I travel, I write, and I ponder…a lot. I love meeting new people and figuring out what makes them tick, and I live for gaining fresh perspective on just about everything in life. I’m only 24, but I’ve experienced no shortage of hurdles, as well as amazing, eye-opening events thus far.
I’m proud of where I am in life and that’s mainly because I’ve finally begun to embrace the bad experiences, as they have been the most rewarding in terms of personal growth.
Fortunately, you don’t need to have been touched by tragedy to expand your perspective and live a fuller life.
You just need to make the conscious effort to ‘grab the bull by the horns,’ so to speak.
Here’s a few suggestions for making your 20’s the most wonderful, terrifying, memorable and rewarding decade possible:
1) Befriend someone you normally wouldn’t
You know that clingy/annoying girl who thinks she’s your best friend five minutes after you meet? Or that shy guy sitting alone in the cafe who never talks to anyone and avoids all possible eye-contact? They could be the most interesting people you ever meet!
Seek out their best qualities, and focus on those.
Everyone has some sort of redeeming quality, or at the very least an interesting background story, so even if you don’t end up “clicking” with them, you’ll further your understanding of humanity and all its quirky amazingness.
2) Learn a new language, even if that’s not ‘your thing’
The perseverance required to actually communicate in a new language will be validated the first time you have a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English. Chances are, they will laugh at some of your mistakes – but so will you, and you’ll finally internalize the fact that you’re the only one who actually gives a damn if you make a mistake. Your confidence will grow in all areas of life, not only in language learning.
It’s such a pity that fluency in multiple languages isn’t something more Americans value, as it opens up a whole world of possibilities for making friends, understanding new cultures, discovering music and even possible job opportunities. Not to mention, you’ll feel like a badass.
3) Travel by yourself
As a travel addict, I think this is one of the most important points on this list.
Maybe you’re short on funds and can’t up-and-move to another country (although I highly recommend attempting this). Even taking a road trip on your own to a new town can be insightful.
Of course, the whole point is to willingly put yourself outside of your comfort zone, and then discover the person you become when faced with challenging situations without being able to fall back on your family or usual group of friends.
I promise it will be terrifying, but you will be amazed at how incredibly satisfying and eye-opening this experience will be. There is no substitute.
4) Quit that job you hate & find one you love
Maybe you’ll have to take a pay-cut. Maybe you won’t be following in your father’s footsteps, like he had always hoped. Don’t rule it out just because it’s not easy!
We’ve all worked jobs that we hate, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it can teach you so much about discipline and responsibility.
But you are doing yourself a disservice if your job makes you miserable every day and you know you’re wasting your talents, but you refuse to do anything about it. Fight for what you truly want and deserve, because the effort will be so worth it.
5) Fall in love. Fall out of love. Repeat as many times as necessary
…to figure out what you really want in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to the delirious highs and lows that can be had in a passionate, young love.
Yep, you might get hurt. You might do the hurting. But it’s better than looking back and wondering what might have happened. (Just make sure you maintain a sense of independence and continue to pursue your own interests.)
Having a few serious loves doesn’t dilute any future relationship you might have, but will give you plenty of experience to draw upon during the more difficult times, and frankly will make you so much more mature when you do find the person you want to spend your life with someday.
At one point I refused to let my relationships get anywhere near the ‘serious’ stage, because I figured “What’s the purpose? We’re still figuring our lives out – it’ll never work.” But I’ve discovered that those meaningful, intimate relationships are an incredible catalyst for personal growth, and isn’t that what our 20’s should be about?
6) Find something you’re passionate about (that’s not related to making money) and pursue it
…with as much of your free time as you can spare. And let’s be real, you’re reading an online to-do list written by a stranger; you have plenty of time to make use of.
You may be surprised how much happier of a person you become, and how much richer your daily life is when you regularly enhance it with something you care about, just for the sheer fact that you enjoy it.
Even if that means giving up a favorite television series, do it. Hulu and Netflix are not substitutes for truly living.
7) Chase your fears
Afraid of taking a flight to a foreign country alone? Buy that plane ticket today.
Afraid of getting lost in a new city? Leave your damn GPS at home, and ask a stranger for directions.
Afraid of taking a painting class because you think everyone will be way more talented than you? Get over yourself and sign up.
Scared to ask that cute bartender on a date because ‘they’re, like, way hotter than you,’ and you don’t want to look like a loser? Stop over-thinking and just go for it!
What’s the worst that can happen when you go after what you want in life? That you might not get it? Lame excuse, guys. Welcome to the human existence!
Fear is everyone’s worst enemy, but in the end, you are the only one who can conquer it.
8) Learn to be comfortable in your own skin
Take up a new activity, like yoga, because you find it fun, not because it’s almost bikini season.
Make a list of all the unique reasons why you’re a pretty kick-ass person (but please refrain from posting it as a Facebook status, because that’s just vain..)
Stop playing out all those ugly “what if” scenarios in your head every time you’re unsure of yourself.
I promise you’re not going to look like a fool if you do X, Y, or Z, and so-freaking-what if you do?! There is nothing sexier than confidence, and no one in this world can rock your personality better than you.
9) Take up at least one cause, and become an activist
It’s so easy to get sucked into the daily barrage of Facebook statuses and Insta-updates that we sometimes forget how influential our generation can be in the political sphere, if we actually get out there and do something.
It will give you a refreshing perspective on how fortunate you are; it feels great to know you’re making a difference in the world; AND you’ll meet inspiring like-minded people.
10) Suck the marrow out of life & do so unapologetically
Stop caring what people will think if you live your life as authentically as possible.
Embrace your weird, and you’ll find other amazing weirdos who appreciate you for exactly what you have to offer the world.
Now stop reading these stupid internet lists, and go make your own. You have the best perspective on your life and what you personally want to accomplish in the next 10 years, so get busy and start making the most of it!