20 Things I’ve Learned in My 20s

Walkin' in High Cotton

Well, this is it, y’all.  Today is the last day in my 20s.  I’ve had some time to reflect and wanted to share some things I learned in my 20s.  What have you or did you learn in your 20s?

Wear SPF 50.

I used to worship the tanning bed when I was in high school, and was perhaps even addicted to the tanning bed in college.  I never wore sunscreen on beach days at Shakleford Banks.  And, y’all, I’m paying for it now.  I’m the poster child for why you should avoid tanning beds.  I have premature wrinkles and have had multiple pre-cancerous places removed.  And bless my mama’s heart.  She constantly battles melanoma and basil cell carcinoma, and we take our skin health really seriously now.  Don’t be like us.  Wear SPF every day.

Eat what you want, but make time for exercise.

This past summer, I posted a picture of one of my favorite summertime meals.  I love fried shrimp burgers in the summer.  And let’s be real.  I love anything fried.  I’m not even gonna lie.  But I realized after looking at pictures of myself, that my weight fluctuated and decreased in my 20s.  I never really changed how I ate (except when I was only eating fish and veggies for the 4 months before my wedding) but what did change was how hard I worked out.  Y’all, I feel better and look better in my clothes when I work out.  There’s no better reward for fried foods (or a glass of champagne) than a good workout!

Stop being so hard on yourself.

I think I’ll forever struggle with this.  Comparison can cripple me at times, but at other times, be the inspiration that I need for my goals.  I have to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can with what I have and that as long as I’m doing my best, that’s all that matters.

Quality v. Quantity.

I’d like to say that I’ve always known this, but sometimes, I let my judgment wane.  Quality is always more important than quantity.  I mentioned last week in my 2017 goals that I’m simplifying.  This is a prime example.  I’m much more intentional about what and who I’m letting in my space.  This is perhaps my biggest lesson entering my 30s.

Don’t half ass things.

I am notorious for overcommitting.  Most of the time, I don’t half ass things.  But there have been a few times where I overcommitted and couldn’t devote 100% of myself to my responsibilities.  And that is the worst feeling in the world.  I only want to commit to things I can give my full attention and energy to in my new decade.

It’s okay to still not to know what you want to be when you grow up.

I remember telling a student that I still wanted to name nail polish for OPI when I grew up.  I still don’t know what I want to be other than happy.  A friend once said “I love having conversations with you because I’ll get to hear what new dream you have.”  I struggle with complacency and I’m afraid that if I get too comfortable with something, then I’ve done something wrong and it’s time to move on.  I have dreams of owning a shop, of designing US History curriculum, of writing for Southern Poverty Law Center, of saving Eastern North Carolina with Vivan Howard, and of being a stay at home dog mom.  It really just depends on the day.  And you know what, I’m okay with it.  And maybe more importantly, so is DG.

Having feelings isn’t a bad thing.

I really don’t like showing my feelings.  I have always been sensitive and emotional, and there have been times in my life where people told me that wasn’t okay.  You know what.  It is okay to have feelings.  I cry at the smallest things.  A dog being loyal to its owner?  Winston snuggling me when I’ve had a bad day?  DG bringing me a chocolate milkshake just because?  I also am easily excited.  Also something I’m done apologizing for.

Forgiveness is important, but only when you’re ready.

I cannot stress the importance of forgiveness.   People make mistakes.  People hurt feelings intentionally and unintentionally.  I learned in my 20s that while forgiveness is important, it has to happen on your time.  It took me a while to forgive a few situations, but once I was ready, it was the most freeing moment.

It’s okay to say no, and not explain yourself.

Well, I clearly have struggled with this in the past.  It’s been on my goal list every year for a while.  But not in 2017.  I decided to take a different approach and focus on balance.  I am working on saying, “Sorry, I can’t.”  And not offering a reason why.  Who cares?  I just can’t.  Maybe it’s because I’d like to have dinner with DG.  Or catch up on things around our house.  Or just not wear real pants and snuggle my two fur balls on the couch while watching Fixer Upper.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Own a rescue dog.  Or two.

I mean, is this not self explanatory?  Winston & Gizmo have been the best parts of my life with DG.  Our love of them is maybe insane, but I mean, I can’t describe them any other way than saying they’re the best.  Winston is so good.  Just, so good.  He’s so well behaved, so loving, so patient, but yet, so stubborn.  He is hands down my “person.”  When I’ve had a bad day, he knows it and does whatever he can to comfort me.  When Gizmo is having a rough time with the front door or the mail man, he tries to distract him.  And Gizmo is the craziest, snuggliest, anxiety-ridden little dude, but he makes us laugh constantly.  We are so proud of his progress over the past 1.5 years, and he’s so appreciative and just plain fun.

Travel as much as you can, even if it’s not that far.

