25 things I’ve learned at 25 (and 5 more I hope to learn by 30)

25 things I’ve learned at 25 (and 5 more I hope to learn by 30)
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I woke up this morning officially in my mid-twenties.

25 feels like a milestone, and it’s one I’ve been simultaneously excited and terrified to hit, because it means I’m not only another year older, but also that I’m supposed to be another year wiser. Instead, I feel just as confused and unsure about my next step as I have every other birthday.

But there’s something to the idea that with age comes experience, and with experience comes some sort of wisdom. I don’t know much, and I’m still learning every single day, but I’ve learned a few things that I know to be both important and true:

Travel well, travel far, travel often.

There’s no cut-and-dry answer when it comes to what The Meaning of Life is, but if there was, I imagine it’d have something to do with actually getting out of your comfort zone and living it. Invest in those experiences (and when money’s a little tight, the e-mails from Scott’s Cheap Flights are lifesavers. Upgrade to premium).


And travel alone at least one time.

It’s hard, it’s exhausting and it’ll make you want to throw the towel in and come home early at least once, but you’ll still somehow want to do it all over the second you get home.

There is, in fact, absolutely no beauty in settling.

Stop trying to fit square pegs into circular holes. While there’s absolutely a comfort in knowing that whatever you’re considering settling for is easy and reliable, if you don’t feel your very soul catch fire, what’s the point?

It’s okay to not feel like you’ve got it all together.

Because, really, does anybody?

Social media is not real life.

At best, it’s a highlight reel. Their behind-the-scenes look just like yours. You’re doing fine.

There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.

As hard a pill as it is to swallow, the only way to discover the difference is to have been both, but embrace and grow through your time with them.

You’ll be a better person for it if you can learn to be both – and actually be okay when you are one.

Don’t just love your family and your best friends, show them.

Call them (don’t just text them). Travel with them. Visit them. They, like you, don’t have all the time in the world, so use it wisely.

Take more pictures.

Don’t fill your camera roll with just pictures of yourself in that gorgeous lighting from a backlit bathroom mirror (guilty). Buy the extra storage on your iPhone and fill its memory with rows and rows of pictures of your family, your friends and the places and things that matter to you – better yet, buy a camera.

Then, actually print them out, frame them and, when it’s time to switch them out, keep them in a box. There’s nothing like coming across a collection of old pictures that you can physically hold and marvel at, whether they’re from the birthday party you threw your grandfather as a child or the ones you forgot taking with your first love or the ones from your parents’ childhoods that they would rather you have not found.

Get the dog.

You’ll hear a lot of thoughts from everyone – your parents, your boss, your best friends – when you bring up the possibility of “just going to look” at the Humane Society (I went “just to look,” too). You’ll get that you’re too young, you have too much going on, that signing the adoption papers is the equivalent of signing your soul away.

But if you feel that you can truly love a dog the way it deserves to loved, sign the damn papers anyway, because your life will change dramatically for the better.

And on that note, be the person your dog thinks you are.

Treat your body well.

Give it what it needs: Water, exercise, fresh air, sunlight, sleep.

It’s not you, it’s them.

But sometimes it’s you, and that’s okay.

Own up to it. Apologize if you need to, grow from it because you have to.

Order pasta, then get dessert.

It’s okay to stay in.

FOMO is a real thing, but so is taking care of yourself. There’s always next weekend to blow through your budget and wake up feeling like hell.

Your mom knows best, and it’s not such a bad thing to realize you’re turning into her.

I look more like my dad than I do my mom, but I got her personality and her sense of humor. I’ll take it.

Making your bed every morning is crucial.

I used to do it because a friend once told me, “If you make your bed, you won’t get back into it.”

Now, I do it because I’m a firm believer in that the state of my bedroom reflects the state of my life – and if the bed is made up, the room looks neater, which gives me a little more confidence going into my day.

Go out with the person you know is most likely not right for you.

Frivolous dating, for lack of better words, is not only fun, but it’s also necessary. Through it, you learn about what you do and don’t like, what you will and won’t make exceptions for and, most of all, what you do and don’t want.

Besides, which phase of your life do you think some of your greatest stories will come from?

Be assertive (and honest) in asking for what you need.

This is true for your career, relationships, friendships, anything. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get it.

Say yes to most experiences, even the outlandish ones.

The stories and life lessons you’ll walk away make it all worth it.

If I hadn’t agreed to participate in a campaign for the Archery Trade Association, I never would found the courage to truly say no to – and challenge – an authority figure for the first time (after I was asked to lose more weight), much less have cuddled a calf while wearing head-to-toe camo in the middle of a field in the mountains. Defining moments, these.

You will break someone’s heart the same way someone broke yours.

And when it happens, remember that it doesn’t mean you’re a monster (just like the person who did it to you isn’t a monster, though it might have made it easier).

Go out on a limb and make the first move.

Nothing is more nerve-wracking, but ‘no’ is the worst thing that can happen. If you don’t get a no, and instead get a resounding ‘yes,’ then working up the courage to send the text or buy the drink will have been overwhelmingly worth it.

They really are just numbers.

Weight, age, the amount of zeroes in your paycheck, the people you’ve slept with – the numbers don’t define you.

There’s no such thing as ‘peaking’ in life.

In high school, I heard that college would be the best 4 years of my life. In college, I heard that my twenties would be the best years of my life. In my twenties, I’m hearing that my thirties will knock it out of the park.

I have a feeling that everything just keeps getting better. Just enjoy the ride.

You still have so much to learn.

In preparing to write this story, I filled 6 pages in a notebook with scribbles about things I’ve learned, and I’m still adding it to it every single day – and I hope I never feel that I have nothing left to add.

You really do only live once, so live it fully. Travel, eat, love, celebrate.

Just do the damn thing.

And 5 I hope to truly learn by 30:

You owe an explanation to nobody.

Be selfish when it comes to doing what you want, doing what’s best for you and going through a series of trial and error to figure it all out. Do you, and don’t apologize for it.

It’s okay to physically age.

I found the first trace of a laugh line in college and instead of panicking, took it to mean that I was doing something right.

Now, I see what I think might be actual laugh lines and panic. I’ve lost sight of the ‘you’re doing something right’ mentality and instead have stocked up on age-reversal moisturizers and face masks, and have even gone so far as to seriously consider botox.

Stop it. Getting older is a privilege. Embrace it. The more lines, the better, longer a life lived.

Besides, you really do look good.

Don’t refuse to take a picture because you think you look fat, or your hair isn’t cooperating, or you didn’t dress nicely. You will never look better than you do right now, so strike a pose and smile.

The concept of a ‘timeline’ is ridiculous.

By 25, my parents had been married for two years, were living in a house they owned and were considering children. At 25, I’m renting a house basically run by my dog and still a little lost about who, where and what I want to be while trying not to panic.

That’s okay. Stop comparing yourself to everyone around you. Things happen when they happen. Until then, keep living.

You really are doing fine.

Cover photo via Savannah McAffrey courtesy Kindred’s Facebook page.

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"It's good. I promise." - Emma   Emma Way