“What am I doing with my life?”
I’ve asked myself that question many times growing up. People say post-college life is when you finally enter the real world. During this time, I’ll grow up and know exactly what I want to do with my life. I should have my dreams laid out and my plans set in stone so that by the time I am 30, I will have accomplished it all. There’s this fairy tale idea that 10 years from now I will grow up and as they say, “Have it all figured out.”
But here’s the secret about growing up and this weird couple of years we call out 20’s. It’s the complete opposite of this mythical certainty. In reality, our early 20’s are our best “learning years.” We’re going to fail. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to discover new things about ourselves. There’s going to be a lot of that, meshed together. This part of our life will be confusing and frustrating–but so darn amazing.
Here are 10 Things I Learned About Growing Up
1. Your life will be filled with a lot of doubt. In the two years after college, I’ve questioned a lot of the decisions I made, the jobs I took, and the grad schools I didn’t attend. I wondered if things will work out or if I was headed towards an inevitable end. The truth is, no one will have the right answers to the questions I have. But Jim Carrey said it best when he said, “You can fail at what you don’t want, and so you might as well take a chance on something you love.”
2. You will need to learn how to say ‘no.’ I’ve always been someone who wanted to learn everything. I took every opportunity that came to me without thinking about the ones that would better me in the long run. And so I burned out, bad. Before you add responsibilities to your plate, think about what you want to do. Will this opportunity take you there or will it distract you from putting more work into what you’re after?
3. Friends will come and go. Don’t fight it. You will grow. You will change. The more experiences you have, the more likely you will see things in a different perspective. Your values can change and sometimes this means you will grow apart from people. Don’t force something that can’t be saved. If you need to grow separately, let it happen. It’s all a part of growing up.
4. Learn how to manage your finances. When my car broke down and I had to spend hundreds on repairs, I realized how important it was to have a savings account–even if it was small. My savings account prepared me for life’s unexpected emergencies and I did a victory dance every time I got myself out of a pickle versus having to ask my parents for help. Even if you don’t have much to spare, putting a dollar a day into your savings account will make growing up into an adult a more positive experience.
5. Spend more time with your parents. I don’t know when this happened, but one day I woke up and realized, “My parents are getting older and one day they’re going to leave this earth.” It scared me. Instead of being worried about the inevitable, make the best of what you have left together. Be kind to them, make time for Sunday brunches, and help them out when you can. A 10-minute phone call goes a long way.
6. Learn how to give and accept constructive criticism. Knowing where I needed to improve was valuable to my personal and professional growth. At the same time, learning how to tell someone how the can improve on their shortcomings is important too. You will be working with lots of different people in the future. Be someone who can give and receive valuable input.
7. Don’t compare your failures and successes to others. Your 20’s are the perfect time to try new things and figure out what you want versus what you don’t. For most, our only responsibilities lie with ourselves and we are more carefree to be spontaneous and make mistakes. If you want to stay sane, this is the perfect time to not compare your life to others. Everyone has a different goal, and everyone’s path to that goal will take different amounts of time. When you compare, you’re telling yourself you’re just like everyone else. But you’re not. Concentrate on the right path for you.
8. Stress about the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t. Don’t waste your energy on things that can’t be changed. It will tire you out and waste your time. Instead, use your energy to stay positive and to work on things you do something about. It’s easier to look on the bright side of a situation when your mind is at ease.
9. Love yourself (thanks, Justin Beiber). Love yourself enough to know your worth when it comes to jobs, friendships, and relationships. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve. No one else is going to do it for you and you owe it to yourself to put your values first.
10. Life is a constant journey; just enjoy the ride. Remember how many times you changed your major in college? Life decisions are the exact same way, but 10 times scarier. There are a few lucky ones who know exactly what they want to do, with a 10-year plan laid out before them. For most of us, that’s not the case and it’s completely okay. Life is a never-ending learning experience. Embrace it; the good, the bad, and the unexpected. Guess what? In the end, it’ll work out. For some, it’ll take so much longer, but as long as you keep moving forward, everything will eventually be okay.
What life lessons have helped you grow up?
Also by Jennifer: 3 Easy Green Smoothies to Make Every Morning
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Photo: Jennifer Pham