When my friend turned 25, we told her the same piece of advice. It’s okay and it’s normal to have no clue. We’ve heard about the mid-life crisis, but nobody tells you about the quarter-life crisis. It’s the moment you hit your mid-20s and realize that your life didn’t turn out as you planned it. You feel a little lost. You feel a little unsure. You wondering, “Now what?”
We told her it’s normal. She’s not alone. We all went through this. Keep your eyes on God, and keep moving forward. Looking back, though, there are definitely things I wish I did in my 20s and here they are:
1. Save money in a retirement fund. The biggest thing I wish I did was to have a healthy relationship with my finances. I don’t have a head for it, and find it hard to learn now, on my own. My friends and I talk about different kinds of retirement funds, investments, etc. because we realize that if we should have started saving earlier. If you’re still in college, I recommend taking financial classes even if that’s not your field.
2. Learn how to budget. I think it’s a habit we need to develop, and the sooner we do it, the better.
3. Start a side business from a hobby. Hobbies – things you love to do – are a great place to find some extra cash. They may even turn out into full-time jobs and a new career path you actually enjoy.
4. Buy less things and more experiences. Having an income is exciting, and may have you on intimate terms with Amazon. But don’t go down the hoarder’s path. Don’t start accumulating things. Instead of buying stuff, buy experiences. I kind of did this. I went to a lot of musicals. I loved them, but I wish I diversified my experiences when I was young and didn’t tire as easily.
5. Travel more. Speaking about buying experiences. I wish I traveled more. Found a study abroad or volunteer abroad program. Joined college groups traveling together.
6. Volunteer for crisis relief. I had an opportunity to go to Haiti after the tsunami hit, but I didn’t fight for it. I wish I did. It’s easier to do physical labor when you’re younger. Do your research, go with a reputable group, and don’t let fear stop you.
7. Get more involved with my favorite charities/causes. Beyond giving money. Beyond doing the basics.
8. See a psychologist or therapist. There’s a reason 1 in 4 college students suffer from mental illness, including depression. Because college is a high-stress, high-risk, fast-paced environment. Then the transition between college and “real life” can be jarring. A psychologist or therapist can help you through the many transitions and changes you go through in your 20s.
9. Practice self care. Be consistent about it.
10. Stay on an exercise plan. Find my exercise lifestyle. Actually, I did find it. Dance was the form of exercise I loved and actually kept up with, until I graduated. I became busy. I accumulated a lot of excuses, and soon, I wasn’t exercising at all. College requires physical education classes, but after knocking out those requirements, it’s easy to stop, and stopping flows into the rest of your life. Don’t stop. Keep going.
11. Stay on a health plan. I didn’t go to the dentist for years. I stopped getting an annual physical. I mismanaged my asthma. Have a health plan. I’m not just talking about health insurance, but a personal plan for your life. Make your health a priority. Don’t skip appointments. Ask your doctor questions. Do the tests and the physicals. Your life is important.
12. Keep a great skin-care routine. If genetics isn’t on your side, your skin will thank you for keeping it clean and refreshed. My skin still rebels to this day. Take care of your skin. Wear sunblock. Wash your face every night. Moisturize.
13. Cultivate a reading life. I feel like I’m playing catch-up. There are many classics I’ve never read that I want to read. There are authors I’m enjoying now that have been writing for so many years. Reading enriches your life. Reading requirements in high school and college have forced many people to disliking reading because they never teach you how to read for pleasure and how to read for knowledge. Don’t let required readings kill your reading life.
14. Get in the habit of reading the news. My sister is on me about this, because I’m hardly ever caught up in what’s going on locally and globally. I’m getting better at reading the news – actual news from reputable sources, not fake news and especially not any links from Facebook – but I wish I started in my 20s.
15. Understand basic political issues. I hate politics. It gives me a headache. But I vote and I have to do a lot of research before I vote. I wish I studied and learned basic political issues, and kept up with even the most basic parts of the political scene in my city so I’m a more informed voter. Good thing I learned how to research in college. That helps a lot.
16. Document my life. With a blog, a vlog, or through photographs (especially photographs). I wish I did it more consistently.
17. Learn how to network. As an introvert, meeting strangers in a sea of people gives me the hives, but networking is a valuable skill. Start in college and keep it up.
18. Learn how to negotiate. I’m still learning.
19. Learn how to follow a self-imposed schedule. Because I fail at this almost everyday.
20. Move. I did a lot of staying in my 20s, and that’s taught me a lot. I wish I did more moving because I know it would have taught me a lot, too. Move to a different city. Live in a different country. Move out of my comfort zone. Meet challenges head-on. Move and do something instead of being frozen in fear or indecision or worry.