I definitely did NOT have it all figured out in my twenties. I made a lot of mistakes, and I failed at a lot of things, but ultimately I learned a lot of important life lessons. Here are the things I wish I knew in my twenties…
Let’s talk about your twenties. I’m sure lots of people had or are having an absolute blast in their twenties. Honestly, good for you if you are! I’m actually a little bit envious. For me, my twenties were a bit of a rough ride. I had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs (perhaps too many really) but I just felt like I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing for most of them.
I felt like a struggled a LOT. I struggled in getting a foothold in my early career, I’d had to move to a different city to all my friends from school and university, I wasn’t earning that much money, and I was in a relationship that I wasn’t happy in. So quite a lot going on really! To be really honest, I felt like I never really got going in my twenties. It’s only now in my thirties that I’ve started seeing some results from all the groundwork I put in. I still feel like I’m catching up really.
However, I’m glad I toughed it out and that some of the things I learned in my twenties are helping me to navigate my thirties a little better. Let’s hope so anyway!
Here are the biggest things I learned from my twenties…
1) You can make money from writing
It feels quite naive writing this now, particularly because there are many bloggers on here who are absolutely killing it when it comes to making money from writing. But for a long time I didn’t think that it was a possibility. I didn’t think it was a career ordinary people like me could make a decent amount of money from. I thought I could make an ‘OK’ living and that was it, and I used to beat myself up about not choosing a ‘proper’ career like my friends, like accounting or science. I cursed the day I was drawn to a creative career and wished I’d been more sensible. Now, I only need to do a cursory visit to the finance office in my new job to instinctively know it’s not for me. I should have trusted my gut a lot earlier!
2) It’s OK to want more than you have
I lived my twenties in the shadow of the financial crash and it all feels pretty similar to what the financial legacy of the coronavirus pandemic is now; people losing their jobs, companies tightening their belts, and wages being frozen for the foreseeable future. Back when I was in my twenties and in my first job as a journalist that meant we were always being told that we should be grateful just to have a job, as lots of people didn’t. Of course that’s true, and I’m all for practising gratitude, but I also think there’s nothing wrong with being motivated to aim for more. If your job isn’t the right fit for you anymore you don’t just have to stay and suck it up. Explore other opportunities and see what else is out there!
“It’s OK to want more than what you have. Growing up in the shadow of the financial crash, we were always told to be grateful to have a job, any job. But if it’s your job isn’t the right fit for you anymore you don’t just have to stay and suck it up.”
3) People will get found out
I used to work as a journalist on a teen magazine and I spent a LOT of time interviewing celebs on the phone. Most of them were lovely. Not all of them were. Dappy from N-Dubz once told me I should take a Berroca when I wasn’t laughing hard enough at his (not remotely funny) jokes. He thought I needed to dial up the enthusiasm. At the time, I felt like I’d fucked up, that it was me and my stupid reserved nature and I should have absolutely been laughing more enthusiastically. Then I saw all this stuff kick off with him recently where he’s been DM-ing fans and swearing at them and I realised, just nah. He’s not a reasonable person. If he sees this he’ll probably DM me and scream at me now but hey ho.
4) The flat-sharing will be worth it
I did a longgg slog of flat-sharing in my twenties, much longer than anyone else I knew, and sometimes it felt like I’d been doing it forever. I stayed in so many different flats around the city that any time I needed to provide a postcode to prove my identity I had about five I could rattle off! It was definitely an experience! I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t always fun, and by the end just the little things like not being able to just watch what I wanted on TV in the evenings would really bug me. However, ultimately it was totally worth it. Why? Because I was able to save up for a deposit on a flat with my boyfriend by the time that I was thirty (you can read more about that in my blog post here). I feel proud that I was able to do that, and it’s also made me feel so much more appreciative of the space I live in now.
“At first I felt like I’d fucked up, that it was me and my stupid reserved nature and I should have indeed be laughing more enthusiastically at his jokes. And then I saw all this stuff kick off with him recently and realised, just nah. He’s not a reasonable person.”
5) People’s opinions don’t matter
This blog post was actually inspired by something someone said to me on a press trip several years ago when I was working on that teen magazine I mentioned. I was in London to interview a Disney star and I had to meet the PR first thing in the morning at the hotel. I remember her instantly commenting on how much make-up I was wearing. I brushed it off at the time, laughing that I probably did, but secretly I was mortified. It was only when I was looking through old emails last week that I found the pictures that had been taken on that day… and I realised I looked perfectly fine. For ages, though, I remembered that comment and almost felt a sense of shame about it! I’m so annoyed about that. At the end of the day it was only one person’s opinion, and I wish I hadn’t taken it to heart so much.
6) Follow your dreams
One of the biggest decisions I made in my twenties was to quit my job aged 29 and move to China to teach English for six months. It was something I’d talked about for years and years and I’m just so glad I finally went ahead and did it. There was definitely an element of risk attached – I couldn’t get a sabbatical in my job so I had to quit outright – but I weighed it up and, for me, the risk was worth the gain. It was the most amazing experience of my life and I’m so glad it did it. I actually wrote a whole blog post about it here if you’d like some more details! I just keep thinking that if I hadn’t gone it would have been my biggest regret and I would have been so mad at myself. Now, I’m not in a position to do something like that because I have a mortgage and a dog I can’t walk away from, so I’m so glad I seized that opportunity and made some amazing memories in my twenties that will last a lifetime!
“I just keep thinking that if I hadn’t gone it would have been the biggest mistake of my life and I would have been so mad at myself. I’m glad I seized that opportunity to make some amazing memories in my twenties that will last a lifetime.”
7) It’s not shallow to work out
When I was in my twenties I don’t think people really spoke about the impact of exercise on your mental health as much as they do now. I always used to feel a bit bad over exercising in my spare time, like I was choosing superficial aesthetics and vanity over time spent on university work or creative endeavours. It’s only recently that I’ve realised it’s perfectly OK to do both, and that exercise is incredibly good for creativity too. Sometimes I’ll have my best blog ideas when I’m out on a run and I can’t wait to get back so I can get them all typed up! And likewise, if I’m feeling stuck with my blog then it’s good to be able to go out in the fresh air and reset and come back with a more positive mindset.
8) You will make new friends
As a bit of an introvert making friends has always been a bit of a weird one for me. How do you make friends as as introvert, right? Well, half the time the way I end up becoming friends with people was through people I already knew… which always felt a bit lazy. For a long time I thought I just wasn’t any good at making friends on my own! I mentioned that I moved to a new city away from all of my university chums when I first started out in my career, and that was difficult in a lot of ways. I did all the things you’re supposed to do, like extra curricular activities and classes, but I just felt like I didn’t really meet anyone I clicked with. It’s through work that I’ve made the new friendships. I’ve now got some lovely friends that I’ve made through both in my current and previous job roles, and that’s been really nice. I can’t wait to catch up with some of them when we’re allowed out again.