Oh, the Twenties. That age range when I was supposed to be an adult, but had no idea how to be an adult. The time when I insisted I was an adult, but made very un-adult decisions. I made it through my twenties, relatively unscathed. Now, older and wiser, I have some advice for those currently traversing the twenties. Advice that I know my 20-something self wouldn’t have taken, but that my 30-something self still feels compelled to give. Despite the fact that the hallmark of a 20-something is to ignore what the Olds are saying, here goes:
- That thing that you’re thinking about buying; the one you can’t live without; the one you are opening a high-interest credit card to buy. Don’t. It can wait. One thing I wish I’d done in my 20s is save money. Luckily, I did not rack up much debt, but I did live paycheck to paycheck for an unnecessarily long time. Mostly because I spent my money on trifles that I didn’t need.
- Make more friends than lovers and make more lovers that are friends. I have nothing against casual sex, quite the contrary, I encourage safely-practiced casual sex between consenting adults. However, I will admit that the best sex comes from a place of trust. There is more freedom to explore and communicate with a person you already know and trust than with a total stranger. Ultimately though, no matter how many lovers you have, your friends will forever be the best part of your life. Be sure you don’t sacrifice the latter for the former.
- Travel. Anywhere. Everywhere that you can. Preferably to a place where you don’t speak the language or know the culture. Preferably alone. This is the ONLY exception I would make to #1. If you are thinking of traveling there are ways to do it for free (e.g. getting a job abroad), but if you need to go into a little debt to travel, it is well worth it.
- Seek professional emotional support. Aka, go see a shrink. Really. Even if you don’t think you need it — no — especially if you don’t think you need it. Odds are, you could use a little objective insight into your own psyche. Rather than making a slew of irrational, impulsive, possibly self-destructive mistakes (like running off to some foreign country *wink*), make an appointment. Talk to a counselor/guru/mentor. It’ll do you good.
- Michael Pollen says “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” To the twenty-somethings I say, “Experiment with drugs, not too many, mostly plants.” (Chiefly, marijuana.) This, I realize, is a slippery slope. But preaching abstinence from all drugs is about as effective as preaching abstinence from sex. Better to educate than abnegate. Think of drugs like food. The more processed, the more damaging. So, stick with the plant ones (Chiefly, marijuana.) Avoid the processed ones. Also, I’ll add: If you won’t entertain the idea of #4, you should reconsider experimentation in the world of psychotropics. You’re not ready.
- Wait tables. Go work in a restaurant. It is good money. It is cash money. It will teach you more about human behavior than most other jobs. And, added perk, many attractive people that are your age work in restaurants. It’s a pretty great place to find yourself some of those friends and lovers referenced in #2. (Also, not a bad place to find those plants referenced in #5.)
- Read. Like, books. Like, the kind made from paper. I know. It’s so retro. Put down your electronic device and pick up a book. Your mind needs it.
- Volunteer. For something that fires you up. Ignites your passion. Volunteer with your friends or with your family. Volunteer for something that forces you to get up early on the weekends. (You’ll be hungover, but that’s ok, you’re in your 20s. Hangovers aren’t that bad yet.) Volunteer because it will help you remember that it is not ALL about you. In fact, very little in this world is actually about YOU. So, do something meaningful with yourself.
- Drink water. In between the cocktails, the shots, and the beers. Drink water with your midnight meals of pizza and cheeseburgers (cherish those midnight meals while you can) and during your Sunday Fundays. Just drink water, ok. Lots of water. Less soda. More water.
- Listen to your elders. Needs no explanation. Just….listen.to.your.elders.
If you’ve made it to the end of this list — and you are a twentysomething — frankly, I’m a little surprised. I know thirtysomethings that won’t read this much.
Keep your chin up, my friend, you’ve still got miles to go. Laugh more. Love more. Drink more water. And maybe, just maybe, someday, when you’re older and wiser, you can make a list of unsolicited advice to share with the Youths…who won’t take any of it.