10 Life Lessons You Probably Learned in Your 20s

by Whitney Hsu
Originally Published: 
A woman in her 20s in shorts and a blue tank top with a backpack standing on a top of a hill with op...

As I near the halfway point of my 29th year, I look back on my fabulous 20s and see a pattern. I see myself getting slightly more tame, busier, and zero percent less awesome.

I find myself more confident, happier, and super excited about the next, supposedly dreaded, decade of my life. I’ve learned important things in the past 10 years, and I’m applying that knowledge to make my next 10 years easier, and hopefully more fun.

1. Homeownership is expensive. I don’t just mean the cost of the house. Obviously, a home is expensive, even if you’re getting it by tying yourself down for 30 years of paying someone every month. But there are also about 3,000 things in your house that might break. And then have to be fixed. And to fix then you must call a professional who will charge $100 an hour, not counting parts they need to get. Yikes.

2. Proximity makes friends. The older and busier you get, the less likely you probably are to keep up well with those friends who don’t live near you or aren’t in your path on a regular basis. Neighbors, coworkers, parents of your kids’ friends, and church friends can make up the vast majority of the people you spend time with and talk to. Not that you don’t love your high school best friend who lives three states away, but it’s harder to get to see her.

3. Partying takes on a different meaning. For me, partying in college often meant going to six places in one evening, following a crowd of friends through a progressively more ridiculous night of drinking. It meant staying up till the wee hours of the morning, eating some sort of late-night fast food to curb a hangover, and waking up on couches all over the state with a mad hankering for Bojangles. Nowadays, partying means cooking dinner for some friends and drinking a few glasses of wine. If we are feeling wild, we might even play a board game. Typically I’m in bed before midnight, yet still so tired in the morning that I can’t muster the energy to scramble eggs.

4. There is always someone looking up to you. Often when you’re young, you’re trying to find someone to look up to. You want a mentor, an encourager, a director, a pick-me-up-when-I’m-down-er and a tell-me-what-to-do-when-I’m-lost-er. You learn later that you always have someone who sees you that way. An underclassman, a new person at your job, a friend who’s still a few steps behind you, and eventually your own children. But there’s always someone who is watching and learning from you, so set a good example.

5. The time to exercise is now. And also possibly every day for the past 10 years. As you get older, it seems your metabolism slows down. Those late-night Taco Bell runs and Waffle House breakfasts are sticking around a little longer than they used to, and as your jeans get tighter, it’s a little tougher to trim off the ol’ muffin top. (Cue Jenna Maroney’s song “Muffin Top,” because, ya know, 30 Rock.)

6. It’s possible to have acne and wrinkles. Y’all, if I could’ve prepared myself for this phenomenon, I would have. Every morning, I use an acne-preventative facewash, an anti-wrinkle eye cream, and a lotion with sunscreen. It’s an expensive routine.

7. You can do things in your own good time. In grade school and in college, there’s a pretty strict timeline you feel like you’ve gotta keep up with. You “need,” or feel pressure, to plan out all your classes just so and graduate in four years. But when you’re done with college, there’s basically no timeline but your own. Want to go to grad school? Great! Want to travel on your own for awhile? Cool! Want to find a job, get married, and start popping out kids? Awesome! There is no “too old” or “too young” anymore.

8. You know your limits. Whether that means the exact number of gin and tonics you can enjoy hangover-free, or the number of commitments at work you can successfully pull off in a given week, you finally know yourself well enough to not overcommit. Most of the time. Especially because all-nighters (of any sort) aren’t as easy as they used to be.

9. Chores don’t get any less boring. The laundry is still inevitably piling up. Dust still collects all over the house. Toilets need to be cleaned and the grass needs to be cut. Your dishes still aren’t washing themselves. And if you have kids? Might as well multiply everything by three — until said children are old enough to actually help. Then rejoice, because that’s why you had them.

10. Some things you can do without being “ready” for them. That dream job you’ve always wanted just became available, but you just changed jobs and don’t feel like moving again? Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Just go for it. You really want to have kids, but you aren’t sure you’re ready? News flash: None of us can fully prepare for parenthood, but we get at least nine months to get a few things ready. You’ll do great.

Your 20s are an awesome time of learning, personal growth, and getting to know yourself (and others). You pack a LOT into this decade. Now bid it farewell, maybe invest in some good undereye cream, and enjoy the big 3-0.

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