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When you’re in your 20s, the world can feel extremely overwhelming. You’ve gotten your education, and your entire life, you kind of just thought things would fall into place after that. You’d find a job you love, meet the love of your life, have kids and live happily ever after. That, one day, you’d wake up and feel like an adult, and know exactly what that entails. But as every year passes, and the responsibilities continue stacking on, and you wake up every day tired and binging on cheap coffee, it’s easy to wonder what went wrong. What can you do to fix this? Will it get any better? What should I be doing? Am I life-ing correctly?
When I graduated college, I was determined to live a year abroad. After that, I figured I’d go back to get my Master’s and find my dream career. After working two full-time jobs for a year (to make sure I could continue to pay off my crippling debt of student loans), I made the move to Barcelona. Fast forward 4 years, and here I am, still in Barcelona. I’m working my ass off, that much hasn’t changed, but now I’m married to the man of my dreams and look forward to moving to a new country soon. I had always imagined that I’d have my life figured out by now, and this is not at all what I had imagined it to be. But you know what? That’s okay. I decided to follow my happiness, and it led me to this point. I can only continue on this journey of self-discovery and self-improvement and hope that eventually I land where I’m supposed to be.
But that doesn’t mean sitting around and waiting for things to happen. It means being honest with yourself, putting in hard work, and chasing the things that make you happy. Finding the things that you’re good at, and improving them. Searching for meaning.
Often people look back on their lives and regret having done something, or even worse – not having done something. Hindsight is always 20/20, am I right? But what if you could learn from other people’s mistakes, people who were in similar situations to you?
The internet can be a great way to glean this wisdom, if you know where to look. Recently, a Reddit user named kyle768 asked the internet “What should one do in their 20s to avoid regrets in their 30s and 40s?” and the internet responded with this haul of great life advice:
1. “If you marry, marry someone because they are your best friend, you share a common philosophy on life, have common values, and want common goals in your future. Don’t marry someone because their ass looks good in jeans.” (Reddit user ZuluCharlieRider)
Luckily for me, I not only met my best friend and soul mate, but his ass just happens to look mighty fine to boot. But jokes aside, this is some fantastic advice. In this day and age of social media, where we are all constantly comparing ourselves to each other and trying to outdo one another, it can be easy to put on the rose-colored glasses and settle for someone whose Instagram feed is drool-worthy. I know it’s cliche, but looks fade. Find someone who will be with you through the good times and the bad. Who understands you for who you are, loves the good things about you, and understands the bad.
Of course, you can’t truly find and love someone else until you love yourself. Until you know what makes you happy, and can live happily on your own. For me, this came in the form of moving away from everything I ever knew, flying across the world, and moving in with a family of strangers. That first year was exhilarating, but also terrifying. It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, there were some seriously hard times. But I learned so much about myself, and started some new personal hobbies (I started my first blog, learned a new language, and began acrylic and watercolor painting).
In the midst of all of this, I met my husband. He loved me despite my faults, and encouraged me to continue improving myself, even helping me along the way. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I’m so glad I did.
2. “Drink more water. Look after your joints and back. You will feel invincible until your late 20’s, then it’ll suddenly all start catching up to you if you don’t look after yourself.” (Reddit user ArmchairTitan)
As I approach my 30s, this fills me with dread. I’m pretty good about drinking water, and I try to fit in yoga a couple times a week, but I can definitely improve. In the last couple years, I’ve slowly started to notice strange things happening with my body – a gray hair or two popping up, occasional knee and lower back aches, mysterious wrinkles appearing around my face… What is happening?! If I already feel this way now, I can’t imagine in 10 years.
Thankfully, you can improve these habits even if you’re busy following your dreams or traveling the world. I keep my reusable water bottle with me at all times, and fill it repeatedly throughout the day. You can do yoga or take a run almost anywhere, and use it as a way to appreciate your surroundings or explore a new place. No excuses! My motivation to keep myself happy now is so that, in 10 or 20 years time, I can continue to do the things I love, such as traveling.
3. “Follow through with any interest you have. There were a bunch of hobbies I wanted to get into, but at the first obstacle or challenge, I’d just go ‘eh whatever’ and give up.”
