Last week, I turned 31 – not a very exciting birthday to say the least. Yet, another year passing is always a good excuse for some reflection. There are times when I miss my twenties but most of the time, I’m pretty happy the decade full of transitions and firsts is over. First jobs, first apartments and first breakups all create a period of steady uncertainty and one that can be tough to navigate.
The beautiful thing about 31? Knowledge and confidence that only time and experience bring. Knowledge that equips you to deal with almost any situation. And if I could, I would share the advice that experience has given me with twenty-something Laura. Here are some of my favorite tidbits.
- Everything is always okay. There will certainly be struggles. Bad weeks, even bad months. You will have trouble at the office and tough times in relationships with significant others, family and friends. You will have financial setbacks. But everything will be okay. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you work at them, you will maintain important relationships. You will eventually get paid enough to put money away. You will survive.
- Save more. I wish saving had been a priority for me in my mid to late twenties. Granted, the salary at my first job didn’t leave much after paying rent, student loans and picking up groceries. But beginning to put away whatever you can does two important things. It gets you in the habit of stashing money for your future and creates a nest egg that will grow and eventually, snowball. Pretty soon, that $200 investment account will be worth a whole lot more.
- Practice self awareness. One of my favorite mentors has coached me on developing what he calls ‘situational awareness’ – while this applies to the workplace, it’s something we could all benefit from in our personal lives. I spent my twenties blissfully unaware of the messages I communicated about myself to other people through my actions and how I carried myself. I’m sure this contributed to frustrations and heartache experienced during this formative decade. As true adults, we need to put real thought in to how we present ourselves, our actions, our word choice and much more.
- Work really hard, but not too hard. I’m a firm believer that having a ‘career’ as opposed to a ‘job’ is the way to go. But it’s important to keep everything in perspective. When things don’t go as planned at work and you’re dealing with issues – you won’t feel like the world is crumbling because you have a life outside of that place, dammit! Hard work on your personal life is just as important as busting it at the office. Passions, friends, causes, commitments, relationships – they will be what keep you sane and balanced.
- Push out of your comfort zone. The two best things I’ve ever done involved taking a leap of faith that was scary and uncomfortable. Not all the best feels, right? But they are the two choices I consistently identify as defining moments that have made me the woman I am. They include moving to a new city with no friends and no job and years later, leaving a very safe job for a risky career choice. Both have paid immense dividends and contributed to many happy moments.