I just turned 30. 😳😱👵🏼
It’s almost surreal to me that my 20s have already come to an end. I remember blowing out 20 candles 10 years ago, feeling so uncertain, yet hesitantly hopeful about what the decade would bring.
In all honesty, most of the things I wished for in my 20s didn’t come true. But even though I might not have gotten everything I wanted, I got so much more. I got so many things I needed. (I just didn’t necessarily know I needed them. ☺)
Looking back and remembering my 20-year-old self, there are so many things I wish I could have told her. Prepared her for. Warned her about. Reminded her of.
I am not the same girl I was when I was 20, and that is perhaps the biggest surprise of the last 10 years.
I am an incredibly stubborn being, and I didn’t plan or expect to change much – ever. Definitely not in a single decade. 😏
But I look back at 20-year-old me and realize I’ve changed quite a bit. That girl was insecure. Afraid. Lonely. Hesitant. Indecisive.
Sure, sometimes I’m still some of those things. But I’m not nearly those things to the degree I used to be.
I’ve changed a lot. If I could go back, this is what I’d tell myself as I began my 20s:
- IF YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE A FRIEND, BE A FRIEND. I know, I know. It’s cliché. But it’s true. As an introvert, I always told myself that God wired me this way and that he’d send me friends if he wanted me to have them. And he did. Sometimes. But there have also been many lonely seasons in my life, and I’ve learned that, at times, God wants me to act first and then he blesses my efforts. It can be hard, sometimes it’s awkward, and it might even scare you, but do it anyway! You’d be surprised how many other lonely people are out there hoping you’ll make the first move, too.
- GUARD YOUR HEART. This is another cliché that happens to be one full of wisdom and truth. I knew I was supposed to guard my heart, but I never really knew how to do it or what it looked like. One day I came across a book comparing this verse (Proverbs 4:23) to Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Peace is what guards your heart. This was such a profound discovery for me, and I’ve found it to be very true. If you don’t have peace about something, don’t do it. If you have peace, proceed. Whether that means peace in a relationship, in a friendship, in your diet, in your career or schooling or your family, pursue peace. It’s what protects you and your heart.
- COME CLOSE TO GOD, AND HE WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU. People quoted this verse to me all my life, but something clicked when my college roommate said it to me in her own words. She told me that when she started truly seeking God, reading his Word, and spending time in prayer with him every day, he became real to her. So I followed her example. I began reading a minimum of three chapters in the Bible a day, I started a prayer list, and eventually I found a really good devotional (Jesus Calling) that completely transformed my relationship with God. I began to really know him in a way that I hadn’t before, and having a closer relationship with God built the foundation that I desperately needed in order to survive the toughest years of my life. If you don’t feel close to God, keep pressing in to him. Keep reading your Bible (Get a different version if you have to – you might like The Message better than the King James version). Keep praying until you have answers. Keep trying different devotionals until you find one that resonates with you. Ask God to speak to you. Give him your time, and he will give you more of himself in return.
- YOU ARE ENOUGH! I spent all of my teen years and at least the first half of my 20s (if not most of the decade) feeling so unworthy. So not good enough. I had been rejected by friends, a guy, and even family to the point where I felt like I was never going to be enough. I didn’t feel pretty enough, or smart enough, or spiritual enough, or confident enough, or funny enough, or skinny enough, or anything enough. None of us is perfect. But we are enough! YOU are enough. You were made to be just the way you are, and when you do your best, that is enough! You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be you! YOU. ARE. ENOUGH.
- YOU BECOME LIKE THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU HANG OUT WITH MOST. Does that scare you? If it does, you probably need to consider finding some new friends. I am constantly challenged by this statistic, because my closest friends have changed a lot in the past decade, and I haven’t always been overly proud of who my top five were. If you don’t want to look, act, or talk like the people you hang out with the most, limit your time with those people and find some new ones whom you admire and respect.
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE “NORMAL.” Normal is boring. You aren’t. You are a unique individual with interesting traits all your own. Your personality, the things you’re passionate about, the activities that make your pulse speed up? Those things make you you. Own them! Pursue them! The things you love the most might just be the keys that unlock your future.
- GET TO KNOW YOURSELF. If (like most of us) you aren’t totally sure what makes your heart beat and what you want your future to look like, do what you can to get to know yourself better. Take every personality test you can get your hands on (I love the Myers-Briggs and the DISC). Discover your Love Language. Read a book on purpose or personality or birth order or communication styles and identify things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Take classes in areas that interest you and decide if they interest you enough to keep pursuing them or if they’re just temporary obsessions. Journal. Spend time in self-reflection. If you’re anything like me, you’ll learn a lot more about yourself in your 20s, and knowing yourself better will make you feel a lot more confident about who you are and who you’re becoming.
- FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT. Maybe you have no idea. (That was me.) Maybe you already know. (That was not me.) Ask the people closest to you, either way – their answers might be different than you expect. Take the Strengthsfinder. Take mental notes when people compliment you. Look for patterns of success in your life. What classes earned you your best grades? What have you won awards for? What do people constantly tell you you’re so great at? Maybe it’s time to listen to them!
- DON’T FEEL PRESSURED TO BE SOMEBODY YOU’RE NOT. Growing up, I was surrounded by a bunch of people who loved sports and told me I wasn’t cool because I didn’t care about sports. Guess what? Most of those people are no longer in my life, I still don’t like sports, and I am more than okay with that. If you love watching football and playing volleyball and subscribing to ESPN’s every update, that’s great! Good for you! But that’s not who I am. So often we feel pressured to be who people tell us to be instead of who we really are. We pressure ourselves, too – to become the kind of girl a certain guy seems to like, or to dress like people who are more popular than we are, or to do whatever gets more followers on social media. Just be who you are, and don’t be ashamed of it. You’ll attract the right people and send the message to others that they can be themselves, too.
