The milestone that doesn’t seem like a milestone. Everything seems like it should change, yet it seems the same. I’ve only been 20 for a few months but there are certain traits I’ve realized are so valuable.
1) Your Love Life Status Doesn’t Matter
In your 20s you’ll find people at all points in life: virgins, married folk, that friend whose status you can never keep track of since she’s constantly appearing with another man. Honestly there’s no such thing as a socially acceptable lifestyle. If you’re single people may assume you’re lonely. If you’re in a committed relationship people think you’re not exploring your options. If you’re sleeping around you know the drill: ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘slore’, and ‘messed up’ are jokingly thrown at you in conversation. It’s only important for you to embrace your status and be ok with it. At the end of the day another person’s opinion of your sex life has no relevance to you.
2) Always Answer Your Phone
…If you are able to.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member or an unknown number- just get it over with. I used to be extremely lazy with answering my phone but do you know what I was worse at? Calling people back. It could be your mom simply missing you or that dream internship you applied to on a whim and forgot about or your credit card company warning you that your card appears stolen. It could be important or it could not be, but you owe it to yourself to find out and not put it off.
3) Talk to People/Introduce Yourself to Everyone
That person next to you on the train is reading your favorite novel. He pauses, looks up, and catches your eye. You smile and quickly mention your adoration for said novel. That could be the end of the exchange or you may continue talking about the book- eventually introducing yourselves, and having a far more entertaining train ride. It may be revealed that this guy has a buddy at a firm that you’re interested in working for or you may never see each other again. Yes it’s exaggerated but the point is you probably won’t lose anything in this situation- yet you never know what’s to gain. Honestly I think the world would be a lot better off if people talked to each other more. Even if you share a single sentence you might break that awkward barrier of silence and encourage others to start a conversation. Connecting with others is a good feeling. I’m sure you can’t deny that.
This especially goes for people who serve you. People go out of their way to help friendly faces. Making your Starbucks order before the guy in front of you, letting you have that extra pool towel without a charge, or giving you insider information about where that DJ will be exiting the venue. All people have something to offer, plus it’s not always material things.
4) Know Your Online Presence
At this point in life you’ve probably had Facebook for years. You probably also have some forgotten old Myspace/Xanga/Bebo account. You may also have a Twitter, Instagram, Vine, or Pinterest. Do you realize how much output and personal information you have shared based on social networking sites alone? I heard a story where in an interview the professor pulled up a girl’s tweets and read them back at her. Would you feel comfortable if that happened to you? If the answer is no then you need to clean up your online presence. It’s not the ‘likes’ that matter anymore. You should know exactly what information about you can be found online-even with some hard digging because employers won’t hesitate to do so.
This doesn’t mean hide your online presence. You can show off your tech savvy by having a mostly appropriate, yet still interesting social media account. Some employers directly ask for access to your accounts because they want people with those skills. Turn your online presence into a resume padder not a job killer.
5) Don’t Say Um or Like
One thing I’ve noticed is that when a person uses ‘um’ or ‘like’ I automatically pay less attention to what they’re saying and find them to be less credible. I understand being nervous and I definitely am guilty of this too but try to be extremely aware when you’re speaking. It’s better to pause for a second than say ‘um’. Pausing makes me think you’re collecting your thoughts, ‘um’ makes me think you don’t know what you’re saying. That difference matters.
6) Learn to Leave a Conversation/Learn to Enter a Conversation
As you stand bored by the Hors d’oeuvres you overhear people talking about the ins and outs of the Affordable Healthcare Act- something you’ve well researched for work. How do you enter said conversation to alleviate your boredom (granted it’s not much of a step up, but it’s better than staring at cheese). Oh look at that- the individual stated an incorrect fact! “Not to intrude, but I recently read an article that stated blah blah blah”. Either he’ll disagree or agree and conversation will continue with you in it. Win.
Ten minutes later and said individual is still blabbing about the same topic and you’re starting to miss the silence of cheese. How to escape? “Well it was great talking to you but I have to make a quick phone call. Hopefully I will see you later in the evening!” That was easy. Why torture yourself any longer? White lies are totally acceptable in my book if it doesn’t directly or indirectly harm anything or anyone.
7) Keep Track of Your Expenses
I’m sure most people sort of do this, but do you actually write down every single dime you spend? If you never have I strongly encourage you to do it for a month- I promise it’ll be an enlightening experience. Divide those expenses into categories such as food, bills, transportation, entertainment, etc. If anyone ever asks what your monthly budget it is you should be able to think of an accurate number. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you switch jobs, move cities, or face a loss in finances I guarantee your life will be much easier if you know how much you need to get by and what you can cut back on.
8) It’s OK to Enjoy Childhood Things
You don’t necessarily grow out of all things, but can learn to appreciate it in a different light. Whether it’s dino nuggets, a carousel ride, or a disney movie- never be ashamed of indulging in ‘childhood pleasures’. Honestly it’s refreshing for the soul and sometimes reliving the past can reveal a lot about yourself (memories, personality traits, etc.).
9) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone/Do Something New
You’ve heard it a million times but it is so so important. Volunteer at a place that your parents would tell you to avoid, go to that free folk concert, train for a 10K. It doen’t have to be crazy- do whatever attracts your attention. If you can, do what terrifies you. Regret is one of the most consuming, negative feelings and the ‘what if’ haunts the back of your mind long after the event has passed. Something new can change your life for better or for worse but it’ll always provide the opportunity for growth.
The more you explore the world the easier it will be to empathize with others. In turn you’ll learn to appreciate where you come from and what you want your place in the world to be.
10) You’re 20 and You Don’t Know Much
That’s ok as long as you are open-minded and constantly absorbing the world around you. Instead of constantly listening to the top 40s radio station try switching to NPR for a bit. You may be surprised when you fall in love with This American Life.
From what I’ve heard and read the 20s are the most dramatic and most boring time of our lives. But in the end it is completely in our hands how we live it.
What’s some things you’ve learned recently that changed your perspective?
FYI this is definitely a continuing list.