The Most Important Thing About Your 20’s

The Best Thing To Do In Your 20's  |  The Fresh Exchange

This summer, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking through what I want for my 30’s. I have 6 months before I say hello to the big 3-0, but in typical Megan Fashion here I am completely pondering every inch of my life. There was a day I was driving the car back from Traverse City to Manistee (where we are staying with my parents), a drive I have done a million times it feels like this summer, and the meditative nature of the drive left me space mentally to really get honest about things.

Though I am still wrapping my brain around the fact that in 6 months I will be saying goodbye to the busiest 10 years of my life: I graduated college, got married, started a business, learned SOOOO many lessons, moved 4 times, bought a house, had a baby, and so much more. When I thought about what the last 10 years, I began to realize that your 20’s are the most critical in defining your path for your life. Sure you can switch your path at any point, but in your 20’s the risks are lowest so it is the time to shift things, try things, and fail a lot. Your 20’s you can be broke and stupid. In your 20’s you can travel the cheapest. In your 20’s you can try everything. What I realized is that your 20’s are about exploration and finding the bounds of life and the life you want to live. When you try a lot of things whether it be jobs, dating, travel, food, places to live, or some combo of it all, you are able to figure out clearly and with a lot of confidence exactly the life you want and need. I don’t think when I entered my 20’s I actually knew this but reflecting now I see it. I see how every bit of the years of this last decade have shaped me and made it very clear what kind of life I want to live as I enter my 30’s. I have noticed the things that don’t work for me and the things that fill me up deeper than anything else.

As I drove that day, I realized that your 20’s are the years of self-actualization and how much of a disservice we do to ourselves for not spending this decade finding ourselves so to speak. I remember when I left school there was so much pressure to get a job, get your own place, finish your degree, start your retirement fund, and get your ducks in a row. There was a time when I would say that I was running a blog, traveling the world, freelancing, living out of my parent’s basement that people thought I had rocks in my head and typically asked me when I planned to get a real job. I felt in some way, because of those people, that I needed to grow up and figure my shit out. It took me till recently to realize that spending those years living on a little gave me the freedom to land here: knowing exactly who I am, what I want, and where I am headed with complete confidence and happiness….oh and no longer living in my parent’s basement HA.

So, I am sure I will have a pile of more thoughts when I get closer to hitting the big 3-0, but I wanted to share this today because I have been mulling through it the last few weeks. If you are a 20-something and you are feeling this pressure to adult so very hard by your families, your friends, and by the world don’t fall into a rut of living a life you don’t want because you felt the pressure to settle in and get your ducks in a row. Don’t miss out on living and spending your 20’s developing yourself, finding confidence in yourself, learning who you are in this big ole world, and even more importantly learning who you aren’t. Do all you can to spend your 20’s developing the path you know you are meant to be on and that brings you joy. Take a year, do a job that may have nothing to do with your degree, go travel and live out of a backpack for a year on nearly nothing, work at a coffee shop so you can make enough to get by while you pursue your passion…this is the time to do it. Spend time going to counseling and figuring yourself out and learning to love yourself with the bruises, bumps, and imperfections out in the open. This will serve you far better than landing a 6 figure income in a job you hate in a city that doesn’t inspire you in a relationship that just feels comfortable. Trust me.

I feel so thankful that I spent these last 10 years, whether I knew it or not, learning who I am and most importantly who I am not. Not just emotionally but mentally, and most importantly as a woman, physically. I always felt I had to have it all together and to be something I now realize I am not, but now the ease felt in my soul for recognizing who I am is worth more than any paycheck I could have gotten while in my 20’s or pat on my back for fitting in the box people seemed to expect me to. I am happy to find myself here in a place that I defined and shaped to fit me.

As I think towards the next decade, I am seeing a life of simplicity, intention, slowness, and self-preservation. I see years spent less focused on me and more about those I love knowing that at the end of the day their joy will feed mine. I see years of learning patience, grace, and to embrace imperfections. I see a life of taking it all in, feeling the fullness of life so deeply it may at times hurt, and about pursuing passions over feeling stuck in a direction I never intended to go. Most importantly, though, I feel that my 20’s have allowed me the space to enjoy these coming years and I think that is the richest thing I can take into my 30’s.

So, others who are in their 30’s or at the end of their 20’s would you agree? What did you feel about your 20’s? What are you glad you did and do you regret?