- IT’S OKAY TO BE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE OLDER OR YOUNGER THAN YOU. I am a firstborn. I’ve spent my life surrounded by people who are younger than me and wishing for older, wiser friends. God definitely has a sense of humor, because he constantly surrounds me with younger friends instead. ☺ And at 30, I’ve finally started to accept and appreciate that. Some of my very best friends are younger than me and – shockingly! – a lot of them are pretty wise even though they are younger than my youngest sibling. Ha! Actually, my youngest friends have sometimes provided me with the most wisdom. I’ve also benefited a lot from older friends and coworkers who’ve already been through many of the things I’m facing now. Don’t be afraid to have friends of all ages. They might surprise you!
- FIND GOOD MENTORS. This one is hard. It’s not always easy to find somebody who you even want as a mentor or someone who is willing to invest the time. But if you can’t find anyone you actually know in person to mentor you, find people you can watch from afar. Follow people you admire on social media. Listen to podcasts featuring speakers who inspire you. Go to conferences where you will gain knowledge and be encouraged. And pray for God to provide people who can speak wisdom and encouragement into your life.
- BE A GOOD MENTOR. If there’s one thing I learned in my 20s, it’s that more people are watching than we realize. Especially younger people. Social media makes us more visible than we’ve ever been, and there are way more people “following” us than any numbers show (Case in point: Instagram stories vs. regular posts). Whether you want them to or not, keep in mind that people are looking to YOU as an example, and do your best to set a good one! You have influence, no matter who you are or how many followers you have! Use it wisely.
- PRAY DANGEROUS PRAYERS. I dare you! ☺ Some of the most dangerous prayers I’ve prayed are ones I didn’t even realize were all that dangerous at the time. Pray for miracles. Pray for direction. Pray for your spouse or your future spouse. Pray for provision. Pray for joy. Pray for friendships. Pray for anything and everything you can think of, and keep a record of your prayers so you can see how God answers them.
- BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU POST. I thought I was careful when I first got Facebook, but I still look back and cringe at some of the dumb things I wrote when I was 18…and 20…and, okay, last year. It goes back to #2: pursue peace! If you don’t feel 100% at peace about it, just don’t post it. Don’t post things to get attention. Don’t post things out of obligation. Don’t post things to get revenge. Check your motives, check your heart, and post accordingly.
- CHOOSE A CAREER YOU LOVE. Don’t pick something just because it makes a lot of money, because your parents want you to, or because people tell you you’d be good at it. Those things are all great, but you’ll get burned out if you don’t actually like what you do at least a little bit. Go with your gut, and change course if necessary. Along those lines…
- DON’T BE CONCERNED IF YOU DON’T GO INTO THE FIELD YOUR DEGREE IS IN. Statistically, most people don’t. I have a journalism degree, a Bible minor, and half an MBA, and I have worked in communications, photography, human resources, childcare, and if you count this, writing (which is, ironically, what I got my degree in in the first place and never thought I’d use). My mom double-majored in psychology and social work, worked in the jewelry department at JCPenney, and later became an interior designer. My dad dropped out of college with one semester left and is a CEO. Do what you’re called to do and the rest will work itself out. Oh, and if you don’t know what you’re called to do? Figure out what makes your heart beat faster, ask others what you’re good at (see above), and ask God to show you! He will. But, as mentioned, be careful what you pray for! That’s how I ended up here! 😂
- GOD’S TIMELINE AND GOD’S PLANS ARE BEST. Even better than yours and mine, which is sometimes a hard truth for me to accept. 😉 God is never late, he never forgets his promises, he always provides, and he always comes through. You are not forgotten and you will not be forsaken!
- GET INVOLVED SOMEHOW, WITH SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE. I mentioned that I spent a lot of my life lonely, but I was pretty uninvolved for most of those lonely years. Once I finally decided to volunteer at my church in areas that actually interested me, the loneliness completely went away. Find something you’re passionate about and join others who are doing the same thing. Love to dance? Join Zumba. Enjoy taking pictures? Sign up for a photography class. Like kids? Volunteer at the Y or in the church nursery. You’ll almost inevitably meet other like-minded people who might even become your new best friends.
- STICK TO YOUR CONVICTIONS. Know what you believe in, decide who you want to be, and do not compromise. We all know plenty of people who’ve graduated high school, left their parents’ nests, and gone off the deep end. We’ve all seen the statistics about college students who throw their lives away because of a few poor decisions or even just one. Decide now what your values are, and stick to them. You won’t regret it. And if you’ve compromised somewhere in the past, it’s never too late to start over.
- IT GETS BETTER. You might not be in a great place right now. I’ve been there. More times than I’ve cared to be. And I PROMISE you, it gets better. Everyone throws out that line to make you feel better in the moment, but it’s true. You will go through tough stuff in this world, but you will also come through it and it will make you stronger if you let it. Let your difficult circumstances change you for the better. Hold onto hope. Find friends who can encourage and support you. And believe – truly believe – that the best is yet to come! It is!
My 20s were the best, worst, most surprising, most rewarding, and most growth-filled years of my life. They didn’t look exactly how I thought they would, and that’s an understatement. But I’m not the same person I was when I started this defining decade, and I’m thankful for the wisdom I’m bringing into the next decade that I didn’t have 10 years ago. Let’s hope I can say the same thing in another 10 years!
If you’re reading this and you’re a 20-something, I pray that you will experience the same growth I have and that your 20s will be the best years of your life so far.
The best is yet to come…for all of us! ☺