26 Tips For Surviving (and Loving!) Your 20s

On the occasion of my birthday today, I thought I would offer you, dear reader, one bit of wisdom for each of my years of life. I’m “over the hump,” so to speak, of my 20’s, but I’ve been fortunate to amass advice that has helped me survive – and thrive – up until now. Here are 26 tips for survival in your 20s.

1. Nurture relationships with (at least four) close friends. You will need them when the going gets rough.



2. Nurture relationships with old professors. You will need them when filling out job and school applications.



3. Break up with that person who is wasting your time. Also, if your ex has moved on, you should too.



4. Open a savings account and put 10% of everything you make into it (even that birthday money from Granny). Also, establish a regular pattern of giving to causes you believe in.



5. Eat a plant every day. At least, something that grew from a plant: fruit, vegetable, legume, etc.



6. Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink.



7. Stay active. Pick a sport or form of exercise that you love/tolerate and continue to do it throughout your 20’s. You’re never too old to join a flag football team, and never too young to join a bowling league.



8. Perfect the art of kissing.



9. If it’s cold outside, wear reasonable clothing. There’s a time and a place to be cute, but let’s be real: pneumonia is never cute.



10. Forgive people who hurt you in the past. Ancient wounds will only eat you alive. And those jerks have no right to control your future.



11. Pay off your student loans by the time you’re 30.



12. Get mono. If you survive it once, you’re set for life.


13. Seek out a mentor – an older, wiser person who has an objective view on your life (preferably not your parents).


14. Get some good anti-virus and security software on your computer.



15. Remember this: life is too short to stay at parties that are lame.


16. Keep all your tax forms in one place, so that you can pull out last year’s as needed (yes, you can be audited in your 20’s).


17. Emergency contacts. When you travel (as we 20-somethings do), bring a card with emergency contact numbers to be able to cancel your credit cards and phone. Keep this in a different place than your passport, credit cards, and cell phone.


18. Back up your computer files. Technology fails.


19. Be humble. Clearly we DO know everything in our 20’s, but humility will sail you far in the real world.


20. Live as simply as possible. Having less stuff frees you up to be able to pack up and go wherever you want whenever you want. Reducing your expenses allows you to do the crazier stuff that makes your 20’s memorable (see #17).


21. Do not live too far in the past (in memories or regrets), nor too far in the future (in expectations or anxieties). Be present. Cultivate mindfulness, while you’re eating, working, spending time with friends, or suffering through another holiday dinner with family.


22. Learn to cook. This is cheaper, easier, and sexier than going out for food all the time ... or than relying on your mom to make your meals.


23. Pray. Find a mechanism to connect with your spiritual side and be unapologetic about it ... it’s like free therapy any time you want!


24. Professional growth. We’ve all got to pay our dues at crappy jobs, but if yours is truly stealing your soul, give yourself a time limit there. Your 20’s are too precious to spend cooped up in an office you hate. Also, take mental health days when you need them!


25. Consider what your dream job is before you get that tattoo. Are they compatible?


26. Don’t plan too far ahead. Do you have a 10-year plan? That’ll change. If you put all your trust in well-laid plans, you risk falling to pieces if they do too.


If you were speaking to your 19-just-about-to-turn-20-year-old self, what survival tips would you give? 

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Catherine Skroch

Catherine Skroch is a George Mitchell Scholar pursuing her Masters in International Relations at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She studies mechanisms for healing survivors of trauma and conflict, with a special interest in food, nutrition, and building community around the table. To this end, she is also the founder and director of PeaceMeals, a program which facilitates healing for survivors of trauma through creative cooking classes and dinner parties. Before coming to Northern Ireland, Catherine was a Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow and Policy Associate at the Truman National Security Project, where she specialized in democracy, human rights, development, and nonproliferation policy. Prior to joining Truman, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco, researching transitional justice via the Equity and Reconciliation Commission. While in Morocco, she worked at a medical rehabilitation center for victims of torture and advocated for the Right to Reparation. She has also conducted fieldwork research in Senegal on local resolutions to the civil war in the Casamance region. In addition, Catherine has volunteered with dialogue and reconciliation campagins in Israel/Palestine, and the inner city of Milwaukee. Her writing focuses on human rights, torture, rule of law issues, and foreign affairs. Catherine is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has vowed to never spend another freezing winter.

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