In 1989, I turned 20 years old and graduated from college the following year. The decade would see me make some bad decisions – eloping with my ex-husband – but also a bunch of great choices that all made me who I am today.
Here’s hoping my mistakes and successes and life lessons learned along the way can help you, too:
1. Always pursue your passion but don’t quit your day job unless you’re sure
Although much of my professional career after graduation was built in the financial arena of corporate America, I never let go of my love of writing. After work and on weekends – or let’s be honest, many times during my day jobs – I’d make time to steal away and write. Whatever your talent, doggedly go after it, even while you’re doing other things to pay the bills.
2. Prevent overindulgences: Giving up the ganja
Too much of anything doesn’t bode well. I learned that lesson from too much shopping, weed smoking and not enough bill paying – so I had to temper myself and become more responsible throughout my 20s. You can still have fun doing the things you like but make sure the mortgage is taken care of first.
3. Revel in looking good
Okay, I was pretty hot in my 20s. For one thing, make sure you enjoy the days of few wrinkles and no age spots.
4. Express yourself in the way that’s best for you
No longer a teen, I learned that my opinion mattered, but that I preferred to do it in writing lots of times without having to look people in the face and watch their reactions. Whatever way feel most comfortable to you is your way to get out the feelings inside. Make sure to get them out.
5. Get stuff done while you don’t have kids
During my 20s, I had no kids, so I was able to devote lots of time to work but part of me wishes I would’ve pursued a writing career more fervently when I had no one to really think about but myself.
6. “Prayer works.”
It’s something my grandmother used to tell me, and believe you me, by the time I turned 30 and experienced serious losses in my life, I knew her statement was true for helping me survive them.
7. It’s okay to forgive yourself
I was almost just berating myself for not accomplishing more in my 20s. That’s when I told myself to stop it – and that forgiveness is key. When you know better, you do better, as the popular saying goes.
8. Look at the positive
It would be easy to list hundreds of mistakes I’ve made in the decade of my 20s or beyond – but it’s better to always look at the bright side of life. Instead of stewing over not graduating college as a 20-year-old like I wanted, I can congratulate myself for getting a degree in five years instead of not at all.
9. Follow the direction of love
After being in a bad marriage for about three years in my early 20s, it dawned on me that people cannot change one another or force each other to change. Therefore, I escaped that abusive situation and realized that being in a more positive environment isn’t corny or boring – it’s love, a whole lot better feeling than hate.
10. Give people space and grace
I used to have high expectations that people do what I wanted when I wanted it. Time shows us that others can do things that we don’t expect – and we should give them the freedom to be themselves.
11. Thank others for letting you be yourself
The freedom in learning to let others do their own thing allowed me to realize that I had that same freedom. No heavy chains or unreasonable boundaries placed upon other folks gave me the revelation that no one else should do the same to me.
12. Hope doesn’t disappoint
Society may have people feel that once you leave your 20s, life is over. I’ve learned that it helps to always remain filled with hope, and to never let your dreams die – no matter how old you get. Even when I didn’t experience the level of Shonda Rhimes-like success I sought in my 20s, it doesn’t mean I gave up. Instead, I know the day is coming when the words I once heard in my soul will be fulfilled: “It is yours.”
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