When I turned 20, my older relative, who’s 11 years older, wrote me a note that said, “My dear, welcome to the best decade of your life.”
She was absolutely right. If my 20s were frozen yogurt, it would have a gazillion high-calorie toppings; if it were a Frapuccino, it’d have extra whip; if it were a fashion statement, it would definitely not be minimalist. Let’s just say it exceeded my expectations, partly because someone told me to make the most of it.
1. Get that first job you aren’t completely in love with. It might not give you the paycheck you want or the long-term career you imagined for yourself, but if you’re just starting out, take it. Then be the best employee you can possibly be. Wow your boss, and volunteer for more work. Never complain, and prove your worth—because you have a lot to prove, especially in your early twenties. Never be entitled, and if people give you shit for doing your job well, then that is a compliment. My first salary as a fresh graduate (I was 20) was tiny as an entertainment writer for a website in a TV network. But I worked like I made so much more. Two years later, I launched my first website for that company.
2. Travel alone. And by “alone,” I mean sans your bestie or bae. You know how you kind of take things for granted when you’re with someone because you know he or she has got your back? You remove that security blanket when you travel solo. So you end up paying more attention to details—whether you’re checking in your luggage, finding where the nearest train is, or figuring out a map. You also learn to communicate better, test your limits and get over your fears. When I was 24, I packed my bags for New York and traveled alone for the very first time. It was also the first time I really, truly felt like an #Adult. I wish the same for you, and it doesn’t even have to be international travel; a trip to a new state for a weekend of “me time” will also do the trick!
3. Want something so badly, you are consumed by it—and ultimately make it yours. For my quarter-life crisis, I wanted to leave the Philippines to take up my master’s degree in the U.S. After three years of working, I knew it was time to take a break and do something for myself. My parents were strict, so I was pretty sheltered growing up. My ticket to freedom was studying abroad. I was lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who supported my decision and helped make it happen in their own way—financially, emotionally, spiritually. I was in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and studied for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) and TOEFL (Test Of English As A Foreign Language) after work and on weekends. I submitted endless essays to schools in different states, and cried myself to sleep because I wanted to get into grad school so badly. I read The Secret. I prayed A LOT. I created a vision board with snapshots of all the universities I submitted application forms to.
I had a mentor back in college who told me that getting into U.S. schools would be difficult. That just fueled my desire to submit kickass essays and pray harder.
I will never forget the day I read my NYU acceptance letter online and got my U.S. Student Visa approved. They’re up there with the rest of my life’s proudest moments! I wish the same for you in your twenties: a chance to dare yourself, and prove that you can do it.
4. Do something crazy/fun/uncharacteristic that you can always tell stories about. The most fun moments I’ve had were the times I didn’t overthink or overanalyze my actions. Dance like you’re drunk, even if you’re not. Tour a place for 24 hours straight. Revisit every spot in the city from your favorite TV show. Go to a sex museum and learn about panda porn. Cry in a bus, because you miss your boyfriend. Ditch a friend who has treated you badly. Sing with strangers. Get lost in a foreign country. Try a new profession, even if you’re clueless about it.
Your twenties should be teeming with these moments you’ll forever cherish, because you have only ONE decade to act like a crazy person. After 30, people will think you’re *actually* crazy.
5. Speak your mind. Whether it’s negotiating for a higher pay because you know you deserve it, or telling someone not to treat you like crap, learn how to fend for yourself and be more aggressive. Yes, you can be aggressive AND respectful, and that is a skill you need to learn in your twenties. You also need to learn when to say yes, and when no really means no.
6. Take control of your own money. You don’t have to be a millionaire, but have enough saved so you can live on your own, even if that means sharing the rent with someone else. Get a credit card and use it wisely. Have a checkbook. Create an Excel sheet of your expenses, or download those money-tracking apps. Pay your own phone bills. Don’t let your boyfriend, or husband, or mother dictate how you spend your own hard-earned cash, because it is yours. You deserve to reward yourself with it, and be responsible about spending it.
7. Find a love that doesn’t hold you back. The best kind of love makes you grow as a person, and hopefully, you find yours in your twenties. Maybe it’s your soulmate, or a career, or a hobby that makes you happy. If it is a life partner, make sure he or she makes you feel indispensable, even if no one really is. If it is a career, hopefully it never makes you feel used or burned out. If it is a hobby, it should never take away your time from your real job, and instead fuel your drive for the daily grind.