Your twenties: the decade of selfishness and self-discovery. It feels very long ago and just yesterday in the same breath. I still vividly remember every corner of my very first “grown-up” apartment, and I can almost taste the happy hour drinks I would sling back with my girlfriends as we tried to emulate the fabulousness of the women in Sex and the City. I recall feeling hopeful and curious as to what my future might bring. Would my ambitions deliver the career, love and life I was working hard to curate? I had fun–a lot of fun–and at times too much fun.
Never could I imagine that in less than a decade I would be consumed with soccer schedules, meal planning, and other people’s bowel movements. As a tired mom of three, approaching forty much faster than I would prefer, there are days when I look back at my carefree twenties and wonder what in the world I did with all of my free time. Oh yeah, I remember: anything I wanted!
Young ladies, just entering the world of adulthood, listen up! I am basically the old broad in the bar, sloppily giving you life advice, as you nod empathetically and scurry off to talk to the broody guy in the corner. Except instead of being in a bar, I’m sipping my third cup of coffee, waiting for my one-year-old to finish his poop, so I can go to Costco. I have time to offer some guidance, so here it goes.
Sleep. Enjoy it now. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is a warfare torture tactic. You have absolutely no idea what true sleep deprivation is until parenthood. Also, relax. Take long baths; go for walks with no destination in mind. Once a mother, self care will consist of closing your eyes during a root canal with no one asking you for a snack.
Date. Go on dates, lots of them. Find out what you like and do not like in a partner. Immediately move on from any guy who plays coy, doesn’t answer your calls, or strings you along. No second chances. Goodbye, next! Find not just a nice guy, but a good man. There are zero reasons to settle.
Live alone. This is when you will figure out who you truly are. Go to a movie and eat dinner at a fun new restaurant even if everyone else is busy. Be content with all of the things that make you, you.
Make time for girlfriends. There will be a day when you are scheduling an August get-together in February. Work, spouses, and children will demand all of your time when you are old like me. Use your twenties to cultivate friendships and experience the joy and richness other women bring to your life. Go out dancing. And for the love, PLEASE do not spend your night out with the girls convincing men to buy your drinks. You can afford your own $5 beer. Those cheesy guys will long be forgotten, and so will your friends if you don’t give them the attention they deserve. Being a wingwoman is never fun.
Travel. More specifically, travel abroad. Experience other cultures and customs. Use your salary to see the world rather than buy all the things. When there are babies waiting at home for you, an overseas flight feels much too intimidating if an urgent need to return arises.
Establish the career you want. This might mean starting down one path, realizing halfway that path sucks, and starting down another. It is perfectly acceptable to veer off course. Find a job worth working long hours for, because your twenties are when you will pay your dues. Whether it means becoming a teacher after just finishing law school, or going back for a medical degree when you realize you hate accounting, make certain you are being fulfilled. You have your entire life to work, so you might as well do something you enjoy.
Resist spending all of your money on stupid stuff. Make your own coffee. Drink the cheap liquor while your body can still handle it and hangovers won’t make you feel like warmed over death. Put money in a 401K and establish a savings account now. Live within your means.
Realize every decision has a consequence. Choose wisely. You rarely can take it back.
Take your time. Do NOT be in a hurry to grow up, get married and start procreating. Live in the moment and allow those things to come in due time. The now can be pretty great if you allow it to be.
Love your body. Never again will it be this perky. Feed it with the nutrients it deserves and establish a life-time of healthy habits, because the older you get the harder it is to change. Wear sunscreen. Also, it is never too early for eye cream.
They say youth is wasted on the young. It’s probably because no one realizes at the time, but it is the sweet spot of life. Before the real grown-up responsibilities begin, your twenties are often the decade of true freedom. Your life will have countless twists and turns. There are many, many beautiful moments to come. But for now, make this the decade worth telling your grandchildren about. Find out who you are and what you want, so you can enter the next period in your life without ever having to look back.