5 things I thought I’d have figured out by the end of my 20s

MY TWENTIES WERE EASILY MY BEST DECADE. None of the squirming discomfort of my teens, none of the “will I be able to hold in this pee?” uncertainty that so colored my first decade. My twenties were filled with travel, partying, thinking about life, wasting time with my friends, and (finally) getting serious about dating.

When I turned 20, I barely thought about turning 30, but I did assume that I’d have some things figured out by the time I got to that point. Now, I’m a little under three months away from my thirtieth birthday, and I’m starting to look back on my third decade, and a common theme seems to be, “Holy shit, I didn’t know anything when I turned 20.” I know slightly more now, but there are still a lot of things I don’t have figured out. Here are just a few:

1. How to be a healthy, functioning human being.

When you’re poor and are trying to save all of your money for traveling, calories are precious. If you order a pizza, you don’t just throw away that pizza. You eat all of it, even if you’re not hungry, because you may need those calories when you begin to starve to death, goddammit.

Exercise? That’s something adults do in place of fun. Cultivating a healthy, well-rounded social and emotional life that ensures a greater degree of mental stability in the rough times? Who has time for it?

This was my attitude for probably two-thirds of my 20s, and I’m still trying to construct a healthier life. And I still can’t throw away pizza.

2. The science of being in a relationship.

Things have gone well for me in my 20s. I had never had a girlfriend at age 20, and now, at age 29, I’m happily married. But that doesn’t mean I have anything “figured out.” I’d thought, up until I got into one, that there was a science to relationships, that there were certain rules that could be applied to all of them.

But relationships aren’t a science. They’re a conversation. And my relationship with my wife is an ongoing conversation that I can’t say I’ve totally “figured out,” because conversations aren’t something that you resolve. You might put them on pause, they might occasionally break down, and they may reach a general agreement for a little while, but they inevitably continue on.

3. The work-life balance.

My dad had the job he has now by the time he was 25. My parents generation had a lot less puttering around and “figuring things out” than ours has. And I’m still trying to pin down what a career looks like for me. I thought, by this age, I’d be settled into a job I’d hold for thirty years, but now that my 20s are ending, I’m realizing that hitting a balance between money, family, doing something that’s valuable for the world, and having fun is an incredibly difficult balance that’s going to take me at least another decade to figure out.

4. That whole religion thing.

At the end of my teens, I was a devout atheist, having left the Catholic church I’d been raised in. I was the insufferable guy quoting Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins on Facebook. This certainty, I assumed, would only strengthen as I got older.

Nope. If there’s one thing my 20’s have taught me, it’s that certainty rarely strengthens, and that when I sit down and talk to religious people about what they believe, they usually have something pretty thoughtful and nuanced that I could get on board with. I still wouldn’t say I believe in most definitions of god at the end of my 20’s, but I no longer see the religious as deserving of ridicule. Which is probably a change for the better. For me personally, I’ve accepted that deciding what I should believe is going to be a lifelong journey.

5. How to hang out with my family without turning back into my childhood self.

We haven’t lived together as a full family for 13 years, when my older sister left for college. Individually, we’re completely different people now, and on a one-to-one level, we all have great relationships. But Jesus Christ, that 2003 family dynamic is rough. Whenever I return home for the holidays, I turn into a thin-skinned, insecure, argumentative hothead. It is not a good look on me.

When my wife saw me get into a fight with my mom for the first time — it was, I believe, at first a discussion of what we were doing at work that devolved into a shouting match about the nature of good and evil that clearly had nothing to do with what we were really feeling — she asked afterwards, “Where the hell did that come from?”

Oh, sweetheart. You just witnessed the resurfacing of 500 unfinished arguments and 27 years of family history coming to a head. There’s no rhyme or reason in this battle. Just bloodletting.

2. Who you were as a child is more important than you think.

One of the dumbest things I’ve ever been led to believe was that children don’t know themselves — that I didn’t know myself. It eventually turned out that I knew myself better as a child than I have at any other point in my life. It’s just that it’s so darned easy to lose sight of yourself once society starts telling you how wrong you are for liking what you like and being whoever it is that you are.

For instance, I knew I wanted to make my life about creating things when I was a kid, as well as that a typical 9 to 5 job probably wasn’t for me. My parents, on the other hand, had their heart set on my working in animal care for some reason and eventually managed to convince me that’s what I wanted too.

