7 hard truths about adulthood my 20-year-old self would never have understood

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

  • Valuable life lessons come to you through the challenges of lived experience.
  • You might think you understand what adulthood is all about in your early twenties, but life still has many hard truths in store for you.
  • Here, author Christine Kopaczewski details seven life lessons she’s learned over the course of her twenties.

Let’s face it – adulthood is challenging.

Between juggling a real job, rent, and relationships, the post-college years can be a tough pill to swallow.

I’ve been there, and as I’m writing this (in my late twenties) I’m still working through a new set of growing pains every week.

But, if I could go back and shed a little light on hard-earned “adult” wisdom to my 20-year-old self, here’s what I would say.


Everyone is on their own timeline.

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Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t compare yourself to your siblings, cousins, friends, and etc. a million times before, but I’m going to reiterate this point because it’s the one I still struggle with most. While I’m content with where I am right now, I still have to fight back the urge to compare myself to my colleagues and former classmates on a weekly basis.

The fear of falling behind the pack or not being where you’d thought you’d be can be crippling and hard to escape with Instagram feeds reminding you every second of every day that someone’s doing better. My advice? Put your blinders on, stay in your own lane, (maybe cut back on the IG?) and keep trekking ahead. You’ll get to where you’re meant to be in time.


When it comes to friendships, choose quality over quantity.

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ARENA Creative/Shutterstock

When I was younger I had a full-blown squad. You could find me with at least a dozen others at any given time. Those are fond memories, but as I get older I’ve realized that some friends are better than others, and that’s okay. Instead of spreading myself too thin keeping tabs on a squad, I devote my time, energy and late night phone calls to my three best friends.

As you get older and head in different directions, it quickly becomes clear which friends are going to be your “college friends” and which ones are going to be your “lifetime friends.” Cherish both but don’t beat yourself up for not keeping in touch.


Being laid off isn’t the end of the world.

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Strelka Institute/Flickr

The 1980s ideal of landing a steady job post-graduation and working your way up the ladder until you become a boss doesn’t exist. Sorry to burst that bubble. Companies face financial struggles, people get laid off, and you might end up unemployed for a little while.

I was, and so have a number of my colleagues and friends. The key takeaway? Never let a job define who you are as a person. Jobs come and go but there’s only one you. You can survive it all.


You’ll have to be kind to yourself.

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Yelp

Though it’s tempting to go out six nights in a row, then come home and binge on nachos and pizza, restrain yourself. Even if it’s just every so often. It may seem like you’re light-years away from anti-aging and self-care routines, but you’re not.

The choices you make now with your physical and mental wellbeing will determine your future health. So, be kind to yourself. Find hobbies, foods, exercises, books, and places to travel that make you happy and do more of that, more often.


Moving up means working hard, long hours.

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

You know the movie montage where a girl is hired right after school then makes it to Senior VP by the time she’s 23? That does not happen. You’re going to start at square one (everyone does) and have to put in some blood, sweat, and tears before that assistant position turns into an associate one.

And you know what? That’s a good thing. Before you boss other people around, you need to worry about crafting an effective email and mastering the art of the phone call (yes, people still talk on the phone).


You are too young to be taken seriously.

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Shutterstock

It may feel like you’re wise now that you’ve tackled high school, held a job, and survived a few semesters of college but in all actuality, you’re practically a newborn. Which is both good and bad.

Bad news first – it’s going to be a few more years until people begin to take you seriously. The good news? You have all the time and flexibility in the world to determine who you want to be and how you want to get there.


You’ll never stop learning.

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Flickr/strelka

As I write this list, I’m adding to a personal list in my head. You’re not going to master every life skill at once. It takes time – even an entire lifetime of learning. In recent months I’ve been focusing less on hitting major milestones and more on enjoying the journey to my goals.

If you view your life as a series of setbacks and successes, it’s going to pass you by pretty quickly. Instead, take a beat, and let who you are, where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with right now sink in. You’ll never be this version of yourself ever again.