I turned 25 just over a month ago. It feels like an important age on some level. In a weird way it feels like I’m officially an adult. Like I can feel more empowered in my choices because, at this point, who really cares what anyone else thinks? I’m not saying that this age is the epitome of drinking from the fountain of wisdom. I think it’s far from it. Which is interesting, because I feel like I’ve experienced and learned a lot, especially in the past few years. But at the same time, there’s still so much left to experience and learn.
There’s a wealth of wisdom you gain when you reach 30, 40, 50, and so on. It really puts things into perspective. This (my twenties) is just one chapter in my life, one stage where all I can do is trust my intuition, try my best, and see where all of that takes me. Still, at this point in my life, I’ve learned a lot of things, many of which I’d probably pass down to my younger self if I could. Here’s 12 lessons I’ve learned by 25.
1 – Go at your own pace. They call your twenties your “defining decade” for a reason. In a way, they’re like the high school years of adulthood. You’re figuring out who you are, what you like, and the kind of life you see yourself living. It’s pretty huge! The people around you are all going to be at different stages in their careers, finances, romantic relationships, and family life. In the age of social media, it is especially tempting to compare your journey to another person’s. Don’t. Your path is yours alone. It is unique. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
2 – Milestones are optional. In some ways, birthdays bring expectations. You may feel like reaching a certain age means that you should already have your own place, a stable career, your own car, the love of your life, and even your firstborn child. I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that you are not REQUIRED to do anything at all by a certain age. There is no such thing as being a “late bloomer” in love, career, or any other aspect of life. When you reach retirement age, do you think anyone (including you) is going to look back on your life and judge you for things you didn’t accomplish in your twenties? Of course not. So just live. Take your time. Do things your way. Don’t worry about anything, just keep being better than you were yesterday. Keep growing.
3 – Foster meaningful relationships. My personal philosophy is that one meaningful friendship is better than ten acquaintances. The other side of that is that building a relationship takes time. Invest your time into good people. By the time you reach your thirties, your job, city, and romantic relationships may change a few times, but good, healthy friendships can last for life. (Sometimes friendships also run their course, and that is okay, too). But overall, investing in good friends/family members is a great thing to do for your future (and present) self.
4 – Passions can evolve. I’ve always been someone who is passionate about many things. Art, music, theater, animals, the environment, helping people, etc. People often say to “do what you love,” and many times this message suggests that you should love doing one thing for the rest of your life. While it’s important to find focus in your career, it’s okay to try different things and to change your mind. (In fact, most people do exactly that). I studied theater in college before I changed my major to English. I focused on writing for a few years before realizing it wasn’t an easy way to pay the bills, so now I’m pursuing social work. I still love theater, I still love writing, and now I can pursue a career that will allow me to help others, which is something I’ve always been passionate about as well.
5 – You don’t have to be good at something right away. This is something I feel needs to be emphasized more, especially in schools. You don’t have to be good at something the first, second, or even third time you try it. You can be terrible at something, but spend a few months or even years improving your skills. This goes for anything: math, writing, sports, and even other areas of life such as dating, interviewing, and communicating. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to fail. Most things you fail at in life are not going to have high stakes (i.e – it’s not brain surgery). So give yourself a break. Let yourself fail. Let yourself improve.
6 – Do things for personal enrichment. So much of our twenties revolve around “getting our lives together.” We go to school so we can have a career. We get a job so we can afford our own place, food, etc. We date so we can find “the one.” So many of the things we do are so serious, with long-term thinking in mind. And all of these things are good. Like I said before, your twenties are the foundation of your adult life. In the midst of all this, make time for things you do “just because.” Read good books, try a new sport, go for hikes, talk to strangers at happy hours, go to concerts. Do things just for fun. These are the things you’ll remember years from now, and these are the things that will keep you from being too stressed out.
7 – Don’t worry about what people think. This one is always easier said than done. But the truth is, there’s always going to be people judging you for something. More than that, people will expect you to live the way THEY are living. People who are married will expect you to get married, too. People who have kids will expect you to have kids, too. People who have good careers will expect you to have one, too, etc. But at the end of the day, no one is living your life for you. If people can’t respect the way you live, happily show them the door.
8 – Give yourself options. It’s easy to feel like you have to find one career, one life partner, one place to live, etc. But you don’t have to limit yourself, especially not in your twenties. Give yourself options for your career. Don’t settle down and get married just because others expect you to (do it because you genuinely want to). Exploring your options can save you from looking back years later, thinking, “I wish I knew I had another choice.”
9 – Be honest. Be honest with yourself and the people you care about. If you’re going through a hard time, talk to someone. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. The more authentic you are in the way you live, the easier it will be to find the right opportunities for you.
10 – Forgive, but don’t forget. By the time you reach twenty-five, you’ve already gathered your fair share of “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” and regrets. You may look back on your life and wish you had chosen a different college major, a different romantic partner, a different city to live in sooner, etc. The sooner you learn how to forgive yourself, the more inner peace you’ll have. There will also be other people who may have hurt you or betrayed you, sometimes in more extreme ways than others. Forgiving other people is a personal thing, and sometimes it’s too hard. But taking care of yourself and being patient with your journey is a good start. If something from the past is affecting you in the present, consider talking to a loved one or working through it with a therapist.
11 – Do activities you enjoy. When you’re trying to pursue your career goals, it can be easy to let other passions, like music or fitness, fall to the back burner. Try to make time for personal projects. Join groups that share your interest. Take an enrichment class or two. Nurturing your talents is a great way to boost your confidence and do things you can feel proud of.
12 – Help others. Whether you support your friends when they need someone to talk to or donate to a good cause, it’s important to give back. You have unique gifts you can use to help others or brighten someone’s day. Knowing you can make a difference, even a small one, can give you a sense of purpose and keeps you motivated. In addition, being there for others often means having people who will be there for you as well. You give love, you get love.
These are some of the lessons that I’ve learned by 25. Life is a journey, and we all pick up different nuggets of wisdom along the way. Learning new things means that you are growing and evolving, and that is always a reason to feel proud of how far you’ve come.