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On Turning 20: 20 Pieces of Advice For My Younger Self

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I’m writing this on my 20th birthday; I can’t believe how old I am. 

Ok, maybe not that old. But the fact I’m already past my teens when I feel like I just turned 16 is insane. It could be that I never had formal graduation, so I feel stuck still in high school despite being in college for one and a half years already. Either way, 20 years of my life have come and gone, and I’m ready to experience my 20s. 

Looking back at my life there’s a lot of things I love and hate. Of course, I don’t think anyone can go without regrets or wishing they did something different. I’m not one to usually look back and regret. However, I thought in honor of my 20th birthday I would create a list of 20 tips I would give my younger self at different stages of life. Some are more personal, some are very general to adolescents and teens in general, but here are my 20 pieces of advice for my younger self.

Explore more interests in high school

I did not do very much in high school besides work and tennis. I was barely in any clubs or sports too. While it was nice making money at work, I wish I would have explored more clubs and interests. I love writing, so why didn’t I just apply for journalism in high school? Why didn’t I do more community volunteering or sports just to meet people? Overbooking myself in college to make up for my lack of clubs in high school has been a lot. Hey, younger self, go out and explore more activities and careers, it will be so beneficial!

Don’t worry so much about AP, do dual credit

This is a silly one to start with, but looking back now at the pressure and anxiety caused by AP tests it’s not even funny. I feel like I put myself through so much work and stress for credits that did not help me much in college. I had a lot of hours off, but I still had to take biology and chemistry. I got a five on AP English and still had to take English in college despite my major being STEM. For my younger self, I would recommend looking more into other options instead of AP. It’s too late for me now, but for anyone else out there still in high school, it might be something to consider. 

Don’t worry so much about ACT 

Again, too late now but ACT was a pain for no reason. After a pandemic ruining all our lives, standardized tests and ACT are gone anyway for many college admissions. I took the ACT six times and still went to a state school. Of course, ACT was important for scholarships, but I wish I would have planned better for college admissions regarding ACT.

Do NOT worry about what people think at school

Anxiety at what random fellow students thought of me plagued my thoughts. I felt like I couldn’t be myself a lot, couldn’t speak out about my true thoughts. Sure I wore shirts and clothes I liked, expressed my thoughts at lunch tables to closer friends, but it wasn’t the real me. Maybe I could have found better friends with whom I connected more if I didn’t care so much. In college now, I am me and I have found people who support me more. Younger me, in the long run, middle school and high school do not matter. Be yourself. 

Don’t be afraid to go out and eat by yourself

Why is it so scary to eat by yourself? Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and afraid of being harassed. Or maybe it’s a deeper feeling of being judged? But judged by who? Strangers? I’ve realized that eating alone and taking time for myself to shop and explore the city is amazing and relaxing! I did it a lot this summer when a lot of my friends were out of town. There’s so much great food I missed out on since I didn’t want to go alone. Younger me, it’s ok to be alone and eat out. No one is judging you or cares, I promise. 

Stay connected to teachers more

My junior and senior year self had major freak outs about rec letters and getting scholarships. For a few months, it was a pain finding teachers to write a nice letter about me. Even looking back now, there are teachers I wish I would have connected with more. It would have made rec letters easier, and I feel in the long run made it easier for current me to make relationships with my professors. Younger me, and current me, do not be afraid to reach out to teachers for help and advice!

Start skincare routine earlier in life

Why did I not listen to my mom earlier and start a solid skincare routine as soon as I started showing acne? I of course have one now, but it took me years to finalize one and keep up a nice schedule. Skincare routines and hygiene are important, and I wish I would have done more earlier in middle school and high school. Younger me, listen to mom. 

Stop your sunflower addiction earlier

Yes, younger me, I am still addicted to sunflower seeds. I can’t help it, and it all comes from you. Please try to curb it earlier so I don’t have to experience the pain of salty addiction and money loss. Enough said here. 

Spend more time with pets despite allergies

I am unfortunately allergic to cats and dogs, which sucks since I grew up with both in the house. After losing both my cat and a dog this past year, I regret not spending more time with them. I wish I could go back and cuddle with Duke and Sugar (my dog and cat) while I still had the time. Who cares about allergies? Time with pets is more important, especially before they are gone. 

Try to have more family dinners with family 

I absolutely think not having family dinners every night was very beneficial to all my family members’ mental health. It relaxed us at the end of the night, and with busy schedules allowed us to eat on our own. But after going to college and being away from my family, I do wish we would have done it just a little more. I get to have great meals with them now when everyone visits, but this is something I feel college students can only regret once it’s too late. 

