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Twenty Things I Learned In My 20s

Today I turn 30. I used to think people who were 30 were “grown-ups.” The reality is, most of the time I still consider myself a child in need of adult supervision. But in anticipation of the big 3-0, I have been spending a great deal of time reflecting on my 20s, the crazy/funny/unexpected/amazing/humbling experiences, the high-highs, the low-lows and what I have learned along the way. In doing so, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I am more of adult than I give myself credit. (Note, that does not mean I have “fully adulted.” But I am getting there.)

As someone who 1) loves birthdays; 2) giving unsolicited advice and 3) writing lists, I thought I would combine all the above to honor and celebrate the end of my 20s. Here are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) from this past decade.

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1. Quality over quantity. This statement is true with most things—clothes, friends, time, chocolate. I have found investing in quality items and quality people is far more satisfying to my soul and leads to far fewer regrets.

2. Breakfast is, like, the best thing ever. “Breakfast” for me used to consistent of maybe a granola bar. Turns out—eggs are actually amazing and now one of my favorite foods. Anyone who knows me knows I am always DTB (down to brunch). Plus, not sure you heard, but eating breakfast is kind of super important for you, too.

3. Invest in travel. I have been lucky to explore cities, countries and continents I would have never imagined. Invest in experiences. Believe me—I have regretted too many times dropping money on that “must-have” shirt once that trend is gone. But I will never regret how I felt standing on the Great Wall of China, eating avocado gelato in Nice or summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.

4. Have goals, not expectations. When I was 20 I had a very concrete idea of where I thought I would be at 30. Never would I have imagined that I would be an entrepreneur with a law degree under my belt, empowering a generation of millennials. But I did have a goal in mind—I wanted to find passion in my career. I learned that sometimes the idea of who, what or where we should be actually limits what we are capable of achieving. Dream big and I promise you will achieve beyond that.

5. Just say “yes” (most of the time). Anytime I was asked a question or challenged outside my comfort zone, I would hem and haw, weigh options, consider alternatives and second-guess my gut—all of which usually led me to the safe answer of “no.” But then I took a step back and asked myself, what if I just said, “yes” instead? So I started to say yes to pretty much anything and anyone. (Note I said “pretty much,” I still have standards/morals/dignity, people). This simple word has allowed me to experience things, meet people and challenge myself in ways I would have never imagined. Because as my favorite inspirational Guru, Drake, says—YOLO.

6. I really love my family. People wonder how my sister and I can work together and still want to spend, like, all our free time together. Or how four grown children living in two cities can still talk daily (if not more than once a day). The truth is I really like my family. Not because I am forced to because the whole “related” thing. But because they are seriously the greatest and there aren’t five other people in the world I would rather spend time with than them.

7. Five things to always have. Always have a sweater, snack, phone charger, band aid and lipstick on hand. With these five things, you can pretty much take on any curve ball your day throws your way.

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8. Scrap the word “deserve” from your vocabulary. No one deserves anything in life. I have learned that if you show up, put in the time and work hard (like, really, really hard), good things will eventually come your way not by chance, but through your effort.

9. Exercise, for your heart and mind. In college, on the rare occasion I would go to the gym, I usually would spend most of my time socializing. As I got “older” I found that working out was not only good for my health, but also provided me with designated “me” time. Whether it is spinning, pilates or simply going for a long walk, I look forward to this carved out time in my busy life to just unplug for an hour and take time for myself.

10. Go SPF yourself. The song doesn’t lie—wear sunscreen everyday. After a couple weird freckles and moles turned out to be just weird freckles and moles, I started wearing SPF 45 everyday, even during the winters. I am fairly confident my dermatologist and 40-year-old self are going to thank me. (Also, somewhat related, eye cream and moisturizer are not just things for your grandma. Preventive skincare will save you lines down the line.)

11. The 1 a.m. rule. Nothing good happens after 1 a.m. Trust me. So as the clock nears 1 a.m.—no matter what day of the week—just go to bed. And thank me later.

12. Have a hobby. Even if you love what you do (which I do!), work is not a hobby. Because the most boring/shortest conversation in the world goes as follows: “What do you do for fun?” “Work.” You need to have something totally unrelated to your day job that you not only enjoy doing, but that challenges you. (Fun, unrelated-work hobbies I have discovered: cooking, trapezing, travel research, live music, interjecting puns whenever I can, being “outdoorsy,” brunching and anything that may involve Beyoncè and/or Jay Z.)

13. No one knows what they are doing. You know that friend/classmate/girl on Instagram who seems to have it all figured out? News flash—know one knows what the flip they are doing. We are all flailing a little bit through life’s obstacles and learning on the road. No one has it all figured out. So don’t be so hard on yourself—you’re doing great.

14. Don’t sweat the small-ish. It is easy to get caught up in the stresses of life that you lose focus and everything seems like the biggest deal. This is not only super unproductive, but is physically and mentally exhausting. When I find myself on the verge of freaking out, I take a moment to step back and take a breath. Not everything is an emergency. If something goes wrong at work, I remind myself that I am not curing cancer or solving world hunger. Having an embarrassing typo in an article is not the end of the world (and often warrants a good laugh and email chain).

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15. Learn to be your best friend. Figure out who you are, learn to take care of yourself and be comfortable being alone. No matter where life takes you and who you surround yourself with, the one person who is constant is you. Learn to love, appreciate, respect, have fun, forgive and care for yourself first—or how can you expect others to do the same?

16. Life skills. The following things are basic life skills you need to have as an adult: making your own doctor appointments; being on time; saying “please” and “thank you;” living on a budget; getting eight hours of sleep; remembering birthdays; learning when to speak up and when to stay silent; becoming a morning person; the importance of a written note; being nice; doing your laundry; genuinely apologizing; and making scrambled eggs.

17. Time is a commodity. Part of “adulting” means added responsibility and a drastic decrease in your amount of free time. So use your spare time wisely by doing things and surrounding yourself with people that make you happy. Spend it with your family. Make plans with friends. Tackle a to-do list. Read for pleasure. Travel. Meditate. Whatever it is, make sure you don’t waste your free time—as it is in limited supply.

18. Failure is part of growing. Whether it is in school, relationships, your job or even trying a new recipe—no one inherently enjoys failing. But the reality is we can’t and aren’t perfect all the time. The times I failed at something are the times I have found I actually grew the most. Don’t look at failure as the end, but rather a way to learn and begin again.

19. You do you. Fitting in is a myth. What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you—and vice versa. And you know what? That’s okay! Don’t feel like you have to do/be/think something just because everyone else is doing/being/thinking something. Be comfortable in doing what makes you happy and be confident in what makes you different. Because I have learned I would rather be weird than fake any day.

20. The best is yet to be. People say your 20s are the best time in your life. And don’t get me wrong—this past decade has been, in a word, amazing. I grew up a bit, learned a lot (see 1-19 above), created unbelievable memories with unbelievable people and laughed at myself along the way. But being 30 doesn’t mean that I will simply stop existing, evolving, learning and enjoying life. I am excited to see where my 30s take me. I firmly believe that as incredible as this past decade has been, the best is yet to be. Because, as Jennifer Garner once said, I am “thirty, flirty and thriving.”*

(*Only one of the three are factually true. The other two are the sole opinion of the author.)