30 Things I Learned in My 20s
At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2015, my then-partner kissed me before declaring, “You turn 30 this year!” Thus began my almost-year of cliched anxiety over my fading youth. Did I accomplish enough in my twenties? Do the facts that I live in a tiny studio, don’t have a retirement plan, and have fewer than 500 followers on Twitter make me a failure? Maybe! But also, I am alive, and that is an accomplishment. As an epically angsty teenager, I never thought I would see my twenties, much less finish them. Today, much to my astonishment, I turn thirty. My life is awesome: I’m pursuing my creative dreams and I don’t have any children. That’s what we call “nailing it.” Here are 30 things I learned in my twenties. (Stay tuned for 40 things I learned in my thirties, coming in December 2025).
1. Showing up really is 90% of it. “It” being life. I learned that through not showing up for 90% of my early twenties. Oops.
2. It’s easy to get laid. That doesn’t mean it’s always fun/worth it/a smart decision. Shockingly, there are sometimes more useful things to do with your time than having or pursuing sex (unless it’s, like, really, really good sex).
3. You don’t just “grow out of” your bad habits. A habit at 20 is an addiction at 30. I keep waiting for that day when I magically don’t want to smoke anymore. It still hasn’t happened.
4. No one’s romantic relationship is as idyllic as it looks on the outside
5. Don’t trust social media. No one is as happy as they look on Facebook. Including me… but don’t tell anyone.
6. No one thinks they’re good enough or doing enough.
7. Something about boundaries.
8. There is no timeline to getting over a breakup. Healing isn’t linear.
9. Everything is fluid, from sexuality to gender identity to values to musical taste. So maybe think twice before you get song lyrics tattooed on your body.
10. The world is often a terrible place and it’s easy to get bogged down in that. The world is often a beautiful place and it’s easy to get bogged down in that, too. You still have to get your shit done.
11. Blood may be thicker than water, but you’re not obligated to your family of origin if you don’t want to be.
12. Procrastination catches up to you. Follow your fucking dreams.
13. Friends you think will always be there and never betray you? Some of them will leave you or betray you. Oh, and you will sometimes be the leaver/betrayer. I know, life is hard.
14. Sometimes crying is better medicine than laughter. It’s also cheaper than moisturizer!
15. Brussels sprouts are delicious.
16. Being honest about why you can’t do something is infinitely better than making up an excuse. Outlandish excuses make you look bad. Try honesty, earn respect.
17. Don’t be a dumbass with credit cards.
18. It’s easy to rush into relationships, including friendships. Take a little time before giving yourself over to someone new.
19. Don’t underestimate the value of health insurance. Unless you think breaking your elbow while you’re an uninsured freelancer with no sick days who makes her living typing sounds like fun (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t fun).
20. What you wanted at 20 is not necessarily what you want at 29. Be open to new desires and goals. Be willing to let old ones go. Que sera, sera, et cetera.
21. Trust your instincts, even if your gut is telling you something you don’t want to hear (especially if your gut is telling you something you don’t want to hear).
22. Many people have struggled with depression, anxiety or some other mental illness; not just me and not just you. Life is traumatic. Share. Listen.
23. I’m too old for midnight movie screenings, sleeping on couches, and the HPV vaccine.
24. Don’t stay with someone who makes you feel bad about yourself. It’s embarrassing that I had to learn that instead of knowing it instinctually, but that’s what your twenties are for.
25. Focusing on yourself first is not narcissism. It’s surviving.
26. Forehead wrinkles? Bangs are a cheaper alternative to Botox.
27. Forgiveness is good for you. It’s also hard. Like exercise.
28. The only true hangover cure is not getting drunk in the first place.
29. Life catches up. Bones break, people die, relationships end, friends move away, secrets are revealed, things fall apart. You fuck up. You win. You fuck up some more. Hopefully, you learn. Hopefully, you grow. Hopefully, your thirties are better than your twenties.
30. Birkenstocks are still the best shoes ever, and I will not give them up, goddammit.