I like to subscribe to a few blogs here on WordPress. One that I read regularly is “Broadside” written by Caitlin Kelly. She recently published a post titled Do this before you turn 30. It was a good read, of course, but I started wondering how much of that list had I accomplished before I turned 30. I’m already 31 and still feel kind of young. I know that my 20’s were pretty wild and full of adventures but had I done all in that decade that the writer suggested? Let’s take a look.
Date a few people who aren’t your “type.” Check.
You’ll learn something about them, yourself and the world.
I certainly did that a few times. From the wild and free-spirited pot-smoking teacher to the model gorgeous out-of-my-league dental hygienist to the ultra conservative super religious financial analysis, I have done my share of dating outside my “type”…most certainly an education. I’ve learned what I want and what I can’t accept in a girlfriend.
Become financially literate. Incomplete.
Understand, if you live in the U.S., what a 401(k) is and why you need to pay into it, right away and every year.
This is still a work in progress. I didn’t really start taking finances seriously until I was 28 and had moved back to Indianapolis from Las Vegas. I hadn’t really put much thought in to savings or a 401k until the last year or so, unfortunately. I understand that it is important to set yourself up financially to be prepared for future possibilities and I’m currently working on that.
Have two credit cards. Nope.
That’s it. And one of them is only for emergencies.
I’ve only had one credit card ever. I got it at age 19. I used it mostly to visit my then girlfriend in Chicago and for emergencies. I was scared of the credit card and the debt that could follow. I just wasn’t educated enough on how credit cards could work for you and not only against you. By the end of college, “emergencies” were all over that credit card statement and I haven’t applied for another one since.
Needs beat wants. Check.
You want a $600 handbag/new car/bigger TV. You need: food, water, safe housing, health, savings, a decent education and good friends.
I figured this out while living in Las Vegas. It was fun living the night life–partying, drinking, gambling, buy things that I wanted but really didn’t need. In the end, most of that stuff vanished. Life out there taught me that I wanted security and happiness. I traded in the non-essentials for stability. My most prized possessions are my health, education, and good friends.
Conduct yourself professionally! Check.
Use proper grammar, diction and spelling in every business communication; dress appropriately for the occasion or job; look people in the eye and shake their hand as if you mean it.
I think that I’ve always done a good job of this. Let me be completely honest here. When I first entered the “real world”, I wondered how serious my colleagues would take me. The first office that I worked in after college had roughly 100 people in it and I was the only black male. To add to that, I was the youngest person. Two strikes right out the gate. So, I made a point to maintain a high level of professionalism until it just became habit. It has served me well since that fresh-faced college grad first hit the scene. I feel like my professionalism has afforded me many opportunities that I otherwise would have never seen.
Get a passport and use it. Check.
Try to flee your native land at least once every year.
I have been out of the country twice, not once every year…I wish! I spent a month in Europe the year before I moved to Las Vegas. Backpacking in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and England was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. Most recently, I visited Vancouver mainly for work but anytime that I travel, I make it a point to get out and explore the culture and how people live in the area. You can get a better understand of why people do what they do where they are and why you do what you do were you live–and see how we aren’t really that different.
Read and listen widely. Check.
Don’t limit your consumption of “news” to Facebook or Twitter or outlets whose political values comfortingly echo your own.
Again, this was something that started in my late 20’s. I wanted to see other points of view on things that really started to peak my interest. It gave me a better understanding of the arguments against my stances, even if I didn’t agree with them. That makes you a more educated debater when the time comes. People who don’t inform themselves on what opposing views have to say only resort to character bashing and that’s not productive; just juvenile.
Buy and stock a toolbox. Check but needs to be done again.
Know how to use an Allen wrench, cordless drill, hammer, screwdriver. Self-sufficiency is sexy in both genders.
I left my toolbox in Las Vegas (dammit) and have yet to replace it. I have enough tools at my townhouse to get by but I miss having a complete set. I need to make that happen soon.
Read the business pages every day. Check.
Everything starts with economics.
The above statement is true. I can’t add more to that.
Figure out what you want sexually. Check.
It might be abstaining until marriage, or for a while, or forever. Get to know your own body and what pleases you most. Learn to clearly express what you want — and do not. No means no!
Yup…I’m a sinner. I’ve had sex outside of marriage…multiple times. But I bet you have too so just relax. Everyone has certain things sexually that they like and dislike. I have had plenty of opportunity to figure out what works for me and what I can do without. I also think it’s advantageous to be educated on physicality sex, pregnancy, STDs, and the emotions related to sex. Always be safe and smart.
Travel as often and as far away and for as long as you can possibly afford. Check.
The best way to find out how much in common we all have with one another — yet how differently we interpret religion, culture, ethics and public policy.
I certainly have done my share of traveling throughout the United States.
Always pursue personal projects unrelated to your job. Check.
It’s tempting to meld your identity with your job and title and company and paycheck.
Volunteering for the American Cancer Society has been my favorite personal interest that wasn’t job related.
Unplug regularly. Check.
Get away from everything that beeps and buzzes, every day. Silence, and solitude, is deeply restorative.
My friends and I call it “radio silence”–when you just don’t answer the phone, respond to tweets, or update your status.
Find a community where you feel deeply loved and valued. Check.
