I exist under the impression that you can be an old soul and simultaneously young at heart. My twenties were a true testament to that as I laughed, learned and loved through a decade of crazy, beautiful life. As I approached the big 3-0, I couldn’t help but reflect on my roaring twenties as a time of great teaching and learning. All we can ever hope for as we gain a new number each year is that we become a little bit wiser than we were. With the lessons I’ve learned, I am sure my thirties will be more enlightened and enriched than my twenties.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
When we enter our twenties, we’ve spent most of our lives as students. We learn our curriculum and graduate to the next level on the education ladder, but what life teaches you can’t be found in textbooks.
Post-college life in the big city for me wasn’t always an episode of Sex and the City. I was navigating how to pay my bills while splurging for that dress I didn’t need, still eating Top Ramen thinking to myself, “I thought I retired these when I left college.” Life is full of choices and the ones I had to make in my twenties weren’t easy. The detours we come up against in a decade of mistakes and battle wounds help shape us more and prepare us for the next round. I took bad jobs, had some bad boyfriends, got lost in order to find myself and grew to learn how to trust my intuition. This meant a lot of stress and learning things the hard way, but through it all, I’ve gained insights that have enabled me to share my experience with other twenty somethings. Although I’m always a work in progress, I went from preschool rice bins to Adulting 201 and earned tenure in my twenties.
After dating quite a bit over the years, and mostly acquiring a list favoring the “nope” column, I learned a lot of lessons. The brilliance in these awkward dating years is that I figured out what kind of partner I truly want to spend time with. Time is something you can never get back–it’s irreplaceable. I learned that it’s a tapestry of delicate string we weave while finding out who is right or wrong for us. We have to take our time deciding who gets our time, and it’s absolutely acceptable to “next” a guy you don’t vibe with in order to save everyone’s time.
What my twenties taught me in the art of dating is that life is too short for regrets. I’ve dated some nice guys and some not so nice guys, but I’ve learned something from every single one of them. We don’t always follow the warning signs, we can’t always get our hearts to match up with our heads when it comes to love. But I have no regrets out of my experience, only the wisdom to take my rose-colored glasses off and laugh off the fools; it’s made my loom and my heart a lot stronger.
Hey Girl Hey
The most important human I have encountered in recent years is none other than me. Through thick and thin, I’ve been there; after all, who knows me better than me?
Learning to love myself is one of the most precious concepts I have embraced. Without self love, we are constantly wandering down a path to nowhere. When I learned how to fall in love with myself first, it was a revelation. All the questions I had been seeking answers to just sort of dissipated. Your twenties are an incredible time to learn who you are and who you want to be. Through it all, you’ve got your biggest ally to discover. When I met my true sense of self, I never felt more empowered. I became intrepid in a way my youthful bruised-knee self would be proud of. My twenties may have brought me into some questionable situations, caused me to hit rock bottom, lose pieces of who I am and develop a Vitamin D deficiency while hanging in the shadows of self doubt, but as it turns out, I found my Bae and she’s been with me all along.
Just Say No
I paid attention in my D.A.R.E. program and applied the concepts as I entered the peer pressure zone of adolescence. However, until I reached my late twenties, I never understood the full power in saying the word “no”. I have been conditioned most of my life by society and my perfectionist self to be someone who says yes a lot. I wanted to be well-liked and appreciated as much as the next person and with that as my goal, refusing a project, responsibility or experience just wasn’t in the cards.
The problem with saying yes all the time is that you lose yourself in trying to be agreeable to other people. With every affirmative answer, you slip further from yourself and what you truly want. I learned that I had the gumption to put my foot down when it mattered most and in doing so, I freed myself of all the expectations that were weighing me down. Drawing hard lines is so powerful and important. If we don’t set boundaries and fight for them, we allow room for others to take advantage of us. As I say farewell to the yeses of my twenties, I feel confident that when the occasion calls for it, I can put on my best Wonder Woman cape and say no if it feels right.
The Circle of Trust
Throughout my twenties, I gained a lot of different friend groups. Although I enjoy being a social butterfly, I’ve become skilled at the art of selection. It’s a difficult time trying to build a career and meet your knight in shining armor, only to find out that you didn’t get the promotion and your gallant sir turned out to be a loser in aluminum foil. The worst part of this trial and error period is losing friends; especially when you have to choose to lose them.
I’ve said a decent amount of goodbyes over the years and although it’s always difficult, I’ve learned who I want in my life. People come into our lives to serve a purpose; their stay isn’t always guaranteed. Although painful at times, I discovered that the ability to let people go when they weren’t contributing positively to my life translates to bravery. It’s never easy to cut ties with someone, but the value of weighing quality over quantity becomes substantial the older you get. I’m certainly still learning this one, but as I pilot toward the next decade of my life, I realize that a first class ticket is required to fly in my circle of trust.
As I retire the party girl of my past and embrace the wiser woman of my future, I can’t help but be grateful; for all the pain, induced by 4-inch heels and silly boys, the joys and triumphs celebrated by my squad. Our twenties are a time of learning, so enjoy them while they last; they are divinely and uniquely yours. When you strut into your thirties, you’ll be teaching life a thing or two!
Typically found singing loudly into her hairbrush microphone, Hallie O'Reilly doesn't take herself too seriously. She enjoys leaping into one-way ticket adventures, blazing trail and beach in her running shoes, writing about her (now) thirty something life over at little talks //, plotting a new lifestyle blog and other writing opportunities as well as tapping into her creativity through a camera lens. Follow her on Instagram