Life in your twenties is an adventure. This decade opens our eyes to worlds of new experiences and encounters that we had never seen before this point in our lives. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
I believe that there are some experiences that we should all encounter at least once in our lives. Each of these introduces us to certain feelings and emotions and teaches us valuable lessons that are parts of growing up and being adults. Yes, this is what getting older is like.
Here are eight parts of twenty-something life that I think are crucial to learning and growing as adults:
- Rejection: From a job, from a college or graduate program, from a love interest, from publication. Rejection is a part of life. “No” can be a hard pill to swallow, so you have to find a way to turn it into something positive. Use it for motivation to improve or try something different. I read a quote recently that said, “If you’ve never been rejected from anything, then you aren’t aiming high enough.” Do you agree?
- Working in a Restaurant and/or Retail: My first paying job (that wasn’t babysitting) was at a local, family-owned ice cream shop. I was hired at 15 and a half, and worked there seasonally through the summer after my freshman year of college. While customer service isn’t always glamorous, people skills are best learned and refined when working in customer-facing jobs. That’s something you can take to any job in the future.
- Working a Job You Love: Whether you’re a hostess at a family restaurant, an assistant to a C-level somebody at a respected agency, or anything in between, working a job that makes you excited for a new day is a great feeling. You have to know what you like about a job so you know what to look for in future positions.
- Working a Job You Really Don’t Like: That first job out of school will probably not be your dream job, or what you want to do forever. It might not even be related to your major(s). That’s okay. You’ve got to start somewhere, and sometimes that means doing your time in a position that isn’t ideal so you can work your way to up what is ideal. Just like you have to figure out what you like, you have to figure out what you don’t like, too.
- Managing Your Own Money: At some point, we must stop depending on our parents’ funds and start saving and using our own money. The minute credit card companies find out we’ve turned 18, the offers start flying in almost weekly. How do you know which is best? How many credit and debit cards do you need? (Hint: as few as possible). What kinds of bank accounts should you open? A trusted banker or financial advisor, and your parents should be able to guide you in the process.
- Learning Your Limits: I barely touched alcohol until I turned 21, while some of my friends had their first tastes their freshman year of college, or even in high school. No matter when you start, learning how much and what kinds of alcohol you can handle is super important to being safe and smart when drinking. This doesn’t mean, “go crazy and wake up the next morning and think, ‘so that’s my limit’;” it means, “I feel a little swirly after two drinks, I need some water and a snack before I think about another.” You can drink safely and have a good time when you know what you’re comfortable with and when to stop.
- Being an Intern…More than Once: Oh, the wonderful “I” word we love so much. Whether you’re doing office grunt work, making coffee runs, helping with reports, scheduling presentations or contributing to a larger project, internships are part of the career-building process. This is where you build experience that you can take to other opportunities later. Being the intern may eventually get old, but stay with it and learn everything you can. The relationships you create at your internships will prove beneficial as your career progresses, too. Don’t sever any ties from any internship!
- Living with a Roommate: Sure, we all have to suffer through dorm life, but living with a roommate or two in an apartment is a very different situation. The space is bigger, meaning there’s more to clean and keep in order. And there’s rent and bills. Paying those on time is key to a good apartment experience so your landlord won’t be glad to move you out when that time comes. Most importantly, living with roommates teaches you how to settle conflicts and still be able to coexist. Not all roommate pairs and groups turn out to be as magical as they seem at first. If you can handle the worst roommate conflicts, you can handle almost anything life throws at you.
What do you think? What experiences have you learned the most from?