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20 Things I Wish I Knew at Age 20

I was in awe of the adjustable box spring at the Funny Farm – a hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland.  The amazing things you see when studying abroad…

Yesterday, I turned 30 years old.  While I’m not actually celebrating until this weekend, I do recognize the milestone that this moment is in my life.

When I look back on where I thought I would be at age 30, it’s so different from where I am today – and that’s a great thing.  Relationships, careers, home town, etc.  I’m incredibly proud of the woman that I’ve become, and I cannot wait to see where this journey continues to take me.

I loved literally every single moment of my 20s, because they got me to where I am today.  But that doesn’t mean that a few lessons could have been beneficial.  While some of these are life-changing, and some incredibly trivial, these are things that I wish I knew when I turned 20 that would have made life just a little bit simpler.

20 Things I Wish I Knew at Age 20

1) Don’t skip a single stage of life

When we’re younger, we’re trying to look and feel older.  But when we’re older, we wish we could return to our younger days.  Each stage has a purpose and teaches us lessons that will be useful throughout life.  High school is finding yourself, college is finding true friends, life with children is caring more about another than yourself.  Raymond and I are in a stage where we are discovering our identity as a couple.  Denver is a huge part of our lives, and we’re constantly making friends together.  For lack of a better term, we’re allowed to be selfish for a moment – we don’t have children and we’re successfully running through the honeymoon phase, setting us up to be successful in marriage for the long run.  Each phase is important and worth taking the time to explore.  Don’t rush the process.

2) Girlfriend dates are just as important as boyfriend dates

Just like most younger gals, I was committed to romantic dates with my boyfriends through Junior High, High School, College, and beyond.  Granted this typically meant Junior High dances “with a ghost between us,” watching my High School boyfriend play football while I gossiped on the sidelines, or going to some terribly themed sorority mixer in College.  (All my true definition of romance at the time.)  But though all of these years, the people I still talk to regularly are my girlfriends.  They know my past, and they sometimes (often) know me in the present better than I know myself.  Plan “dates” with your girlfriends to stay in touch and keep your bond strong.  They’ll be just as important, if not more important, in the long run.

3) Listen to your intuition

Sometimes you may be torn between listening to your head and your heart.  At least for me, I’ve learned that my heart is typically right.  Of course, think about the repercussions of your moves before you make them.  But most of the time, when you’re being incredibly honest with yourself, whatever you’re being silently drawn towards is typically the right direction.

4) Don’t take your opportunities for granted

If you’re anything like me, it won’t be until you are much older that you will realize the many opportunities you’ve received across your life.  We all are provided with many opportunities, no matter our age or stage of life.  Don’t be too lazy to recognize those opportunities.  Move to that city you hardly know, talk to a potential new friend in your workout class, attend that concert solo, or invite that guy you have a crush on out for coffee.  You never know what might happen.

5) Learn how to make some go-to meals

Going out to eat is expensive and usually unnecessary.  Learn how to steam vegetables, make a simple pasta dish, and be willing to buy a pre-roasted chicken to mix in with your dishes.  Learn some of your favorite ingredients and spices to enhance many of your meals.  I’m definitely not a whiz in the kitchen, but what I can make saves us money and gets the job done.

6) People probably aren’t looking at you as much as you think

I went through a long phase in my life where I would walk into a room and if others were laughing, I automatically assumed they were laughing at me.  While I can’t say that was absolutely not the case, most people are only caring about themselves or those in their inner circle.  They’re not laughing or looking at you.  And, if they are, who cares?  I promise you that the moment will pass.

7) What you focus on tends to grow

Just like spending hours practicing sports or studying when you’re a kid, what you prioritize in your life becomes the area of your life where you see the most improvement.  Pay attention to the important pieces of your life – relationships, health, work – so that those pieces continue to grow and thrive across the years.

8) Write all birthdays in your calendar

Even though some people claim they hate birthdays, everyone loves to feel special and celebrated.  Make sure that you have the dates of your friends and family members’ birthdays in your calendar.  While I’m still working on this lesson myself, remembering someone’s birthday reminds them that you care about their happiness all year long.

