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How to Survive Your 20s

Ever feel like your 20’s have been a drawn-out battle that you only just managed to survive?

Recently, a friend of mine turned 30 and it reminded me of how excited I was to hit that milestone just three years ago.

I was convinced that life would begin at 30 and in so many ways it did for me, but I still feel there are many valuable lessons in our twenties.

Here are thirty bits of wisdom, from me to you, on how to survive some of the most challenging but best years of your life.

1. Know that you know nothing. I promise you at 20 I thought I was mature and knew everything. In some ways, I was mature for my age but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised just how much I had to learn. I think we’re ego-led when we’re younger, as we mature we can choose to opt-out or stay ego-driven.

2. People aren’t permanent. As lovely as they are, your best friend may not be your best friend in five years time. People change over time, you will too, so expect that your circle of friends may transform. And that is okay, that’s life and we are here to learn.

3. Don’t settle. Don’t arrive at 25 and assume that is the best your life will ever be. You’re here for the long haul, you’re here to make your mark on the world and that won’t happen if you give up now. Strive for better and strive for more in all aspects of life.

4. Embrace your independence but also know when to ask for help. I was so intent on doing everything myself, with good reason, that I feel I struggled more than I needed to. Once I let my guard down, people began to help and support me in ways I never knew was possible, and it made a huge difference to my life.

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5. Take care of your body. My relationship with alcohol began at the sweet age of fifteen, so by the time my twenties had arrived the novelty of being drunk had long worn off. As much as I boast now about the amount of wine I have in my fridge, I rarely drink it, and when I do I drink until I’m relaxed, not drunk. I recognise my body keeps me going and I have to fuel it from a place of love, rather than boredom.

6. Your body will change. There’s no way my body is the same now as it was when I was 21. It could be a combination of pregnancies and lifestyle changes, but my figure is that of a fully evolved woman. That will look different for everyone but know yours will change and it will happen even if you don’t want it to. I love mine as it is and that’s come with unsubscribing to beauty ideals and diet culture. It’s actually very liberating.

7. Prioritise your mental health. A good friend of mine speaks on the idea that we should take care of our mental health in the same way we do our physical health. I agree, but I didn’t always know this. It can take a lot to admit to yourself that you are struggling but know there is so much help out there for when you do. Anxiety and depression, for example, is more common than you think. I’ve tried medicinal and talking therapies over the years and I’m now at a point where I know what works best for me. Be open to addressing and working through it all.

8. Address your past. I went through life thinking I was unaffected by my experiences of sexual abuse, domestic violence and bereavement, but I was wrong. In the last five years alone, I’ve realised how these unaddressed experiences have manifested into issues and have impacted my adult life. It won’t just go away. I needed to unpick it. Doing the deep inner work with the help of a counsellor was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I suffered so much in the process. But it also was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and now I live without the weight of shame, and that really is beautiful.

9. Listen to your gut feeling. Sometimes this will go against logic, what your friends say or what your mother thinks, but that gentle tug in the pit of your stomach will guide you towards your intuition and that is all you need to know.

10. Return to education. I have returned to education many times over the years, sometimes for jobs I wanted to keep or aspired to have. Towards the end of my twenties, I enrolled at university and it was the best thing ever. Not everybody knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they’re twenty. Try out a few courses, experiment with various interests, broaden your knowledge because learning doesn’t and shouldn’t end at school. It starts at school but it ends with you.

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11. Take responsibility for your life. You’re an adult now, you’re in charge.

12. Give love with no expectations – to yourself too!

13. Let yourself cry. It’s taken years for me to sit with my emotions. I’ve lived a life of dissociation, in response to various traumas, and it isn’t healthy. Working on it meant giving myself time and space to work through whatever I was feeling. For a while, my emotions were in their infant stage and I learned to identify what they were and get used to them. It’s scary at first, but for anyone who is used to numbing out the pain, it would be. I didn’t want to block it out anymore, I wanted to feel emotions in all their natural glory. I finally give myself permission to do that now and I feel like I’m managing just fine.

14. Do more than exist, live! Don’t make it your life mission to be a pensioner with regrets and no embarrassing stories to tell your great-grandchildren.

15. Laugh a lot with people who make you feel good inside. When it comes down to it, the people who can lure you out of your dark days with laughter are people worth holding onto.

16. Budget. This means having a long-term plan. I never learned how to do this, all I know is crisis money management and it is stressful. I’ve vowed to unlearn unhealthy habits and try a new conscious way of managing my finances. It’s working.

17. Choose your soul family. This was a valuable lesson for me and one I give thanks for every single day. I have a soul family and people I am related to, and it’s not the same thing. I tried for years to put aside my own grievances to keep the peace, and really, in the end, it just wasn’t worth it. So now I live in my truth, happy in the knowledge that I trust the people around me, that I am loved for who I am and that is good enough. You don’t ever miss what you never have and all I can say is that I’m grateful for the many lessons here. I had rose-tinted glasses on for a while but now I see clearly, and the people around me reflect that. Not everybody around you deserves access to you.

18. Learn to drive as soon as possible. Driving licence = freedom.

19. Spend time with people who are different to you, in background, upbringing, culture, religion, everything. Being in the company of a diverse group is an invitation to learn more about the world and yourself. You will learn from the differences and may also find you have more in common than you think.

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20. Pursue a passion, any of them. This is how you find your purpose.

21. Allow yourself to grow and be who you are at your core. Stop trying to fit into boxes or live to please other people. Give yourself permission to grow outside limits and restrictions, let your inner child breathe and allow authenticity to take the lead.

22. Let people love you. That’s it.

23. Let some dreams go. Life is unpredictable, your focus will change as will your interests and drive. You’ll lose sight of some dreams to create room for even bigger ones.

24. Take risks. Don’t stay in the comfort of your four walls and routines. Dare to try new foods, places to visits and outfits. Pick up a hobby for the sake of it, launch a blogging career and karaoke at your local pub.

25. A broken heart will evolve you. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone but enduring many heart aches and disappointments, I’ve learned valuable lessons about myself and truly appreciate the loves in my life so much more. If it taught me anything, I still have hope.

26. Bad times don’t last. Once we hit rock bottom, the only way out is up. You’ve reached this point in your life, despite everything you’ve been through, so I’ve no doubt you’ll overcome many more challenges. Bad times don’t last but they serve as a reminder to make the most of the good times.

27. Change is inevitable. Don’t fight it.

28. Make memories and moments to cherish forever. 

29. Don’t follow all the rules. I followed societal rules for a long time and it led me to unhappiness. I did everything ‘right’ and suffered longer than necessary as a result. I had to break those rules to define my own.

Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash

30. Be your own friend. I’d say that the first half of my twenties I was my own enemy. I did a cracking job at taking care of others but to myself I was horrible. I wasn’t loyal to who I am, didn’t give time or space to find out what I really wanted and instead held onto people who supported my negative, self-sabotaging beliefs. When I reached a point of emancipation, I felt guilty. I hadn’t been good to myself, I hadn’t shown myself love in the times I really needed and I knew I was the only one who could change that.

That’s it for now…

It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it will get you started, and keep you motivated to keep pushing forward through this decade.

Don’t rush this decade, don’t be in a hurry for it to end because it serves a purpose. It is during this time that you learn exactly what kind of person you are, and the lessons you learn will mould you into the person you were always destined to become.

But most of all, have fun!

Already over 30?

What tips would you add? Post them in the comments!

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