(Sidebar: This list is definitely going to be self-serving. But that’s what millennials do best–talk about themselves, right?)
So, you’ve just had a birthday and hit the big 2-0. It feels good. Suddenly people respect you more because 1) you’re no longer a teenager and, therefore, WAY more mature than you were 24-hours ago as a 19-year-old, and 2) you belong to a group of career-bound, soon-to-be college graduates who aren’t jaded by life because, at this point in time, the world is still your oyster.
You’ve got all of your twenties ahead of you–fantastic grades in school, fun parties and game nights with friends, the excitement of starting a new job in your desired field, and the promise of a family…husband, kids, pets; the future seems rosy. And it could be. However, often-times stupid and annoying LIFE steps into the middle of the road, derailing you and your dreams.
(Sidebar: Wouldn’t it be amazing if your twenties were like the 1920s? Friends, music, dancing, feathered headbands, bob haircuts, fringe-flapper dresses…oh man, I’m salivating at the thought.)
So, how can you stay positive and keep your eye on the prize: education, career, family? By focusing on the pros and cons of being in your twenties.
Yes. Oh my, yes. Independence is the bomb-diggity. It is so fun and fulfilling living alone (or, at the very least, away from home but with roommates). You can leave dishes in the sink for 5 days. You can eat dinner on your bed. You can paint your toe-nails at 2 in the morning. You can do whatever you want and nobody cares! Because you live alone. If it doesn’t bother you, then it doesn’t matter.
Responsibility is a two-edged sword. Sometimes I love paying bills. It feels good to check things off your list and know that you did it, without help from your mom (okay, you called her to ask what deductions on your medical bill were…and if you claim yourself on your taxes…and at what pain threshold you should probably take yourself to the emergency room for).
But, for the most part, responsibility is hard and it’s got one heck of a learning curve. You forget to pay your car insurance and get fined. You accidentally forget to tip and feel like the biggest jerk in the world because usually your dad tipped the waiter, not you. You totally bomb a project at work and fear for your life (and a call from HR giving you the boot). The onslaught of responsibility in your twenties can be crazy stressful.
Pro: Dating with marriage in mind
I don’t think this is just the Mormons. I think most people date for 1) the fun of being with someone that you’re also attracted to and 2) the possibility of it turning into marriage. I didn’t begin seriously dating with marriage in mind until about 6 months ago. I’d just turned 23 and it felt like the right time to start seriously looking for a spouse. So I joined Tinder.
(Sidebar: Tinder in Utah is a little different from everywhere else. 50% of the people on there are LDS and looking to date someone with marriage in mind. So it’s not just a hook-up space.)
But wow, has Tinder been a crazy ride! You meet all sorts of people on Tinder: totally normal, happy people and crazy monsters who text you all day, every day and tell you TMI. But it’s fun and strange and different. And it’s giving me lots of good stories!
How can something so great (meeting someone new that you have a great connection with) be so awful? Because you have to date dozens of Mr. Wrongs before you find Mr. Right. (Or more than one Mr. Right. That’s a problem too.) But dating can be super suck-tastic when you go out, don’t feel a connection, let the guy know, and are told “No worries. I can do better than you.”
Yes…that happened to me.
(Sidebar: NEVER say that. To anyone. It’s unacceptable. If I hear about you telling someone “I can do better,” then I’m going to find you and slap you.)
With all that freedom and independence comes the ability to make choices. Any choice you want. Will you have cake batter for dinner? Yes, you will. Will you barf it all up afterwards? Indubitably. But that’s your decision.
Your early twenties are all about experimentation. Dye your hair blue. Hike a trail by your apartment, alone. Get a cat. Grab a friend and take a day trip, somewhere where it takes hours of driving to get there. Get lost on the way. In fact, get lost a lot. If you’re like me (directionally challenged) then you already do that, so you might as well do it somewhere cool.
Travel. Not just in your county or state, but all over the country and–if you can swing it–the world. Please, please visit another country while you’re young, poor, single, and don’t have obligations like children and a full-time professional job. Do it in college, if you can. It’s the perfect time. Apply for a study abroad tour in Europe. See the Eiffel Tower, Roman ruins, ancient monasteries, and castles. See as many castles as you can, because they’re amazing and historical and beautiful and jaw-droppingly cool.
Doing all of those exciting, adventurous things can be scary. I know from experience. Flying to a country alone with almost no money, sleep, or food? It’s downright terrifying. But it was what I had to do to get myself to Ireland, fulfilling a dream I had had for years. When I bought my first car and wrote a check for the down payment, I watched my savings dwindle–with the realization of future expenditures of gas, insurance, and monthly payments staring me in the face. When I dated someone for several weeks, knowing that it was leading up to my first kiss, I nearly panic’d myself right into the hospital.
Fear is normal, but don’t let it overrun the fact that you’re becoming an adult and doing scary things (which, coincidentally, become infinitely less scary after you’ve done them the first time).
As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these pros and cons are intertwined and connected. That’s because you’ll rarely find something that is 100% amazing or 100% awful. When you travel you experience culture…and jetlag. When you try out a new, complicated recipe you leave out half the ingredients on accident…but it tastes good anyway.
Don’t let the cons of being in your early twenties take away from the wonderful experiences you could have. The world–whatever size you give it–is waiting for you to see it. Explore your city. Explore your country. Explore the world. And do it knowing that with the accidents, delays, rude people, and pain comes the laughter, wonder, new friends, and new memories of being young and curious.