Updated: Sep 14, 2021
You always hear people talking about their twenties. Although it was the best time in some people's lives, most of the stories I hear seem to focus on regret. Things people wish they knew and what they would change, why they cared about others' opinions, that sort of thing. Although I believe everything happens for a reason, what if we can prevent the simple things we might look past or take for granted?
I asked people of different ages and genders what advice they have for people in their twenties. Everyone that shared their advice remains anonymous. Some are older and wiser, while some are still younger in their twenties. People of all ages shared words of wisdom on what they've learned so far. I'm not saying we won't make mistakes. That's life. But, what we can do is learn from others and keep in mind the simple things. Every single response made me think of the way I want to live my life. I hope the same for you.
Advice from a woman. Age 38:
If you still live at home. Stay there. Work hard and save your money until you can buy. Teach yourself about money, budgeting, credit. Travel as much as you can. Do not rush into marriage or even a relationship just to say you have someone. Help your parents. They took care of you now you help them, end of story. DO NOT beg for anyone, ever. Take care of your body. Take care of your skin. Leave after the first lie. Have so much fun.
Advice from a woman. Age 60:
Never accept less than 100% respect from anyone, ever. It’s okay to start over as many times as it takes you to find your version of happiness. Learn to say no without apology. Work hard. Fall in love with as many things as possible. Respect your parents, they will not be here forever. The day you reach for the phone to call and realize no one will be on the other end to answer, is the day your heart will break, again. Be kind. Don’t judge. Know that at some point the world will bring you to your knees. That’s when you’ll realize what strength and fortitude your soul possesses. When you have children the days will come when you’re exhausted, when you feel you don’t have one more thing to give, driving miles from this to that, treasure those days as well as the happy ones. One day you’re going to miss it all, I promise. Know that everything you are...is enough. Your word is what people will judge you on, be honest.
Advice from a man. Age 25:
Some advice for someone in their 20s is confidence. Have confidence in yourself, there are a lot of moving parts. Friends get real jobs, some take a different path, some go to college and some don’t. Whatever you do, be confident in it. Everyone and their mother is going to question what you do. It’s also an awkward time between being a kid and an adult. Having confidence will make you stand out and lean more towards being an adult.
Advice from a man. Age 74:
If you never ask, the answer is always no.
Advice from a woman. Age 58:
I would have so much to tell my 20yr old self but knowing who and what I know now, and where I am in my life today makes me not want to change all too much... I am happy about where life has landed me. I think that if my 20yr old self was stronger, I just would have gotten here sooner…
Things I wish I knew /would change or tell my 20yrs old self…
I would tell myself that “I am who I think I am” not “I am who YOU think I am” – I worried so much what people thought of me.
-I would tell myself that my sexuality wouldn’t defy who I was inside and that it would be ok to be honest about who I was and that it was safe to love who I wanted.
-That my body was so much more precious to me and that I should have respected it more.
-I would tell myself not to be embarrassed about where I was raised. That being poor and from a dysfunctional family is something you get to choose.
-I would tell myself that my parents were just as much at a disadvantage and I would have forgiven them for their mistakes and letting them know it was ok.
-I would tell myself to just let things go sometimes and not waste so much time being mad about stupid shit! Life is so short.
-I would tell myself that everyone has baggage, no matter who you are and where you come from and that no one is better than anyone else. There is no such thing as a perfect family. It doesn’t exist. It is bullshit.
-I would tell myself to push harder to prove how smart I was even when everyone was telling me I WASN’T!
-I would tell myself that being emotionally and mentally in need of repair was normal, and not try to hide it and pretend everything was ok all the time. Sharing our weaknesses helps heals others and yourself in the end.
-I would tell myself “I love you” so much more often and not need to hear it from someone to feel like I was worth something.
-I would tell myself that it is ok to cry and I would have cried more and not held everything inside.
-I would tell myself you don’t always have to be the strongest person in the room.
-I would tell myself not to hold on so hard to the past, it will destroy you!
-I would tell myself to walk away sooner from the negative people, they are not necessary in your life and they are not your friends.
-I would tell myself I didn’t have to be friends with everyone, just the one’s worth MY TIME...
Advice from a woman. Age 39:
I think your 20s are for figuring out who you are, some of us figure it out sooner than others...but things change even in your 30s and then you adapt and adjust. Work hard and have fun in your twenties, you never get that time back.
Advice from a man. Age 60:
I would have to say that I wish I was aware of the true value of time. I was sure I was going to die by 30 years old from drugs and alcohol so I didn’t care about how I lived my life. It was a daily party after high school. Every day was summer. Well I didn’t die, and got clean and sober, and I wasted 10 fucking years of my life! Don’t waste time! Chase your dreams! Don’t hold back! Press into life!