I keep harping on how we didn’t get to Europe.  To be quite honest, I actually considered myself a failure for a while because I haven’t experienced Europe yet.  Traveling is something that I really didn’t do much of until I was 19.  I distinctly remember my first trip to Charleston when I was a freshman in college and how invigorated I felt.  I then traveled to D.C. and NYC the next year, and I think my love for travel started then.  I have loved exploring with DG and with my passion being about exposing people to parts of North Carolina that are forgotten, this has been a huge lesson for me.  Check out this day trip that my daddy planned for us last year.  Seriously, so cool.

Drink a lot (and I mean a LOT) of water.

My skin has never looked better and I’ve never felt lighter than when I drink enough water.  I do indulge in sparkling water (La Croix is my favorite), but that’s about as risky as I get now.

Always do what you want.

My BFF Amanda and I used to say “I do what I want.”  And I still mean that.  I have very few regrets from my 20s, because I realize how important those decisions were to shaping me, and how I truly feel I take advantage of opportunities.  I also am appreciative for parents and friends who let me make my own mistakes when I was in my 20s.  Regardless, I feel that it is really important to always do what you want.  Nothing wrong with cannonballing in and figuring it out as you go.

Trust your gut.

Trusting my instinct is something I really pride myself in.  I had a couple of reminders in my last year of my 20s when it came to people I let in my space and the trust I placed in them.  My gut has never let me down, and I’m going to guess yours hasn’t let you down either.  Trust it.  It’s never been wrong.

Try that food that you’re not quite sure of.

I remember my first meal at Poole’s Diner for my 24th birthday.  Literally, I ate at Poole’s one month before I met DG.  That is how vivid my memory is of the best culinary experience I had to date.  I have loved trying new food in my 20s, and will continue to try new things.

Stop procrastinating and follow your heart.

I have found myself saying that I’ll wait for the right time or that I’ll wait for enough money.  I learned there’s never a right time or enough money, so we’re going to go forward because life’s too short, right?

Dreams sometimes change.  And that’s okay.

As I mentioned above, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  When I was 20, I wrote a list of goals and dreams that I had for those ten years.  I also wrote a 30 before 30 list about a year and a half ago.  There are things on that list that are irrelevant and others that are still applicable.  Either way, it’s interesting to see how dreams and goals change with age and life circumstances.  And you know what, that’s okay.

Buy a really good mascara.

It’s taken me about 15 years to find the right mascara.  But I’ve finally found it.  And I’ll never go back.

Celebrate everything.  Every. Single. Thing.

Life’s too short to not celebrate the small (and large) victories in life.  We still celebrate the anniversary of our engagement.  We celebrate small milestones, like when DG got his LLC last year.  We celebrate our boys birthdays AND adoptiversaries.  And I hope that’s something we never stop doing, because dang it.  It’s important.

And most importantly, buy the damn shoes.

When I was 22, I bought a pair of Louboutins with my first ever big girl pay check.  I will NEVER get rid of them, and I will always wear them with pride.  The only other time I bought expensive shoes?  For my wedding day.  Buy the damn shoes.  You won’t regret it.


Linking up with Jenn & Jessi


6 thoughts on “20 Things I’ve Learned in My 20s

  1. Alyssa

    This is great. Being in my mid-20s now there are definitely a few things on this list I could still learn from or work on. Thanks for sharing your decade’s story and I hope that the next gives you just as much joy, knowledge, and fulfillment!

  2. Karly

    I absolutely love everything about this post! I think all of these things are what 20-somethings should take a look at and learn and/or adopt into their own life. I love that you never stop dreaming – that is really inspiring to me as someone who has lost her way a little bit the last couple years. Cheers to your 20s, and here’s to your big 3-0!

  3. Chana Lynn

    Great post! I have to say I agree with everything you sugggested and as I enjoy my last 2 days of the 40s (!) I feel like your list is still exactly on point as I am raising two teenage daughters, working, traveling, etc. And we just adopted our second rescue kitty! Wishing you all the best for your 30’s…enjoy! Happy birthday fellow Capricorn. It’s a wonderful time ahead of you!!

  4. Caroline

    I love this so much. I’m an emotional person too and it can sometimes get me into trouble. I think that you are fantastic and you should be proud of what you have accomplished. Life also gets better in your thirties!!! I’m going to be 37 this year (gaahh!) and when I look back to my twenties I definitely learned a lot. Stay true to who you are, try not to worry about what other people think, and always remember what is really important in your life. Happy Birthday a day early to you too!! 🙂

  5. Courtney

    Happy birthday hun! I absolutely LOVE this post! I’m approaching my last full year of my 20s soon and will absolutely keep these all in mind! I love the one about it being okay to show your feelings. That was something I’ve recently learned. And for the record, I LOVE how excited you always are!


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