For so many of us, our 20s are when life really gets rocking and rolling. We finish college, move out on our own, try to get a job (any job, seriously, just pay me, for God's sake), and take control of our own lives. Whether it's by choice or not, there are certain life lessons you can't leave your 20s without — like how to fix a broken toilet and learning not to click on strange links in your email and other important stuff like that.
It's a time of growth and reflection. With freedom comes responsibility — and that means celebrating our successes when we do something right, and learning from our failures when we screw it all up. It means dating a lot of somewhat crappy people and remembering to pay all our bills on time so that the Wifi doesn't get disconnected again. We start to really explore who we are, and the road isn't always so smooth; but is it supposed to be?
It's not always easy, and it's not always pretty; but like it or not, your '20s teach you a whole heck of a lot. It's for the best, though, because you come out the other end stronger, wiser, and probably a little happier, too.
Here are a few things your 20s might have taught you.
1. Hard Work Doesn't Guarantee Success
This is a tough pill to swallow, particularly since from a young age, we're told we can achieve anything if we work hard enough for it. Hard work is a necessity in life, yes; but in any given situation, there might be 100 other factors playing a role that could render your hard work useless. Does it make your efforts any less meaningful? Of course not. But in your 20s (if not sooner), you'll likely come to a startling realization: the world doesn't owe you anything, and not everyone cares that you put your heart and soul into things.
Knowing how to be a hard worker is part of being a responsible adult; but it doesn't make any of us immune to rejection or failure.
2. Friendships Fall Apart
Sometimes, there's a huge fight. Other times, we drift apart and have no clue why. Like any romantic relationship, there's no guarantee that friendships will last forever; and sometimes, these breakups can hurt worst of all.
There's a silver lining here, though: you realize that relationships (of any kind) don't work on their own. You have to invest in them, nurture them, respect them. And when people come in to your life and stick around for good, you have the perspective to know how much you should appreciate them.
3. Family Comes And Goes
They say you can't choose your family, but I beg to differ — because something else you learn in your 20s is that you might not like everyone in your family, or even want them in your life. Being someone's relative doesn't make a person a good person; and it's totally possible that your mom or sister or uncle or cousin is toxic, negative, and treats you horribly. Do you excuse their behavior because they're family? A lot of us do in our younger years; but we finally learn that sharing genes doesn't make it OK to be a jerk.
Similarly, you might have friends or significant others who come to hold a special place in your heart, and you regard them as family; a lack of blood relation won't take away the fact that they genuinely care for your happiness and wellbeing. When you find amazing people like this, don't let them go.
4. Bad Things Can Happen To Good People
You could be a saint, and bad things will still happen to you. This isn't pessimistic — it's reality. It's the result of living in an imperfect world, where things go wrong, people make mistakes or poor choices, and many factors are out of your control.
That being said, there is one thing that is in your control: how you respond. You can throw yourself a pity party and think about how awful your life is, but where does that get you? While nobody can be 100 percent positive 100 percent of the time, there's something to be said for learning to roll with the punches, find silver linings, and treat negative experiences as learning experiences.
5. Good Things Can Happen To Bad People (And It Might Drive You Bonkers)
We all know someone whom we've decided is an awful person, and yet they seem to have the best luck in the world. They got the incredible job or landed the hottie boyfriend or take the most luxurious vacations. Maybe this is the case. Maybe their lives aren't as fantastic as they seem. Either way, it doesn't really matter. Here's why.
As an adult, you hopefully come to terms with one important lesson: their lives, good or bad, aren't really any of your business. How does it affect you? It doesn't. How does it change you? It doesn't. While good things do happen to rotten people, and it kind of totally sucks, focus your energy on loving yourself instead of hating them. You'll be doing yourself a favor.
6. There Will Always Be Someone Better Than You
It's hard not to feel competitive in a culture where we're often compared to others; a little healthy competition can even be good for you. But if, at the end of the day, you go home second best (or third, or fourth, or tenth), remember this: even if you come in first, there is someone better than you. Smarter. Faster. Funnier. And that's OK. Life isn't one giant competition. If you can go to bed at night and lay your head down knowing you were a good person that day, you're doing just fine.
7. The Root Of Your Problems Might Very Well Be *You*
Sure, bad things happen to us in the course of our lives that we had nothing to do with; but is it really reasonable to think that every bad thing to happen to you is someone else's fault? No. And it's not because you're some awful creature; it's because we're all flawed and we all make mistakes.
We're so quick to point the finger of blame because who on earth wants to acknowledge — forget accept — that they had a hand in their messy situation? It's so much easier to blame the nasty breakup on your ex, getting laid off on your boss, strained family relationships on your mom. There's a question we all need to ask ourselves whenever we're up sh*t creek: did I contribute to this?