Lessons You'll Learn From the Friends You Make in Your 20s

The other day, I was sitting in my room thinking about how much I love my friends. And as I thought about each one of them, it really hit me just how different they all are, from me and from each other. That's the thing about making (and keeping) friends when you're in your 20s––everyone is so different. One friend may have a full-time job, another one may have never worked a day in their life. Some may own houses and some may still sleep in their childhood bed. Your 20s are a time when you really start figuring out who you are as an individual, and the friends you make along the way are part of that self-discovery. Each one of them has a lesson to teach you. Make sure you listen. 

Image courtesy of Tyler Nix

Lessons from the "mom" friend:

The "mom" friend. We all have one. Their nature is to mother hen everyone else. Let them. It may be annoying, but they do it because they love you. Also, in your 20s, the "mom" friend is usually older than you and they've probably got some wisdom to pass down. Listen to them. They'll teach you how to get your car serviced, they'll teach you how to cook, they'll teach you how to be a grown-up. The lessons the "mom" friend teaches are the ones that will make growing up seem a little less scary. The lessons the "mom" friend teaches are the ones you'll eventually teach someone else. Pay attention. 

Lessons from the one who got told no:

When you hit your 20s, the age gap in your friend group expands. Mine ranges from 18 to nearly 30. That's important. Why? Because your 29-year-old friend has probably been told no a lot more than you have. That's not because you're better than them––it's because they've done more than you have. This is especially true when it comes to jobs. If one of your friends loses out on a job they really, really wanted, pay attention to how they handle that. Do they accept it and work harder for the next one? Or do they make excuses? Watch their reaction. And, depending on how close you are, ask them about it. Ask them what they think they could've done better. (This will help them just as much as it will help you.) They're going to teach you that being told no isn't the end of the world. Someone out there is going to say yes. You just have to find them. 

Lessons from the one who got told yes:

Just like the friend that got told no, someone else will get told yes. When one of your friends lands their dream job, they are going to teach you some things about success. They'll teach you how to keep your ego in check––maybe because they're good at it, or maybe because their ego got a little too big. They'll teach you that it's possible. That being told yes will eventually happen if you keep working for it. They'll teach you what I think is one of the most important lessons: that being told yes can change your life... if you let it. 

Lessons from the one in love:

This is a big one. In your 20s, you're probably going to be friends with people who are in committed relationships, some of them may even be married. It's not easy to share your life with someone and if you've got a friend doing it, take note. Even if you have no interest in getting married or even being in a romantic relationship, there are still lessons to be learned. Watch how your friend stays true to themselves. Watch how they balance things––work, you, their other friends and their partner. When they need to vent, and they will need to vent, listen. When they take a new step in their relationship, celebrate with them. The friend who's in love will teach you a lot about being in a partnership and even more about not losing yourself in someone else.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Ness

Lessons from the one who grew up too soon:

When you're in your 20s, odds are some of your friends still act like teenagers and some act so grown up it scares you. The grown-up ones? They've got some really valuable lessons to share. Whatever the reason is, the friend who grew up too soon is going to teach you a lot about responsibilities and how to handle them. They're going to teach you about dealing with stress. They're going to teach you about coping with guilt––whether you should feel it or not. When your friend was forced to grow up too soon, they learned lessons that no kid should have to learn. Be grateful that you didn't have to learn them until you hit 20. They'll teach you to be thankful you got to be a kid.

Lessons from the one with kids:

Parenthood is full of challenges, and you don't have to be a parent to know that. When you're friends with a parent, you're going to get a crash course in... so much. The friend with a kid will teach you about unconditional love. They'll teach you how to function on no sleep. (And you thought college was bad.) They'll teach you patience. They'll teach you that nothing is cuter than a toddler putting their little hands out and saying "peas." Don't write off someone as a friend because they're a parent. I've seen it happen. Instead, offer to babysit and take the lessons in stride. They might come in handy one day. 

Lessons from the one who left home: 

There's always that one friend who left home as soon as they got the chance. This friend will teach you a lot about being on your own and a lot about finding a new kind of family––a family you get to choose yourself. The friend who left home left for a reason and that reason is a lesson in itself. Maybe they left because they weren't accepted at home. Lesson? Acceptance. Maybe they left home because they wanted to see the world. Lesson? Don't be afraid to hop on a plane. Or maybe they left home because they felt like there wasn't anything there for them. Lesson? It's up to you to get what you want. Go after it. Chase it. Grab it and hold on. The friend who left home is the one who will teach you to go outside of your comfort zone. To put yourself out there. To take control of your own life. To stop being scared. 

Photo courtesy of Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

Lessons from the free spirit:

The free spirit is the friend who never stays in one place too long. This is the friend you talk to through FaceTime and Twitter more than face-to-face. That's fine. They're off doing what they love. That's a lesson right there. Do what you love. Another lesson the free spirit will teach you? You're only as tied down as you let yourself become. You don't have to stay put. You can hold onto relationships from across the ocean. They'll teach you a lot about adventure. They'll teach you that, even at 25, you still have time to do things you want to do. They'll teach you to live on your own timeline, not anyone else's.

Lessons from the toxic ones:

And finally, the toxic friends. These are the worst lessons to learn and the hardest to accept. Toxic friends don't disappear after high school. If anything, they become more frequent in your 20s. But it also gets easier to let them go. The toxic friends will teach you about the importance of being honest, even when being honest is the most painful thing to do. They'll teach you that it's okay to be a little selfish––that removing someone from your life who holds you back is not a bad thing. The toxic friend is the friend who refuses to let you grow. They're the one who downplays your success. They'll be a bad friend, but they'll teach you how to be a good friend. Learn those lessons and then get the toxic friends out of your life.