They did such a good job of it that when I eventually found myself working ridiculous hours as a vet tech at a local animal clinic, I couldn’t understand why I hated it so much. These days, I’m a full-time writer who works out of her home according to a flexible schedule of my choosing — a much better fit.

The thing is it’s fine to want to make your family proud, but if their dreams for you differ from your dreams for yourself, you’ll be a lot happier if you listen to yourself. No one knows you as well as you know yourself and you knew yourself without limits or shame when you were a kid.

Hold onto the things you loved and longed for then. They turn out to be pretty important, especially when you inevitably find yourself wondering what to do with your life next. Chances are the answer is connected to something that made you come alive as a child.

9 Things No One Tells You About Being Single In Your 20s, But I Will

Being single in your 20s is hard. I should know — I spent almost all of my 20s flying solo. I went into my 20s single and remained single for another eight years — way longer than any of my friends — before I met my current girlfriend. I went through casual dating, friends with benefits situations, and just not dating at all. Basically, I was every kind of single out there.

"Modern dating is moving more and more towards dating apps," Psychologist and counselor, Nikki Martinez, Psy.d., LCPC, tells Bustle. "This is an immediate gratification or rejection in many ways, and often times skips the normal courtship of talking and getting to know each other. I see the dating start and burn out much faster before they find the one."

It's intense. And, in your 20s, it's even more intense. Sure, dating when you're in your 30s can have that "Oh I need to settle down soon" vibe, but when you're in your 20s you're transitioning out of college, you're dealing with sh*tty jobs, you're often broke, and you're still finding yourself. You're spinning a lot of plates — and then trying to figure out dating on top of it.

Here's what you need to know about being single in yours 20s, because I've been through it all.


Today is my birthday and part of celebrating it, is dropping some wisdom that I gained over the years. Today I want to share with you guys the lessons I have learned in my 20’s (not that my 20’s are over, but I feel like these lessons are worth sharing), because sharing is caring, right?

So without further ado, let’s get into it!

1. It’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn and grow from it!

Making mistakes is part of growing up, we all make them, but deciding on what you do with the lessons is very important. From my experience, making mistakes is what helps you mature and mold into a wise human being. Today I can, gladly and proudly, say that I am the person who I am because the mistakes I have made in my past, of course I regret them, but because I cannot change them, I chose to learn from them, and so should you.

2. Every single time you thought that your world has ended, it was just the beginning of SOMETHING NEW!

Oh yes!! How many times have we been heartbroken and thought that was the end of the world? Countless times, right? But here we are, living and thriving. That’s what time does. Time is constantly changing, just like how good things don’t last forever, bad things also don’t.

Sometimes, it takes destroying everything to build an AMAZING thing. Trust me when I say this, sometimes you have to go through the worst in life to get to the best things, and that makes it worthwhile.

3. What others think of you, doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy with yourself

Being part of a south Asian community is nearly impossible to not care what others think of you. You are constantly judged and scrutinized for every single thing you do. That’s just a fact.

Well, I on the other hand have always been free-spirited and always did whatever I wanted, sometimes (a lot of the times) people have dragged me down, even stopped me from doing things I loved, and when I realized that ‘pleasing’ these people was making me MISERABLE, I just stopped, I told my family that I don’t care and they shouldn’t either, these people don’t pay my bills, they don’t spend every single day with me, THEY DON’T KNOW ME.

So, I just turned that ‘caring about other people’ switch off and followed my heart, and honestly that has made happy and free.

So, trust me, people will ALWAYS talk about you, but then they will forget, but you will never forget the regret of not doing what made you happy.

4. It’s ok to be alone

I know, I know! No one wants to be alone. Sometimes it’s necessary to be alone to find yourself, to get to know yourself and to be aware of your own demons. Everyone has demons, but it’s very important to get to know them and fix them. Like Will and Jada Smith said, it’s important to find your own happiness in order to make others happy. This is the most important journey to go on. Travel by yourself, take yourself on dates, talk to yourself, write your feelings down, find ways to fix yourself, be comfortable with yourself and most importantly find what makes YOU happy.

5. You are not supposed to have everything figured out by your mid/end of 20s.

OH YES!! We are just starting our lives, learning important lessons, getting to know ourselves so how are we supposed to have everything figured out in our 20s? Right? IT IS TOTALLY ALRIGHT TO TAKE YOUR TIME. You’re still getting to know yourself so there is no point rushing into things, especially things that you feel like are just not you or for you, enjoy the journey and everything will come together WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT.

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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