20 Things I Learned in my 20s

My twenties are ending in a few days. This is exciting and yet terrifying at the same time. I’ve been reflecting upon this last decade all month, and I have a list I’d love to share with anyone younger than myself. Just a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way. I by no means know everything there is to know about life, but I have a few nuggets worthy of a blog post. Here we go:

1.  Say yes to new learning opportunities. If I had the chance to go back into my earlier 20s, this would be one area I’d change. Many times in my early 20s I had opportunities to jump in and learn a new skill. I’d often hesitate, and someone else bolder than myself would leap at the opportunity. So if an instance arises where you can go first, DO IT. Fear of what others may think or making a fool of yourself is OVERRATED.  

2.  Be okay with telling people NO. I learned this about half way through my 20s. I’d be exhausted, and have several invitations to varying activities, and I’d suck it up and go anyway. I’d often wish I could be at home, in my sweats, with my glasses on and my hair up. I don’t know what swayed my thought process, but one time, I said no. It was freeing. It’s okay to not participate in every social activity you are invited to. Sometimes going to bed early is the cooler thing to do (trust me, your body will thank you).

3.  Travel. Can’t say it enough. Go and see new places. In my 20s I visited the UK 5 times, France, Canada, Mexico, and traveled across the US to a bunch of states. You know what, I have NO regrets spending my hard earned money on travel. Save up and go- it is SO worth it.

Paris 2005

4.  Get an education. I don’t necessarily mean go to a university. Learn a trade. Acquire a new set of skills. My ongoing relationship with universities has been well worth it. I now have a career job with a great foundation to build the rest of my adult working life upon.

OHSU SON-Monmouth Class of 2013

5.  Make friends with people of all ages. My friends group has expanded beyond people my own age. When you get to your upper 20s, you worry less about the age gap and more about commonalities with others. It’s worth it to befriend older & wiser people and invite them into your life. They probably have so much life to share with you and lessons they’ve learned along the way.

6.  Develop hobbies. In my 20s I learned I love to run 5Ks, kayak, crochet, bake, blog, and a few others. Hobbies are not only fun, but they also give you something to make small talk about when necessary. I’m not a huge fan of small talk, but I find I can generally relate to anyone if I bring up one of my hobbies in conversation.

7.  Save money for a “rainy day”. This is a lesson that I just learned in my last year of my 20s. Because honey, when it rains, it pours. My recent car bill was hefty, but I could pay it because I had stashed some cash and left it in reserve specifically for this reason.

8.  Make exercise and eating well a part of your lifestyle. In my 20s my weight fluctuated. I spent a lot of hard, sweaty hours burning off the 20 pounds I packed on during nursing school. If I could go back, I would have penciled in 30 minutes of exercise into my day to counteract the time I spent sitting and studying. If you discover what physical activities you love now, you will form healthy habits for later.

9.  Be generous. Give a little extra money to a cause you love. Generosity is contagious, and it’s an admirable quality to possess.

10.  Read books. Read the paper. Watch the news. Be well informed. These are more small talk topics that can be discussed when conversation lulls.

11.  Be okay with not buying all the new upgrades. I have been driving the same car for all of my 20s. My cell phone is 3 generations behind. Technology and automobiles will continually upgrade and get better. Don’t be sucked into the mentality that you must have the next best thing. I guarantee that 6 months down the road, there will be something newer and better. Your money is better spent on traveling, saving for a house, or paying down your student debt.

12.  Unexpected events will pop up in your life and throw you off your game. This is normal. It sucks and I’m letting you know that you will get through it. I planned on living in my apartment and working at my little part-time job until I graduated from nursing school. Then I was informed that my company was closing and that my best friend was getting married in a few months time. I moved back in with my parents. Not what I was expecting. But you know what, it’s been wonderful, and it works.

13.  Learn to be comfortable with public speaking. I’m not saying you have to love it, but in this day and age, I promise there will be a time when you will be speaking to a group of people of at least 8 or more. Every time during nursing school when we had a presentation, I’d roll my eyes and wonder when I’d ever be using public speaking in nursing. Then I got my first nursing job and GUESS WHAT? I teach classes to non-medical staff frequently. My last class size was 16 and my projector wouldn’t work. I had to wing it with my PowerPoint presentation. Praise God I had had practice with public speaking. If you have a fear of public speaking, I strongly advise you figure out a way to overcome it.

14.  If your gut tells you to go after something, or quite the opposite, listen! My gut feeling about working in the ICU after graduation was a HECK NO. I’m grateful I wasn’t offered the job. If I had the chance to do it all over, I would have applied to a completely different unit or an entirely different setting. Intuition is a wonderful thing, please don’t ignore it.

15.  Cherish the time you have with your family and friends. Cell phones are awesome. I love sharing my life on Instagram and Facebook. But there’s nothing like putting the phone down and being completely present. I love going to restaurants and coffee shops and seeing customers interacting face-to-face. Put your phone on silent and have a good heart-to-heart.

At the Van Hess wedding with my bestie, Kristin, a few years ago now.  Known her half my life!

16.  Plan for your future. If you enter into a job where a retirement plan is offered, take it. I keep reading over and over again that if you start now, as in between the ages of 25-35, by the time you retire, you will save a substantial amount of money. If you company matches what you contribute, this is even better. It’s like free money. You won’t even miss it from your paycheck. I haven’t.

17.  It is NEVER too late to start over. I spent my 20s chasing after my long-term goals. It took me 4 rounds of applying to get into nursing school. I even received a couple degrees in the meanwhile. But my heart led me to nursing school. I couldn’t let it go. So I applied one last time, right before all my science prerequisites expired, and I got in. It was a God-given opportunity. I knew it would take another 3 years, but it’s been hands-down the BEST decision I made during my 20s. Chase after those deferred dreams.

OHSU SON-Monmouth Convocation June 2013

18.  Use comparison only as a means of motivation. It is easy to compare yourself to others in your 20s. She is already married with baby. He is working at an amazing job making such good money, etc. In your 20s, you’ll have friends in ALL walks of life. Some will be single. Some will get married. Some will get divorced. Some will have kids. Some will not. It’s not worth your time to compare your journey with anyone else’s UNLESS it motivates you to do something better. If this means you see a friend who worked hard and earned their degree and you have not, start taking classes. If it means that your friend saves up and buys a house, stock away some money every month until you can do the same. Comparison is the thief of joy, according to Theodore Roosevelt- which is true, unless you use it for positive motivation.

19.  If you happen to live within driving distance of your family, and you don’t live with them currently, visit frequently. My brother, who happens to be one of my best friends, moved across the US to the East Coast two and a half years ago, and it’s been rough on our family. Skype and Facetime helps, but it’s not the same. Make family a priority. I urge you to free up some time for your family if at all possible.

Luke & Ash’s Wedding, May 2013

20.  Realize that your 20s are full of relationships. Some will stay, some will go. Some will come into your life for a season. This is normal. I am grateful for my most meaningful relationship- my one with God. He is constant. He is good. He is bold. He is patient. He loves me when I am so unworthy of His love. As soon as I came to grips with His love for me, my life has been anchored. God used my 20s for His glory, and it is because of this I can say I am (mostly) ready for a new decade.

So there you go! This could be complete nonsense. Or it might be useful. Just my lessons I’ve learned in the most shaping decade I’ve experienced (yet).

BRING IT ON 30s!

Original blog post dated 12/21/14

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