There are a few different thresholds a person crosses as a stepping stone to the next phase of their life. Some of the more obvious ones are associated with privileges bestowed upon you as part of societal standards. Turning 13, you become a teenager and get to watch movies with maybe a few curse words in it. Turning 16, you get access to motorized vehicles. Turning 18, you get to vote and die for your country while smoking a pack of cigarettes. Turning 21 grants you the right to (legally) drink alcohol.
Okay, so you knew all those milestones already, but after 21 the life thresholds become more metaphorical rather than something the government has deemed you worthy of doing. Of those metaphorical stepping stones, one that may be the most difficult is settling into your mid-20s. You’ve graduated college, stepped into a potential career trajectory and possibly found the person you think you may want to spend forever with.
These are just a few of the issues you’ll come across in this moment of mid-20s clarity and/or hysteria. Some people take off at this moment with a boom and their life seems perfectly in order, while others are grappling for answers and deviating from a more traditional path. Of the two, I definitely fall into the latter camp, and coming up on the halfway point of my 24th year of life, there’s a lot I have learned as a result of it.
1. Risks are something you should be willing to take, or you can easily get engulfed by the humdrum of mundanity.
2. You should never say you’re “getting old” at this stage in your life, because you most certainly are not. You should still be embracing all things youthful.
3. Dropping everything and diving head first into an opportunity shouldn’t be out of the question, ever, because you’ll never have the kind of freedom you do right now again.
4. Comparing yourself to others is a useless activity, although unavoidable because of social media. Other people may seem like they’ve got their shit together, but that’s most likely a staged moment of happiness caught on a smartphone, rather than the true happiness you might be living out.
5. You shouldn’t feel the need to justify your life decisions to anyone, because they are your life decisions, and if you just went along with what they thought was best for you at this time in your life, you wouldn’t actually be living this time of your life – you’d be reliving theirs.
6. Being in a relationship for an extended period of time upon entering into your mid-20s doesn’t automatically result in the sound of wedding bells. You can be just as happy staying significant others without rings as you could with them. Make sure you both have found your path and are thriving before settling into settling.
7. You don’t have to know what’s next in life, but you certainly should know what you’re working towards.
8. Happiness is seriously just doing whatever it is that you want to do, even when other people question it or don’t understand it at all.
9. Budgeting is quite obviously a very real thing at this point in life, but shouldn’t be the thing that holds you back from living your life. There are many ways to live fancy within your means.
10. YOLO is the dumbest millennial slang there is, but also the best life advice you can give yourself.
11. The only person you need to prove something to is yourself. If you can look in the mirror without rolling your eyes (or worse, crying), you’re probably doing just fine.
12. Age 30 is the new 25, except the legal stuff of course. Waiting until that decade mark for marriage or kids is totally acceptable, although you might feel otherwise scrolling through your Facebook feed. Simply ignore that.
13. You’re very seriously far from it being too late to make a life change of any kind. Although you’re still young and should be embracing all things youthful, your body is slowly changing, so some things about you are getting older. Going for a run at 6 AM might unfortunately be something else you begin to embrace, to match your other youthful habits (drinking).
14. You may find that you’re way more into certain hobbies than you ever thought you’d be.
15. Personally, for 20+ years I sort of shunned reading, because it didn’t seem cool, or I’d just rather go out and do something. Now, I’ve got a bookshelf of things I’m reading and get paid to write and read everyday.
16. Self expression is something you should exude, because you’re finally at the point you can become exactly who you want to be, both through your career and whatever else you’re up to.
17. Standing up for what you know is the right decision is more important now than ever, because otherwise you’ll be hearing, “I told you so,” far more often than you’d like. Do this, or I’ll find you and say, “I told you so.”
18. Trying new things and just seeing what happens is an absolute must, and realize it’s not the end of the world. You’re in your mid-20s, so you’ve got plenty of life left to screw up, if need be.
19. Friendship no longer requires getting together and getting drunk. Conversations from afar are much more meaningful and lasting.
20. People are generally interested in what you’re up to, and while bragging about in social media is one way to let them know, simply shooting them a text will leave you feeling more linked in with one another.
21. It’s high time you embraced adulthood for how great it can be, rather than letting the pressures of planning your entire life out bog you down into nothingness.
22. Fostering a relationship doesn’t have to mean anything other than how you’ve defined it. You don’t owe anyone anything, except probably your student loan providers.
23. Moving away from home gives you the chance to not only redefine yourself, it gets you out from under the umbrella of comfort that is the supposed expectations a community may put on you (or, you think they have put on you).
24. Finally, in your mid-20s you’ve put more than 20 years of life and experiences behind you, and come out on top. Plan on doing that three, four or five times over and you’ll live a happy life.
Man looking over city image by Shutterstock