I turned 25 last week. Still not sure if I feel different yet, lol. I’m so blessed to have reached the beginning of a brand new year of life and I’m thankful but I can’t begin to tell you how different my life is from the way I envisioned it when I was 15. Twenty-five was so old 10 years ago. Now I’m here and I realize I was wrong…and right. A quarter of a century is still young but it’s old enough to know a thing or two about life. Here is a list of 25 things I’m glad I’ve learned so far or am still..ahem..trying to learn now.
1. Life isn’t going to go the way you planned.
This is number one on my list for a reason. Realize that you may not end up where you thought you’d be by the time you hit 25. If you end up somewhere better, great! If not, it’s totally okay. Learn from any mistakes, do the best with what you’ve got and keep moving forward!!
2. Get your financial act together.
Know how to budget, do simple taxes, and be serious about your savings account. You don’t want to set yourself up to live paycheck to paycheck. Always have some kind of financial safety net. It doesn’t have to be big; even something small is better than nothing. We live in a crazy, uncertain world. Anything can happen and we don’t have control over much but take control of what you can and minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises.
3. You don’t need to ‘hang out’ all the time.
Even the most social of social butterflies need alone time to chill, re-focus, and hear herself think. Enjoy your friends but schedule time for a little solidarity. People who are constantly around people and can’t stand to be by themselves are the ones who need some quiet time the most. Light some candles, take a hot bath, read a book, do a crossword puzzle…be creative. Your brain will thank you. Believe me.
4. Know your way around a kitchen.
You don’t have to be a culinary artist but know the basics of cooking and baking. If you’re just starting out, pick a few recipes to master. These are the dishes you can bring to a friend’s house or whip up when you’ve got last minute guests. Get some cookbooks or actually read the food articles on your Pinterest boards. If your single and don’t wish to remain so, then cooking is definitely something you’re going to need to learn if you want to raise a healthy, happy family. Plus, eating in on a regular basis is always cheaper and healthier than constantly eating out.
5. Get your wardrobe together.
Every adult should have a wardrobe that represents either the lifestyle that she leads or the one she wants to lead. Know what wardrobe basics are. Know the difference between fashion and trend. The older you get, the more you want to steer clear of dressing too trendy. Build your wardrobe with pieces that are stylish, long-lasting, and still reflect your unique personality. Your tastes will probably change as the years pass but do take some time to really figure out what you want to say with your clothing. How you present yourself to the world is important. As much as we shouldn’t judge people from their appearance, first impressions make a difference. Use that to your advantage and dress yourself with purpose and class.
6. Know when to shut up.
Plato is quoted to have said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” Mature adults know when to speak and when words are unnecessary. Don’t speak every thought that pops into your head. Don’t gossip or spread rumors. Think before you open your mouth and really practice listening to other people. You’ll develop better relationships, succeed professionally and get yourself in less trouble.
7. Be a student.
You may think that when you finish your formal education you get to call it quits on the pencils and books. Not so my friend. Graduation doesn’t mean the learning stops. The most important thing you should learn from formal education really doesn’t have anything to do with your degree or certification. Formal education should teach you how to be a student for life. Think about all the things you’ve always wanted to learn and figure out how to learn them. It may mean a free course online or a class at your local recreation center. Whatever it is, make time to immerse yourself in what you’re passionate about.
8. Have friends that are older than you.
I was one of the first children born in my parents’ circle of friends so I spent my early years around mostly adults. I’ve since learned that having older adult friends is one of the smartest things a young person can do. They’ve lived more of life than you and can speak wisdom into your life. Having friends outside your age demographic challenges your brain and gives you broader perspective in life. Develop some relationships with adults who are older than you–it’ll be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
9. Listen to your parents.
Yes, you’re an adult. Yes, you need the freedom to make your own decisions. But listen up. Your parents have done this adult thing for a bit longer than you have–pay attention to what they have to say. That doesn’t mean they’re always right or that you have to agree with everything they say. But give them a chance, they’ve got experience and that counts for a lot.
