Now that I’m about a month and a half into my thirties, I I truly feel like I know everything there is to know about life.
Okay, that’s not true in the slightest. Ironically, as I get older, I realize I know much less about the world than I thought I did the previous year. While a person’s twenties are full of “firsts” in the adult world, there’s still so much to learn about the world, and life in general. If I could go back to my 19-year-old self and prepare him for what’s to come, I would have started by letting him know the following notions simply are not true:
1. Everyone has to like you
Maybe it comes from a youthful sense of entitlement, but many 20-somethings feel as if everyone has to like them. Which is incredibly ironic, because they just graduated from high school a few years ago, a place and time in which nobody really liked anybody. All kidding aside, if you live your life trying to please everyone and make them approve of you, you’ll drive yourself nuts. It might be hard to believe, but some people might actually not like you. But that’s okay. The only thing you can do about it is be as nice as you can to everyone you meet. If someone treats you like garbage in spite of all the nice things you’ve done for them, that’s only a reflection on them. If you react negatively to their detrimental behavior, that’s on you.
2. Your mistakes will ruin you
Life in general is just one learning experience after another. Everybody makes mistakes. Making a mistake in life is okay, as long as you learn from it and improve upon yourself. If you continue to make the same mistake time and again, they stop being mistakes, and start defining who you are. The saying goes, “It’s never too late to change.” While that is true, there are consequences that come with waiting too long. If you find you’ve started to stray from the path you know you should be on, make the adjustments right away before it becomes to difficult to right the wrongs you’ve made in life.
3. Good college grades will lead to success
Here’s a joke for you: What do you call the person who finished last in med school? Doctor! When you get into the real world, nobody will care that you had the highest GPA in your graduating class. Your employers will only care about how you plan on putting your knowledge into action in order to help their company. I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on your studies in college; I’m saying you should focus on actually learning and not just “making the grade.” Once you’re out of school, those letters on your transcript become meaningless. Your work, networking, and life skills are what will get you far in life.
4. Getting rejected after a job interview means you failed
Not getting a call back after an interview can be incredibly disheartening. You spent so much time researching the company, the position you were interviewing for, and the questions you knew they’d ask. You thought you nailed it. But you didn’t even make it past the initial round of callbacks. It hurts. But it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough for the job, or that you’re a complete failure. Look at the interview as a learning experience. Think of the times you weren’t sure of an answer, or ways you could have been better prepared to begin with. Keep these shortcomings in mind and focus on strengthening them the next time you get invited in for an interview. Also, be sure to keep yourself on the radar of any company that passed you over; you never know when another position will open up and you’ll get a second shot.
5. Your health can wait
When you’re young, you feel like you can skip the healthy breakfasts, stay out all night partying, and hit the gym only when the mood strikes you. As you get older, you’ll see these decisions catching up with you almost immediately. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle today reduces your risk of serious illness and disease later in life. You should start a healthy gym routine in your twenties, and carry it with you throughout the rest of your life. Living healthy at forty will be a lot easier if you’ve been living healthy for the past twenty years. Getting healthy when your forty is a whole different story.
6. You need to know what you want to do with your life
Most adults I know have had at least two different long-term careers since their twenties. With the world constantly evolving as it is, experts say this trend will continue to the point that some of us will change careers every decade or so. And really, what’s wrong with that? I’m definitely not the same person I was ten years ago. At 21, I didn’t have a wife, still lived at home while working and going to school, and thought I would be on a completely different path than I’m on now. At 30, my main focus is on starting a family. My career is no longer the main focus of my life, and I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s okay to switch it up if you’re unhappy. As Led Zeppelin famously said, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”
7. You need to be in complete control in your life
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a five-year plan, or should just drift through life without a care in the world. But you can’t control everything. Things will happen that will derail your plans, and when they do you’ll either have to get back on track, or start down a new path. Learn to be okay with such organized chaos. Be flexible when plans change. It’s the people who shut down when things go wrong that fall short of being where they want to be. Trust yourself that you can navigate your life to the best of your ability, along the smooth roads and the bumpy.
Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm9.staticflickr.com