At age 25, you already have a few of life’s biggest milestones behind you: the day you took your first steps; your first “words” (more like adorable baby gurgles, but you catch my drift); your first day at school; graduation; your first drink with your pals on the night you officially become an adult (yeah, right!)… And then comes 25. 25 is the unsung heroes of milestones: while the “Quarter Century” moniker carries a hefty sense of foreboding, it’s also the age at which most people have a little more life experience behind them and start feeling like “adults”. (If you don’t, yet, that’s totally fine, too!)
I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the first 25 years of my life, some of it wonderful, some of it not so much; all of it, I hope, of value to you. Here are my 25 life lessons learned by age 25.
1. Start saving early.
Sorry for raining on your parade and being the boring Uncle at the frat party, but you’ll thank me for this. What people (and by people, I definitely mean myself, too) tend to conveniently forget when starting their first jobs and getting their hands on their freshly-printed paychecks, is that there’s a certain thing called taxes looming over the horizon. And unforeseen medical bills. And LIFE. Make things easy for yourself and put just a little bit of your hard-earned cash away every month. It needn’t be much but it will add up over time and you’ll be so thankful for it in the long run.
2. As unmotivated as you may be, start working out early, too.
Even though it may not feel like it in the aftermath of an epic night out, your late teenage years and your twenties are theoretically the prime of your life. You will never be better equipped to handle the strain of working out. Put your youthful body to use and prep it for the wear and tear of getting older. It’s so worth it.
3. Learning how to cook a simple + delicious meal will save your life.
Because being able to serve something other than cheese on toast when you have company feels so, so rewarding.
4. Spend time with the elderly.
I learned this the hard way: both my wonderful grandmothers, whose abundant love I’d been showered with as I was growing up, passed away within a year of each other recently, leaving be bereft and wanting. As we no longer lived in the same country (and hadn’t for a good few years), spending time together was difficult and our relationship, although still loving, became more distant. Looking back now, I really wish I’d made more of an effort to spend some time with my grandmothers. I feel their loss keenly. Don’t do what I did – spend time with your elderly.
5. Get over your entitlement, stat!
As Millenials, we grow up being told we’re the bee’s knees. In a sense, this is positive because it bolsters our self-confidence, but it also gives us a sense of entitlement that has no place in the workplace. As harsh as this may sound, being told we are special over and over again doesn’t make us so and wearing your Gold Star on your lapel certainly won’t endear you with future employers. On that note…
6. Work hard, stay humble.
This quote is a cliché for a reason: it’s true and it’s important! Working your behind off and letting your actions speak for themselves is a surefire way to get ahead. Being full of hot air and slacking isn’t. However…
7. Learn how to give yourself a break.
It can be hard to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves a time-off when society piles sky-high expectations on us. However, learning to give yourself a break is one of the most important life lessons you’ll ever learn. You don’t have to be Super(wo)man and sometimes, the best thing you can do both for yourself and the task at hand is press pause and recentre yourself.
8. Some people are toxic. Stay away from them.
It’s easier said than done, but that friend who always leaves you feeling exhausted and unhappy after you spend time with them? Cut them out of your life. Life is too short to waste your time and energy on people who make you feel like crap.
9. Your body is beautiful. Treasure it.
You may not feel that way now, but your body is a thing of wonder – yes, even with those (imaginary!) lumps and bumps. Your body is capable of greatness. It’s also the only one we have, so making a point of looking after this mortal coil of yours should be on the top of your list of priorities. Feed it good, healthy food. Take it for a run around the bloc. Shower it with love and affection. And remember…
10. Your body can only take so much abuse.
You may be young now, but you won’t always be. (Wow, way to bring the mood down, Grandma!) While those vodka shots and super late nights may seem like a brilliant idea right now, be aware that no matter how invincible you feel, your body can only take so much before it crashes and burns. So, occasionally, trade in the party heels for a pair of slippers and a mug of tea. You’ll thank me later.
