I’ve been 25 for just over 48 hours, which means that it’s officially been long enough for me to start dishing out advice about the things that a person should know by this age. Articles enumerating what people have learned by their current age are a dime a dozen on the Internet, but this list is a mixture of profound realizations and humorous meditations we’ve all faced — very much in keeping with the spirit of being in your mid-20s. With eras and light years measuring chronology, a quarter century may not objectively seem like a long time, but when you’ve actually lived it, it feels substantial. And it is. A person’s first 25 years encompasses both their birth and their becoming an adult. Learning to walk and learning to drive takes place within this period. It’s a transformative period of incredible growth and a lot of learning curves. Of all the lessons to be learned in a quarter century, here are 25 of the most important ones.

  1. Life is never what you imagined it was going to be. Whether it’s your career, your love life, your location, or your hair’s fate, at some point life is going to huff and puff and blow your glass house in. It takes time to become the third little piggy, but eventually you will thwart life by channeling The Commodores and mortaring your existence into something as strong as your spirit. Life will always get big bad wolfy this way, but by 25 you’re getting better at withstanding it.
  1. Working hard and earning the things you want will always be more satisfying than whining to receive things because you’ve manipulated people into believing that they owe something to you.
  1. You are entitled to not like your body sometimes, even when the Internet is screaming at you to be body positive and your friends are telling you that you look great. Embracing those moments of insecurity isn’t evidence of some undiagnosed malignant body shame; it’s a symptom of being human, living in a complicated world of mixed messages, beauty standards, fashion, and delicious food.
  1. You are allowed to judge people who don’t talk nicely to their pets.
  1. Your relationship with your parent(s) is evolving. You’re building your own life now, and it’s time to get comfortable with the fact that your opinions may differ with theirs. It’s not a matter of authority and disobedience of even right versus wrong; the biggest challenge of living your own life is being brave enough to entertain advice while trusting your own judgment. It’s not fair to you or your parents (or whoever uses your middle name when you’re in trouble) to let their approval dominate every choice you make. (But you should probably still avoid spoiling your appetite.)
  1. Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you can’t respect it at best or ignore it at worst. Not everything in the whole wide world is going to be a reflection of your opinions or morals, and embracing that truth will make you more patient and knowledgeable every single day.
  1. There is no glory in paying for overpriced food or beverages at the movie theater.
  1. It’s time to start feeling less threatened by what people post on social media. Look, aside from that handful of Facebook friends parading their puerile political and racial views, everyone using social media is curating their #bestlife. That means we’re missing out on more than a few bad hair days, embarrassing coffee spills at work, days when someone’s usually adorable son pooped all over their entire existence, and any number of visible bruises that have a weird explanation that sounds like a lie but is actually the truth. We don’t all have our notebooks, pens, and laptops artfully splayed across our desks at all times.
  1. You don’t have to be the company to anyone’s misery.
  1. You always have a lot more time than you think. Life often feels like a repetition of caffeine, stress, and Netflix, and the thought of squeezing in any extra time for hobbies or even self-care seems unbearable. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to recover, but don’t forget that doing the things that you love or doing the things that you’ve been meaning to do for a long time can be every bit as chicken soupy for the soul as taking a nap or watching an entire season of Friends in one sitting.
  1. You don’t have to care about every headline. In fact, sometimes going on a headline diet can be a very good thing. Content gluttony can take an emotional toll, and taking a break doesn’t mean that you’re apathetic to current events.
  1. Don’t presume to know what goes into the upkeep of someone’s greener grass. You might think so-and-so has better, greener grass than you – and that may be true, or it may not – but so-and-so inherited this really sweet lawn mower and their uncle has a secret fertilizer recipe and their yard gets more sun and they’ve been tending their lawn for ten years. We’ve all got a different grass situation.
  1. Unless it’s a house or a car or a college education (sadly), if you can’t afford to pay for all of it when the bill comes, you probably cannot afford it, and you should wait to purchase it until you can.
  1. It is a guarantee that you think about what people think of you more than other people actually think about you, good or bad.
  1. Never read any email more than twice, unless it contains directions. By the third read, you’ve probably constructed an astonishingly detailed backstory to an otherwise innocuous email that somehow involves the sender planning your murder or having an affair with your partner, and you probably arrived at this conclusion all because someone typed “OK” instead of “Okay,” or closed the email with “Sincerely” instead of “Best.”
  1. Just assume that any time anyone is ever talking about sex that they’re lying about something.
  1. There should be no guilt in denying friend requests, emails, tweets, letters, or collect calls from the county jail from people you went to high school with. Maybe Jessica Somethingerton was a really cool acquaintance in Chemistry class sophomore year, but it’s okay to feel like that part of your life ended a long time ago. You gave back the pen that you borrowed from her that one time, so you don’t owe Jessica anything – not even an old-time’s-sake friend acceptance.
  1. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about why you didn’t go to the gym, why you ate what you ate, or why you like listening to “Rock Star” by Nickelback sometimes.
  1. Spending time alone with your thoughts is necessary to stay sane. In a world where we’re so seldom alone, with most of us glancing at our phones every few minutes, you need to take time to fully digest your thoughts without distractions or new notifications. Give yourself time to contemplate more than 140 characters.
  1. Unless you have children, you shouldn’t be keeping stuffed animals in your car. At no point will you come across a tollbooth where you must pay in stuffed animals, which means there’s no reason you should be keeping Eddy the Teddy or Sir Waddlesworth the penguin in your vehicle.
  1. There is no reason you can’t put your cart away at the grocery store. I know loading groceries in the car is exhausting and there’s probably some jerk sitting with his turn signal on just waiting for your parking spot, but unless there is police activity or a natural disaster happening at every cart corral, you are not exempt from returning your cart. Nothing you have going on is important enough to put someone’s car at risk for minor damage or to obligate some pimple-faced kid who wanted to be a barista to battle a homeless person trying to reclaim the cart that your laziness separated from the herd. Putting your cart away is what being an adult is all about.
  1. Anyone who tells you that you don’t know anything is threatened by the knowledge you have.
  1. You need to have something in your life that defibrillates you on the days when your existence feels like cold oatmeal. Maybe it’s a person whose joie de vivre invigorates your spirit. Maybe it’s a hole in the wall coffee shop with mugs from around the country. Maybe it’s scrapbooking. Whatever that thing, person, or place may be, it’s important than you find it and embrace it. Let it shoulder some of the burden of maintaining your sanity.
  1. Taking the time to perform routine maintenance things like taking a shower, organizing your files, filling your gas tank, or getting a haircut really makes a difference in keeping unnecessary stress away.
  1. Back up everything. Get a cloud or an external hard drive and put your entire life on it.
  1. When doing the right thing is easy, has few consequences, and doesn’t hurt anyone, savor it like your last piece of cake before a diet, because it’s very rare.

11 thoughts on “25 Lessons You Learn In A Quarter Century

  1. Really great article! 🙂 I wish more people would come to some of those realisations at all, never mind their age. ^^
    Although we don’t know each other and I hate those fake “we used to go to school together, I have to congratulate whatsherface”-birthday wishes on facebook, I’ll just wish you a belated happy birthday anyways, since you seem pretty cool. 🙂

  2. Just wait till you are 30! I turned 30 4 years ago and it’s insane how much more knowledge I had gained in those 5 short years (that flew by so enjoy every second of them)

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