All The Advice I Wish I’d Been Given In My 20s

You know what? Your 20s are hard. It’s crazy that we put so much pressure on 20-somethings to get their whole life together. And your parents, bless their cotton socks, don’t always have the best advice ­– it’s been a while since they were carded at a bottle shop, and their perspective is grounded in the olden days (of the 1980s).

As someone who turned 30 a little over a month ago, I’m not a proper, certified ‘old’. I’m a little bit older and wiser, but I also know how to use a Snapchat filter, so I’m not totally out of touch. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

#1 Ask for what you want

The worst people can say is no. Ask for what you want: a date, a mentorship, a pay rise. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you.

#2 Tequila shots: not even once

Never have I thought, “Gee, I’m glad I had that shot”. Just say no!

#3 There are good kinds of uncomfortable, and bad kinds of uncomfortable, and it pays to learn the difference

The good kinds: Being out of your comfort zone, uncertainty, learning something new, admitting you were wrong, apologising. Lean into this discomfort, and you’ll grow from it.

The bad kinds: That weird gut churn when a senior male colleague puts their hand on your waist. The hairs that stick up on your neck when it’s dark and someone is walking too closely behind you. Trust these instincts. Prioritise your personal safety.

#4 Exercise for your mental health, not for a beach body

As a young’un I associated exercise with punishment and being picked last in P.E. I thought I could opt out of the whole sweaty business. Eventually I got my isht together and started moving again, and experienced a marked uptick in my mental wellbeing.

Now, when I’m overthinking things or down in the dumps, I force myself to get moving for 20 minutes. Even if it doesn’t ‘fix’ things, it always helps.

#5 Don’t be such a flake

Flaking has become a way of life for millennials. There’s always a better option, whether it’s a cooler party or a night in with Netflix, and since we’re all physically attached to our phones at all times (don’t tell me you don’t check it when you’re in the toilet, liar) it’s never been easier to bail.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s sucky behaviour. And it’s something I’ve been guilty of. Honour your commitments. If you don’t want to do something, don’t say yes and then back out of it. If you know you need time alone, build it into your week –like, actually put “alone time” in your diary ­­– rather than making a million plans only to ditch them. Reliable people make better friends.

#6 Don’t deplete your savings every time you go on holidays

Travel was my life force in my 20s. The idea of saving for a rainy day was beyond me – instead I was always planning another trip abroad, and socking away any extra cash for holiday spending. I learned how to save, which is great, but I also spent like a madwoman. By the time I boarded the plane back home, I would have $0 in my bank account.

I’m not here to shade spending money on travel – it’s a truly life-enriching thing to do. But I wish I’d kept just a little of that money so I had a softer landing when I came home, and a head start on saving for my next trip.

#7 Get better at being embarrassed

Let’s face it, it’s embarrassing to just be alive. You wake up with bad breath, you fart (not me though), you trip over absolutely nothing. Worrying about being embarrassed shouldn’t hold you back from the things you really want to do – like learning a new language, performing improv, or pulling out your best moves on the d-floor.

The paradox is the more you accept embarrassment, the less embarrassed you’ll get. Besides, your most embarrassing stories are the funniest ones to tell at dinner parties.

#8 Honour your emotions

It took me until my late 20s to suck it up and speak to a psychologist about my mental health. I wish I’d done it way sooner, because my life improved significantly from that moment. I learned how to create healthier boundaries, I held myself more accountable.

Perhaps most significantly, I also stopped second guessing my emotions. So much of the anxiety and depression that I experienced in my 20s was compounded by the idea that I “wasn’t supposed to feel that way”. Your feelings are real: listen to them, learn from them, and if you need to speak to a professional or ask for help, please do.

#9 Being single doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you

We attach way too much value to relationship status. Being single isn’t a problem to be solved, and getting into a mediocre relationship just to prove that you’re worthy won’t fix anything. On the flipside, if you’re in a happy, healthy relationship but you’re wondering if you’re doing your 20s wrong, just chill.

#10 There’s no rush

As a newly minted 30-year-old, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that ageing is totally underrated. I’m more self-assured, I know myself better, I have less patience for bullshit: these are all excellent developments. Life is actually pretty long – 80-something years on average. Don’t be afraid of getting older.

Amelia is the Editor of The Cusp. You can find her on twitter @amelia___m or instagram @ameliamarshall.