Today I turn 20. The 8 is silent.
Before everyone older than me bites my head off, relax, I’m not complaining. I’m actually a little excited to turn 28. It’s taken me 28 years to feel this empowered and inspired.
Yes, I notice signs of aging. People don’t ask to see my ID as much, and there’s a lot more ibuprofen involved in my morning routine. I’m starting to feel out of place at music festivals. I have real furniture that isn’t from Ikea. And I’ve discovered the magic of Botox.
But I wouldn’t trade any of that for the perspective, balance, and maturity that experience has given me. Now that I can officially no longer claim I’m in my mid-20s, I want to share some lessons I’ve learned as I’ve entered my late 20s.
The wisdom of your late 20s
Not everyone is going to like you
Some people learn this when they’re 7, but I was stubborn and didn’t learn it until I was about 26. I was a people pleaser, and I let whether or not someone liked me determine my self-worth. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that being my full authentic self and staying true to my values are infinitely more important to me than whether or not Megan from Starbucks likes my vibe. Reality check: not everyone is going to like you. If you think they do, you’re probably either delusional or kinda boring. I may not be everyone’s favorite flavor of La Croix, but I know my true friends love me for the real me.
It’s never too late to pursue your dream
When you’re 22, adulting means making your own dentist appointments. When you’re 28, people will tell you adulting is about having a promising career and settling down and having a family. Well… at 25 I quit my job at Google and traveled to Thailand. I went to business school. At 27, instead of getting a “serious” corporate job, I followed my crazy dream and created Brains over Blonde. I’ll be honest, launching a company solo, on my own dime, is downright scary at times. For instance – It’s my birthday and I’m sitting here thinking how nice it would be if parents still gave you birthday money in our late 20s… like, I need it more now than I did when I was 8, c’mon Elaine & Don I’m an entrepreneur I’m starving! Just kidding fam I love you. But honestly? I wouldn’t change this for the WORLD. Sure, I’m just starting out and right now I’m making less money than I did at 22, but I’m more excited and fulfilled by my career than I ever have been before. I also have maturity and wisdom now that I didn’t have in my early 20s, and I know that will help me make the right decisions to find success. Bottom line: if you have a dream, go for it now, no matter your age. I don’t want you to look back and have regrets.
What really matters
In my late 20s, I have a much more balanced view of what really matters: my relationships and quality time with loved ones. I don’t let my family drive me nuts because I love them too much. My true friends – they’ve become family. And those that aren’t true friends – I’ve had to let them go. I focus my energy on my passions and things that make me feel fulfilled. I’ve seen family and friends get sick and pass, and I know how precious time is. I don’t obsess over stupid things that don’t matter. My FOMO has subsided. I still like to go out, but blacking out on a weekday is probably not going to happen. When I do go out, I really enjoy it. Other times I’d rather spend time with friends, travel to another country, or learn something new. Yes, I miss the glory days of my early 20s, but more in a “wasn’t that a great (insane) time” sort of way. I don’t feel the need to relive them again (and I def don’t need the two-day hangover) – I have different priorities now.
I know myself
As I’ve gotten older I’m able to be more and more honest with myself. I know who I am. I know I’m not perfect. I work on my deficiencies but I don’t hide them. I call them out and laugh about them. I can’t be everything to everyone and I can’t do everything perfectly, and that’s ok. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. I check in with myself. I’m not overly hard on myself, but I also don’t feed myself bullshit. There’s a liberating freedom that comes with this self-awareness.
Sure, I’ve always been grateful. I’m privileged. I grew up in an amazing family and had a world of opportunities. But the more people I meet, the more places I travel, and the more things I experience – the clearer that is. With this gratitude comes a desire to pay it forward and a higher sense of purpose that makes me more fulfilled than ever.
You don’t have to have it all figured out
Another cool thing about getting older is that you never have it all figured out. I still do dumb shit all the time (just wait till you see the haircut I accidentally got yesterday…). I don’t know how to cook. Honestly, I’m not that great of a driver either. And putting on the fitted sheet is the bane of my existence.
I see my birthday as a gift in of itself. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past year. I’ve had so many big milestones this year – I graduated from business school, made lifelong friends, moved to a new city for the first time in my life, got engaged to my best friend and dream person, and launched my dream company. These are the high points of course, and I reflect on the low points too. Where did I spend my time and energy? What do I want to continue? What do I want to let go of? What can I do better?
I know that sometime in the future (probably a lot sooner than I realize), I’ll look back at 28 with nostalgia. This is the youngest I’m ever going to be again, so I’ll try not to stress over any grey hairs and wrinkles. Those are just badges of honor for all of my experiences and life lessons. I’m 28 and better than ever. So if this is what 28 looks like, I can’t wait to see what the next 28 years have in store.