Your early 20s are the official start of your adulthood. You’ve most likely graduated from high school, finished college, moved out, and are ready to take the plunge into the real world! But now that you’ve finished with all those large parts of your teenage years and early adulthood, you might start to feel lost and confused. What comes now? Do you just work a standard 9-5 job and repeat the same day forever? Heck no!
After I finished college at 19 years old, I felt stuck. I was just working and living every day the exact same way and had no energy on my days off or after work to enjoy my life. I felt so drained and dreaded waking up every day just to repeat the same routine again and again. I thought to myself, “Is this really what my life will be like for the next 60 years?” I was so tired and knew something had to change. I needed to spice up my life. I see all these posts online of people my age traveling the world, working high paying jobs, and their lives look so exciting that it just made me feel even worse. So, I took action, I made positive changes, and told myself that I need to be in the moment. And even though routine is healthy, my personal routine was not. So, that brings me to my personalized guide for your early 20s. As a 21-year-old girl (going on 22 in June!), I have made better changes thanks to the help of my therapist, friends, and siblings and want to share some advice and things you can do to not feel so stuck.
1. Social Media
Social media is the root of all evil in this day and age. Between doom-scrolling for hours on end, comparing yourself to the highly edited photos of people, seeing other people living luxurious lifestyles, and how over-saturated people can make their lives look online, it really drains you and leaves you in a bad headspace. Social media is addictive, and the people behind the industry know that and will do everything they can to keep you coming back to absorb all that media.
First things first, cut back on the socials. You don’t need to know what your friends are up to 24/7 or what the current celebrity diet is. Once I stopped going on social media 24/7, I felt so much better and even take “social media cleanses” from time to time because I know it’s good for my well-being. Unfollow any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, set a time limit for how long you’ll spend on each app (no longer than 10 minutes), and only follow accounts that bring you joy or simply just follow your friends. By cutting down or removing social media entirely from your life will help you connect more with people. You get to experience moments with them or be in person and talk about what they’ve been up to. Physically being with people and sharing your experiences helps both you and them form a deeper connection and be more present.
2. You Have the Time
Often times, we think that “there’s not enough time in the day,” but once you break it down, there are 24 hours in a day. You spend 8 hours at work, 5 days a week, 6-8 hours sleeping, which leaves you with 8 hours of free time (or 6 if you take an hour transit to get to and from work like me). Six to eight hours is still plenty of time to do what you love! And on the days you don’t have work, you have 16 hours to do anything you want. Meaning, in a full week when you work 5 days a week with two days off, you have a total of 62 hours in a week to do whatever you want. Once I broke that down, I realized the amount of time I actually had, and it made me feel more motivated to do these things after work. And there is nothing wrong with just relaxing after a long day either.
3. Have a Slow Morning
I used to feel so rushed in the mornings before work. I’d have to be at my office before 8:30 AM. My transit is an hour-long journey, and I needed to look presentable. I adjusted my sleep schedule to give myself time in the mornings. Instead of 30 minutes before I had to leave for work, I now wake up 2.5 hours before I have to leave so I have time to just enjoy the mornings. I can take my time sipping coffee, meditating, doing yoga, doing my makeup, planning out my day, and spending quality time with my cats. It was pretty difficult to adjust to a 5 AM morning routine, especially in the dark or rainy mornings, but once I got it down, I felt so much more relaxed and organized. I even try to keep this schedule for the weekends to keep my body in a steady routine.
4. Realistic and Measurable Goals
We all set goals, but often times we don’t succeed because we don’t have a realistic approach. We don’t have a plan or any measurables to achieve these goals. I do believe in manifesting your desires, but part of that still requires putting in the work. If you want something, you need to have a realistic plan and measurables to get there. Say you want to travel. You need to: A) figure out how much it will cost, B) determine the timeline of how long it will take you to save that much money, C) figure out when would be the best time to go based on the timeline of your savings progress. You need to break down your goals into small and achievable steps.