10. Keep house.
Whether you’re in a dorm room, an apartment, or living with your folks, learn basic home ec skills. Remember, if you’re single and you don’t want to remain so, you’re going to need to know how to run a household. Period. Can you iron, do dishes, dust, vacuum and clean a bathroom? Great. How about change a lightbulb, put a piece of furniture together, hook up the entertainment system, talk to the cable guy or get the dry cleaning done? There is more to adulthood than keeping a job. The household you decide to set up will need your attention in every aspect from the houseplants to the rent check. Learn all you can about running a household during whatever season you’re in now so you’ll be as ready as possible when the time comes.
11. Unplug every once in a while.
It wasn’t so long ago that cell phones did little more than make and receive calls. You used to have to pay-per-text. Remember T9? And apps What’s an app? There was life before smart phones. There is an up and coming generation that won’t ever believe that but it is true. Put your phone down, step away from your computer, and turn off the TV. Log out, sign out, exit, shut down, and unplug. You won’t die. It’ll be there when you get back. I get it, there’s stuff going on and you need to be apart of it. But I promise, email can be checked later, the latest Vine craze can wait, and FB statuses don’t always need updating. Go and check out life beyond the screen. Some of you remember what that’s like, yeah? It still has it’s charm too.
12. Leave the drama in high school.
If I had a nickel for every time my parents called me a drama queen…well, I’d have a lot of nickels. Some people are born dramatic, some learn the art, and some have drama thrust upon them, to borrow from Shakespeare. I think I’m a little of all three, if that’s even possible. It’s not an endearing quality and I’m sloooowly learning to keep it in check. There are times when drama can’t be avoided, it just happens. When it does, keep your reaction and involvement at a minimum. Don’t be remembered as the one who made the biggest fuss. Remember all the junk that went on in high school? Yeah, don’t repeat all that nonsense. Leave high school drama at high school, grow up and act like an adult.
13. Kids are awesome.
I love kiddos and we’ve got lots of them in my extended and church families. If you’re single and or childless, you’ve got the opportunity to be the ‘cool’ auntie or uncle. You may be paying school loans or rent but you’re not paying for diapers, school tuition, or pediatrician bills. Spoil the kiddos in your life a little. Even in this tech-crazed world, a box of crayons and paper will still occupy the modern child. And when your budget won’t allow even the simplest gifts, your time and attention means a lot. Kids remember more than we give them credit for. Make friends with them and their parents now and you may be the trusted adult they go to when they need someone to talk to later in life.
14. Go to sleep.
You learned how to pull all-nighters in school and a parent-enforced bedtime is a thing of the past. Just because you know how to sleep late and function during the day doesn’t mean you should. This is one that I really struggle with. I love the solitude of the night and I’ve done some great work during late hours. However, the truth of the matter is the best work is done when the mind is rested. So go to sleep at a decent hour, rise early and hit the ground running. Sleeping late is a bad habit that’s worth breaking and your 30-year old, 40-year old, 50-year old self will thank you profusely.
15. Take care of your body.
Just like it needs sleep, your body needs good nutrition, hydration, and exercise to function best. Eat lots of fruits and veggies and drink lots of water. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it at least a few times a week. Limit your sugar and fat intake and don’t eat late at night. You will age more gracefully when you take care of your body when you’re young.
16. Know what you believe.
You should be able to have an intelligent conversation about what you’re beliefs are. Don’t subscribe to beliefs simply because your parents or friends believe them. Own your what you believe. Form opinions on purpose and be able to back them up. It’s okay if you’re not sure what you believe about something but don’t stop there. Ask questions, study the subject and come to a conclusion. The world is noisy with sound of a million different philosophies, ideas, and opinions. Start with God and His word and you’ll have the best framework with which to build your worldview.
17. Know your limitations.
Youth is a great time to try new things, have adventures and step outside of your comfort zone. But know your limitations. It’s okay to say ‘no’. Don’t do things just cause your friends are. Maybe now isn’t the best time for that. Check in with your instincts. If you don’t feel ready, capable, or comfortable, pay attention. Be smart about your choices and don’t stretch yourself too far.
18. Sleeping around isn’t cool.
I know this is so not PC but sleeping around isn’t cool. You’re only stealing from your future by shacking up with people you’re not committed to. Treat yourself with more respect and dignity than that. It may feel grown up and mature but you don’t have to sleep with someone to have a great relationship. And if your partner doesn’t think so, then they’re not worth your time. Believe me, there are so many other aspects of a great relationship than sex. Work on those things and have fun without jumping into bed. Your future spouse will thank you.
