22 Lessons Every 20-Something Should Learn

POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Barnes
POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Barnes

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." For better or worse, your 20s are an essential time in your life. Careers, relationships, and an absurd amount of other stuff constantly occupy the minds of 20-somethings at any given time. Fresh out of college, I myself have inadvertently learned quite a few life lessons as I delve deeper into this defining decade. Bad news, college friends: most real jobs require that you wake up before noon.

The truth is, you have to catch on pretty fast when life is changing around you at the speed of light. We millenials are just trying to be happy — one success (or failure) at a time — and that's totally OK. We are all trying to figure it out. Read on to discover 22 crucial lessons I have learned about making it through my 20s in one piece.

1. You're going to be broke.

Accept it. Think of it as that supersavvy, frugal time of your life you will look back on once you can actually buy noodles that aren't ramen.

2. Your parents are actually really cool.

Remember in high school when you were utterly mortified to be seen in public with them? By now you have finally escaped your angsty adolescence to realize that Mom and Dad are totally awesome and know a lot more about life than you. Don't freak out when realizing that you want to hang out with them.

3. Networking is everything.

You have heard it a million times, and that's because it's so true. The bigger your professional network is, the more opportunities you will have. Your skills count for a lot, but you'll learn that your connections count for a whole lot more, especially when you're young.

4. You will get your heart broken, probably a few times.

Love is hard. Some people get lucky and find long-term relationships right away, but don't feel discouraged — or like you have to be one of those 20-somethings. It can take a few duds before you find a winner, so until the lucky guy comes along, enjoy being single. But when you do find him, don't take what you have for granted.

5. Your metabolism slows down.

Put down the donut . . . or the pizza or the chips or whatever it is that's calling your name from the kitchen cupboard. OK, take a bite, then put it down. You're young, you're stressed, food is good — trust me, I get it. Unfortunately for us, the human body's metabolism rapidly slows down as it enters its 20s. That means you can't eat what you want anymore — one of the saddest truths in adulthood.

6. Even if you went to college, there's still more to learn.

A college education is so important, but there's also a lot to learn outside of the classroom. That goes the other way around, too. Learn as much as you can early on both inside of a university's walls and out of it.

7. Speaking up for yourself pays off.

Do you deserve a job? Do you want that raise? Nobody will know that unless you let it be known. Your own voice can take you pretty far.

8. Hangovers are a real thing that will actually happen to you.

Ah yes, let's take a moment to reflect on the early years when you could go out multiple nights in a row and feel like a million bucks by the end of the weekend. Say goodbye to those glorious days and hello to your new friends Advil and coffee.

9. Landing a job isn't easy.

We all dream of nabbing the career of our dreams right out of the gate, but as soon as you walk out of your dorm room and into the real world you will realize that it's going to take a lot of résumés, applications, and hard work to get to where you want to be.

10. Make time for your family.

So much is happening during this time in your life that it can be pretty easy to let the time you spend with family slip between the cracks. Pick up the phone or go visit, because everything else in your life is temporary. Your family, on the other hand, will always be there. Oh yeah, and they usually provide you with free meals.

11. There's more to life than social media.

We millenials love our smartphones. Sure, it's a great way to keep up with friends and news, but obsessing over what you tweet or post every moment makes you miss out on what's right in front of you.

12. Don't compare yourself to your friends.

Your 20s are a time when your friends begin to go their separate ways. Remember that you're all completely different people. While going to college might be right for one person, traveling to another country might be more fitting for another. One choice isn't better than another; it's all relative. You should all be rooting each other on.

13. You can still wear whatever you want.

Warning: this is your last chance to wear that crop top. The magic of being in your 20s is that you can still get away with wearing just about any crazy fashion trend that you want. Enjoy it while you can.

14. That credit card bill is always going to come.

It won't magically disappear, so don't pretend like it will. Spend your money wisely, because it's likely that you still have plenty of student loans to pay off in the first place.

15. Exercise now, thank yourself later.

Yes, I know it takes a lot of effort. And no, it does not get any easier. But if you exercise now, you will be a whole lot healthier in the future. At least take a walk or something, you know?

16. Your college major will not define your career.

Most people don't end up having a career in whatever they majored in, and there's nothing wrong with that. Don't be surprised when your art history degree leads you to a job in marketing (or something else completely unrelated to your intended field; get my drift?).

17. Sleep is precious.

Say it with us: Sleep. Is. Precious. You will find yourself bragging about how much sleep you got last night far more often than how amazing it was to stay up superlate.

18. Don't worry so much.

I'm worried that you'll be worried about worrying all the time after reading this post . . . see what I mean? We all fret way too much. Enjoy your life — these are supposed to be the best years, aren't they? You will get rent paid and you will kill that presentation at work; don't let those thoughts occupy the majority of your mind.

19. You still have to pay your dues at work.

Having a college degree is not enough anymore. In fact, it's the bare minimum. That means you might have to start off with a job or position that isn't necessarily ideal. It's a building block for making it to the top, so throw your 20-something ego into the gutter and remember that you're not too good to start at the bottom. All of your peers are hanging out down here with you.

20. Love who you are, body and all.

Sometimes it's really hard to love yourself in this world of Photoshop and unrealistic expectations. If you didn't know it already, you are beautiful and amazing and perfect exactly as you are. As long as you know that on the inside, everyone else is going to see it. Besides, you're at your ultimate hotness peak in your 20s, so enjoy it before the decade sneaks away.

21. You don't have to take everyone's advice.

This is a very important time in your life, so naturally you are going to be bombarded with a lot of advice and opinions. Nobody said you have to listen to all of it; ultimately it's your life and you know what's best for you. Chances are you'd like to throw out a few points in this very post.

22. Discover who you are.

Figuring it all out is tricky. You want to know what's going to happen and how it's all going to play out. Chances are your life will be nothing like how you expected, and that's for the better. Take a deep breath and dive into your 20s headfirst; you'll bob back to the surface in no time.

Have any lessons you have learned in your 20s? Let us know in the comments.