A Long List Of Things To Start Normalizing In Your 20s

Our early 20s are terrifying. New chapters are opening, old ones closing, friendships changing, and ending with new ones coming in. It’s a time of growth, maturity, and eye-opening experiences that also come with a sense of fear, loneliness, challenges, and of course, confusion. You begin to wonder where exactly you stand in this big world. They say now’s the time to work hard, play hard, to get fit, to meet people, to find love, to find the perfect career, and might I say, the pressure from it all is weighing on my shoulders like a ton of bricks. Look, I’m sure when we’re all 40 we’ll wonder why we stressed so much, but right now it all feels so real and frightening.

Our early 20s are a strange and confusing time. We’re not teens, we’re not quite “real” adults, and so there’s a limit to what we can do at work, who we should date (because we don’t want to waste time with the wrong person), and just a million trillion things to worry about!

But is anything really set? I mean, here’s how I look at it: Individuals who went to teachers college faced job insecurity for years. This is a career that for one is not easy, but often people choose as it gives them routine and a sense of stability. So, not to stress anyone, but nothing is set in stone or guaranteed, even if you choose the “safe path.”

There’s a lot we need to start normalizing for our early 20s. First things first, we need to stop taking this world so seriously. Everyone makes mistakes. Politicians are notorious for this, so if your slip-ups are not life-threatening or harmful to others, I encourage you to mess up. Usually, those mistakes happen to prevent massive ones from happening in the future. They are valuable lessons, and while it’ll seem huge at the time, you will look back and be thankful for it. Those early mishaps will save you down the road.

Let’s also normalize finishing university late. Life happens, we change our majors, and some need mental health breaks or have to defer to circumstances out of their control. Don’t kick yourself when you see everyone graduating and people on TikTok claiming to have finished their degree at 20. Remember, their circumstances are different from yours. You have been put on this particular path for a very real and planned reason. If you don’t want to do a masters, don’t. If you are able to travel, I say go for it and don’t look back! Now is the time to explore, enjoy yourself, and remember school will always be there. It’s not going away if you choose to take a break and find out who you are and what you want.

Now going back to the comparison game, I need you to stop. You don’t know what help or what support or connections someone had to get them where they are. Social media is deceptive, and we only hear about the success, not the steps someone had to take to get there and whether they had a significant advantage. You have to take most things you see online with a grain of salt. Never ever compare yourself, for you don’t know what takes place behind the scenes.

Let’s normalize being lost with no clue what you want or where you see yourself in 10 years. Let’s normalize being single and not wanting to date. Let’s normalize living at home until you feel financially and emotionally ready to move out. We must get rid of the shame surrounding that. I think everyone I know lives at home, even those in their late to early 30s. Housing is insanely expensive and unaffordable, so do not kick yourself if you can’t afford a place.

Let’s normalize trying as many jobs as you want and quitting if they aren’t fantastic and fulfilling. Let’s normalize significant career changes and have a job that does not do with your degree. It’s time to realize that the decisions you make at 18 and the life you want then will be different from what you want and need in your 20s. Quitting is empowering when what you’re doing is not serving your best interest. That is you taking control of your life, but do have a plan before taking that step.

We also need to normalize growing apart from old friends. This happens so much more than we realize and can be super upsetting to experience. There’s that denial in that you hope they didn’t change, and you begin to wonder when the friendship hanging on by a thread will end. Seeing old friendships dissipate is like saying goodbye to a younger part of yourself. When you talk to that friend, it’s like you time travel to those simpler days, you miss the memories and feel nostalgic for the times you’ve had. But if they aren’t making you happy, you begin to feel so torn. Friendship drifting is an inevitable part of our 20s.

Let’s normalize struggling with motivation and mental health in a time where we are told we should be our happiest and most productive. Let’s normalize a balanced and healthy social life mixed with work so we don’t turn into robots. Let’s normalize choosing not to drink or party, and not judge others for their lifestyle choices. Let’s normalize cutting off a potential partner if they make us feel unsafe or unhappy.

We need to normalize having never dated anyone in our 20s. There is no shame in that! Let’s normalize rejection from jobs, and internships and also not giving up when someone tells you you’re wasting your time. Let’s normalize being assertive and sharing ideas in intimidating spaces. Let’s normalize disappointing others and get used to uncomfortable conversations. Let’s normalize saying sorry, and owning up to our mistakes, and accepting that we have grown as people.

Normalizing that good things take time and that success will be a journey far from instantaneous. Instant success is not realistic. Quit the constant care of what others think. I know this is easier said than done, and I struggle with it every day. But face it, no one cares what you do at the end of the day! Which, oddly, is comforting.

So, go outside your comfort zone and remember that the world is quite crazy. You can make your reality, and create your experiences, so do what you want and if you can do it now.