Though I have so much to learn, I learned a lot in my 20’s. Here are the top 15 things I know now that I wish I would have known when I was younger:
1. Don’t focus on keeping up with everyone else, especially the Kardashians... blegh!
Life is not a race. Go your own pace. Just because “ALL” of your friends (realistically maybe 55% of your friends) are married and having babies, doesn’t mean you have to be. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior because you decided to focus on your career or travel instead of starting a family after you graduated college. If you really want things to happen, they will happen for you when YOU are ready for them to happen, because only then is when you will be able to truly appreciate those things.
I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to spend years and loads of money pursuing a degree in something, to later find out that you decided to go after that degree when you were a different person. Maybe you were young and just thinking about money; maybe your family forced you into it. No matter what the situation was there is no sense in spending the rest of your life absolutely miserable doing something you don’t love or can’t even imagine yourself loving. Living life with a regret you are mindful enough to change will only cause you to be cynical and upset with the people who may have “forced” you to let go of your real dreams and pursue a “safe” career.
3. Your opinion is truly the only one that matters.
This one is so important! Someone’s opinion of you is THEIR opinion. As I get older I learn each day a phrase very near and dear to my heart is SO true. “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” Trust yourself. If you are comfortable with what you are doing or wearing or saying then don’t let your coworker’s snarky comment change the way you think. People, old and young, will offer their opinion more and more as you get older, even if you don’t want it. My suggestion is to be open to listen, but take it all in with a grain of salt.
4. Before flying off the handle at someone or about something, understand what it is that is actually upsetting you. It may save you some embarrassment in the long run.
I’ve been known to let my feelings boil and then one day one thing someone says makes me crack. Of course it’s easier to jump into the victim role and yell and attempt to tell the person who pissed you off why they are an idiot. It doesn’t work though. It especially doesn’t work in a marriage. Take a minute to think before you open your mouth. PLEASE! Really think about it! Is what you’re about to say going to make things worse or better? Have you had a minute to take a breath? Chances are if you haven’t thought things through or even taken a breath yet, you’re just going to make things worse. Going from 0 to 100 in 60 seconds is reckless for ANY kind relationship. Once the words leave your mouth, you can’t ever get them back.
5. This terrible, horrible, no good moment in your life will NOT last forever. Trust me, I know it feels that way right now, but things will get better!
I’ve had a pretty great life I won’t deny that. I was born to loving parents, I’m an only child, and I went to private school. Things have been pretty good for me. On the other hand, I have had some serious setbacks. An epilepsy diagnosis at 15; being bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider and a Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick at the same time in a metropolitan area; a six year ‘relationshit’ filled with emotional, mental and physical abuse causing me to lose the majority of my friends and self-worth; countless times of getting the ‘short end of the stick’ in career and life situations despite working my ass off. Among other things, those are a few things that have caused me to be more of a “glass half empty” kind of girl. Although those things have happened to me, I have been able to regain a lot of my self-worth through mindfulness and having an extremely supportive and AMAZING husband. Being AWARE that it is inevitable that you will go through tough times, but that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is what keeps me going. For me to maintain that “light at the end of the tunnel” thought process, I take a deep breath and stare at my husband and/or my son when they don’t even notice me and those two remind me THINGS WILL GET BETTER. Find something you can concentrate on that reminds you.
6. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and let go of grudges.
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. You learn things by making mistakes. Some lessons are bigger than others and come with more consequences. Some lessons affect only you and some lessons unfortunately affect your loved ones. Most of the lessons I’ve learned I’ve also held onto the guilt from – not because anyone is forcing me to, but because I’m harder on myself than I need to be. My late 20's were a time I focused more on letting go of grudges than forgiving myself. I still have one and a half years left, so I plan to continue to learn how to forgive myself. But to let go of a grudge is also something you must do as you get older. Grudges weigh you down emotionally and mentally and MORE IMPORTANTLY, mean nothing to the person you’re holding the grudge against. In most situations we’ve already written those people off so you gain nothing from the grudge in question. Do yourself and the people you love a favor and let it go. You will feel so much better.
7. Take advantage of the 401(k) matching program at your job (it’s free money). Also, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account (weekly or biweekly, depending on how often you get paid). If you don’t have a savings account, GET ONE! – It is inevitable that you WILL need this money one day and you grateful that you took these steps now rather than never.
Accidents happen and most people don’t have an emergency fund. One year I was rear ended four times in a span of six months (I'm a commuter). That was four deductible payments of $500 each. No, I did not have an extra $2,000 sitting around because I didn’t expect to get rear-ended even one time let alone four times. NEWSFLASH: NO ONE EVER EXPECTS AN ACCIDENT; IT’S ALWAYS AN UNWELCOME SURPRISE! Do yourself a favor and save now so you won’t have to ask your friends and family for loans. The easiest way to save is by setting up an automatic transfer from your paycheck into your savings account (the one you don’t have a debit card for), that way you don’t even think about it. I’ve been told there is a rule out there in the financial world – I do not claim to be financially savvy by any means – but the rule supposedly is to “Pay yourself first”, 10% of your weekly or biweekly income is the best amount to stick with. The first two paychecks you might miss it, but after you get used to it, you’ll be happy you did it if an emergency ever comes around. As for your 401(k), whenever an employer is willing to match your contribution, take it, it is FREE MONEY and you are never too young to start thinking about retirement. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be working a 9-5 when I’m 75!