It’s easy to give up, but so much more rewarding if you put the effort in and follow through with your goals and hobbies. That feeling when you accomplish or create something is incredible – and it much outweighs the feeling of regret you feel every time you look back at that time you gave up so easily on something. It’s easy to put things off, with the excuse that you’ll have more free time at some point in the future. But that isn’t true, and often times is the exact opposite. You have the most freedom in your 20s, take advantage and try something new!
4. “The scariest thing about getting older isn’t aging. It’s watching all the possibilities life had when you were younger start to decay. Virtually every day you’ll be hit with the question, ‘So this is it, huh?’ Life takes on an increasingly meaningless and tedious feeling as you get into your 30s. One of the best ways to get through these doldrums is to have an interest you really care about outside of work, friends and family. Something that no matter how much your life sucks you can still do and find satisfaction and meaning in and nobody can take away from you.” (Reddit user SleepyConscience)
Another great argument for following your dreams and finding something(s) that make you truly happy, as an individual. You can’t always rely on someone else for your happiness, and it can be dangerous to do so. Find out what you like, and follow it. It is super easy to make excuses, or put it off for sometime in the future when you “have more time” – but let’s be honest, that time will never come. Just do it! (No, I am not sponsored by Nike xP)
5. “Don’t be afraid of missing out. Your friends will get married, buy homes, have kids, get promoted, travel the world, and you might feel like you are staying still. Don’t feel the pressure. Live your life at your own pace. Make and tell your own stories. You don’t need to go cage diving in New Zealand to explore the world around you. Go for a bike ride, or take a cheap bus to a nearby town/neighborhood. Find a hobby. Build friendships to last.” (Reddit user Consuellabanana)
FOMO (fear of missing out) seems to be a big trend these days in the age of social media. We are constantly bombarded with the achievements of everyone around us, which causes us to lose sight of what really matters. Plus we only see the positive side of other people’s lives, so it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that other people have it better than us. But it isn’t true, and it doesn’t matter what other people are doing. Live your life for you, not for how it will look on Instagram. There’s no set right time for anything – the right time is when it feels right to you. So don’t worry if all of your friends are married and you aren’t, or if so-and-so got that fancy new promotion and you’re still in the same job. Once you’re happy with yourself, and with who you are as a person, things will start falling into place for you as well.
If you don’t have enough money to travel the world, why not explore your local area? Go someplace you’ve never been that’s a short car or bus ride away, and make a day of it. Explore. The world is a big, beautiful place, and it’s filled with things to do and see. But those things don’t have to be a plane-ride away to be enjoyable.
6. “Create some crucial healthy habits like exercising, meditating, saving money, etc. Habits made early tend to stick to you for life and by the time when you’re in your 30s or 40s, you’re already on auto-pilot.” (Reddit user 4noop)
Similar to #2, but worth the reiteration. Your happiness and health are the most important things in your life, and you should do something every day to make sure that you nurture that. It only takes 10 minutes out of your day to meditate, and it’ll help give you a greater sense of calm and contentment. 20 minutes and you can go for a quick run around the block, or do yoga. It can be hard to start, but if you make a routine for yourself, soon you won’t even have to think about it and it’ll be a normal part of your day.
It is also important to be financially stable, and it is generally one of those things that young people avoid thinking about. If you can, set 10% (or even 5%) of every paycheck in a savings account that you don’t touch. This is a small and easy way to help yourself prepare for the future. Keep track of your expenses using one of the thousands of apps available, so that you can see what you spend the majority of your money on, and perhaps spend smarter. Invest in something if you can. Small steps is all it takes, and your future self will thank you for it.
7. “Enjoy your body. Build your brain. Create friendships with trustworthy people. Do the things that you are afraid of. Make amends with people you wronged and forgive the ones that wronged you. Show love to your family. Pass on what you’ve learned to the next generation.” (Reddit user Baby_Powder)
I remember one time that I was on vacation when I was about 15 years old. I was super self-conscious about my body, and I seriously believed that I was at least 15 pounds overweight. My mom was trying to take photos of me on the beach, but I felt super frustrated and fat, and I just couldn’t enjoy the moment. Looking back at those photos, I now realize that I was the skinniest I’ve ever been, and that I looked absolutely fantastic. Why couldn’t I see that then?
It’s so easy to get caught up in what you look like, and all of the imperfections that you see when you look in the mirror. But that’s who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to look like a movie star. Be happy with yourself, and stop caring about whether you look like someone you saw in a magazine. Finally learn to love yourself.