Don’t worry about others in a public setting

People do not care what you are doing in public. This is a piece of advice for younger me and me now. People do not care or are not judging you! Look at shirts you enjoy and not just think are popular when shopping out. Relax, be yourself, have fun! Go do the things you want and do not worry about strangers judging you. 

Get closer to cousins

I miss my cousins and realize that I didn’t get to know them as much as I wish I did. Of course, I hung out with them so much as tiny kids, but once high school hit I fell out with a lot of them. I only see a few at family dinners, and one was so young I didn’t connect with her until I was already leaving for college. For my older ones, I wish I was closer and chatted more. For my younger one, I wish I would have started that connection earlier. I still have time, and this isn’t something for just younger me.  

Failure is okay

The best birthday present is waking up to see your o-chem exam grade. My fear of failure and anxiety of bad grades still grips my heart and won’t let go. I feel panicky if I’m not doing absolutely amazing in my classes. I wish the younger me would have failed more. Failure not only helps you learn but makes you realize that it’s ok to fail. I think people need to completely fail every once in a while. I’m starting to realize and accept that more too, which is good for my stressed-out heart. Looking back at younger me who spent hours studying for AP and honors exams to not fail, I wish I would have relaxed more. 

A little rebellion is good, just don’t go to jail

I still have time for rebellion and adventures, so maybe this is more for myself. I need to go out more and just have the time of my life. I feel like I missed a few great opportunities in high school, so maybe it’s my time in my 20s to just let loose. No going to jail or ruining my record though. 

Explore public controversies earlier in life

When I mean public controversies, I mean just general topics on politics or things. I had opinions early, but it really wasn’t until my senior year in government where I learned so much more and felt like I could finally explore more into those heavy topics. Still, I continue to read more news and articles, but I wish I would have started earlier in life. 

Don’t be on TikTok so much

I’ve been on TikTok for years, basically since it was still Musically. It has taken over my life, and since I first downloaded the app I have been on it every day. It’s an addiction for sure, like all social media. It’s connecting me to new ideas and people, but also distracting and sucking away my attention. It’s hard to stop, and I don’t think I could ever delete it. I’m trying to not be on it as much though. My advice for younger me is that social media should not run your life. Take breaks and step away from your phone more, go outside and breathe. It’s ok to be away from your phone. 

Don’t hate your parents for taking your phone away

My parents used to make me put my phone away at night when I was in middle school. I was angry and upset at them for doing that. All my friends didn’t put their phones away and got them all night. But looking back, those nights where I actually read a physical book or colored or wrote were probably more healthy than me right now. My parents were doing me a favor, so younger me, don’t be upset. They were trying to help and protect you. 

Dive deeper into careers earlier

This goes along with clubs. Walking into college with no career plan and a tentative major I was not 100 percent certain of is scary. I still contemplate every day if I should change. I see new careers and jobs all the time, things I didn’t even think of. Picking a career at 18 is stupid in my opinion, but if I could go back I wish my younger self would have explored more topics so I could be slightly more ready for college paths. 

Spend more time with grandparents

The saddest part of college is that you only get to see extended family at holidays or special events. I don’t see my grandparents much anymore since it’s a long drive from my college and home. I can call and FaceTime and text but nothing is as great as face-to-face. Younger me should have spent more time with them and cherished that more. Even now I want to do more and reach out! 

Don’t cry over friends who are toxic

I’ve had a lot of friends come and go over the course of my life. I was best friends with people in elementary school, middle school and even high school, who I am no longer close to. At the time of “breaking up,” it was heartbreaking. Looking back, a lot of those people were toxic and their actions hurt me. Being in college I’ve made so many new friends and people who support me way more. Younger self, it will get better regarding friends. Don’t cry over losses then, it will be fine. 

There they are, my list of advice or regrets I have from before I turned 20!

Well, I meant this as advice or regrets. As I started writing, I realized so much of it was stuff I still can do. I’m only 20 after all. I still have all the time in the world to connect with my cousins and get over my fear of being judged. I can’t go back and change the past. But with a new decade of life starting, I can explore and do so much more with my life! It’s my 20s after all, the best years of our lives as people quote. I plan to make it so!

Hi! My name is Alex Corbin and I'm a sophomore at KU majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience in the Pre-Med track! I'm a huge movie and TV show fan, and my life has been taken over by TikTok. I hope you like reading my articles!
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