Advice from a woman. Age 47:
Love yourself and your scars and your open wounds. Don’t look for anyone to fix you, and don’t promise to fix anyone else. Invest. Make goals that include self-care, spirit, academic, athletic, and cultural pursuits. Live like an introverted extrovert. Eat what you want and sweat in the sun and snow and rain. Just love yourself hard.
Advice from a woman. Age 59:
Leave room in your heart for the unimaginable. Walk away from bad influences. It’s ok to give someone a 2nd chance but not a 3rd.
Advice from a woman. Age 28:
Don’t be in a rush to do anything. Live your life for you. Live on your own timeline. Comparing your timeline to others is only going to give yourself this false narrative of where you should be, what you should be doing, etc. thus giving yourself anxiety and decreasing your self confidence. You’re never late to do anything, you’re always right on time. You don’t have to ever hold onto a relationship because your significant other did something for you or were there for you during a certain time. If the person you’re with doesn’t show you the utmost respect, raise you up or help you grow.....let. them. go. It’s ok to cut people out of your life if they’re not doing anything to better it. Know your worth. Truly understand and realize just how amazing you are. Don’t compare yourself. To anyone. Comparison is the thrift of joy. You are beautiful in your own way. Don’t let anyone or anything tell you your worth or make you feel like you’re below them.
Advice from a woman. Age 68:
First Kerry I have to say you seem to have it together in your 20s better than I did. I think the first mistake I made was not taking life seriously enough in my teen years so by the time I was 21 I had 2 children!! I think what I would have done differently would have been to try and enjoy my twenties and get the career I thought I wanted as a teacher and become more secure in my older years!! But I did babysit everyone's kids so does that count as a teacher? I did have a 48 year marriage and 3 great kids and great grandkids so I feel blessed!! I guess my advice would be to think hard about what you want and try to pursue it!! You are doing just that!!
Advice from a woman. Age 58:
One thing that comes to mind immediately tho is all those people that I thought were sooo cool, so far beyond anything I could ever be, why? What made me think I wasn’t? Or that they too were looking at someone else and thinking the same thoughts? We all look up or admire someone and that’s good to aspire to achieve higher goals. All right I’m rambling so I’m gonna stop & think! But I will say, I always admired your mom! To me she was the epitome of femininity, beauty & cool, never outlandish, very calm, very cool and beautiful.
Advice from a woman. Age 29:
Always put yourself first and do what makes you happiest, not what other people want or to just follow the crowd because most of the time that crowd you think you need to fit into will not be in your life in ten years.
Advice from a woman. Age 52:
Be respectful to the people you were in previous relationships with. Unless there are traumatic circumstances! Just don’t engage. Go to some kind of schooling. Whether it be away at college or community or technical. Go with your gut feeling. If you know it’s not right, it’s not. Don’t try to impress people. Impress yourself! Know when to say when, when it comes to partying! Be motivated to learn... Be a hustler at work... Go to church. You always feel better when you do. It’s ok that you don’t have a million friends, you only need one. Live simple. Take care of your car. Yours will take care of you... Don’t change for people, and don’t think people will change for you. If you save 2000 a year, for 8 years and don't touch it, you will be a millionaire when you retire (of course if it’s invested).
Advice from a man. Age 76:
I think it's important for young people to keep a positive attitude about life in general. During today's pandemic, that can be very difficult but also critical in helping to avoid feelings of depression or despair. I also think it's important to continue to grow intellectually and emotionally. (Some folks call this concept maturity but I think that term is overused.) By this I mean that young people shouldn't feel that they have finished learning about the world and their own talents simply because they might have finished their formal schooling. In today's changing economy and employment scene, you need to continue to expand your skills in multiple areas to be able to secure a good job and advance your career. Building your resume through a variety of jobs and experiences is also helpful in finding the career that best meets your needs and liking, while also making you a more attractive prospect in the eyes of many employers. Young folks also need to know how to manage money and start saving for future plans or unforeseen emergencies. Too often, young people believe they are invincible and will lead a charmed life, not realizing that the road of life sometimes has potholes! In addition, young people need to take care of their health, keeping active through planned exercise and wise choices in the way they live. Finally, I would emphasize the need for young people to realize the importance of family and faith in their lives, not only as a support system, but also as sources of happiness.
"Let's not regret the best years of our lives. Let's start living now and setting goals for ourselves. Let's acquire new skills and go outside of our comfort zones."