As I think about my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. However, if I knew then what I know now, I would have done a few things differently in my 20s.
I am not talking about buying stock in Bitcoin or Google, although I probably should have started my Instagram a lot earlier. I’m talking about the life lessons I have learned along the way—some of which I am still working on. Hindsight is 20/20, but I figured the year of 2020 is probably a good time to impart some knowledge. Even if you aren’t in your 20s, there are some takeaways here for all of us, no matter our age.
Material Things Aren’t as Important as They Seem
One thing that I have learned in my 30s is that less is truly more. When I was in my 20s, I used to shop—a lot. As a model, I considered fashion a top priority, and I made sure everyone knew it. I had a closet full of designer clothes, not to mention more shoes than anyone ever needed. At the time, these items brought me joy—or so I thought. But as my style and trends changed, they ended up merely hanging out in my closet.
After taking inventory of my life now, I realize that spending the insane amount that I did on all of those clothes wasn’t the best use of my money. Even though I started investing in my 20s, I still carried some debt, and the money I spent on designer clothes could have been put into my savings.
But, really, the clothes are just a piece of it. In an effort to simplify my life, I’ve cataloged how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the years, and it’s no big surprise that a lot of it I don’t need. Slowly but surely, I am starting to purge. Each time I do, I feel better.
Stop Putting Timelines on Milestones
Yes, it is important to set goals for yourself and maintain a timeline to achieve them. However, what isn’t healthy is putting a timeline on what you feel you should be doing—things like being married or having kids by a certain age just because society tells you that’s what you are supposed to do.
I told myself growing up that I would be “rich and famous” by the time I was 30, and that clearly didn’t happen. Yes, I have experienced much success in my career, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to hit milestones by a certain age. I often remind myself of the proverb “man plans, and God laughs.” I’ve learned that things do not always happen the way we want or in the time frame we wish. Slowly, I’m learning to enjoy the journey and I tell myself that things will happen when they are supposed to happen. If I had to go back, I’d tell myself to ignore the fictitious stopwatch and stop trying to force time’s hand.
Start Saving for Retirement Now
This lesson relates to the last. Because I thought I was going to hit it big early in life, I figured I’d start saving for retirement once I was making some serious income. That was a big mistake! I should have been putting away money as soon as I started earning, but it’s not so cut and dry when you work for yourself.
When I worked in finance, I actually started the retirement plan for my company and its employees, which is what prompted me to start saving. However, I wish I had done it sooner. I won’t turn this into a financial conversation and start talking about compound interest and reinvesting dividends, but you get the lesson.
Every Friendship Is Not Worth Holding On To
The friendships you develop in your 30s are quite different than in your 20s. The bonds made over crazy nights out at the bars, or companionship you find from convenience, is less important as you get older. In my 20s, I spent way too much energy on people who, despite being a lot of fun, weren’t actually friends. Toxic friendships need to be ended sooner than later.
When we are young we are still figuring it all out. We’re not sure who we are, because we’re really just learning about life. The people whom we called friends in our 20s, may not fit with the person we become in our 30s —and that’s OK. The people you can count on to listen and support you, even if you only talk to them once in a while, are the friends to hold on to.
This Is the Most Energy You’ll Ever Have—Use it!
“I’m tired!” Almost anyone over 30 understands and agrees with that statement. When I was in my 20s, I could work all day until 6:00 P.M., go to the gym after work, run home, shower and change, go out to dinner at 8:30 P.M., and then meet people for drinks well into the night. And then wake up and do it all over again. Just the thought of doing that now is exhausting to me.
I had so much energy back then! Even though I was doing a lot, if I had known that it would take so much more energy to accomplish the same tasks in my 30s, I would have said “YES!” to more opportunities. Don’t burn yourself out, but take advantage of the energy you have in your 20s, because you definitely won’t have as much later!
What are some things you’d do differently if you could go back to your 20s? What advice would you give yourself? Share in the comments!