19. If you want to get married someday, act like it.
Having said that, think about whether or not you really want to get married. If you do, then act like it. Don’t give too much of yourself away to too many people. Focus on being friends first before deciding to date exclusively. And friends don’t get benefits if you know what I mean. Move slowly so you can decide if the other person is worth moving forward with. Anything worth having is worth waiting and working for. Relationships need time to develop and mature, give them that time. Ever after is a looooooong time and real love is too sweet to settle for cheap imitations. No need to rush. Your future husband or wife is a real, living, breathing person somewhere out there. Are you living a life you’d be proud to share with him or her? If not, it’s about time you did something about it.
20. Singleness is a gift.
There is nothing wrong with being single. In fact, it’s a necessary season in life to figure yourself out. When you don’t have the distraction of a significant other, you can get to know yourself, your passions, and your goals. So what you have to play third or fifth wheel again. I can almost guarantee you that even the happiest couples miss bits and pieces of their singleness every once in a while. When we enter a new life season, there is often a trading something for something else. Enjoy and make the most of your singleness before you have to trade it in for being apart of a team.
21. Life isn’t fair and it doesn’t owe you a thing.
I’m sorry if this is news to you but life don’t owe you a thing. It’s your responsibility to make something of yourself and you’ll only get as much as you put into it–and sometimes, you won’t even get that much. Entitlement isn’t a luxury you can afford. You are going to get used, betrayed and stabbed in the back, I’m sorry. Sometimes the mess and hurt will be your fault and other times your best efforts will only earn you disappointment and heartache. But God is gracious and life will always be worth living no matter how hard things get. Take responsibility for your actions, work hard, take the bad with the good and learn how to get back up when you get knocked down.
22. Give a care.
I’ve met people who truly do not give a care about other people’s situations. They may care about the things that relate to themselves but that’s it. These people don’t go very far. Oh, they may succeed professionally but they miss out on so many other things that matter more. Take genuine interest in the people around you. Ask real questions not just the polite, small talk niceties. Don’t be nosy or get into people’s business but show that you care about and value them. Smile. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Give up your seat. Offer to help when it’s needed. Go out of your way. Relationships are about what you can give not what you can get. Care enough to give your best to others–your co workers, your family and friends, the elderly couple in the grocery store, the teller at the bank, they all deserve your care. Give it freely and without condition. You’ll be a much happier person when you do!
23. There is a difference embracing your inner-child and acting childish.
There are some things that shouldn’t change when we grow up like enjoying an afternoon at the park, a favorite childhood story, or a game of Candyland with your nieces and nephews. There is a part of childhood that every adult should hold onto or else we run the risk of over-working ourselves and taking the wrong things too seriously. Children value the simple things, they’re not complicated and will tell it like it is. Take the best of childhood and pair it with the wisdom that should come with age.
That’s not the same as acting childish. Don’t run around doing stupid things, not thinking of how it’ll effect other people. Don’t throw tantrums, toss around people’s feelings, or be careless with other people’s things. That’s childish behavior and you should know better than that. Be responsible, say what you mean, and don’t sulk when things don’t go your way.
24. Stick to your commitments.
You said you’d have lunch with a friend. Don’t ditch just cause something else came up and it sounded like more fun. You said you’d participate in a group project. Don’t flake cause you decide you don’t feel like doing it anymore. It’s one thing to forget, get sidetracked or over-booked. It’s an entirely different thing to choose to skip out on something because you don’t feel it’s worth your time. Don’t be wishy-washy, flaky, or unreliable. It’s childish and rude and you’ll only frustrate people.
25. Know how to give a good handshake.
One of my biggest pet peeves is a fishy handshake. It’s weak, limp and you have to hold on to the other person’s hand or it will just slide past your fingers. This is especially annoying with guys. Know how to give a good, firm handshake, complete with a friendly look in the eye. No need for a death grip but don’t shy away either. Good handshakes will vary depending on the setting and the person but don’t miss out on mastering this piece of social intercourse. People will believe you when you say, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”
If you’re going to turn 25, then take the opportunity to learn as much as you can before you hit the quarter-life mark. If you’re past 25, then take the opportunity to look at what you know and what you probably should know by now. Life is a cumulative journey and there’s always more to learn and more ways to improve. Embrace the best and live life to the fullest!