Twenty-somethings get a lot of condemnation on the internet and this list below isn’t meant to demoralize you. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that life is hard, especially when you only have about 20 years of experience (most of which was spent on Pokemon cards and bike riding). Here are 15 common mistakes 20-somethings make — and how to avoid some of them.
1. Poor living arrangements
Wouldn’t it be awesome to live with my best buds, or my new, amazing girlfriend? Nope, probably not. Moving in with a partner too early, or with certain friends, could mean unpleasant surprises. There are courteous people, and there are those who blast Biggie Smalls at 6 a.m. Unfortunately, you may not know the difference until it’s 6 a.m. Know their flaws before you live with them. This way, you’ll at least be prepared to work around them.
2. Taking on too much
Today’s schedule reads: cleaning the house, work, volunteering, going on a date, visiting a friend, grocery shopping, and then the gym. Sounds great. In theory. Unfortunately, you’re confined to this human body that needs sleep and stuff. If you’re an introvert, this is an even more insane schedule. We may have the freedom to “do it all,” but that doesn’t mean we have to do it all right this second.
3. Lack of direction
College is a time for discovery and trying new things, right? I guess, but at what expense? College doesn’t have to be a time for wasting all of your (or your parents’) money. It doesn’t have to mean skipping classes, losing focus, and trying to please everyone with your “coolness.” While all of this may be a learning experience, it’s also a big time waster. Let’s face it, people who chase the “college experience” usually just end up peeing their pants.
4. Dating catastrophes
I’m a firm believer in everyone not dating until they’re 40. Anything before that just gets in the way of your development. Alright, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but 20-somethings who drain all their energy in a bad relationship are wasting precious time. If you are settling in at college or a new career, a bad relationship is something that will just hold up your personal progress. Fights, sadness, confusion, jealousy, etc. All of it is an unnecessary distraction.
Loans are a bummer, so let’s just get them out of the way early on this list. Loans are not always a mistake. However, if you take out a loan only to realize later that it did not benefit you (and you’re now stuck with meaningless debt) — that was a 20-something move. In our defense, ever-expanding tuition costs and the complex uncertainties of the job market make investing in education a game of musical chairs. You don’t know if you’ll end up in a cozy salaried seat or standing out in the cold. So just keep in mind that your aspirations may change.
6. Heat-of-the-moment tattoos
“Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a penguin riding a shark on my leg forever?” No, absolutely not. But when you’re a 20-something, an “absolutely not” can look like a “hell, yes.” I have plenty of friends with random, not-so-flattering tattoos that they got for free, at a convention, from a friend, while drunk, or all of those combined. Maybe you even got your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name tattooed, only to curse them out and break up a week later. It happens to the best of us. Just look up a tattoo removal specialist, stop with the self-induced shame, and move on, 20-somethings.
7. Caring what others think (a lot)
This is always a mistake, no matter what age you are. It seems like as we age, we’re a little more equipped to deflect other’s judgments and discouragements. But when we’re fresh out of our Sociology 101 class, we may not deal with unintentionally hurtful people well — people who are nursing their own wounds while judging us under false pretenses. This is not your problem, and it is not about you. You will never stop caring what others think until you truly believe that.
8. Drinking too much
Some people will never have this problem. They are sure of themselves, responsible, and emotionally mature. For the rest of us 20-somethings, there will be those nights. For a fraction of us, a lot of them. Know this: drinking does not solve problems. It does not fix relationships. It does not make you happier, more fun, or more attractive. If you use alcohol to boost your self-esteem, you’re going to be disappointed eventually. You shouldn’t be drinking your courage; you should be earning it.
9. Marrying too quickly
Divorce has become quite common ever since we stopped condemning divorcées to hell a few decades ago. But that doesn’t mean you should collect divorces just because you can. Sure, you may be in love with someone while in your 20s, but that doesn’t necessitate marriage. If you have different values or can’t live comfortably with someone now, marriage will only intensify those problems.
10. Your youth: would you like fries with that?
I know it feels harmless to eat nothing but Arby’s cajun fries until you’re about 28, but there are plenty of reasons not to. For one, many illnesses nowadays are chronic and degenerative, meaning you could work up to a disease after several years of neglected health. It’s also a bad habit to develop early in life, meaning it will be tougher to break when you get old and have to.
11. Relocating for the wrong reasons
Twenty-somethings are all about relocating, and it works great for many. However, if your reasons for relocating are anywhere along the lines of bettering yourself, changing your relationships, “finding your passion,” or “making a clean start,” be careful. A lot of these things are entirely internal processes. You may regretfully realize upon arriving at your new “mecca,” that things (aka you) are exactly the same.
12. Extensive planning
Remember that girl from high school who had her wedding day planned out right down to the last detail? Remember how nuts you thought she was? Right. So what makes you think that your extensive planning is any less nutty? It’s great to plan out your day tomorrow, or plan a general career trajectory if you know what you want. It’s just not good to get bogged down in details that probably won’t even matter when the time comes. Trust your future self. He or she is totally awesome, and knows more than you possibly could right now.
13. Going against your gut
Maybe you believe in intuition, conscience, instincts, etc. Regardless of what you call it, your guidance system shouldn’t be ignored. Your gut is on your side; it’s not trying to screw you over. Listening to my gut would’ve saved 22-year-old me hundreds of dollars in scam money — too bad I had told it to shut up that day.
14. Being selfish
Isn’t it funny how volunteer positions are often targeted at older, retired people or stay-at-home moms? What is it about being young that makes us think our time is too valuable to help others? Yes, it’s a time when we are not financially stable, but selfless endeavors don’t have to take up your whole week. Helping others always makes people happy. It’s in our bones. Just ask every successful person ever.
15. Beating yourself up
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s sometimes hard for 20-somethings to give themselves credit. Most of your time during this decade will probably be spent in a “working towards” mindset, instead of an “enjoying being” mindset. Try to counter that by taking note of how far you’ve come and what you’ve already achieved. (Not going to Arby’s today totally counts.)
Don’t worry, this doesn’t cover them all. There are plenty more mistakes you can make as a 20-something! But in all seriousness, you can survive all these and more — and you’ll be wiser for it.
Featured photo credit: Nemo via pixabay.com