14 Tips for Life in Your 20’s
If you’re in your 20’s and your life does not look like you planned—fret not! No seriously, chill out and stop judging yourself!
My 20’s looked nothing like what I wanted or would have imagined. I spent a lot of my time grinding, exploring, trying and tasting. Life at 29, 3 weeks away from 30, is just now starting to look and feel how I want it to. To be honest with you, my 20’s were so uncomfortable I never thought I would come to the other side of it. My relationship with my boyfriend was fairly non-existent. I considered quitting graphic design about a half million times. I almost gave up on this blog about 40 million times.
My work life was all over the place! I worked full-time, from age 23-29. Created and ran a studio that operated on nights and weekends. Operated my freelance design business for 7 years on nights/weekends/lunch breaks. It was quite the wild ride!
Here are my tips that I would give myself upon entering my 20’s…
01. Chill Out, Trust Your Journey. You’re not going to see how all the points connect together. That’s the point of life, it’s a ride! You won’t have a map but you will have your gut, follow it, because it’s your best friend! Even if you’re in a place you despise right now, I guarantee you’re learning a skill that is going to propel you in the long run. Yes, I’m looking back to my days at the Best Buy return counter when people would yell/complain/demand in my face and I’d figure out how to deal. Character building I tell ya 😉
02. Put in the Time.
Play for the long game. Do one small thing towards your goal each day. Keep your focus on what you were able to accomplish rather than what you couldn’t. Usually after a long walk, nap or good night sleep you can approach yesterday’s daunting task with a whole new fresh perspective.
03. Don’t Worry that Your Work Isn’t Quite There Yet.
Have you read the book, “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be”? It’s a great read in your 20’s. Point being, you know you have good taste but what you’re producing isn’t quite how it looks in your head (or on your pinterest board).
04. Explore and Have Faith!
20’s are for exploring different avenues.
I had little faith many times and felt all this work I was doing was in vein with no end goal.
05. Switch Jobs.
Seriously try some different jobs out. Its not 1984 anymore, people generally don’t work the same job for 15 years anymore. Cheers to you if you do, I just think you can only learn so much in 1 place! Advancement often comes from new experiences, environments, groups of people and distance.
06. Listen, Take Note but Don’t Take it to Heart.
I was told many things in my 20’s. You know all those “anonymous” peer reviews, that we all love ;). Feedback is great and all but take it with a grain of salt. People have motives and will wrap you up in them. I’ve heard it a wide ray of feedback. People told me to be more detailed oriented, operated more like that guy over there, get better at technology, consider a new field of work. From all the advice I received, self serving or not, the hands down, the best advice I received from an art director. He told me to get more in tune with myself. This person was more than someone who wanted to teach me some trick for Adobe Illustrator, or use me for their new quarterly goal. This person wanted to see actual growth. Personal growth. Growth without a dollar sign attached to it. I’d always been urged to look outward and please others the best I could. This was the first time I was urged to look within. This advice was life changing, freeing, thoughtful and so appreciated.
07. Accept and love your failures. You have to love and own your failures. “Failures” are gateways to opportunity. There are literally 2 ways to look at every situation you encounter.
08. Cast a wide net. I casted the widest net I could, unintentionally that is. I met a lot of people and tried a variety of jobs. I worked returns at Best Buy for a good period of my 20’s. Moved onto becoming a print designer for a bit. Then a Keynote and PowerPoint designer and icon specialist. In my late 20’s I became a product photographer and social media photographer. This sounds confusing and maybe some what lost but I am already starting to see all the random diversion lead to a clear path. If you feel called to try a variety of things, just go for it! Be a jack of all in your 20’s a master in your 30’s.
09. Don’t be afraid to spend money on tools. I was pretty resistant to buying new camera equipment, lenses or tech stuff for our business. But it’s all paid off and been super important to financial and business growth.
10. Drive a crappy car. I’ve driven a crappy car all of my 20’s! I never cared much about the aesthetics of my car because I’m not about looking flashy, especially before I’ve put the work in. Everyone wants to look like they’ve made it, before they actually have. When I get a new car I will definitely feel proud knowing how long and hard I waited/worked for it. Put that extra money into #9. Or use it to travel!!!
11. Play Life for the long game. Don’t play to the short term. It’s all about who sticks it out the longest. That’s what love is right? Patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude, not self seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. Basically you have to work at setting aside the ego to experience the true essence and beauty of what you seek and desire so deeply. *Go read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
12. Do the UnSexy Work.
I did some weird design jobs in my 20’s, some super unsexy projects. I did lots of design work for sewer companies (…no seriously, like lots). Designed bird seed packaging…what?! Created the quarterly newsletter for Rancho Cordova for 4 years where the only font allowed was Gill Sans-gagh! I spent a lot of my time re-sizing ads of other peoples art work, making eblasts, brochures, animated GIFs. Point being, the work I’m doing now in my 30’s is just now starting to get sexy. Why? Because I had to go through the shit first. If you can learn to be good in the very worst case scenarios, then…
01. You’ll be able appreciated the good stuff
02. You’ll have the skills to execute for the good stuff. Imagine if a sexy project landed on my plate at age 24, I couldn’t have executed it well and the project wouldn’t get the quality it deserved. Plus, I got a ton of opportunities to create sexy work where no one might have expecting to see it.
13. Be Awesome Behind the Scenes.
No one saw when I drove to the bay area every week for 4 months straight. No one saw me spend every weekend alone grinding on freelance design projects. No one saw me on the side of my house with a tripod and remote for 6 years. No one saw the toll this career took on my relationship. No one sees and no one needs to see. Only you, because thats what creates integrity.
Advice to Myself:
14. Consider YOUR Heart.
You actually become more valued by yourself and others when you stay connected to your heart. There is no love or humanity in a robotic, people pleasing life.
The thing is, life is not about how things look on paper. When things don’t work out it’s not logical. It’s a matter of the heart. My heart was not present or considered most of the time in my 20’s. I played the game, did the motions, tried so hard to convince myself to love certain people, things, places, activities, practices. Since I didn’t actually love these things it came out in my work. I rarely ever considered how I FELT. Isn’t that crazy? To not listen or be in tune with one’s feelings? Why did I do this? I thought I had to. I thought that’s what being successful meant. I thought it meant doing what every it takes no matter the cost. I thought it meant being the hardest working, non-complaining, suck it up, tough cookie out there. I would out work, stay later than you, come back to the office at 8pm, be the first one there in the morning, last one out at night. I lived and died by how you saw me at work. Then one day, I had stayed so late the night before I came in a little late in the morning and noticed people gave me a bad reaction. I began to notice, people can’t see the full you. People don’t know your full story. Once I stopped trying to show other people how committed I was, the whole game changed. I knew, I wanted to work hard…FOR ME! At my pace, on my terms, with no one watching. Because to build what I wanted, how I wanted, it was going to get messy and I could only consider me and those on my team, who were part of my journey!
Thank you for reading this loooong post! I’m still learning everyday and by no means have it all figured out but I have definitely struggled hard along the way and want my journey to be an offering to you as you make your way through this portion of life.
I also wanted to write this because things always looks golden from the outside. That’s why story telling is so important and meaningful in our lives. We get to reveal the parts no one sees. And the parts that no one sees are the very parts that make you…YOU!
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