20 Things I Wish I Knew In My 20s

In two weeks, I am turning 32. My 20s are officially long gone. I was thinking the other day about what I was up to when I was 21. I immediately thought of Marcy, an acting teacher I had at the time. Marcy was 39 and I remember her seeming so much older and wiser than me. I would go to class and cry about dudes or not knowing what to do with my life or being broke and Marcy would do the same thing every time. She would pat me on the back and say in her nasally voice, “Nobody tells you your 20s are going to suck.” While I do wish she had expounded a bit, her words made me feel better in a strange way. Just knowing that things would get better, well, not better exactly, just easier to deal with, was a relief. In your 20s, you don’t know what you don’t know and you’re struggling to figure it out. Everyone is. As I march bravely forward into my 30s, here’s what I wish Marcy would have told me.

  1. “Happiness is between the ears,” said my little, bald therapist Dr. John when I wound up on his couch crying at age 23. He was right. Your happiness is not contingent upon where you live, whom you’re dating, what your job is, how you look, or how much money you have in the bank. It comes from within. Oh, and going to therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Most of us need it.
  2. Being envious of others will get you nowhere—being genuinely happy for them will. We’re all on our own path, no need to compete with anyone else.
  3. Addicts don’t make good boyfriends. Lots of other kinds of guys don’t make good boyfriends, but I only have 20 items on this list. I’ve scaled down for the sake of brevity.
  4. If a dude or anyone rejects you, more times than not it has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally.
  5. My friend Larry’s catchphrase is “PAFU.” It stands for “People are F*#ked Up.” Sometimes it’s true. Don’t question it; just accept it.
  6. You can’t blame anyone else for your problems. No one can make you feel any way. You are in control of your life.
  7. Friendships and relationships don’t always last, and that doesn’t make them any less valuable.
  8. Bleaching or dyeing your hair too much ruins it forever.
  9. Red leopard-print pants don’t look good on you … no matter what.
  10. Your metabolism will slow down like everyone says. Also, eating healthy and working out will pay off.
  11. Take advantage of the time when you can party hard without hangovers and can stay up late without being tired. In a few years, you won’t be able to get away with it. Like seriously.
  12. You are hot. Just enjoy it and stop complaining.
  13. Always. Wear. Protection.
  14. Pay your taxes and bills on time because dealing with the IRS and credit card companies is a bitch. It’s a slippery slope once you start down the road of financial ruin. And it takes a long time to find your way back.
  15. Be patient with your career. By the time you reach 30, you’ll still have 35 more working years ahead of you, so it’s not the end of the world if you’re not the boss by age 26. Some people who rise up really quickly in their 20s don’t have a clue what they’re doing—they just got lucky. Oh, and you shouldn’t have to work for anyone who yells at you, throws things, or slams down their phone. Yes, even if you are an assistant. (See # 18)
  16. Travel as much as you can before your responsibilities start to weigh you down. Backpacking through Europe becomes less fun after a certain age.
  17. Taking risks is crucial. This is the prime time to do it. Life is full of second, third, fourth and fifth chances. Just because something goes wrong with an apartment, a roommate or a job doesn’t mean it will follow you for the rest of your life.
  18. It’s OK to quit a job, relationship, or friendship that is sucking your soul out.
  19. Don’t buy lots of cheap trendy crap. If you buy nice stuff, it will last longer. I had a pair of Gucci sunglasses for eight years. Seriously.
  20. Having a good attitude just makes life easier. End of story.