Once you love and know yourself, it is easier to find true friends. Don’t be friends with people who take advantage of you, or who care more about appearances than a meaningful relationship. I’ve learned this the hard way, don’t let it be you.
And if you look back on the past with regret and hurt, learn how to forgive. Regret and guilt are painful and damaging emotions, and they don’t serve us any use. Forgive those who have wronged you, and forgive yourself for past mistakes. We are all human, after all.
8. “Take more pictures. Sounds stupid but that is one of my biggest regrets is not documenting my life more.” (Reddit user Lin0712)
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love looking back on old photos. I can’t imagine living 100 years ago and not being able to have photos of myself as a kid, my travels or my friends and family. However, I would add on this one important amendment – take photos, but don’t get caught up in taking photos. When you’re with people that you care about, or you’re experiencing something new – experience it! Don’t worry about the angle, or the filters, or if you ‘look fat’ in the photo. Enjoy the experience, then take a photo, and continue to enjoy the experience.
9. “Travel. Learn to travel cheaply, and take a vacation every year and go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be Fiji at a five-star hotel – find a cheap hole-in-the-wall in a country you’ve never been to, do the research and talk to people who’ve been there (and who live there now) and go.” (Reddit user DonLaFontainesGhost)
I couldn’t agree more. It is best to travel while you’re still young, because you’re still able-bodied and can enjoy everything a new city or country has to offer. I would actually say to try and travel even more than once a year, if possible. People get caught up working relentlessly, thinking sometime in the future they’ll have enough time to go and take that special trip, but then life just keeps getting in the way. Stop putting things off, and start planning your next adventure!
I grew up going on vacations with my mother, and we’d stay in nice hotels. Those were great, but actually some of my best experiences have been traveling cheaply, staying in hostels and going by bus. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive! In fact, if you can get away for a few months at a time, you can actually make money while you travel by doing small jobs!
10. “Take risks. I’m not talking about BASE jumping, but things like taking a new job in a new city where you don’t know anyone. Taking a job outside your comfort zone. Going out with a bunch of people you barely know. Ask out that person you’re smitten with but afraid to approach.” (Reddit user DonLaFontainesGhost)
The best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to say “yes” to new opportunities. All of the scariest decisions I’ve ever been faced with have turned into the best decisions of my life. My first opportunity came in the form of a university acceptance letter to a city 3 hours north of my hometown. That meant leaving all of my friends and family behind and moving to a new place where I didn’t know anyone. I had the best time ever! Absolutely no regrets there.
The second time was when I got the opportunity to move to Barcelona for a year, living with host families and teaching in a local school. It was beyond terrifying to make that move, but I learned so much about myself during that time and was able to explore a new way of life.
The third time was when I met the man of my dreams, and we had to live a year apart on opposite sides of the globe. We worked hard on finding a way to be together, and things just weren’t going our way. Finally we decided that I move back to Barcelona, without a job or any real prospects, and get married so that we could be together. Here I am, almost a year later, with a full-time job and married to my best friend.
The scariest decisions in life are generally the ones worth making!
11. “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.” (Reddit user Rndomguytf)
This is one of my biggest pitfalls, and I know I’m not alone. I couldn’t have said this better myself, but really… in the end of it all, will it really matter if you had a better car than so-and-so, are a more attractive spouse? What really matters is your happiness. Work on yourself and your well-being, because in the end, that’s all that really matters.
12. “Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.” (Reddit user Rndomguytf)
Great advice, and with a sense of humor. It seems common sense, but it is truly difficult to forget the insults and pay attention to the compliments. I still remember a time in 4th grade when someone called me ugly. I don’t even remember who it was, but who the hell cares what a random 4th grader said to me? I’ve sure that many other people told me I was smart or pretty, but I don’t remember that. And now with the internet, it’s easier than ever before to receive insults. I posted something the other day that became popular on Reddit, and I received over 800 likes on it. However, I also received about 30 negative comments, not even about me, but about what I posted. And it made me feel horrible. Logically, I realized that many, many more people liked what I had put, but I couldn’t get the negativity out of my brain.
It’s definitely not easy, but remember the good things, and the compliments you receive. Perhaps write it down every time you receive something positive. And when you hear something negative, just acknowledge it, then push it aside and forget it. It’s not worth it.
And, to finish… this one speaks for itself.