March 17, 2015

Things I Wish I'd Understood in My 20's

The era of my 20's is creeping towards an end. I still have until June... but I can already feel it coming... my 30's! The feeling is a little unexpected, because honestly I'm pretty darn excited. After all my depressing birthdays over the last few years I didn't think I'd ever be happy about getting older. But I am!

When people say your 20's are rough they aren't kidding! We go through so many changes during that period of time. Some changes are voluntary, and some are involuntary. We experiment with who we are and who we aren't. Or sometimes the world sends us huge rude awakenings. We're trying to start careers, find love, pay the bills, and still manage to have some fun. There is so much on the plate of a 20-something that it's overwhelming just to think about it. I'm honestly ready and looking forward to the next phase in my life.

Over the last decade I have been trying to figure my life out, and guess what? I have absolutely not succeeded! And that's ok! I think my 30's will be a more calm, self-aware, and accepting era of my journey. Which leads me into the point of this article. As I look back on the last ten years of my life a few things really smack me as things I wish I'd grasped a little sooner. I was always stubborn, one of those people who had to learn by making their own mistakes. In some ways I'm grateful for that. I can honestly say I've lived a full life so far - with many ups and downs, and stories to tell. However, there are a few lessons I wish I had been wise enough to avoid. At this point though I just hope my experiences might be enough to help someone else on their journey. It's a potential upside... so I'll give it a shot.

1. The important thing is that you add to your value.
At no point in anyone's life do they have it all figured out. The important thing is that you accept the journey and continually focus on ways to add value to your marketability. So many skills are applicable in ways you wouldn't even consider, so don't hesitate simply because you're not sure if what you're going after fits into the entirety of the rest of your life. Often down the line you'll find that all your skills intersect in quite unexpected ways, or get you thinking in unexpected ways. The important thing is that you just keep working hard and keep adding to your abilities. I wasted a lot of time not doing anything simply because I didn't know what I ultimately wanted to do with my life. You don't have to have your whole future planned! Just think of ways to build your value, and go from there. It will lead to somewhere, I promise.

2. Sex does not equal intimacy.
The most intimate you can be with someone does not require you to take your clothes off. Real intimacy is letting your heart be vulnerable. It is letting someone see you for who you truly are - the good and the bad. It is making a commitment knowing that things won't always be easy. If you can wrap your mind around that it will really change the way you think about love and what it is you're really manifesting in your relationships.

3. You shouldn't rush into living with someone you're dating.
Most relationships don't work out in your 20's, and living with someone truly complicates things. Having to split belongings and decide who keeps the place makes breaking up so much more painful, too. I wish I hadn't jumped into living with a couple of guys so fast in my 20's. Looking back I wasted a lot of energy I could have devoted to myself because of complicated living situations that dragged on way too long. Give yourself at least a year with someone before you even consider it.

4. If you are depressed or unhappy drugs will only make things worse.
In the age of legalized marijuana I think it is important to acknowledge it for what it really is. A lot of people enjoy it and use it, but like every other drug (ahem, alcohol) it has its downsides. It can make you lethargic, and it can bury your feelings. Sometimes you need to let yourself feel all those not so pleasant emotions rather then covering them up. Because if you don't face those feelings and pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, then guess what? Things just get worse. Your emotions get confused the farther you bury them, and they don't go away - they just start to manifest in other ways. You'll start to lose sleep, you'll get anxious about all the things you should be doing, you'll fail to fix the problems that are actually the cause of your unhappiness, and so on. The farther down that rabbit hole you go, the harder it is to find your way out. If you are down in the dumps that is exactly when you should not be getting high. Treat weed as a reward for a hard days work, for a happy day off, for good times with friends - or stay far away from it. If you are at all using it as an escape, don't.

5. It's ok to break up with bad friends.
I think women in particular feel obligated to be friendly with people. We put on happy faces and try to please others. We feel a need to do the things that friends ask of us. But what if those people let you down on a regular basis? What if they are only good time friends who fail to show up when you have a crisis? What if they abuse your friendship or take advantage of you? LET THEM GO. It is ok to let go of a "friend" who really isn't a friend at all. You don't have to be dramatic about it, but start to set limits. Stop giving them your valuable time and energy. You should absolutely not feel guilty about needing genuine friendships in your life. It's better to have no friends then fake friends.

6. It is never too late to turn around or start down a new path.
Allow yourself to learn from your mistakes without judging yourself too harshly. We all screw up sometimes. Acknowledge what happened, give yourself some love, and move on. Continuing down the wrong road longer will not turn it into the right one. Get excited about new beginnings! Your whole life is one great adventure. Don't ever be overcome by fear of the unknown or the beginning of a large task. Just the fact that you get to start fresh is a blessing - think of it that way.



Written by Ellen Hancock

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