10 Things I Learned in My 20s

shutterstock_64876648I remember turning 20 like it was yesterday. I was bombed out of my mind and my car had been towed. In a moment of sheer confidence that only alcohol can create, I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea to walk the two miles (I lived in a very rural town in Vermont during my early 20’s so walking places in the dark alone while not sober wasn’t totally out of the question) down to the tow-yard with three paperclips and unlock the boot on my  car with them. Needless to say, office supplies don’t unlock car boots, and I had to return the next morning, awfully hungover and embarrassed, with the money to bail my car out of automobile prison. While unlocking the boot, the dude who ran the tow-yard said that there was broken paperclips in the keyhole and it looked like somebody had been trying to steal my car. When he looked at me suspiciously, I just shrugged my shoulders and said who could possibly want to steal a Ford Escort.

It’s been almost a decade since then, and my 20’s have taught me other valuable lessons besides trying to liberate your car with paperclips after 5493939 beers will always end badly. Here are 10 other life lessons this decade has taught me.

1.) Not everyone is going to adore you. I know it may seem hard to believe that out of the 6.5 billion people in the world, 10 of them just won’t like you, but it’s true. You cannot please everyone, no matter how hard you try. So just suck it up, move on and forget about them. Haters gonna hate.

2.) The real world is going to suck. Hard. My first big girl job out of college was working as a secretary at an insurance company. I took the job because a.) I was desperate and b.) I thought it was going to be mindless, easy work. The second week I was there, my boss made me look into a mirror every time I took a phone call and smile, because “If you’re smiling, it will shine through your voice” his logic went. He also thought I was too “uptight” and made me listen to Enya for two weeks straight to “calm my soul.” I recall being stuck in traffic on my way home and sobbing hysterically to my mother about how much reality sucked. I just couldn’t believe people actually drove in traffic to a job and worked everyday for a paycheck and that, after five carefree years in college, now I had to do the same thing.

3.) Your first apartment or house will be awful, but you’ll love it because it’s yours. I remember the first house I lived in after I graduated college. It was loathsome. It was in the middle of the ghetto and was always infested with cockroaches and the roof was caving in and the carpet was coming up and it always smelled like onions. But I loved that house because it was my cockroach infestation, my dilapidated roof and my unhinged door. Your first home out of college isn’t going to be glamorous, but it’ll be yours.

4.) You will have embarrassing sexual encounters. You may fall off a loft bed in the heat of the moment and land on a drum kit, fracturing your wrist. Your roommate may walk in on you one night. You may forget the guy’s first name. There might be a situation that involves a lot of pigeons and balloons. Any number of pitiful and humiliating things can and will happen. Be prepared to go through a phase when you want to join a convent for a couple weeks after each occasion.

5.) A close friend will make you feel like shit. Somebody you love dearly will break your heart. They will remove it from your chest, dip it in liquid nitrogen, and then drop it. It doesn’t matter how or when or where they do it, it’s only important that it will inevitably happen. Be prepared to cry and lose your trust in humanity and feel like your stomach is going to drop through your butt. Also be prepared to fall in love with people again and make better and brighter friends.

6.) You may travel. You may not. You may buy a plane ticket to another country after a guy dumps you and one too many glasses of wine. You may wake up the next morning and scream when you look at your bank statement and then want to get a refund. But somehow, you’ll end up going across the ocean anyway and discovering different people, different cultures, different ways of thinking, and ultimately, discovering yourself.

7.) You will fall in love with the wrong person. Over and over and over and over. You will make this mistake until you understand that you are worthy of better things. And then you’ll discover that all men suck and you’ll want to stay single until you die.

8.) You will realize your parents are fucking rockstars. You will no longer be embarrassed about how your mother used to dress in a black ski-mask so that she could discreetly illegally feed wild deer at nighttime or get angry when your father yells at you for loading the dishwasher wrong. They put up with you as a sulky, bratty and spoiled teenager. They financially (and emotionally/mentally/spiritually) supported you during college, even though you were buying beer instead of food with that money. They rooted for you when you landed your first real job and adopted a dog and learned how to do your taxes. And they will continue rooting for you.

9.) You cannot escape death or taxes. People you love will die. You will die. One of your best friends will die quietly in his bed from an overdose at the age of 32. Another friend will battle cancer for three years, and eventually lose…leaving behind a toddler and a husband.

You will freelance write for two years and owe thousands of dollars in taxes. You will feel the government is taking advantage of you. You will throw a tantrum and stomp your feet and pout, but in the end, you will pay them.

10.) You will turn 30. Hangovers will be worse. Cupcakes will go straight to your thighs. You will start thinking about babies and Botox. You will miss your 20’s, but find a quiet peace that the decade of debauchery and self-discovery is finally over.

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