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16 Things I Learned in my 20’s

The most valuable life lessons I learned before turning 30

In October of 2020 I turned 30. 

When I was younger I always imagined a glamorous party to celebrate being what I thought was old. 

I swore I would cry the day I turned 30…but I didn’t. 

Instead, the day passed just like any other day, but inside I was glad to no longer be part of the 20 something crowd. 

Strangely, I felt like I was finally a real adult, and perhaps now I will be taken seriously by the rest of the adult population. I somehow doubt that though.

While my twenties were full of fun and carelessness, I learned many hard lessons. Lessons that I still think back to on a regular basis and try not to cringe.

I firmly believe in the “learn from your mistakes” mantra and am grateful I have these valuable life lessons. 

These lessons are so important to me that I want to share them with you all. 

Without further ado, here are 16 Things I learned in my 20s.

16 Things I Learned in my 20's

Things I Learned in my 20’s

Friends come and go and there is nothing wrong with that

When I was younger I thought that my circle of friends would stay together well after college. The reality is that as I got older, I naturally grew apart from almost all my friends. 

This seems to be a common trend within the small amount of people I socialize with now. 

People change, move away, have different schedules, get married, have kids, etc making friendships forged in high school and college difficult to maintain. I have come to accept that some people aren’t meant to be in your life forever. 

Do not invest all your time into a romantic relationship

This is a hard lesson to learn and something I struggled with for a long time from one relationship to the next. 

Ultimately, I learned that it’s not worth giving up my health, jobs, vacations, nights out with friends and opportunities because of your partner. 

It wasn’t worth my time sitting around waiting for them.

Focusing on myself, doing things on my own and making my own decisions has given me far more happiness.

Personal finance is way more important than you think

Personal finance should be a required course in high school (it might be in some, but wasn’t in my school). I wish I would have discovered Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and other finance books out there before I got myself in $40k worth of debt. 

To be honest, most of the financial advice you hear from people (including your parents) is bullshit and horrible advice. 

I wish I would have known this in my 20s so I could have started my 30s debt free with more money in savings and investments.

black envelope with cash dollars on marble table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

People will always tell you to get married, have kids, and buy a house — don’t listen to them!

Unless that is what you truly want. 

No seriously…not what your partner wants or your parents want or what society wants but what YOU want.

Marriage, kids and housing require a lot of time, money and energy. This trilogy should not be taken lightly. 

Personally, I’ve known since I was in high school that I didn’t want to get married or have kids and my whole life I have been told I’ll change my mind. 

Guess what?! I haven’t. 

And as far as home owning goes…I cannot imagine adding more debt to my students loans plus the purchasing and upkeep costs. No thanks.

Nothing good comes from social media and you are better without it

In the past, I had an array of social media accounts. Now I don’t have a single social account (I don’t consider Pinterest social media by the way).

Social media has taken over our whole lives and I don’t think that is a good thing.

Now there are influencers, Tik Tok, and more and more studies making correlations between social media use and mental health issues.

Since deleting all of my accounts, I don’t miss social media and have noticed I am more productive and happier without it.

Being alone with yourself is extremely important to your growth

After college, I lived with my friend who worked an opposite schedule from me and my ex-boyfriend was hardly ever around. This resulted in a lot of free time which I never really had before.

This was probably one of the most creative periods of my life. I got back into art and became more knowledgeable in cooking and baking. I also can credit this time for discovering my love for history from binge-watching The Tudors.

Eventually, I moved into my current apartment and lived totally alone for a while, and was able to make all the decorating and home decisions.

I am so grateful I had that time alone to figure out my hobbies.

creative female artisan drawing in workshop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Be yourself

I spent so much time in college trying to dress trendy or dress how other girls at my school were dressing. 

Or I would wear makeup because that is what everyone else does even though I hated the way it felt on my skin. 

Now I don’t even own makeup and wear whatever makes me feel comfortable. 

Being myself goes a lot further than just appearances.