One of my goals is to play my music live. The steps I have for that are to improve my guitar playing, take vocal lessons, practice those skills for a few months, find local open mics, visit the shows without being on stage to experience the atmosphere and see how the sets look, make connections with the audience and performers, practice enough until I feel confident enough to perform 3-4 songs without seeing lyrics or sheet music, then book a spot for an open mic, and finally play at those shows. Once you start setting those realistic goals, you are more likely to accomplish them
5. Friendships Will Come and Go
You’ll make friends and lose friends, and there is nothing wrong with that. You may drift apart from some people because over time, both you and they will change. It’s all part of growing up. You can’t hold onto friendships or force them because in the long-term, it will hurt both parties involved. You might experience heartbreak, get into rough arguments, and have a painful friendship break-up. You might just drift apart naturally from people, and both experiences are parts of life. The people in our lives will come and go. They’ll teach us so much, the good and the bad. Every friendship will give you new experiences and perspectives. You’ll love, hurt, laugh, cry, etc., and from all of those memories, you’ll grow and learn as a person. It’s important to reflect on the lessons people have taught you and what you’ve learned from the good and bad experiences.
6. Failure is OKAY
So many people fear failure, but the truth is that failure is okay. The world won’t end because you failed that driving test, the sun will still rise if you failed to turn in a paper, etc. What failure teaches us is that even if you mess up, you have another opportunity to learn and improve.
As kids, we had so much pressure to get good grades and be “perfect,” which can damage your mindset in adulthood. Failure is natural, and sometimes it’s better to fail before you succeed. You can’t let failure hold you back; it’s there to push you to improve and learn. If you keep failing, then take a step back and think about why you keep failing. Are you overworking yourself? Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Is your mind too foggy to function at its full capacity? Think about what is causing you to fail and challenge it. Once you approach failure in a more positive way, you will succeed. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect to succeed. Perfection is not real, and there is no need to try to be “perfect” because that will set you up for a more painful failure.
7. Take Time Off
You’ll need to take time off work, whether it’s for vacation or sick leave. It’s not healthy to push yourself to work even when you’re sick or to skip breaks and work overtime. I used to feel guilty about taking time off, but it got me into a bad space that eventually forced me to take time off. It’s important to take time for yourself and not feel guilty about it. Your wellbeing should be a priority, and it’s not your responsibility to cover for your absence at work.
Book a random day off just for yourself, take a month off and focus on yourself, travel somewhere, or just relax. Don’t force yourself to work if you’re physically or mentally sick. If you don’t take a break, it will hurt not only you but also those around you because you’re overworked and prone to making mistakes and forgetting important details. Don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
8. No One Knows What They’re Doing
Nobody knows what they’re doing. Although some people may seem like they “have their life together,” the truth is that nobody actually knows what they’re doing. There’s no guidebook on “how to be adults.” Everyone has different experiences and paths in life, and most of the time, they have no clue how they got there or what they’re doing.
I know friends who are new parents and are clueless about what to expect or if they’re doing it right. I know people who started businesses but have no idea if they’re doing it right, even when they researched and went to school for it. However, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you’re doing or what you want to do. Every day is different, and we’ll always face new challenges or life events. We just need to do our best and what we feel is the best way to handle it because there’s no “right way” to live your life. The right way is whatever is best for you and makes you feel healthy and proud of yourself. If working in retail instead of being a CEO brings you joy, then you’re doing it right because you’ve chosen a path that makes you feel fulfilled.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surroundings. It helps calm down your mind and body, relieving stress, anxiety, pain, depression, and improving your overall mental performance. Just taking a small part of your day, as little as 5 minutes or even a full hour, will make such a difference because you are letting your mind and body rest and really connecting with yourself and the universe on a much deeper level.
This could be anything from meditation, writing in a journal, focused deep breathing, or doing yoga. Anything that allows you to separate yourself from negativity, have an open conversation with yourself in regards to how you’re feeling, and be present and just in the moment.
10. Everything Happens for a Reason
I know it sounds cliché, and many people will disagree, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that the universe gives us these experiences or people to help us learn and grow into our best selves. Many of life’s challenges happen for a reason, and they teach us more about ourselves, how we can handle various situations and emotions. It’s comforting to think about how much you’ve learned and grown from specific life events or interactions and reflect on those lessons.
With that being said, you might think about a specific interaction or situation that you might think might’ve been pointless, but when you really think about it and how you felt in that moment or what you learned and gained from it, you just might have a different perspective on it and be able to either move past a difficult memory or feel more grateful for a specific experience.
Those were some of the things I have come to realize over time. After keeping these in mind, I have grown into a much more mature and understanding person. My perspective isn’t so black and white anymore. Of course, I still have bad days and don’t always keep up with these, but I know that when I do, it makes me feel so much better, and I am always learning and growing into my best self. Life is a journey filled with mystery and experiences, and all we need to do is slow down, enjoy every step along the way, move past anything holding us back, and learn from each experience or person we encounter.