5 things I wish I’d known in my 20s
I turned 30 last year. Anytime you hit a milestone, whether it’s a birthday or some other life event, it’s a time to celebrate and also a good opportunity to reflect. Not too long ago, I started thinking about what I wish I’d known in my twenties.
I guess you can say some of those things were lessons I learned, things I learned the hard way. Others were a result of my friends’ experiences, seeing how their twenties played out and what they learned.
I wish I’d known more about money, relationships, responsibility, time and travel. From the perspective of my thirties, I see that I learned a lot about these areas during the past decade. But I could have avoided some pitfalls and taken advantage of some amazing opportunities if I’d known more about them upfront.
Here are five things I wish I’d known in my twenties:
1. Check your credit score.
Your credit score is a simple measure of your financial health, something you can easily check yourself, but a lot of people don’t think to keep an eye on it. In my twenties, I was surprised to learn what can influence my credit score. When I forgot to pay a small cable bill while living in an apartment when I was 21, my credit took a hit. If I’d known more about what credit scores mean and how to keep mine high or improve it, I wouldn’t have been caught off guard.
2. Enjoy being single.
While you’re single, don’t spend all of your time and energy looking ahead. Just focus on being present—being open to meeting new people, getting to know the person you’re dating and most importantly, learning about yourself. It’s a great time to find out what you really want and need in life and in a relationship.
3. Don’t rush.
Once you get into a relationship, take your time. There’s no reason to rush into things. Appreciate that process of getting to know each other and see where it goes. The big thing: Don’t “play house” or talk like it, unless you’re truly serious and ready to get married. It’s a big step, so give it thought and respect the person you’re dating enough to only go down that path if and when you’re sure.
4. Use a designated driver.
These days, there’s no excuse for drinking and driving. With all the options out there—cabs, Uber, appointing a DD—it’s not hard to make arrangements for a safe, sober ride home after a fun night out. The law is getting tighter, and driving under the influence is dangerous. It can be a matter of life and death, and quite simply, it’s not worth the risk.
5. See the world.
Your twenties are the perfect time to explore. Spend time and money on experiences. Travel the world. Backpack through Europe if you get a chance. (After all, once you’re there, everything is pretty close.) I once met a guy who lived in Thailand off of two bucks a day for a few months and he told me how much that experience helped him. Now’s the time to be young and do things you might not be able to do later on in life—crash at a hostel, talk to strangers, take cross-country train rides. When I was younger, I went to a basketball camp in Barcelona with my brother, and while we were there, we turned down a chance to go to Ibiza, one of the islands nearby. Life is different now, and that’s something I can’t do anymore; I missed an opportunity. I believe travel experiences make you smarter and more grounded. They allow you to see what’s out there.
Now that I say all of this, I also realize that your twenties are the time to make mistakes—and learn from them. We can’t possibly know everything then; we have to grow and learn as we go. But maybe if you keep these five things in mind—that is, those of you who are currently in that awesome decade—your twenties can be full of different lessons, opportunities and experiences. Keep me posted on what you find out.