Today is my 29th birthday–the official first day of my final year as an “Under 30”. As I approach my newest decade of existence, I’ve been reflecting on which words of wisdom I might share with my younger self, just as she’s about to enter the proverbial “real world”. While I can’t go back an alter every cringe-worthy decision I’ve made (like dating a guy in a Paramore cover-band), here is a highlight reel of some of the more useful lessons I’ve learned over the past decade–sometimes learning the hard way:
Make Time for Yourself
I get it. You’re young, determined, and right now you’re pretty sure you’re invincible. If you keep this up, you. will. burn. out. Start eating Healthy(ish). Try Yoga. Travel. Live in the moment. Your career may pay the bills, but it’s pointless if it leaves you incapable of enjoying your life. Self-care isn’t selfish or a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.
“Dress for the Job You Want” Doesn’t Mean You Have to be Uncomfortable
Whether you like it or not, as you enter the workforce all eyes are going to be on you as you begin to demonstrate your worth. This certainly means that you’ll want to look the part. Buy pieces that are versatile: Blazers that you can wear in the office and for a night out. Don’t get hung up on labels: Buy Designer. Buy from Goodwill. Buy what makes you comfortable–both on the outside and inside of your wallet. And for the love of god just skip right past the stiletto heels phase. If you insist on extra height, wedges are your friend. (Also–a dress without pockets isn’t a dress worth buying)
It’s Okay to Say “No”
I know what you’re thinking: Saying no makes you look unwilling; it makes you feel incapable. Listen to me: Learning to say No is one of the most empowering things you’ll ever learn to do. It means that you recognize your limits and understand when enough is enough. Don’t become prisoner to overcommitting or find yourself constantly being taken advantage of…or you will soon be introduced to workplace burnout.
Find a Support System
HR can get lonely, as you won’t be making many friends at work. Stay in touch with your current friends (even if they’re far away!) and be open to introductions within your network. Not a fan of in-person gatherings? Twitter is the best. You can find folks to connect with over common interests–which may just turn into an irl meetup! If you’re unable to be authentic with someone, they don’t deserve a spot in your network.
Try New Things
I remember as a small-town college student blurting out that “I could never live in a city–at least not for more than a year or two.” This past August I celebrated 5 years in Milwaukee–a city with the population 745x that of my hometown.
Your twenties are going to be absolutely crazy. With so much change happening at a rapid pace, you’ll often find yourself feeling vulnerable. Embrace that. There’s not much growth to be had when you don’t step outside of your comfort zone. It’s going to be scary–and at times you’ll feel silly–but I promise it’s going to be worth it.
If you could suddenly catapult backwards in time, what pieces of advice would you share with your younger self?