It’s hard to believe it, but I’m officially in my late twenties now that I’m 27. A lot happens to everyone in 7 years, but that is especially true between the ages of 20 and 27. When I turned 20, I was half-way through college, since then, I graduated college, became a teacher, quit my teaching job, went to grad school, started job after grad school, developed 2 new illnesses (endometriosis and POTS), and had 3 more joint surgeries. The last 7 years have been so eventful, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently, so I thought that today I would talk about what I wish I knew when I was 20.
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20
Take your time – You don’t have to rush at everything! Enjoy your life how it is. Of course, do your homework and hang out with your friends, but you don’t have to cram everything into every hour of every day. And you don’t have to do that just because you’re 20 and there are a finite number of days left of your time in college. Enjoy your life and try not to stress too much about not doing enough.
You don’t have to accomplish everything by age 30 – Similarly, you have plenty of time to achieve your goals. Even though I technically knew this at age 20, I didn’t really get it until a few years ago. I felt like I was a failure for not achieving so many things by the age that I thought I should have achieved them. I don’t know if this is a millennial thing or a human thing or an anxious person thing, but I felt bad about it. And I shouldn’t have! I (hopefully) have 50 more years on this earth. There’s plenty of time for me to accomplish things.
It’s okay to change your career – This one hurt – and still does – so much. SO much. If you didn’t read here back in 2014, I used to be a teacher. I got a degree in education and taught high school for a year. Now, as you might know, I’m not a healthy person. I have multiple chronic illnesses and have been in pain since 2001 due to rheumatoid arthritis. I have highly-active rheumatoid arthritis, and working 50+ hours a week is a bad idea when you have a raging autoimmune disease. I overdid it and had to quit. Again, this hurt so much and it still really hurts, especially this time of year when there’s teaching stuff all over the place. It hurt because teaching is a calling, but it’s also because I felt like I had to pick my career and stick with it forever. Logically, I knew that it didn’t work like that, but I really felt like it did. But it’s not true, as it’s more than okay to change your career, even if you don’t have a health challenge precipitate it. You don’t need to be ashamed.
Don’t be afraid to move in with your parents in your 20s – This is another thing that I felt so ashamed of but really didn’t need to, especially as living with your parents in your 20s is SO common right now. It’s common for people who aren’t dealing with health problems (including multiple surgeries) and/or grad school. So, really, don’t feel bad about yourself because you move in with your parents. It’s what’s necessary, and you’re saving so much money.
You’ll have to make lifestyle changes for your chronic illnesses – Medication (at least today’s medication) won’t do everything needed to live your best life with chronic illness, so you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes. Some foods (more than at age 20) irritate your RA. You need to go to the chiropractor every week. Keep doing yoga every day. All of these things and more are necessary for your quality of life. Research it, go through trial and error, and find what works for you and your body.
You’ll have to stand up for yourself – No one else will stand up to professors for you. No one else will stand up for you when you get harassed when you’re alone. No one else will stand up for you when you’re in doctor’s appointments alone and the doctor suggests that nothing is wrong with you when you know there actually is. If you don’t stand up for yourself, others will walk all over you. Just make sure that you don’t explode at them – unless they really deserve it, of course.
… and others like you – You know from experience that too many people don’t believe invisibly ill people, and you also know that there are so many people out there who are invisibly ill, including yourself. Use your voice and experience to stand up for others. Use your blog and social media, go to Washington, D. C., to meet with your representatives, and speak up for others in person, too. Too few people will stand up for invisibly ill people, and even fewer will be believed.
Carve out time to read for fun – Reading makes you happy (and makes you a better writer), so make sure you find time for it. Obviously this is difficult during the school year, but when life is a bit calmer, find the time. This time won’t automatically appear, so to a certain extent, you just need to make the time. And get an audiobook app on your phone so you can listen during the school year! You’ll be happier for it.
Keep writing – And make sure that you keep writing. You won’t magically be a better writer if you don’t keep going. Blogging helps (goodness gracious does it help), but you won’t get better at writing certain elements of fiction if you don’t keep writing fiction. Not happy with your first drafts? Keep working. Keep editing. Keep. Going.
You don’t have to find your person immediately – It’s not the end of the world if you haven’t found or started dating The One yet. Don’t settle and don’t fret. You’re young and, again, you hopefully have another half-century. There’s plenty of time to find The One, and your life is great even if you don’t find The One. You don’t need a man, even if one would be nice. (Men are, after all, trash.)
What do you wish you knew when you were 20?
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