…no matter how much you weigh or earn or who you sleep with (or if you sleep alone) or whether you even have a job. When times get tough, and they will, you need a solid posse.
Developing an association of like-minded people that I can run to when life seemed to be too much is something that I’ve always had. I always had a crew, whether it was when I was living in Las Vegas or Indianapolis, that allowed me to vent or cry to when I needed a release.
Spend an hour every day in nature. Check.
Walk to work. Find a park bench and stare at the sky.
I don’t walk to work but I do spend the majority of my lunch hours by going for walks. I love to be outdoors and letting the sun hit my face. I started doing that when I worked at Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas and continued it when I moved here and started working for the government. There is something about being in nature…It really is therapeutic!
Find doctors you like and trust. Check.
Ask lots of questions. If they won’t listen to you or answer you, find those who will. Take your good health seriously and protect it through eating well, exercise, sufficient rest. Right now, you’re taking it for granted. In 20 years, you won’t.
My health has always been something that I’ve taken seriously. I see my doctor for routine physicals on a regular basis; it’s even more important now that I play semi-professional football–something I started just before my 30th birthday.
Ditto hairstylist/dentist/massage therapist/accountant/career coach/tailor/florist. Check (x7)
I actually have solid people that I trust for each of these…except for hairstylist; I shave my own head.
Invest in some really beautiful personal stationery and/or business cards. Check.
Use them, often. Write real thank you notes, promptly. They leave a powerful and lasting impression.
I actually got business cards when I really started heavily volunteering for the American Cancer Society. I think that I would like to update them soon.
Find at least three forms of physical activity you love. Check.
…so you don’t have to go to the gym: softball, volleyball, cycling, hiking, skiing. Invest in some decent equipment so you’ve got no excuse not to get out and stay active.
I love sports! I use to go mountain climbing when I lived in the desert. I’m always down to play a game of basketball. Oh, yeah…I play semi-pro football. I also like going to the gym to workout. Sports has always been a great outlet for me and a healthy one at that.
Cultivate a compassionate heart. Check.
Don’t forget others whose lives are still much tougher than yours.
My volunteerism with my local American Cancer Society is something that I hold dearly. The people that I’ve met through the organization have helped mold who I am. I’ve been blessed to not have to deal with the physical ailments or the emotional pain that come along with cancer but I really like doing what I can to help ease the stress of those who do; I also like educating people about the ACS and how to prevent cancer. My commitment with the ACS started when I was 27.
Learn to cook. Check.
Healthy, cheap, sociable and fun.
You couldn’t live in my Mom’s house and not know how to cook so this happened well before my 20s. Having basic cooking skills help you try new things in the kitchen and save money. Being able to cook can also make dating more fun and imminent.
Don’t take everything personally! Check.
Some people are just mean.
That pretty much sums that up. When people are negative, I just say “F*ck ’em” and move on about my business until they’ve gotten theirselves together.
Don’t just keep picking the safest and easiest path. Take a (calculated) risk and live with the consequences. (That’s where resilience comes from.) The most successful people are not those who avoid risk, but know how to live with it and bounce back from it.
I have done plenty of failing. I’ve taken chances on things and some have panned out for me while others have ended in disaster. Either way, I’ve bounced back with an experience learned. It builds character. Go through it!
Drink less. Check.
A shocking number of young women and men routinely drink to excess. Empty calories, hangovers, (and the sexual risk of being drunk around people you don’t know well), and alcoholism are really unattractive.
This actually took place in my late 20s but it has certainly been the case recently. Because I workout more often and try to keep my body in good football condition, I drink less. When I do drink, my tolerance is low–I’m a lightweight!
Find a few old fogies you like and trust who are not related to you. Nope.
Spend time with them. Listen to them. They have wisdom to offer.
I’d love to hook up with a life guru who could drop some knowledge on me from time to time. I have had the chance to sit down with a few ‘fogies’ but I haven’t really attached myself anyone and I think that I should.
If someone is unkind to you, flee. Check.
Don’t waste your time and energy trying to figure out why they’re a dick. Just go.
I have plenty of good people in my life to focus on one who decides to become an asshole. Life is crazy enough as is–I don’t need people in my life to make it that much more difficult. Peace.
Remember that everyone comes with some emotional baggage. Check.
But it’s not your job to carry it.
I had lived long enough to realize that everyone develops emotional baggage by age 21. By age 24, I felt that I had figured out how to deal with individuals and their emotional issues.
If you’re utterly miserable all the time, tell a good friend and find a therapist. Check.
Honor what your heart is trying to tell you. Don’t hide your sorrows. They are lightened when shared.
I’m fortunate to have really good people in my life. My best friends have always been willing to lend an ear and a shoulder for me. A couple of my good friends are actual counselors and turning to them for assistance to get through tough times is extremely helpful. It was very beneficial to have those key connections during my 20s…and I still have them in my life.
Looking back, my 20s were pretty good. Life gets a little hectic for most average people every now and then but the experience and the decisions I made have certainly shaped me into this guy who is fresh into his 30s now. The suggestions that Caitlin gives us here are great and there are some others that people add in the comments in response to the post.
Check off as many things as you can in your 20s. It’s a great time to explore, love, fun have, fail, question, learn…and live! Rock it out and enjoy your 20s and set up the following decades of you life for continued happieness.