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  1. Beautiful post! I could not agree more. I am 25, so I am smack dab in the middle of my 20’s and even in the past 5 years it is incredible how formative life has been. From graduating college, moving in with my (then) committed boyfriend, getting my first ‘real’ job, moving twice, buying a house, getting engaged, rescuing a dog, and now getting married one week from today! It’s been an interesting journey of balancing all of these busy and huge life changes one after another and giving myself the space to figure out who i am and who i am not. Like you mentioned, it seems to be a lot more of finding who i am not — which is helpful in forming who i am. The same way you are looking ahead to what you want out of your 30’s, I am looking ahead to what I want out of the second half of my 20’s now that all of the ‘big’ stuff is almost behind me. We’re looking ahead to prioritizing travel and investing in relationships that serve us and others well. Ah… what an interesting yet beautiful time it is! Thanks for Sharing, Megan!

  2. Megan, this is perfect!! I’m 5 months away from hitting the big 3-0 and I have felt all that you have as well! It’s scary knowing that you’ll be ending one decade and entering a new one. It is for me anyways! It’s safe to say that you have do everything I wish I’d done in my 20s because, unfortunately, life hasn’t been the easier for me with being a carer for my Mum so I didn’t have the opportunity to explore and live I could have done. I’ve decided to make my 30s my new 20s and discover myself more and live!!

  3. I felt like I had missed out because I wasn’t able to go to a fancy university, and I worked full-time while going but finished in 3 years on the honor roll–which means I did nothing but work and study. jobs afterward were disappointing. Finally, at 25, i decided to change my life. I signed up for the peace Corps, was accepted, and had the best experience of my life. It changed everything. Most of all it gave me tons of confidence that I could surmount any challenge. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but I have never regretted it.

  4. Great post! I’ll be turning 30 in a few short months and a lot of these thoughts have crossed my mind as well. My 20’s were not what i thOught they would be–but they were full of experiences that shaped me and forced me to grow up. I was diagNosed with thyroid cancer at 26, and the experience not only scared me, but forced me to find my voice and passion. I had worked at jobs that didn’t fufill me on any level, and after my diagnosis i promised that i would be true to myself. In 2015, i left my stable, full-time job that paid well and have been trying to figure out how to live life as a creative ever since.

  5. This is a great post. I’m 27 and looking back on the last seven years, I’ve come to see that all the stress I had early on to get into a good school for a graduate degree, and how devastating it felt when that simply didn’t work out, and then the pressure to get a decent job and the emotional numbing I felt when that job just wasn’t fulfilling — all of that worrying and stress and madness was really all for naught because now, even though we don’t have a house and my husband and I haven’t started a family, our ducks are falling in a row on their own.
    I’ve been so lucky to have chance on my side in so many instances, and things are starting to feel calmer. I’m learning to let the world ebb and flow on its own and to ride the waves instead of working so hard to paddle against them. And although I haven’t had the opportunity to travel so much, I feel like I’m better able to prepare for a future where travel will be more frequent, and we can visit places I only dreamed of in my early 20’s.

  6. This is totally where I am at and it was just good to hear I am not the only one!!!!! “There was a time when I would say that I was running a blog, traveling the world, freelancing, living out of my parent’s basement that people thought I had rocks in my head and typically asked me when I planned to get a real job. I felt in some way, because of those people, that I needed to grow up and figure my shit out. It took me till recently to realize that spending those years living on a little gave me the freedom to land here: knowing exactly who I am, what I want, and where I am headed with complete confidence and happiness….oh and no longer living in my parent’s basement HA.”

    Thank you for your post!

  7. I didn’t have everything work out as i wanted to in my twenties. it was rare for me to have a job, boyfriend, or apartment for more than a year. during this time i found myself frustrated that i didn’t have my life falling into place as i wanted. during that time was when i figured out who i was, and i don’t regret it all now that i’m 33. I have a beautiful son, husband, and love my job. I maybe didn’t get to where i was the way i wanted to, but it was the stumbling blocks along the way that made me who i am.

  8. I can’t really say THANK YOU enough or in a way that truly describes the emotions I’m feeling right now. Ever since graduating college, i’ve felt *so* overwhelmed by the feeling that i need to get it all figured out now and it’s caused me increased anxiety and health issues ever since. reading this was literally a light bulb feeling of “it’s okay, you’ve got plenty of time.” So many of the things you mention in this post i’m doing now – trying my hand at owning a business, working a job i know i may not be at forever, living in a city i won’t live in forever, traveling cheap, etc – all while feeling scared i’m wasting time + money). thank you thank you thank you. i love hearing this from someone who is leaving their 20s and can give an honest perspective.

