I recently went back east to visit my family, and since returning, I have been thinking a lot about what is important. Not necessarily for life in general, but more specifically for right now, and how I choose to spend the remainder of my 20’s.
While I was home, I was able to celebrate the 26th birthday of my younger sister Margaret, throw a party to congratulate my 29 year-old sister Cait on her recent engagement, and hold the newborn child of my 29-year old cousin Liz. My sisters and I also opened our aframe for the first time as owners, and I was able to have an early Thanksgiving with my family – the first time I have celebrated a holiday with my family in over 5 years.
Being home for so many milestones made me realize how much I have missed by living 2000 miles away. My sister is getting married this March to an amazing man, and just last week I met his mother and sister for the first time. Last time I spent any amount of time with my cousin Liz, we were making new year’s resolutions about brushing our hair every day, and our goal was to make it up til midnight – now she is a mother. Where have I been? Is what I have chosen to do with my life worth missing out on the lives of my family and loved ones?
The funny thing is, I don’t even have one clue of what it is that I have “chosen to do with my life”. However, after a lot of heavy thought, I do know that I have no regrets about the choices I have made for my life up to this point. I have made lifelong friends, had once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and am currently the best version of myself that I think I have ever been.
So, I guess the question for me is not so much about location, and me being home versus being in Wyoming, but more-so, what changes I can make to my life here in Jackson to feel more connected to my family and be more of a support system. Not only that, but being home was a wake-up call to step back and look at my life and not waste time with things that mean nothing to me and are not helping me to get to where I want to be.
I have created a list of five things that in my opinion, are the most important things to focus on in your late 20’s. Along with each importance, I have listed different ways to improve on, and strengthen that area of your life.
- Family. There is nothing more important than family. Regardless of where you are, you need to continue to stay connected. If you aren’t living in the same location, there are many ways to show your love from afar, many of which take no time at all.
- Phone call – make it a point to call your family once a week. Even if it is just a 5 minute conversation, it goes a long ways. Texting doesn’t count. Pick up the phone and call. This also includes returning calls. Don’t be lazy.
- Handwritten letter – no one takes the time to write letters these days, but I know that personally, when I get a handwritten letter in the mail, it makes me feel amazing and incredibly loved. Start sending a letter every month, include a photo or two, and ask for a return letter. A great way to stay in touch and send updates back and forth.
- Flowers – it could be to congratulate, celebrate, or lift spirits, but having flowers sent to a friend or family member is incredibly easy to do, and goes a long way. Just call a local floral shop, give them a quick note to attach, and send.
- Friends. Whether it is a friend across the street, or a friend 4000 miles away, keeping in touch with friends and putting energy into your friendships – both new and old – is incredibly important, and even more so as you get older and have less time to dedicate on a daily basis. If I have learned anything in the past few years, it has been that friendships take just as much energy as a romantic relationships do. For them to work, you need to be willing to put the time in.
- Respond – to calls and texts. I will be the first to admit that I am horrible with this. I see a missed call or text while doing something, and I forget about it and weeks later realize that I never responded. This will ruin friendships. Many of us will see a good friend calling, and knowing that the conversation could go for hours, we will not pick up and we tell ourselves we will call them back at a better time. How often do you actually make that return call? The reality is, you never know why a friend is calling. They may really need you. Pick up the call, return the voicemail right away – even if you can’t talk for more than 3 minutes. Your friends should be a priority, and you need to make the time for them. Otherwise, don’t expect them to be there for you when you need them.
- Calls and letters – just as with family, make time to call your distant friends, send them a letter every once in a while. Just one communication makes a big difference and keeps your friendships strong.
- Set aside time for activities – don’t think that going out to the bar on a Friday night counts as valuable time in a friendship. Make plans for adventures. Go hiking, go skiing, make dinner together, whatever it is, just make time for fun and interactive days with your friends. No real relationships (of any kind) form from nights of drinking – get to know each other and have fun.
- Listen and ask – don’t assume that your friends are there as your therapists without making sure to be an ear for them too. The most important thing in a friendship is to ask questions and listen. So many times, we get caught up in our own lives, and tend to ramble on and on about ourselves, never giving our friends a chance to talk. It always seems to work out that when life is great for one friend, the other may be going through a tough time. If you are too concentrated on your own successes, you forget to make sure your friends are doing well. Remember, friendships are a two-way street.
- Goals. I think it is easy to get caught up in the idea that your twenties are all about having fun and not being tied down. Although I feel strongly that this is true, I also feel strongly that everyone should have goals. I don’t care what the goal is, or even if you accomplish it – but work towards something. Be passionate about something. I have found it very difficult to connect with people who have no dreams or aspirations. It doesn’t have to be a career, or even a long-term goal, but setting goals and aiming towards success helps to motivate you and keep the fire within you burning.
