20 Lessons I Learned in My 20s
Some life lessons in honor of my 30th birthday and Elul.
What a time to be a Jew! Golda starring Helen Mirren came out today (who’s seeing it?!), New York City Mayor Eric Adams is in Israel, and that’s about it.
As for me, I’m turning 30 next week and wanted to include my own lessons I’ve learned throughout my 20s. I swear I’m not copying my dad’s post from last week imparting his nuggets of wisdom; this is a post I’ve wanted to make when I turned 30, which is on Monday.
I wasn’t going to post this on The Shabbat Drop, just on my personal Facebook, but since we are now in the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of introspection, I figured what better outlet for some contemplative content than The Drop?! I swear I’ll get back to more Jewish stuff next week.
Even if you’re not in your 20s, the following could apply to any age. Anything resonate with you? Please like, comment, and share. It’s really all I want for my birthday.
No one gives a shit about you because they’re too wrapped up worrying about themselves. My friend taught me this early on (thanks, Amy!). We go through life worried about how other people perceive us. How egotistical to think they care about us! Other people have just as many concerns about themselves as we do, they can’t even see past their own insecurities.
“Make your plan. Work your plan.” - my mom. You want to work towards something? Want to have something so badly you’ll do anything for it? Make a plan. Set mini-goals. Then make back-up plans. And keep reworking them because things will change. Brace yourself for that change because…
“Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back.” - Julia Cameron. Growth is not linear. You start learning a skill and you suck at it. You start a career path and realize a few years down the line it’s not the career for you (I wanted to go to grad school for Industrial/Organizational Psychology but lol stats). Who said growth was a steady, straight line? That kind of growth sounds boring to me!
Similarly, “It’s a part of the human journey to feel yucky.” - Qveen Herby
Don’t take everything so seriously.
You’re not a mind reader. You can’t take everything personally and make assumptions like, “They must think I’m so stupid,” or on the flip side, “They totally must think I’m the best candidate for the job!” I had a boss who I wanted to like me so much, but they were hard to read. So every time I did something, I thought, “This person must think I’m incompetent.” Well, it turns out they loved me and even cried when I left that job. People show their feelings in different ways. Or not at all. Humans are confusing! I like to ask myself in times of doubt, “Is it true?” Do I have any evidence of these thoughts I’m having or are they just in my head (hence, thoughts)?
You’re allowed one pass in your career where you send a “bad email.” You know the one: a horrible, expletive-filled draft to your boss you accidentally hit send on (okay, that’s pretty bad, don’t write that). Or an email to your work bestie making fun of another employee. Luckily I sent mine early on in my career, and it was embarrassing and awkward. But my mom told me we all get one pass, and then we have our funny work stories to tell others as caution. Thanks again, Mom!
More work advice: get used to taking credit. Instead of saying “our idea” for a project you pretty much owned, get used to taking ownership. Also I know people say this all the time but I always forget: write down your work accomplishments. You’ll need that list later.
Never let anyone tell you you can’t. When I wanted to change fields after college, having studied psychology and wanting to go into marketing (after realizing I/O Psych had way too many stats lol), people told me I couldn’t or it’d be difficult. Well, I made a plan and I worked my plan (callback!), and you’re now looking at a Creative Marketing & Communications Manager, thank you very much.
It’s perfectly okay to grow out of friends. That’s life. People change. It’s similar to how you date someone for a time and then the relationship ends. Friends don’t have to be forever, either.
“There’s a boy for every season.” - the mom of a friend of a roommate. Such words for your 20s! Not every relationship has to be so serious: some people you intend on marrying, some are just fun, some came into your life at a time when you most needed them, some were during Covid, etc. As I said in “Let’s Talk About (Jewish) Sex, Baby,” my mom always said don’t get married in your 20s to give you room to explore and grow. I guess not following your own advice is a life lesson too!
Learn love languages to enhance your relationships. I learned this key to relationship building way too late. Physical touch is low on my totem pole, so it’s not natural to me to cheer someone up by putting an arm around them (I’m not an ice queen; I’m just more of a giver of pep talks and baked goods). Yet, I’ve had a couple of people voice their needs to be by saying, “I wish you would put an arm around me to cheer me up.” That was when I discovered the 5 Love Languages® and found out mine were gift giving (did I mention I have a birthday coming up?) and quality time. Improve your relationships by learning how you prefer to give and receive love by taking the quiz here.
Try to find the good in every relationship. There was obviously some redeeming feature about a person or a lesson learned from the relationship. What did you learn? What did you get out of the relationship? What did they get out of the relationship? Ask yourself: how are you going to take these lessons and apply them in your future relationships?
Learn basic psychology and why people might act out the way they do. It won’t definitively tell you why, but at the very least you’ll know it’s a “them” problem and has nothing to do with you, which is why we should never take anything so personally (another callback!).
Learn investing early on. I ignored my friend for years about this because I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about (sorry, Amy!), and now I can say thanks, Sarah.
Your views and opinions will change. Mine did drastically over the years, from feminism to Israel. Heck, even my views on e-readers have changed. Other opinions will too. Don’t fight this growth.
Never apologize unless you really have to. Especially if you’re a woman!
In fact, cut out unnecessary language like “I just wanted to ask you,” or “I was wondering if,” or “I’m sorry if…” Cut to the chase and get your point across. Say what’s on your mind like you’re Jan Maas from Ted Lasso.
Speaking of communicating what’s on your mind: it’s better to be vulnerable than guarded.
Blaming others doesn’t solve a problem, nor does it change the past.
Woah I’m giving you more than 20 lessons even though I advertised this article as being only 20 lessons?! I bet you’re amazed and love this newsletter even more. I told you knowing basic psychology (or persuasion tactics) is useful! Anyway, 21 is: You will never look as good as you do now, so don’t feel shitty about your appearance. You’ll look back someday and think wow I looked good, how did I ever doubt myself?! Although I’m expecting that mid-30s glow up.
Ask for what you want even if you think the answer is no, because you don’t get what you don’t ask for. I’ve been putting myself through “rejection therapy” and asking for things I want left and right! Being told no is great practice, but being told yes brings freedom and confidence.
Speaking of confidence, practice going into an event by yourself even if you’re waiting for friends to go in with. I think that’s one of the signs of maturity and confidence: being comfortable with yourself enough to walk into an event. You never know who will strike up a conversation with you. Or better yet, practice striking up the convo first.
Speaking of striking up conversations, one of the best things a 20-something-year-old person can do is solo travel. So many people say they could never, but then they’d never practice independence, navigating by yourself, and meeting people. Seriously, I learned so much about myself while solo traveling and had fun too!
I don’t know how to fix the numbers so I guess we’re starting over. Lesson 25: have you ever noticed no one takes the last piece of food on a plate at a party or dinner? Whether it’s cookies or slices of pizza, people let it sit there until it gets cold and untouched even though everyone is eyeballing it. Be that person who takes the last cookie on the plate if you want it. You deserve it. Unless there’s a starving child or homeless person sitting next to you, give it to them instead.
“Saying yes all the time is saying no to yourself.” - Qveen Herby aka set boundaries and follow. That. Gut.
Treat yourself often but responsibly.
Shabbat Shalom. Thank you so much for reading.