1. Go on at least one spontaneous trip.
You don’t have to blow an entire paycheck on a last-minute getaway halfway across the world, but just once, allow yourself to go somewhere without planning it out in advance. Jump in your car and drive to a nearby city for the weekend. Look up cheap flights and check out someplace new. As cliche as it sounds, this is more about the journey than the destination. After all, depending on what you choose to do with your future, you might not always have the opportunity to just pack your bags and get out of town whenever you want. And someday, when you look back, you’ll remember how free and fully alive you allowed yourself to be and smile.
2. Express the feelings you’ve been too scared to say out loud.
Maybe you’re in love with someone but you don’t know how to tell them. Maybe you’re upset about how a friend is treating you but you’re terrified of confrontation. Maybe your plans for the future look different than what your parents imagined but you keep pretending to be someone you’re not when you’re around them just to keep them happy. There are so many things we do just to try to keep the peace. But someday, when you look back, you aren’t going to remember how you kept everyone happy; you’re mostly just going to think about how stressed out and miserable you made yourself in an attempt to spare the world your emotions. Is speaking your truth terrifying? Oh, definitely. But just think of how freeing it’ll be.
3. Figure out the one thing you always make excuses not to do—and then do it.
I don’t mean whatever social event you keep finding ways to get out of. What I mean is that one thing you truly want to do but that you always find a reason not to do. Maybe you want to start dressing a certain way but keep telling yourself you’ll do it once you lose more weight. Maybe you want to go on an international trip but you keep finding reasons for why it’s not the right time. Maybe you want to write a book but you never believe you have a good enough idea, so you never start writing. Whatever it is, you can keep putting it off, but the longer you wait, the less likely you’re going to do it. Why not bite the bullet and let yourself be happy right now, no qualifiers needed? Not only will you thank yourself in the present, but you’ll never have to look back and wonder, “What if?”
4. Don’t be so hellbent on saving money that you never spend it on the things that matter.
Let’s face it: It’s a difficult time to be a twenty-something. Salaries are lower than ever, debt is greater than ever, and owning property is beginning to feel like a pipe dream. And because of all this, we have to be smarter about our money now than ever before. If you have the means to save up, then you certainly should, even if that means budgeting in some of the small ways you can. But don’t completely cut yourself off from having new experiences because you’re too focused on saving your money instead of spending it. I’m not saying to put $1,000 toward a retreat you can’t afford, but allow yourself to splurge every now and then on a night out with friends or a concert you’ve been dying to see. Our life is entirely made up of experiences; don’t deprive yourself of living just to save a few bucks.
5. Make the most of your single years.
When you’re single, it’s so easy to spend all of your time just trying to find your next relationship. As a society, we’ve been trained to believe that a life without romantic love is lacking, and so we feel compelled to fill that hole in our lives so that we never feel like we’re missing something. But sometimes we’re so obsessed with being part of a partnership that we never allow ourselves to get to know who we are as an individual. If you had no one else around to give you feedback, how would you spend your day? What would you eat for dinner? What hobbies would you pick up? Would you spend more time with your friends? With your family? Would you reconsider your career? There are so many aspects of our lives that deserve to be nurtured, but it’s so easy to neglect them when love is on the brain. So next time you find yourself single, instead of immediately moving on to the next relationship, why not take some time for yourself and do some of the things you felt like you couldn’t do when you were dating? It might feel lonely, even depressing, at first, but once you get used to it, you might find some freedom in being on your own. (Besides, if you do end up getting married, you might not have much longer to live the single life—enjoy it while you can!)
6. Honor your body for everything it does (not what it looks like).
In the age of social media, it’s become so easy to fixate on your perceived flaws and waste your time wishing you could look like someone else. But that’s all you’re really doing: wasting your time. Nothing productive can ever come from beating yourself up. Instead of criticizing yourself over how you think you should look, honor your body for everything it does for you—for the ways it is able to move, for the ways it sustains you, for creating the perfect vessel to carry your soul. When you find specific ways to love your body, you find that loving it altogether becomes much easier. Besides, there’s nothing worse than looking back and realizing all the happiness you stole from yourself while you were busy wishing you could be something you aren’t.
7. Don’t let yourself be dictated by what you think you should be doing.
So often, we paint a picture of what we think life should look like and then get disappointed when we aren’t able to measure up. Maybe you’re so hyper-focused on getting your dream job that you miss other great opportunities along the way. Maybe you’re so determined to get married by a certain age that you’re settling for a relationship that doesn’t make you as happy as it should. Maybe you’ll move to a city you idolized in your teen years, even if in reality, it makes you miserable. Whatever it is, by holding yourself to these impossible standards, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Instead, recognize that life can’t be planned and be flexible when it flows in a direction you never expected—it might not have been what you dreamed of when you were 16, but it could end up leading you somewhere even more beautiful..
8. Take up at least one hobby that requires you to learn something new.
Maybe you want to learn how to read tarot or understand astrology better. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try reupholstering your own furniture but it’s always felt like too big of a project to do on your own. Maybe there’s a language you always regretted not taking classes to learn in school. There are so many things out in the world that are worth learning about, but so many of us are so burnt out from our formal education that we don’t really care to take the time to learn something on our own. That feeling is totally valid—school is exhausting and often wipes out our natural curiosity to learn something not because we want to ace a test but just because. Find something interesting that you’d genuinely like to do—play an instrument, knit, ride a horse, whatever—and then put in the time to actually learn how to do it, at least to an intermediate level. Not only will you acquire great skills you can use in the future, but you might just rediscover a love for learning that will lead you to all sorts of passions in your life.
9. Date someone who isn’t your ‘type’.
Everyone has a type in some way or another, whether or not we’re very strict about those standards. And with so many dating apps that allow you to meet hundreds of people you’d never have the opportunity to meet otherwise, it’s easier than ever to stick with your preconceived notions and only go out with people who check all your boxes. But having this access also allows us to meet people who are a lot different than we’d ever expect to be interested in, and maybe it’s worth giving some of those people a shot. After all, if you go into every dating situation looking for exactly what you want, you might overlook other great qualities you never even considered (not to mention you’re treating your date more like a syllabus than a real human person, which isn’t fair to anyone). Maybe your perfect person doesn’t look the way you always pictured, but you’ll never know that if you don’t go out of your comfort zone. And if it doesn’t work out, hey, that’s fine—now you know what works and what really doesn’t. And when it comes to dating, those learning experiences are definitely worth having.
10. Don’t put too much pressure on your 20s being the best years of your life.
Don’t get caught up in the “best years of your life” talk—ever. Not in high school, not in college, not in your twenties. Not only is there a pretty big possibility that it’s not true—not everyone has the same experiences, so it’s impossible for one certain time to be the “best” for everyone—but honestly, it’s dangerous to think there will ever be a “best” time of your life. Life is a series of ups and downs, of pros and cons; if you convince yourself you’re supposed to be overwhelmingly happy, it could lead to disappointment, feelings of failure, and even depression. Maybe your twenties will be kind of rough—that’s okay. They’re difficult for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean your thirties won’t be great, or your forties, or even your fifties. Just don’t let anyone convince you that this is your one shot at happiness—there is always so much more to come in the future, no matter what the old cliches try to convince you.