I was going to do “20 mistakes I made in my 20s” but realized I couldn’t quite narrow down that list.
I’m really curious to find out how one gets a job at Buzzfeed; you seemingly get paid to create mostly useless (and some would argue mindless) lists with the ultimate goals of provoking 90’s nostalgia and perpetrating procrastination. I’ll admit to never having been on the site myself but do scroll through the countless links my Facebook friends are kind enough to share.
One common theme that I notice manifested over and over is a rift on “Things I Should Have Realized/Taken Advantage of during my 20s.” These lists, I’m assuming being written by disgruntled 30-somethings, are filled with GIFs and accompanying commentary that say things like, “Travel more, you’re going to get tied down soon,” or, “Your metabolism rules. Eat whatever you want.” As a 20-something I thought maybe I could find some wisdom hidden in there, but I already travel pretty extensively and I learned at age 25, that I could not, in fact, consume pizza and beer daily anymore.
I see their point in a way. For a lot of us (i.e. me), your 20s are that time when you transition into adulthood while still making a lot of juvenile mistakes. While it’d be a lie to tell you that I don’t look back at things with regret (such as: you should have studied abroad in college), I do my best to not dwell on what could have been, but rather what I learned. I’m 27, and while I still have two and a half years left in this decade, Buzzfeed has got me reflecting (which in itself is somewhat embarrassing) on what I have learned during these formative times.
Without further ado, here are 20 things I’ve learned so far in my 20s.
1. My Parents Were Right:
About not procrastinating, and not keeping things in, and about not paying a million dollars for that loft style apartment so I could save money for memories, and not putting things off, and the importance of taking advantage of sales at the grocery store, and I could go on and on. My parents are smart and thoughtful people who only wanted me to succeed.
2. Being Frugal Isn’t Being Cheap:
My dad got notoriously bitchy when we left the lights on at home or lingered too long in front of an open refrigerator. “Does it really affect the electric bill that much?” is clearly a statement from someone who has never received said electric bill. I used to have a gross, misguided perception that watching your money in small ways is tacky and cheap. Then I entered the real world and realized there’s no shame to turning off lights or preparing your own meals instead of eating out.
Tacky and cheap is skimping on tips or constantly picking up rounds from other people without extending the favor. Being frugal and smart means never having to be the cheap guy.
3. Age is Just a Number:
Sometimes when I go home for a visit I end up hanging out more with my parents, my uncles and their friends than with people my own age. This may have started as a necessity (a large majority of my friends have fled the homeland) but I don’t hate it. Older isn’t a negative. It’s interesting.
4. Getting Older Doesn’t Suck:
I remember being super upset about turning 22. I had nothing to look forward to. I would have to start working. I couldn’t get away with doing things like buying underwear instead of washing them. But it hasn’t been bad. My 20s have been fun, and I actively enjoy a salary and the benefits that come with it. I’ve also ended up having more fun each year than the one before. The only thing I truly pine for is that lost metabolism.
5. I Know More Than I Thought I Did:
When I first started working I always kept quiet at faculty and department meetings, intimidated by the fact that all these other people were so much more experienced. I rationed that I would let people who knew what they were doing talk. Five years later, and I feel like I’m one of the people who has a grasp on my career, and the funny part is that some of the same thoughts I kept in five years ago are things I’m bringing up today. I’ve realized that while it’s healthy to be aware of any greenness it certainly shouldn’t make you discount yourself.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to be the Bad Guy:
My brother is probably reading this and thinking, “But he’s always been a dick,” which in a sense is true. I placed high importance on being perceived as a nice guy, sometimes to the detriment of the people I’m closest to. I wouldn’t want friends, colleagues or strangers to think I was a dick but would lash out on those closest to me. I now realize that that “nice guy” is super wishy-washy and that someone has to be the one disagreeing or denying sometimes.
7. Loneliness is a Virtue:
I would have never gone to the movies by myself or braved a restaurant alone during college. Now, eating out alone (preferably with a book or iPod) is one of my favorite ways to unwind. I also can’t even count the number of things I would have missed out on had I refused to travel alone. Loneliness really is a virtue.
8. Ask For Help:
I hated (OK, still do) asking for help but the only ones that don’t are idiots.
9. You Don’t Always Have to See Last Call:
I used to think that the goal of the night was to stay up as late as possible and considered it a failure if I wasn’t around for last call. While I still might see that last call more than I should (I blame an Irish and Lithuanian and Northeastern Pennsylvanian pedigree) I’ve learned there’s no shame (and a welcome respite) in ending the night on my own terms.
10. Dressing Up Is Fun:
I was that guy who used to say things like, “Can’t I just wear a polo?” when going to a wedding. Now that I dress up for work every day I like it. I feel like I look smarter, more professional and that people take me more seriously. Sweats will always be my first love, but if you tell me these days something is “casual dress” I might actually get excited about it.
11. What Other People Think Doesn’t Matter:
The one semi-regret on my list. Why did I waste so much time caring what (FILL IN THE BLANK) thinks?
12. Don’t Wait for People to Call You:
I used to be the worst with this. “Why isn’t anybody calling me?” I’d whine. Probably because a lot of those people are wondering the same thing. If you’re the one always doing the calling, people will eventually start calling you. This goes for both social and professional opportunities.
13. Early Mornings Are Where It’s At:
I used to be a night owl. Now you’re lucky if I make it past 11:00. The main reason is that I like getting up early. I’m at my most productive, and nothing feels better than being done with everything by mid-afternoon. That Ben Franklin guy knew what was up.
14. Money Matters:
This might sound bleak, but the whole “do what you love” is only smart advice if “doing what you love” pays student loans and your car insurance.
15. But Pay For Experiences Before Things:
Whenever my friends see my bedroom they almost always make fun of the fact that I still sleep on a twin mattress. I’m not a small guy. I made a concerted effort to save up for a king size this year but then I went to New York for St. Patty’s weekend, and then when I thought I had enough again, my sister and I went to Iceland. I thought I definitely had one in July before a beach weekend with my college friends called my name. None of these things could be replicated. I’ll probably own a king sized mattress someday.
16. Not Everything Makes Senses With Age:
Like scotch or classical music. People always said that you’d appreciate those things when you got older but scotch still makes me gag and classical music makes me feel like I’m in an elevator.
17. Country Music is Everything:
I used to think country music was only for hicks. Then I came to my senses and realized I grew up less than two miles from a dairy farm. Also, they frequently sing about their friends, beer, dogs and how they’d rather be at the beach. Those are a few of my favorite things.
18. I’m My Father’s Son:
I used to think my dad and I didn’t have a ton in common. But the older I get the more I realize that we look the same, we have the same mannerisms and I’m beginning to think that everyone that smokes weed is just an unambitious hippie as well.
19. Take What Happened in High School With a Grain of Salt:
What and who people were in high school shouldn’t matter anymore. People grow up and change, so don’t hold grudges and give that guy you thought was a dick junior year a chance. He might turn into one of your best friends. Reminisce about high school, but don’t get stuck there. Springsteen wrote a song about those people and it’s not complimentary.
20. Pay Your Parking Tickets Immediately:
This one is self-explanatory.
What about you? What were some things you took from your 20s?