9) Find an activity to enjoy in each season

Nobody should dislike where they live at any point across the year.  While you might have seasonal preferences, make sure that you have at least one activity that you love in every season.  If you need any suggestions, I highly recommend hiking in Summer, reading in Spring (especially during a rainstorm, swoon!), going to football games in Fall, and skiing in Winter.  Every season is perfectly and lovingly made.

10) Learn what brings you true joy, and spend your time and money there

Zone in on what truly makes you happy, then focus on spending your time and money on those things.  For me, it’s fitness and health, as well as spending time in community.  For others it might be the hottest technology or going to the movies.  What truly makes you happy?  We only have one life to live, and prioritizing those elements that bring us joy means that life will be just that much better.

11) Stop cutting your hair short unless you’re going to learn how to style it

Three times in my 20s, I cut my hair short to donate inches to Locks of Love.  While I still love where my heart focused at those points, I honestly look back at those hair cuts with regret.  I never learned how to style shorter hair, which left me with almost a more loose pageboy look.  Leaving my hair at my traditional, longer length would have made my days, and prepping for sorority recruitment, just that much easier.

12) Become comfortable with the silence

I’ve always been one that thrives in commotion.  I love fast-paced cities, I struggle with sitting still, and I still call at least one person a day so that I don’t go crazy while I’m working from home.  But in all reality, it’s those moments of complete silence where transformation can take place.  Pay attention to where your mind goes when you sit in the quiet.  That is where you will find the answers you truthfully need to be receiving in life.

13) Learn the art of active listening

I once heard it said that most people don’t listen to others to hear what’s being said – they listen in preparation to respond.  And I absolutely think that’s true.  Being a good listener means settling in, being unselfish, and actually hearing what the person has to say before creating your response.  While this lesson is much easier said than done, it’s a gift that will dramatically better your life, and the lives of those around you, across the years.

14) Keep the joy of living “in the moment”

So many lessons we learn across our 20s focus on the future.  Preparing us for future careers, dating with plans for a future family, etc.  And those “plans” have consistently longer tentacles as we continue throughout our years.  Being mindful of the moment is a strength that becomes easily lost if we’re not careful.  Enjoy the moment – right now – before it’s lost.

15) No matter what you think right now, social media and your friends’ opinions are NOT forms of news

Beware of anything and everything that portrays itself to you as news or as a fact, especially on forms of social media or coming from the mouths of others.  Read about multiple sides of every situation.  Listen, but don’t act, until you are certain that you are properly informed.  Many pieces of information portray themselves as news, but that is only a greater reason to be suspicious.

16) Travel

I singlehandedly have travel to thank for opening my mind.  Books and lessons from family at a young age obviously play into this, but actually experiencing different cultures, seeing new landscapes, and honestly meeting new people is where your mind stretches to new horizons.  If you don’t start traveling early, it’s a harder habit to pick up as you age.  There are always excuses to stay home.  Travel now and travel as much as you can.

17) Learn to consider the other side of the story

Always take a moment to listen to people that you don’t agree with.  Be OPEN.  Ask them why they feel the way the do.  Many people tend to think that because they’re informed, everyone else should feel the same way we do.  But the truth is that considering other’s sides without judgement is a gift that will strongly benefit you in more ways than one.

18) Take care of your body

Exercise.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t do drugs.  Stop drinking soda now.  Wash your face before you go to bed.  These small, simple things will pay dividends across the years.  I promise.

19) Courage is a choice

You’re going to have some moments in your life where you’re honestly uncertain of the next step.  You quit your job or you’re let go.  You break up with the person you thought was “the one.”  Something just hits you like a ton of bricks because you didn’t see it coming.  You’ll never be ready to adjust to these changes, but you need to be strong and move forward anyways.  Speak into and acknowledge the fear… and then keep going.

20) DWYSYWD (Do What You Said You Would Do)

This was on my desk during my first job out of college, and I still remind myself of it to this day.  We’re built on a society that’s scared of saying no.  But it’s so much better to just be honest.  Follow through and be honest – when making plans or when committing yourself to a task.  This goes both for making plans with others and with yourself.  Always follow through.

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