- Ignore the critics – we all know the word is full of them. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, people will pass judgments. Most likely it is due to envy, or simply another person’s inability to be happy with their own life. You know what you want in life, no one else should influence your dreams. The people you want in your life will only support you and help you to succeed.
- Be confident – you will never accomplish a goal without having confidence in yourself, your process, and your reasoning. Trust your instincts.
- Don’t get discouraged – not all goals work out. In fact, many of them don’t. The important thing is that you know you worked as hard as you could, and did all that you could to reach it. Many times, you will discover a different path on your way to a goal, and you will be the one to veer off course and alter your plans. Only when you are driven and working towards something will you be given different opportunities that most likely will lead you in the best directions.
- Finances. I know that money shouldn’t matter, but the reality is that it does. You need to be smart about your spending, and about saving for the future. You’re almost 30. Don’t let your finances hold you back from once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but don’t let them get you into a position where you have to give up a life you have worked for either.
- Create a budget – set aside one night to make a spreadsheet with your monthly payments and spending needs, and figure out where you can allocate your earnings. Record what you spend on a daily basis and adjust your budget as you need, but work towards having a budget that makes sense for your life, and that you can stick to.
- Never miss payments – Bills? Loans? Everyone has them. Don’t get discouraged about the fact that they exist, just make sure you don’t miss your payments. If you have debt, at least let it help you build your credit for later on in life. Don’t be stupid, and keep track of when your payments are due.
- Don’t spend money you don’t have – easier said than done, I know. I am the queen of spending money I don’t have. It is easy to get excited about something and think that you can pay it back in no time…not the case. We all have expenses that pop up, and we don’t always have the money. Your car needs work? Yeah, put in the money needed to fix it. You want a new jacket? Tough luck babe, you’ve already got 15 in the closet. Determine your needs and your wants. Life is better when you own less anyways.
- Create an emergency fund – seriously. You never know when you might lose your job, have an unplanned medical expense, etc.. You need to make sure that you have an emergency fund set up – this means having at least three months worth of expenses saved. Not only will this be a life-saver someday, but it will give you an incredible piece of mind.
- Start a retirement account – okay, so you are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have retirement benefits – so what. Set up an IRA with your bank, and contribute the minimum amount every year. It doesn’t need to be much, but you’ll be glad you started it come 40 years from now.
- You. No matter how cliché this sounds, you must concentrate on yourself. This doesn’t mean be selfish and ignore how your actions impact others, but it means setting aside the time you need to be happy. It means being able to recognize a bad situation, and having the strength to pull yourself out of it and make a change.
- Never be anyone but yourself – yeah yeah everyone says this I know.That is because it is true, and in fact, very few people can actually do it. Personally, I have gone through many changes in the last 5 years, and just in the last year, I finally feel that I can say I am no one but myself, and I am proud of it. It is easy to get caught up in a setting or a culture of people that all want to be the same – or even more-so, people trying so hard to be “unique” that they lose themselves entirely by trying so hard. Just be you. It takes so much effort to be someone else. Fuck people who don’t accept you. I like fairies, I enjoy hopping around and singing terrible songs, i make incredibly awful stop-motion videos on my phone, and i have a box of miniature dinosaur figurines next to my bed – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Don’t compromise what you need & know what you deserve- I see so many of my friends and family get into situations, whether it be a relationship or a job, where they are unhappy. Instead of saying, “I deserve better” they make up excuses for their employer or partner – the majority of which are complete bullshit. If you aren’t getting what you need out of a situation, make a change! It may take a little time, as things aren’t that easy, but take small steps to move forward in a better direction. Otherwise, there is no one to blame for your unhappiness but yourself. Don’t think that you can keep complaining over and over about a situation if you refuse to do anything about it. Respect yourself enough to know what you deserve.
- Take care of your body – eat healthy and get exercise. Your body is your best tool, and you need to take care of it. Your metabolism is not as fast as it used to be, and not getting the proper vitamins and nutrients will begin to have very real and negative impact before you know it. We all have long days, and having the energy to exercise can be difficult, but you never regret it once you’re done, and you are always happier when you are working out regularly. Not to mention, your confidence significantly increases.
- Surround yourself with good people – this is your life and you are in charge of who you let into it. Choose wisely. Do not allow yourself to be brought down by negative or judgmental people. Let people in who make you better, who push you to accomplish your goals, and who make you feel good and allow you to be 100% yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to fail & be able to pick yourself back up- realize that failure is part of life. You won’t always succeed. The reality? You will be a hell of a lot more resilient to failure if you have strong relationships with your friends and family, and knowing that you worked hard, and did everything that you could. Life doesn’t always want us to go in the direction we seek out – but trust me when I say that the direction you end up going will be just as great.