I survived the awkward middle school years. I partied my way through high school and college, making friends and collecting wild stories to tell. Afterwards, I was a nomad trying to find where I belonged and felt happy. Realizing the States couldn't fulfill a part of my soul that was missing, I booked a one-way ticket to Europe and began the next chapter of my life. In three years I visited 25 countries. I explored, learned, worked, loved, tasted, and drank my way through Europe and South East Asia.
The past 29 years have been a glorious ride through this life and I have made my fair share of mistakes along the way - and oh, I have paid the price of every error. I have fallen into dark places but found the strength to get back up. I've lived and I've learned. I don't know it all, nor do I wish to - the fun lies within the journey.
So here I am compiling an ongoing list of things 20-something's should know.
The things our mothers don't tell us, books can't teach us, and travel guides don't show us.
1. (and will always be #1) GO OUT AND TRAVEL. Now is the time to do it. You learn by doing. It is hard to discover your identity in a cubicle or your parent's basement. There are less restrictions on ourselves in our twenties. When we are forty with a mortgage, three kids, a dog , and a sick parent, we will be less apt and able to travel. Explore your state, your country, another continent - just discover what else is out there and learn from what you see.
Don't stop learning. Educate yourself in the world around you. Life exists beyond your comfort zone and ignorance is not bliss. There is a lot to learn from the people you meet, places you see, and information you read.
Break up with the bad boy. You will not be able to change him. Sure, he may be passionate, sexy, and fun - but if he does not treat you right, drop him. A relationship should be naturally easy, not a war zone of games and mind tricks.
Never settle for less than what you deserve. In work, love, any facet of life. Do not settle for mediocrity. Settling is the result of laziness and fear.
Always tell the truth. Always. I was a good liar when I was young and now I can't even attempt to pass a white lie. The truth is always revealed. You'll spend too much time covering up your tracks than you would to just tell the truth and face the consequences.
Cherish your elders. Love them while you got them. They offer you unconditional love and helped raise you - visit them as often as you can and return their love and respect.
You don't need to have your career all panned out (but it might help if you have a goal in mind). Not all of us know we want to be an accountant, lawyer, or nurse right out of high school or college. I had no idea who I was when I graduated high school so how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do with my life? You need to take the time to figure out what your interests are, what career field makes you happy, and where you want to live before you sign your life away to a job that your hearts not in. The career you hold at 25 does not necessarily have to be the same career you hold at 45.
Don't be afraid of change. This may be the Sagittarius in me, but I love change. Growth takes place in periods of uncertainty and change. Be open to new adventures and opportunities. Those are moments where you will discover your true self and what you truly want. Take the leap of faith and start your next adventure.
Surround yourself with good people. No more fake friends! You no longer have to associate yourself with anyone or anything that you don't want to. Invest time and feelings into people who lift you up, support, love, and challenge you.
Follow your heart. Our minds cloud our judgement. We base life decisions on why society or others say rather than what our heart says. You won't go wrong if you follow your heart.
Don't wait around OR search for The One. Being single does not mean you should be spending that time on the lookout for your next relationship. The One will come when you are at the right place at the right time. Perhaps you are meant to find your other half early on, maybe you need to date a few bad guys before you know what you want, or even you need to travel far and wide before you meet your soulmate. The One will come when the timing is right, just focus on yourself and enjoying the present moment.
It is OKAY to be single. You are not a freak and no there is nothing wrong with you. It is healthy to spend time putting yourself first. You need to know how to be independent, thrive on your own, and love yourself all before someone else can enter the picture. Don't be overwhelmed by the wedding and baby picture posts that are flooding your news feeds - they're all on a different path than you.
Don't let the bad define you. We all make mistakes. My late teens and early twenties were full of "learning experiences". However, no matter how far we stray from the path and how badly we mess up - we cannot let these faults and vices define us. What you did at 18 does not define the adult you have grown into at 24.
Know the difference between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now. It may be a long time before you meet the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. But we have entered the age where not every relationship is a 'high school love.' You need to date and be realistic about it. If you meet someone and know they are not in your picture of the long run, see it as just that. Sure, have fun for a little while - but do not get too invested if there is nothing to hold on to.
(In)dependence. Find the balance between complete autonomy and complete dependence. It is vital to know how to take care of yourself and live on your own by this age - but it is OKAY to ask for help sometimes. We can't solve every problem on our own.
Know your self worth. You are incredible and you need to believe it. You are an integral part of your family. You are a beloved friend. You are an asset at your workplace. Do not marginalize your accomplishments or traits, be proud of who you are and what you do. Walk around with the confidence of knowing your true self. And never, ever let anyone define your self worth.
Tell people you love them. That four letter world holds a lot of power. It gets carelessly tossed around a lot in life but if said correctly, it can change a relationship, a person's day, a life. Don't be afraid to tell the ones you love just how much you do.
Always, always forgive. Holding a grudge weighs you down and clouds your body with unnecessary anger. Find the goodness in your heart to forgive those that wronged you. We all sin, so we must forgive others just as they forgive us.
Talk out loud. Speak about yourself! Tell people your story and your plans. Make and keep connections - you'll be surprised how willing people are to help someone out.
Open your heart. It is very easy to build walls and guard the most vulnerable part of your self. However, if you block everyone out of your life, there will be no one to love with that heart. You need to let people in to love them - and it's okay if you do.
You cannot party like you used to. The college days of all-nighters, sunday fundays, and weekend rallies are over. With age, your body needs sleep. The hangovers are much, much worse in your mid 20's. Put down that vodka and soda and drink some water.
Nothing good happens after 2am. Really, nothing does. Sure you may show up at brunch with your girlfriends the next day with a crazy story, but did that wild night out make your life any better. Did you really want to give your number to or go home with the severely intoxicated guy that you thought looked like a Hemsworth brother? Did you really want to show up to work sporting yesterday's makeup and nursing a terrible hangover? Put yourself to bed, you'll thank yourself in the morning.
Start saving. This one I am struggling to abide by. However, I do know the importance of saving. It is dangerous to live paycheck to paycheck. You need an emergency fund and to think about the long run - start putting some of your pay away each week.
Don't trust everyone. You no longer have an excuse to be naive. People will betray you, rob you, hurt you, lie to you - it's life. Be able to judge the character of someone and decide whether or not you can trust them with all your heart.
Take a day off. Yes, you deserve vacation or a personal day every once an a while. We are at a time in our lives where everything is changing. We're bordering the waters of adulthood and its one wavy ride. It is necessary to take a break, give your self a mental health day (or three) and recharge.
Spend time with your friends. People are getting married and even having babies (ahh!) So scheduling in a girls night out is more difficult than ever. Take the time to see your friends and stay connected in each others' lives. All relationships are a two-way street and you need to put effort into them to keep them alive.
Smile. Be Mr. or Ms. Brightside. What a difference a smile makes, its contagious and it instantly makes you happy. Try to always see the positive outlook in all situations. Always being the pessimistic victim will destroy you - there are too many things to love, smile about, and be grateful for in this beautiful world!
Take care of your body. Your body is a temple and you must care for it. Our mothers and doctor's were right on this one. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. You know that suspicious mole? get that checked out ASAP. We were given one body, cherish it.
Give back. Think of all you were given in your life. It is time to do your own part. Volunteer, do a daily good deed, buy a loved one a gift just because, put a smile on someones face. We cannot live in this world and only take - we must give as we receive.
Know that it will get better. We have not reached our peaks. Life is only going to become better. So no matter how low you may get - the only way out is up!