8. Learn to cook WITHOUT a microwave.
I’m not suggesting you become the next Iron Chef, but learn how to use the oven and the stove top. Learn how to fry an egg or bake a chicken breast. Getting a few simple dinners under your belt will save you tons of money and probably at least a 25 lb weight gain from eating fast food all the time.
9. Don’t buy uncomfortable shoes no matter how sexy or cute you feel in them. Bunions and muscle spasms in your calves, lower back and feet due to years of bad decisions in the footwear department are not cute or worth it.
I love flats just as much as the next girl! Honestly, for the majority of my life all I’ve ever worn are flats. This is why I share with you now, that I AM PAYING THE PRICE! Muscle spasms be damned! I’ve also always loved to look at high heels. I own a few pairs but I’ve never had the coordination to actually walk in them and look sexy doing so. Quality footwear is worth the money. If you never splurge on anything else, splurge on shoes that have arch support and fit your feet properly. Your tootsies and your body will thank you in the long run.
10. One general topic, TWO important things to remember: There is NO SUCH THING as “job security” and losing your job is not the end of the world.
Losing your job can be one of the scariest things you may have to deal with. Going to work one day, minding your own business, thinking life is going great and then coming into work the next day and having the carpet ripped out from under you for no apparent reason and without explanation is nauseating to say the least. The FIRST things you worry about are how you’re going to stay on top of your bills, pay your rent, pay your mortgage, etc. Then you start thinking about how you’ll ever get another job after being fired without any explanation. Believe it or not, these unwelcome changes can sometimes turn out to be blessings. They push us to our farthest limits and leave us with no choice but to prove what we’re capable of. If you want to make it through that rough patch YOU WILL! Don't give up!
11. Don’t waste precious moments of your life worrying about things you cannot change. Worrying gets you nowhere quick!
This one is hard for me. I worry about things I cannot control all the time. I am clear that I cannot control these “possible outcomes” but I still worry. Personally, I think it’s genetic. I come from a long line of worrywarts. Although I am aware I worry a lot, to the point that my hair is literally turning white, I’ve noticed that things always seem to work out for my family and I. We’ve been through some real rough patches. Life hasn’t been super easy for us, but we always make it through and I trust that we are stronger together because we come out on the other side. We don’t let the worrying consume us. My best advice would be to not let what you can’t control consume you.
12. If you’re not truly happy with your current situation (job, group of friends, boyfriend, etc.) – No matter how ‘comfortable’ you are, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT NOW!
Even if it might cause you to lose “friends”, etc. Happiness is more important than ANYTHING. If you go day to day unhappy with how you’re living your life or what your situation is you may not know it, but you are unintentionally hurting yourself, your relationships and your mental and emotional stability. Change is hard, but at times it is very necessary to commit to change so you’re able to find and love your true self. No one can truly love you until you love yourself.
13. Be open to listen to advice from anyone and everyone who offers it.
Even if you don’t think you’ll agree, just listen, it never hurts to hear what someone else has to say. You might learn something. I've learned that my dad’s lectures through my life have been full of great advice and if I would have just stopped rolling my eyes and actually listened maybe I wouldn’t have made some of the choices I did. I know it’s hard to let go of your ego sometimes and imagine that someone out there may know more about a specific topic than you, but I’ve learned it’s best to at least take the time to hear a different perspective.
14. There are 168 hours in a week. That is ample time to successfully plan and achieve multiple goals. Don’t put people off because you “don’t feel like it”. Your parents and grandparents won’t be around forever.
I can’t say this enough. They WILL NOT be around forever! Putting your parents or grandparents or even good friends off until you “have time” could be one of the most regretful decisions you make. If you’ve made peace with the fact that you aren’t close with your family and you are fine with that, that is another story, but I also believe before they pass you should get answers to uncomfortable questions and tell them why you’re angry (even if you know they won’t care). Why? BECAUSE the burden is not for you to live with! If you don’t express yourself (positively or negatively) while they’re here, clearing your mind and your conscience so you can heal and move on, you may never have the chance. On the other hand, if you are close with your family, ENJOY THEM! Even if it’s a quick text message to let them know you’re thinking about them or that something you saw reminded you of them. The smallest effort can make a real difference in someone’s day.
Pinterest and Amazon are wonderful and terrible! For me, I see things on Pinterest and I fly to Amazon to see what kind of a deal I can get on it. Do I think about whether or not I actually need it? Not at first, but more recently I have been. In my early 20's I spent the majority of the money I made on expensive purses, a brand new car I didn’t need and a lot of dining out. Needless to say, today I have none of those purses, the car I paid off and traded in because it wasn’t the right car for a family and all those meals out – well, I’m sure you get the point. I have no tangible items to show for all the GREAT money I was making at that point in my life. I was too frivolous. I wasn’t thinking about buying a house or if the Coach purses were “actually making me happy”. I was buying things because I loved the way they looked and I wanted them. That was enough justification for me. My advice would be if there is something you “absolutely love” make sure you actually do. Do you spend time daydreaming about it? Are you buying it because you like it or because your best friend wants one/likes it? Will you still have it in say 5 to 10 years? If the answers to those questions are ‘Hell Yes!’, then go for it. If you can’t answer all those questions positively then my advice would be to save your money for something that will leave YOU with lasting happiness!
It's YOUR life, live it for you!
It’s never too late to make a change.
Embrace your potential and become mindful.