I should start by saying that I graduated from college young. I was 20, about a month shy of turning 21, and am now about a month past turning 28. So when say between college and now, it’s actually a bit over 7 years, and is the bulk of my 20s. Much of this I also started learning in college, so it could actually stretch back 10 years, from when I graduated high school.
Now firmly ensconced in my “late 20s,” I feel like I have some knowledge that I can cram into your brain. Whether you like it or not!
I love being 28. Just like I loved being 9, 17, 23, 27, and everything in between, and will adore being 35, 43, 57, and so on.
Reality of life: we either age, or we die. Those are literally the ONLY two options. No point in fighting it, might as well enjoy the process.
That being the case, I choose to enjoy and anticipate getting older, and the new experiences each year brings. I choose to hold on to my mostly-unflappable optimism and embrace the new years, instead of kicking my heels or feeling old at being “almost 30.” Feeling old is silly anyway. You’re either old or you’re not, but I’d certainly rather be old and loved and surrounded by life and family than the alternative! Besides, old people can be retired and travel more and say whatever they want with no fear of reprisal. I think being old is going to be AMAZING.
So what have I learned since 20? Has my journey to 28 taught me anything particularly useful or worth sharing? I think so!
10. Hangovers get worse the older you are. Learn to drink in moderation. No more crazy all night keg parties for this girl! I have to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow, and I don’t want to feel like my head has been sawed off and resewn badly. Trust me. Enjoy social drinking, don’t get wasted anymore. It hurts worse as you age! This also feeds into the way that I no longer want to go out and party all the time, like I did in college. I prefer quiet nights at home, or fun outdoor activities. I found out I love that. I also love sleep a lot more than I did at 20!! I can’t be out until 3 am on a Tuesday, I have work the next day and I will be super useless on 3 hours of sleep!
9. Life as an adult is a lot like high school. You still have popular kids and cliques, and inane arguments. But unlike high school, you can choose to remove yourself from most of that. A good way not to piss people off? Don’t discuss religion or politics with strangers or acquaintances!
8. I learned that it is much more important to me to be healthy now than when I was 19. You start to realize that yeah, maybe pizza for dinner every night is not the brightest plan. Maybe you should exercise once in a while, and start to eat a little healthier. It is around this time that if you didn’t before, you start to cook at home more often. You want to make yourself healthy now, so as to not be REALLY unhealthy in another 10 years. I learned that SLEEP becomes a much higher priority now to me than when I was younger! I go to bed earlier than back then, I pay a lot of attention to any sleep issues I have, and I was willing to pay a lot more for a newer nicer bed, than I ever did when I was younger.
7. You have fewer friends. This one is actually a great thing. You still end up with a lot of acquaintances, like that girl from work you always say hi to and chat about your weekend, or that guy from your apartment building you nod at in the hallway and who will sign for a package for you, but your core group of friends tends to dwindle with age, until you’re left with the really important and special ones. The ones who will be there through thick and thin, and will always be on your side when you hate someone or something, even irrationally. I could hate someone my best friend has never met, and she will back me up and complain about what a terrible person they are and offer to beat them up. That’s real friendship right there.
6. Dating changes as we get older. What I wanted out of a relationship when I was 19 or 20 is drastically different from what I need out of one now. Our perspective on dating changes. The type of people we date can change. I am no longer interested in anyone approaching the typical high school “bad boy” of my high school years. I want, need, and deserve (and have!) a guy who knows who he is, who is honest, and who will laugh at life with me. As I got older, dating was a little less about the current moment and a little more about the longer-term potential of the person. Mutual core values became a lot more of a conversation topic, too!
5. Being happy at work and in your career is so much more important than money. For me at least, I learned that as long as I have enough to pay my bills, that money is in no way a deciding factor in a job anymore. Money is nice and all, but not hating my life 40 hours a week is even nicer. Feeling like I make a contribution to a company I care about, now THAT is a great feeling. Figuring out what I want to do in a career was and still is an ongoing process. But learning has been interesting and informative, and invaluable in my overall happiness. I now understand that being happy at work is easily the best thing you can do for overall happiness in life, especially when you consider the sheer amount of time you spend there (rivaled only really by the amount of time you sleep)!
4. Financial responsibility is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than we gave it credit for when we were young and stupid. It is ridiculous that no one in college teaches you how to do your own taxes or the real responsibility of student loans and credit cards. You are so much more aware of your financials as you get older, and of how important it is to be out of debt and saving for your future. I care so much more about being able to afford a decent house someday than buying random toys and clothes that I’ll lose interest in fairly quickly anyway. Having money in savings is a cushion, a nest egg, and a security blanket for me. A quiet night at home not spending money is often more interesting for me than a crazy night out.
3. I learned that family is forever. You actually always sort of realize this growing up, but as you get older, you realize that some friends are toxic, or negative, or will turn away from you. You’ll still have your close friends, but you realize how important it is to maintain a great relationship with your siblings and parents and extended family. These people have known you forever, love you, and will continue to be strong emotional support the rest of your life. You really realize that more in your mid to late 20s, and stop taking them for granted.
2. I learned that we can only be responsible for ourselves. We can’t make people do what we want, we can only ask them to. We can’t change people, and even if we could, why would we? If someone changes for YOU, then it’s not real. People can truly only make changes for themselves, because it is what they want for themselves, in order for it to stick. I learned about accepting people for who they are and loving people because of our differences, not in spite of them.
1. The most important thing I’ve ever learned: You get more confident in yourself with age. You settle into who you really are, and learn more about yourself. You become comfortable with yourself and learn who to surround yourself with. I was incredibly lucky to have a strong female figure in my life: my mom. My mother is 100% sure of who she is and is happy to be that person. My mom does not care what you think of her, and will continue to stand up for what she believes in, regardless of popularity. She was a teacher for forever and day, and in her classroom she had a sign that said “What’s popular is not always right and what’s right is not always popular.” And she truly lives by that statement. My mom is strong, loving, and absolutely true to herself. And because of that example, I grew up being confident in myself and my abilities, strong enough to hold firm in my beliefs, and not caring what strangers think of me. My moms security in herself made me secure in myself. This is the single greatest gift my mother gave me, and one I hope we can all give to our children. Being proud of who she is is the thing I admire most about my mom.
Huh. I guess that means my parents were right, all those times they tried to give me life advice as a kid. Not that I listened then. I had to go and figure it out on my own.