Your twenties aren’t a decade you’ll forget in a hurry. The ten years that stretch between your 20th birthday and the day you hit the big 3.0 are the ones that truly sculpt who you are as a person.
Whilst we’re all pretty lost during our teenage years, in our 20s we start to figure out the lay of the land and get a sense of where we’re headed.
We hit the decade as kids, and much as it might seem to us that we don’t really do much growing up whilst we’re in the midst of it, we come out the other end as fully-functioning adults.
Whilst we officially become adults at the age of 18, for the majority of us, it isn’t until at least our mid-twenties that we actually start feeling anything close to ‘grown up.’
In fact, thankfully, scientists have recently announced that our brains don’t actually fully mature until we’re 25. I don’t know about you, but that explains an awful lot about my early twenties.
There are countless lists out there telling us what we should be doing in our twenties, but just as important as the things that you should prioritize are the things that you should consciously make a point of avoiding in this pivotal decade.
Everyone’s different and there’s no one right or wrong way to live your life, but that doesn’t mean that a few pointers in the right direction can’t do us all a world of good.
Here are a few things that you should be wary of doing in your twenties.
1. Trying to make your life look a certain way by the time you’re 30.
There’s a popular idea that the age of 30 is a kind of benchmark, and that if we haven’t ticked certain boxes by the time we get there then we’re ‘failing.’
This is an idea drilled into us by society when we’re in our teens and 30 seems like it’s light years away. But as that milestone creeps ever closer to us, we can start to make questionable decisions as we feel like we simply have to get those boxes ticked whether we truly want to or not.
A lot of people see thirty looming and decide that they absolutely must get married or buy a house or do something similarly ‘adult’ to prove they’ve got their ducks in a row.
Making such massive life decisions just because you feel like time is running out, rather than because you truly want to, is likely to be a recipe for disaster.
2. Settling for anything less than the best.
There’s a time and a place for compromise, and it’s definitely not right now. You should be picky about the people you spend your time with and share your life with at any age, but you should keep the bar sky high in your twenties.
Don’t settle for a relationship that’s just good enough. Ask for the world.
Your comfort zone is a lovely, warm, snuggly place, but nothing exciting has ever happened there. The good stuff starts to happen once you poke your nose outside it and try new things, go to new places, and meet new people.
The time to push your limits is now, whilst you’ve still (probably) got the flexibility and freedom to try new things and are only responsible for yourself.
If you have a dream that sets your heart on fire but also kind of terrifies you, like travelling the world or starting your own business, then don’t put it off. Now’s the time to do it.
4. Pressuring yourself.
Society puts enough pressure on you, so don’t put it on yourself too. Cut yourself some slack. Sure, work hard. Push yourself. But don’t beat yourself up if things go wrong.
Don’t force yourself to do something that doesn’t feel right for you just because that’s what society tells you that you should be doing.
Humans have been comparing themselves to those around them since day dot, but the dawn of social media has really compounded the problem. Comparison-itis is a nasty disease that can have a profoundly negative effect on your life if you let it.
For the first two decades of our lives, we pretty much do the same thing as everyone else our age. When school is over, our paths begin to diverge a little, but many of us go into further education, and we all pretty much stay in the same boat.
It’s when you hit your early twenties that everyone starts graduating, getting promotions, getting engaged, or even having kids. That’s when everyone’s lives go in all sorts of different directions.
Your life will no longer bear any resemblance to that of the girl you gossiped about boys with in science class when you were 13.
It’s very easy to spend your time looking at other people’s social media feeds and convince yourself that they’ve got the perfect life and it’s you that’s doing it all wrong.
Just remember that they aren’t going to be sharing the bad bits with the world, just like you wouldn’t, and that they’re them, and you’re you.
The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday, last year and ten years ago. Look back and reflect on how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown.
6. Making it all about the money.
Now I’m not promoting complete financial irresponsibility, but there’s a fine line between being too carefree with your cash and making money your top priority.
Don’t take a job just because of the high salary if you know you’ll be unhappy in it. Don’t pick your career path based on all the money you’ll make, telling yourself you’ll have fun when you’re retired.
After all, you might never make it to retirement (sorry to be morbid, but it’s true).
Make sure you’re putting some money away for a rainy day, but if you’ve got money coming in then make sure you enjoy it too, as you never know what’s waiting around the corner.
7. Complaining about how busy you are.
It seems to be fashionable these days to constantly moan about just how busy you are.
This likely stems from the shock of entering the adult world and realizing how many responsibilities you have. Harsh truth: life before 20 is literally child’s play compared to being a mature grown up.
The more time you spend complaining about how busy your professional and social lives are, the less time you spend actually getting stuff done.
That said, while you should make sure you’re not overdoing it, you should revel in your busy-ness.
Life won’t always be quite so stimulating, so make sure you’re not rushing through it blindly, but taking the time to look about you and relish it.
8. Still turning to the bank of mum and dad.
You might have had the apron strings cut the moment you turned 18, but many of us are lucky enough to have parents who are happy to continue supporting us well into our twenties.
Just because they’re happy to do it, though, doesn’t mean you should ask for it. Whilst it’s wonderful to know they’ll always be there if you truly need them, learning to stand on your own two feet is empowering.
Sure, it’s not always easy, but the feeling of true independence is worth the struggle.
9. Thinking you’re invincible.
When we’re in our twenties, we’re often under the impression that we’re totally untouchable. You’re not.
You have a responsibility to take care of yourself and your health and not take stupid risks. No person is an island, and you’re not the only one who will suffer if something were to happen to you.
If your mother wants you to send her texts to reassure her that you’re okay, send them without moaning. It’s no skin off your nose, and you’re only where you are thanks to her.
10. Worrying about turning 30.
Far too many people lose sleep over the idea of turning 30, but worrying about it won’t slow time down.
Your thirties will be a wonderful decade and you’ll be older, wiser, and have a totally different outlook on life, so there’s no point wasting your twenties worrying about what’s to come. Live in the now.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.