11. Reading is NOT a waste of time.
When you’re in school, unless you’re one of those people who devours books by the dozen (that’ll be me, then), reading can feel like a kind of cruel and unusual punishment. Often times, if you’re made to do something you don’t want to do, your first instinct when you don’t have to do it anymore is to throw your hands up shouting “F*ck the system!” and just stop. Don’t give up on reading. It’ll help you grow into a better human. Promise.
12. Hating things isn’t cool, nor does it make you look mysterious and attractive.
It just makes you look like a hater. And while you’re at it…
13. Don’t be a Negative Nancy.
I get it: it’s really, really easy to get caught up in other people’s negativity, often even without realising! But what you don’t know, is how pervasive negativity is and how deeply it impacts your life. What starts out with a little “innocent” gossip at the water cooler and a few unkind comments between friends can quickly transform into a horribly pessimistic outlook on life. As hard as it may be, choosing positivity is so much better for the soul.
14. Time heals MOST wounds.
Another cliché, another nugget of wisdom. As crap as you feel now, you will feel better over time. Have patience and have faith.
15. Being in nature is good for the soul.
Most of us live hyper-connected lifestyles in busy urban environments, without much opportunity to unplug and slow down. However, spending more time in nature is something that we should all strive for, as disconnecting from the frantic world around us for even just a couple of hours is a surefire way to recharge and return to our occupations refreshed and relaxed. Plus, it’s a wonderful way of reconnecting with our natures as human beings! Give it a try.
16. It’s not worth hanging on to clothes “just in case they fit”.
If your clothes don’t fit and all they do is make you feel cramped and uncomfortable, do. Not. Keep. Them! Trust me on this: keeping a pair of “motivation jeans” will not encourage you to lose weight; all they will do is make you miserable and take up space. Do your self-confidence and your closet a favour and give away the clothes you don’t need.
17. It’s OK not to be OK.
Like I mentioned before, no one expects you to be a superhero all the time. We are all human; we all have emotions and sometimes, life just gets to us. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to give yourself a break. It’s okay to surrender to your feelings and have a good old cry, if you need to. No one will think any less of you (and if they do, they’re the toxic people I talked about earlier and it’s time to cut them out of your lives). Also…
18. You are not alone.
No matter how isolated and desperate you may feel, know that everyone around you is fighting their own hard battle. And guess what? More people are experiencing what you’re experiencing than you think! Those problems and snags you keep running into? I’ll bet there’s a Facebook group or a forum or a community that can help with that. Try reaching out; you might be surprised at the outcome!
19. Being blind drunk just isn’t classy.
It really, really isn’t. Learn your limits early and respect them.
20. It really is best to be yourself. (Promise.)
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery but always trying to be someone you’re not is no way to live – no matter how popular, beautiful or successful the person you’re trying to emulate is. Not only is it impossible to be exactly like the object of your admiration; pursuing this unattainable “ideal” will only make you frustrated and blind to your own, unique beauty.
21. Never stop learning.
Just because you’re out of school, it doesn’t mean that you should stop educating yourself. Making a point of keeping yourself up to date with what is going on in the world and keeping abreast of the latest developments in your industry will both give you an edge. Plus, learning keeps your brain sharp!
22. Work-life balance isn’t really a thing.
There will be times when you’ll be working yourself to the bone, and others when you’ll be twiddling your thumb (but trust me, there will be fewer of those until you retire). Chances are, your work-life balance will be totally out of sync most of the time. And guess what? It isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just means you’ll have to prioritise and manage your time effectively and that, my friend, is an invaluable tool!
23. You never get unless you ask.
People aren’t mind-readers (unfortunately), so ask for what you want! Only those who ask get what they want. What’s the worst that could happen?
24. Keep an open mind (and an open heart).
Be open to new experiences. Let new people in (even if you’re scared of getting hurt). Say YES. Live life with open arms, because before you know it, it’ll be too late and you’ll be filled with regrets.
25. YOUR opinion of yourself is the one that matters the most.
At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is what you think of yourself; how you perceive yourself, whether you value yourself. People come and go, but you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. Learn to listen to your intuition and your opinion of yourself before tuning into others’. Everything else is just white noise.