  9. I love this! I Still have 2 years till i turn 30- but even just Knowing im in my late 20’s is traumatic enough. I think your 20s are definitely a tIMe for figuring stuff out. I feel as though I dId more of the fun Stuff like backpacking beFore i was 25 though and i keep wondering if i should still be pushing myself to do stuff like that. I Hope the next siX months are good Ones for you ?

  10. This post really struck a cord with me – I’m 24 and constantly feeling pressure from everyone in my life to just be “an adult”. I want to be young and happy and travel, but I’m also terrified I will do something wrong. Reading this makes me realize how important what I’m doing right now is and that now is the time to do things, like traveling, I might not be able to later. thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I’m turning 20 in a few weeks 🙂 I feel like so many graduates come out of undergrad with an identity crisis, an early-life crisis, and are both excited and scared of entering the real world. I bet at the end of my 20s I ‘ll look back on it and think it funny how much I worked myself up about things that were so trivial, retrospectively. I definitely feel that way about my middle/high school days 😛 Happy early birthday, and I hope your 30s are fantastic!! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  12. Hi Megan, thank you for this. Having just turned 20, the pressure to “adult” hasn’t quite hit yet, but soon will as i approach graduation. Instead, i have been reflecting on how i can use my time as a student and young adult to discover myself and find my place. I have so many interests and curiosities, as well as fears, making it difficult/overwhelming to hone in on what it is that i really want/don’t want. These words are really inspiring me to take some leaps and to not worry too much about the outcomes, but instead to embrace the experiences. So, thank you.

    Also, I just wanted to say that I discovered your blog several years ago when i began spending my summers up in northern michigan and I have been hooked ever since! I love seeing all your posts up there in the summers. thanks for sharing! – Hannah

  13. I Love what you wrote about your 20’s in reflection. Although I still have seven years left in my 20’s, I am amazed already at what this decade has brought. I used to think people in their 20’s were “Grown Up”, but now that I’m here, I’m not so sure! I hope to keep my blog going as a reflection of life in my 20’s, a journal I can look back on years from now. For now, I’m looking forward to finding out more about life!
    Sounds like your 20’s have been so instrumental in your own life, I’m hoping mine will be the same!

  14. Love this SO much! I’m turning 27 this year, & it’s gotten me thinking. I’m getting ever-closer to 30. I don’t want to live life wishing I could “be young” again. My great-grandmother always said she loved every time in her life. She had no regrets. She looked at aging as an opportunity, & never let anything get her down. I want my 30’s to be like that. & my 40’s. & my 80’s. 🙂

    I have definitely learned a LOT in my 20’s… so far. Got married, 2 babies, a business, & a tiny home renovation. It’s honestly left me feeling pretty tired. But we’re getting closer to our dreams. It’s a good life. Thanks for reminding me to enjoy these next few years, & to learn more about myself, & to love those around me more!

  15. I loved this post! I’m 29, and will turn 30 in less than 6 months too. 🙂 So, this gave me another push to think about the past 10 years of my own life. As you say, the busiest ones, but oh so defining. thank you for sharing your THOUGHTS!

  16. 28 here.
    I’ve had it pretty easy so far, having graduated college, found a job, quit said job because I didn’t like it, found another job….. it seemed the only thing that wasn’t fulfilling was my relationships but I wasn’t too concerned about it.
    now here I am, after thinking I had my life figured out (minus being open to moving elsewhere for jobs) and I have completely fallen in love with sailing and with Maine and want to quit my 6-figure income job to work on a boat. It’s SCARY but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I’ll regret it if I don’t try.

  17. This post is so awesome. I am 26 and have to say my 20’s have been full of ups an downs and I have learned so much about life. I am grateful for all that I have learned but also amazed at how my life has changed for the better and worse throughout my 20’s. I agree that these years are truly formative and sometimes I need to hear it more often and remind myself that a time of self confidence and peace will come. Someday hopefully. until then i will keep riding out my TUMULTUOUS 20’s with a spark of intrigue for what is coming next. thank you so much for this post and i love how real and raw it is and that others have these thoughts and it isn’t just me.

  18. This post is exactly what i needed to read. Im 22, left collegE and got a full time job im not sure yet ill be at by 30. Its scary to think i dont know where im going yet but its cOmforting to read its normal and other people Go through that exact same feeling. Hopefully my 20s are filled with memories and life changing experiences!

  19. Thanks for sharing this post. After a long time, such a post has been seen, it is a very interesting subject, people like it. When someone shares this kind of article, the mind is happy Thank you for this article