the means, go someplace new. You don't have to go far. Maybe you check out a park in the next neighborhood or go on a weekend trip to another part of the state.
The point is to experience the unknown. It's good for you. It makes you stronger.
11. Better Days Are Ahead
Don't forecast a crappy future based on a rough present. As corny as it sounds, each day is a new opportunity to enjoy an amazing life. When you wake up in the morning, you decide what kind of day it's going to be. Did today end up sucking? Guess what? Tomorrow could be brilliant. Keep going.
12. Spend Wisely
Dear God, watch your finances. Don't spend recklessly. When we're younger, we like to "live in the moment" — except poor financial decisions don't just last in that moment. They last for years to come.
Be particularly careful when it comes to bigger expenses like school, cars, and homes. These can make or break your financial future. Do your homework before you drop the cash.
13. Be Open To New Experiences
14. Don't Rush Into Being An Adult
When you're young, being older seems so cool. Then, when you're older, you're like, "What the heck is this?"
You have so many years of being "old" ahead of you, and the responsibilities will pile on. Enjoy the younger years while they last.
15. Take An Active Role In Your Life
I think we tend to expect things are going to be easier, like finding that dream job or paying off student loan debt.
Really, though, these things don't fall into your lap. You have to grab life by the jewels and run. Take action. Take control. Want something? Go get it.
16. Have Goals And Find What Motivates You
Write down a list of your goals. You should have short-term goals, long-term goals, concrete goals, and abstract goals. Figure out what lights your fire and helps you stay motivated.
One important note, though: understand that your goals may shift and evolve. If you don't reach a goal by the time you had hoped for, don't give up. Step back and reevaluate. You haven't failed. You just need to revisit your plan of action.