What I wish I knew in my 20s
I graduated from college at 21 years old. At 22 I got married. At 28 I became a mother. Lots of good and lots of bad happened in those years. Looking back, I sometimes cringe at how I acted and the things I thought in those years. Here’s what I would tell myself if I could, using the years of growth and wisdom I’ve gained since then.
1. Be less arrogant. Right out of college I really didn’t see a lot of wisdom and value in people who had been working longer than I had. That is a humbling lesson to learn. Assume you don’t know everything and be willing to defer to the more knowledgeable.
2. It’s ok and even important to grieve losses. I lost two pregnancies in my 20s before my oldest was born. I grieved and often felt I shouldn’t have been so affected by it. Those losses still hit hard some times, 20 years later. They are losses. They will hurt. They should hurt. Let yourself grieve.
3. Spend lots of time in God’s Word, in church, in small groups, and in prayer. Life will get hard. Maybe in your 20s, maybe in your 30s, maybe later, but no matter what, it will get hard. When it does, you need a foundation of knowledge and experience with God to get through it.
4. Find a church both you and your spouse love. If you are married and both following God, listen carefully to each other about what kind of church each needs and wants. Big or small, progressive or traditional, Saturday services or Sunday services, these questions matter. Find a church you both enjoy and in which you can both serve.
5. Take risks. My husband and I left Wisconsin for New York City when we were 25, and had been married 3 years. We had not started our family yet, with the exception of a kitty named Tucker. We quit our jobs, sold our cars and moved to Manhattan. It was a huge risk, but we took it together. On the day we moved in to our new apartment, a merger was announced between his new employer and another massive bank. In the end, we chose not to stay. At the time it felt like a failure. We didn’t conquer the world and a few months later were living in Pittsburgh. But we have no regrets and would do it again, even with the difficulties we faced. Taking risks with your spouse is a great way to learn to lean on each other and grow deeper in your bond.
6. What you studied in college may not be what you do with the rest of your life. And that’s ok! I was so afraid of failing at my chosen career of teaching. In the end I had several very difficult positions. I came to realize that the stakes are too high for people who aren’t sure they want to be teachers to stay in the classroom. I sure wouldn’t want one of my kids to have a teacher who was “kind of” sure about the career. Looking back, I should have pursued some alternatives sooner.
Your 20s may have been filled with different life stages than mine. What advice would you give yourself?