By Emily McLaughlin
Lately, I have found myself struggling with the concept of being in my 20s. This, I believe, has been brought on by the unfortunately realization that I am not going back to UMass this fall. It’s odd to think that the place you called home for the last 4 years is, in fact, no longer your home.
I am seeing a lot of my friends struggle in the same way. Whether they are getting accustomed to living back home, adapting to a new job, struggling with the stress of finding a job or simply sinking into a post-college depression, they are finding that being in your 20s is harder than anticipated.
What we have to remember, however, is that these are the best days of our lives. High school was good, college was great, but these next few years are going to be amazing. We are well on our way to being the people we’ve wanted to be for all these years. Our wildest dreams are about to come true… so embrace it.
Below are 20 ways to deal with being in your twenties. This list is not just for the college grad, but for the current college student, the young professional, the world traveler or whatever you categorize yourself as. These tips come from my personal experiences, the experiences of my close friends, the lululemon manifesto and some casual research collected from Though Catalog.
1. Let go. Letting go is important. Let go of the fact that college is over. Let go of your hatred for living at home. Let go of the fact that you haven’t landed your dream job yet. Let go of negative and abusive relationships. Just let go. Your twenties are about becoming who you have wanted to be.
2. Exercise. Obviously this is on the list… and you can all hate me/make fun of me for it all you want. But, I truly believe that sweating once a day can cure any stress, illness or negative feeling your have. The scientific and medical worlds back me up. Make it a habit.
3. Do something you love every day – smiling is important. For many of us, college has come to a close, which means that our routines have changed and the company we surround ourselves with has also changed. We aren’t around all the people and things we have grown to love over the past few years… but there are still so many reasons to smile.
4. Find hobbies. Paired with “doing something you love every day” is finding new hobbies. You are most likely adjusting to a new place (or fifty) sometime in your twenties, which means you are going to have to find a new gym, a new club… new hobbies all together. You can’t hang out at your campus job off-shift, you don’t have intramural sports to play and Mt. Sugarloaf isn’t down the street for hiking purposes. It also might be a little weird if you keep showing up to those campus newspaper meetings since you’re not turning in any material. Learn about your surrounding area and what is there for 20-year-olds. There are millions of hobbies you can pick up to occupy your time and make you smile… find ‘em!
5. Do what you have to do for you, and for no one else. Just because your friend joined a pilates studio doesn’t mean you have to join. Just because your parents really like having you home doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Just because your boyfriend thinks you shouldn’t take the job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the job. You are in your twenties and are capable of making your own decisions. Do what you have to do, do what you want to do, FOR YOU. Do things that are going to make you happy.
6. Learn to balance friends, family and relationships. Admittedly, this is one of the hardest things for me, especially while in this phase of my life. I graduated, I have a job, but I live in several differently places. I keep outfits in my car, gym clothes at work and house-hop for dinners. This summer, it has been hard to balance friends and family without having a home to call my own (which is changing soon… cross your fingers!). Whatever your situation, try your hardest to be the best friend, daughter, son, grandchild, sibling and significant other you can be. Your own happiness is dependent on the happiness of the people around you (so says the Dalai Lama).
7. Be positive — negativity is unattractive. Doesn’t that grumpy person always put you in a bad mood? Enough said.
8. Learn to cook. I can not stress this enough. Learn to cook in your twenties! Cook with friends, cook on rainy Sundays… just cook! Learn how to make breakfast, lunch/dinner, dessert and appetizers. When you start, practice one dish from each category until you have it mastered. This skill will come in handy when you are trying to swoon that new guy or when you are asked to bring an item to a cookout/dinner party.
9. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are an individual and you have your own path to take in life. Don’t wast your time comparing yourself to others… you are not them!
10. Become a regular. Everyone wants to have their own Central Perk or MacLaren’s Pub. In Amherst I had found my coffee shop and my bar: Shelburne Falls and McMurphy’s Uptown Tavern. Moving home threw me off and I haven’t found my regular spots. Moving into my own apartment will help me settle down and find some new shops and bars to call home – you should all do the same.
11. Say yes to things, even if they scare you. If the only reason you are thinking of saying ‘no’ is because you are afraid, then it is inexcusable. We spend a lot of time rationalizing just to find a reason to say ‘no.’ This is time wasted. As lululemon says, “do one things a day that scares you.”
12. Follow through with your to-do list. I make a to-do list almost every day… very rarely do I get things checked off. They seem to just roll over to another to-do list and then get lost in the woodwork. Don’t let “make doctors appointment,” “go to the gym” and “clean car” linger on your lists.
13. Learn to budget and save. Last summer, I was really into couponing and saving money on groceries among other things. I wish that this was still a habit of mine… I’ll get back into it! I would save so much money at the grocery store just by clipping some coupons stolen out of Cumberland Farms’ Sunday papers — kind of a sin that I am a journalism student and didn’t want to pay for the paper, I know. In addition to couponing, set weekly and monthly budgets for yourself. Set aside a certain amount of money for food, bills and weekend fun.
14. Let people help you. This is a hard one. In college we learn to live (somewhat) independently, then when we graduate we begin a new part of our lives… one that typically requires a little help from parents and others. Whether you need to move home, have your parents co-sign a lease or have you family help you find a job… accept the help. Chances are, they want to help you. Personally, I am fiercely independent… and accepting help is hard — but I’m getting better-ish.
15. Don’t dwell. This kind of goes with #1, Let go. Don’t dwell on what could have been, what almost was, what isn’t. Don’t hold grudges or dwell on the past. Keep your mind in the present and look forward to all the good coming in your future.
16. Appreciate what you have – the grass is always going to seem greener on the other side.
The grass is always going to seem greener elsewhere. No matter where you’re at, whom you’re involved with or what the scenario is — the imagination will visualize other places, people and situations in a better light. Sure there are instances where change is an improvement, but there are just as many where that’s not the case. The city you live in isn’t as bad as you perceive it, and moving to Los Angeles won’t equal automatic success. The girlfriend or boyfriend who you’re unappreciative of may seem less appealing than the single life, but you could be mistaken. We’ve got to recognize the value of what we currently have, and then see if it’s possible to repair or improve instead of tossing it aside for ‘new’ stuff.
17. Patience. Finding a job taught me to practice patience. Momma always said, “Patience is a virtue,” which didn’t resonate during my childhood years but makes a lot of sense now. Do good and things will fall in line. Be patient while waiting to hear back from a perspective job, be patient in the apartment search, be patient with your parents as you learn to live together again, be patient with your friends who are struggling in some of the same ways as yourself… just… be… patient.
18. Learn to date casually. Being in your twenties is all about meeting new people and building lifelong relationships with others… but not everyone you meet is meant to be in your life forever. Learn to date and hook-up casually. Sometimes dating might lead to disappointment – learn to embrace that as a learning experience. Acknowledge that every relationship is not necessarily meant to be a serious one. It is easy to get caught up in the pressure of “settling down” in our twenties, but that tradition is slowly fading.
19. Confidence.The rest of the world envies people in their twenties. We are, as Snoop (Lion) and Wiz Khalifa say, “young, wild and free.” Be confident about the person you are and the person you are becoming.
20. Always keep a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for emergencies. What else needs to be said about that?