I realised I can’t live for other people’s expectations.

I have accepted that I like what I like, I hate what I hate, and I am who I am without shame or guilt.

Learn to say no

This is such a vital lesson. 

I believe that as humans we try to please everyone and we agree to all sorts of things we don’t want to do or have time to do. 

Saying no is so powerful and freeing. 

Learning to say no has led me to focusing on what really matters and what is going to make me happy.

Don’t be on time…be early and definitely don’t be late

In my early 20s I was never on time to anything. Looking back I shake my head at the flaky and unreliable person I was.

I found it’s better to be early to appointments, meetings and the like because it shows that you have got it together. 

Plus, you never know what unforeseen circumstances may arise to make you unintentionally late. 

Let go!

Letting go of anger, jealousy, guilt, the past and so many other things has led me to so much happiness. 

I remember being young and so angry at the world for reasons that I don’t even know. 

I’ve realized that arguing with people on the internet or in person is never going to solve anything or do anything for the greater good.

Get rid of toxic relationships

Dr Lillian Glass defines toxic relationships in her book Toxic People as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

I have experienced a couple of these relationships in my 20’s and I walked away. Some people were always against me, always negative, and made me feel like shit even though we were supposedly good friends. 

You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone

I don’t have to explain who I am, why I do the things I do, think the way I think or live the way I live. 

In the past, I felt like any sort of critique or inquiry into what or why I was doing something in my life needed an explanation. Now I realize I certainly don’t need to explain myself or give any justification. 

16 Things I Learned in my 20's
Photo by Ekrulila on

Having a career isn’t everything

Throughout college I thought success was having a fancy job title, climbing the corporate ladder and making lots of money and working. 

I couldn’t have been further from the truth!

I have come to realize that a career is the least important thing in my life.

My friends, family, health and happiness are worth more than any career can ever give me. 

You don’t need a college degree to be successful

For some reason, I thought having a college degree as part of the key to a successful career and future. Maybe that is because that is what we are told by our teachers, parents, and community leaders during our childhoods.

From the previous lesson, you can see that I realized a career isn’t everything and neither is a degree.

Truth be told, if I could start over again I don’t know if I would go to college and get a degree because I am not sure if it is worth it.

Your health should be your #1 priority

In my 20’s I felt invincible. 

Death, disease or the consequences of all the junk food never crossed my mind. 

How was I to know that smoking could possibly give me wrinkles by the time I turned 30. 

Of course I knew all of this stuff wasn’t good for me but it wasn’t affecting me then.

Now I wish I had never smoked and ate whole, healthy foods my entire life.

On top of that, my mental health was so poor in my youth.

I never practiced self-care or paid attention to my body. I was unhappy and angry all the time.

I am so glad I took myself seriously and started a healthy lifestyle and mindset journey that has been life-changing!


Don’t take too much on at once

So many times I have made this mistake. 

I had tons of goals and things I want to accomplish. I would get excited about them and load all of them onto my plate at once. Then I became burnt out, overwhelmed, and guess what? I didn’t complete my goals. 

Through trial and error, I have learned that taking one step at a time and breaking down goals into mini-goals is the best way to achieve success without overwhelming myself.

16 Things I learned in my 20’s #1 Takeaway

Now that you know the 16 things I learned in my 20’s I wanted to share what my #1 takeaway is from all these lessons.

Out of all these important life lessons the most important thing is making my health my #1 priority.

I can’t help but wondering if I had taken care of my body and mind earlier instead of abusing it if I would feel better and look better now.

Of course we can’t change our past so I am doing the best I can now to make up for it.

What lesson resounded with you the most? What lessons did you learn in your 20’s?

Thanks for reading!


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1 Comment

  • Reply Eleanor Jones

    It’s so important to remember that friendships come and go- and that’s one of the things I’ve noticed after graduating and moving away from my University city. Thank you for sharing this insight x

    May 2, 2021 at 3:55 pm
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