5 lessons I learned in my twenties

Earlier this month I turned 30. Society tells me that this is a very big deal. Many people grieve the end of their twenties, like turning 30 will force them to be old, boring adults. I’ve basically been an old, boring adult for at least 8 years already, so I’m fine with that. I haven’t put much stock into turning 30. Most of my friends are already over 30 or are turning 30 this year. None of them seem devastated by the loss of their youth.

My twenties had drastic highs and lows, and I assume that my thirties will be no different. I’ve yet to meet a person at any age who is where they thought they’d be in life. That’s the beauty of opportunity, hardship, success, failure and perseverance—they create an unexpected path to walk along. Here are 5 lessons I learned in my twenties about living well and making the most of life:

1. Friends come and go

I made many great friends in my twenties, but I lost some, too. Losing friends was a hard pill for me to swallow; it still is. I tend to want to hang on to people, even when it’s not in my best interest—or theirs. I’ve had to learn to let go. Friendships end for many reasons, but new ones come along. Sometimes, old friends reconnect at unexpected times. My close friends are the salt of the earth, and I make a point to show them I appreciate and support them always. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from each person I’ve been fortunate enough to call a friend, whether I met them in middle school or two weeks ago, and whether or not we’ve maintained our friendship.

With friends from high school, Jennifer and Martha, a few weeks before turning 20.
With the same friends, almost exactly a decade later… a few weeks before turning 30.

2. Things are just things

The last few years have opened my eyes to the level of materialism that is prevalent in America, and to the incredible emotion that many people attach to their belongings. I read Marie Kondō’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and it truly changed the way I feel about everything we own. Brandon and I have talked about this (at length), and if we were robbed of all of our possessions or our house was on fire, there is one thing I would be devastated to lose. One, out of hundreds.

Shortly after I read Marie’s book, we moved into a house nearly three times the size of our apartment. I often feel guilty about having so much more than we need when others have so little. I regularly assess what we own and constantly let go of items we don’t need, don’t use, or don’t love. And I try to encourage others to do the same.

To sum up my feelings on this subject I’ll quote Macklemore. A weird choice, but dang, he gets it: “Things are just things, they don’t make you who you are. Can’t pack up a U-Haul and take it with you when you’re gone.” I crave a life of experiences, not of things.

3. The opinions of others don’t define you

I care way too much what others think of me. You can’t make everybody happy all of the time, and you shouldn’t want to. People will disagree with you, people won’t like you, people won’t support you. And their opinions do not define you. This was the hardest lesson to learn in my twenties, and one that I’m still grappling with.

“Don’t let someone in the cheap seats have an expensive opinion in your life.” – Rachel Hollis

I married Brandon when I was 23. When we were first engaged, several close friends and family members warned me not to marry him. One person went so far as to say we’d be divorced in less than five years. They all had what they felt were compelling opinions that needed to be shared with me. I spent much of our engagement crying over the fact that I didn’t feel supported by some of the people who mattered most. I cared deeply that they disagreed with my decision, and it put a dark cloud over what should have been the happiest time of my life. We’ve now been married for 6 years and have built a wonderful life together. It hasn’t always been easy (duh, what marriage is?), but I’d say we’re pretty happy. Brandon walked into the bedroom as I was writing and confirmed that yes, we are very happy.

These days, I try not to dwell on opinions or judgment from people in the cheap seats. And, though I’m not perfect, I strive to show the same courtesy to others.

4. Self-care isn’t selfish

Over the last year or two, self-care has become a hot topic of discussion—particularly for women. I’ve read many articles about how to practice self-care, and what real self-care is supposed to look like. Is it drinking more water? Is it taking a solo trip? Is it staying in on a Friday night to read a book? Is it candles and bath bombs? Is it a social media detox? I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to self-care, but I do believe that it’s important.

I buy myself a birthday gift each year. I meditate for at least 10 minutes every single day. I love when Brandon has a game night at his brother’s house and I stay home and watch tv with Schmidt. I have an easel and I paint, on rare occasions. Simply put, you can’t take care of others unless you first take care of yourself. I’m 150% on board with self-care.

5. No time like the present

I’ve covered this topic before, when talking about why we started 50 in 5. The most important lesson I learned in my twenties is that our time isn’t guaranteed. Things might feel like they’re happening to you, but make no mistake: life is happening for you, and you are in control of your own life. There’s no time like the present to live the life you desire.

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