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Twenty Things I Learned by the Time I Turned Twenty

Recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating my twentieth trip around the sun #libraseason! Making the transition from being a teenager to being an independent adult has been subtle, but the second that a number like 20 is slapped on it, it feels like it all hit me like a truck. I still catch myself slipping up and calling myself 19 when people ask me how old I am. All this being said, I am still beyond excited to be entering this phase of my life. I’ve always looked at my twenties as this time that is supposed to be a magical transition into the rest of my life. You always hear people say, “I wish I was still in my twenties!” as that time reminds them of some of their most precious and fun life memories.

Given that I am only mere weeks into this whole “being twenty” thing, I have not had the chance to have an incredible period of self-discovery or had some life-changing event occur. I, frankly, feel no different than I did a few weeks ago. But hitting this milestone has spurred me into doing some deep self-reflection. As this is a time in my life when I am learning more valuable lessons than ever before, I wanted to reflect on the things I have learned up until this point in my life. Growing up looks so different for everyone, and I have always found it so interesting to read about or see how my colleagues and I have all managed to end up in the same place, but had completely different paths of getting there.

All this being said, I took it upon myself to compile the twenty greatest things I could think of that I was able to learn by the time I hit my twenties. Given how curious I am about other people’s experiences, I figured “why not share mine as well?” So, without further ado, here are twenty things I have learned by the time I turned twenty:

Not everyone is going to want to be your best friend, and that is O.K.

Everyone is different and has different things they want out of relationships. If you aren’t someone’s cup of tea, don’t stress it. Surround yourself with people who want to be your best friend.

College isn’t as picture-perfect as you think it will be

I was so hung up on making sure I was at the right place, and to be totally honest, I still question if I am at the right school for me. Instead of wasting your time wondering “what if,” make the best of the experience you are given. It is only four years, so make it fun.

Everything Happens for a reason

I live by this quote, as it has been so incredibly relevant to my life. Do not let yourself shatter to a million tiny pieces when something goes wrong; it is all in the long term plan that is laid out for you.

Do all of the crazy stuff while you still can

As all old people say, you are young. You can only get your legs to throw you off of cliffs into the sparkling ocean below for so long. Take the leap and do something you will never forget.

Value your friends’ opinions over anyone else’s

Who cares if someone wrote nasty stuff about you online? It may seem like a huge deal at the time, but the reality is that this person is probably super insecure and has nothing better to do with their lives than try to make other people hate themselves (sorry not sorry, this is the truth). Do not let them win.

call your parents. Seriously.

For years, I talked about being ready to leave as soon as I could get my foot out the door. Now, I miss my parents more than ever. You only get to be with them for a short while, so make sure they know how much you appreciate them.

Find people who provide you with genuine and unconditional love

Surrounding yourself with those who will bring you up makes a world of difference. Find the ones who will wrap you into a group hug when you are sad. These are the best treasures in life, and I hope my people know who they are <3.

Go out and have fun before you get a “big girl job”…

As I said, life is so short and you are only in college for four years, give or take. Go have fun, go into the city and make those great memories!

…but also, you do not have to go out every night of the week.

This is pretty self-explanatory. Take time for self-care. No one can handle going out on the town 7 days a week.

Do not hit your credit card limit every month

I have been made aware that I am in for a “rude awakening” when I graduate college and finally become completely self-reliant as far as finances go. So save where you can now, it will make a difference later. Or so I am told…I still definitely have an online shopping addiction.

Learn to let go of the little things

Do not dwell on things too long. If something small goes wrong and you let it ruin your entire day or week, that sucks and it doesn’t have to be that way. Embrace the bumps in the road.

Please, eat something, and do not worry about what the scale says

Also self-explanatory. We all get one body, and if you don’t feed it, then it won’t be happy. Plus, in my mind, happy taste buds and a happy tummy is always the best option.

It is O.K. to be emotional

I have always tried to hide the fact that I cry easily or I turn extremely red when I get embarrassed. In fact, emotions are what make us human, so why be ashamed of them? It just makes you that much more authentic.

Do not spend a fortune trying to dye your hair a million different colors “just for fun”

I have had blonde, pink, dark brown, light brown and ginger hair, all in the span of an eighteen-month period. It is damaging and expensive to go back and fourth. I am all for switching it up, but picking a low-maintenance color and stopping with the back and forth will save your hair in the long run. Also, your wallet will be thankful.

You don’t always have to be the one who knows what they are doing

I have found myself in lots of various leadership positions, where people come to me for guidance. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to have all of the answers, or you will undoubtedly explode with stress. Learn to delegate and be a guide where needed.

It is O.K. to seek out help

I am so glad talking about our mental health has been normalized, because boy, have I struggled. There is no shame in seeing a therapist or being on antidepressants, as I guarantee that a handful of other people you know are in the same boat. Be good to yourself and never be afraid to ask for help.

Listen before you speak

I have been told I have a bad habit of talking over people, and as I have entered college, I realize it makes a world of difference if you are an active listener. I have now had people tell me that they love having conversations with me because of how engaged I am in what they have to say. Make others feel heard, and then you can contribute to the discussion in a more meaningful way.

Invest in experiences, and not in things

I have lived in relatively small dorm rooms the past two years, and there is not enough space in there to validate owning half of Urban Outfitters. Spending money on concerts, trips and things that you will remember for the rest of your life is so much more fulfilling.

Screw the haters.

People suck, point blank. So many people try to tear me down time and time again for just being myself. Here’s my take: if they don’t bother to take the time to get to know you, their comments should mean absolutely nothing. These people have no place in my world, and they shouldn’t in yours, either.

Learn to love yourself

At the end of the day, people come and go, but the one thing you can count on having is yourself. Love yourself with every fiber of your being.

So there you have it—twenty of my best life lessons. Now the rest of you don’t even have to bother turning twenty because I just taught you everything you need to know…just kidding, of course. Everyone’s experiences are different, and I hope that my twenty things saved you at least one hard life lesson and make getting to where you are at, or where you are going, just a little bit easier.

Kate Davis

Northwestern '24

Kate is a Sophomore at Northwestern University studying Communications and Sociology. Her favorite things to do in her free time are being with her friends, listening to new playlists, making TikToks, and online shopping. When she is not writing for HC, you can find her trying out new study spots around campus or hanging out with her sorority sisters
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