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20 things I have learnt before 20

Updated: Jun 14

The panic years, your 20’s. The years when I shift in space and time, to become an adult. Legally this begins at 18, some believe it is when you get your first period (I’ve been an adult since 13) have sex (17 then) your Bar/Bat Mitzvah (raised an atheist) or when your parents’ divorce (yet to happen). Like a vine growing, blooming and leaves dying, I’ve begun to envision my growth as this non-linear idea. To comfort my unease at the beginning of a new decade, I’ve created a list of things I think I’ve learnt: 

  1. The grass is always greener on the other side

It is true; life could always be better. But thinking about little things like height, weight, or how much money you have, won’t make it better for you. It’s been proven, by me, that getting what you want, isn’t fun. Being skinny isn’t fun. Where do you draw the line on what makes a ‘healthy weight’? Where is the dream weight? Would you really be happier two pants sizes smaller? I know I’m not; I can’t eat all the delicious cakes and pastries I want. And I’m missing out. 


2. Give and receive love. 

To cherish and grow means relying on others (unfortunately). Vulnerability means trust and trust is not easy. By sharing with others you open yourself up to judgment, but if they really trust you they won’t judge. Enjoying someone’s company is more challenging than one thinks, but once you start you will not be able to live without it. Love is good, love is growth, and love brings new beginnings. Tell your friends you love them because more likely than not they feel the same way.


3. Is there a point to marriage? 

Statistically speaking, your first partner probably isn’t your soulmate. The idea of high school sweethearts is so romanticised and people look at their grandparents as an adornment of real love; but given a lack of freedoms for women and the social taboo of divorce, is it just compliancy? The idea of soulmates is weird (and a topic for another piece of writing). But then, most married people I know, aren’t happy or pretend to be because it's ‘normal’. The concept of marriage is unique because I don’t pay for a piece of paper so I can be friends with people, so why do I need one to say I’m with my partner until I die? Just enjoy people’s company, don’t date to marry, date to enjoy. So far, it’s worked for me. Or maybe just don’t get married, then you never have to worry about divorce! 


4. Don’t cut all your hair off, you won’t be happier. 

When I was eight I cut my hair very short. It didn’t fit in a ponytail but cutting it so short I showed my mum I was a big girl and didn’t need a fringe anymore. I didn’t get a haircut from 8-15. Freshly 18, I decided I would cut my hair short to show maturity. Was I also trying to shed some of the things I’d dealt with that year? Yeah, and after the big chop, I was still sad; I just had shorter hair.  I would like to speak to all the magazine writers who said it would make me happier. 


5.  Don’t become a manager in a fast-food restaurant at 18.

Don’t do it. Don’t fucking do it. I did it and was told AFTER I quit that I wasn’t fun to be around. The friends you make there get lost in the real world.  The stress, the short-staffed shifts, and the getting yelled at over a large fry isn’t worth it. Yeah, it looks good on a resume but at what cost? 


6. If you ever find yourself in an industry where you sell your creative projects, they should always be about love or sex. 

Sex sells. Love sells even better. What more could anyone want to see than two people be happy? You’ll make a lot of money and be set in a job for life. 


7. Get your license. 

Trust. I know it's stressful and more fun to be driven around. But get it, it’ll change your life. 


8. Anger is good, but not always!

Anger shows passion, determination, and resistance. You need these qualities to be a well-rounded person. Stand up for what’s right and what you believe in unless you’re a fascist, then probably don’t if you still want to have friends and be invited places. Though also know that anger takes its toll. Frustration can ruin good things. Speak your truth and your mind but remember that disagreeing is good. Challenging your ideas and what others believe is how we get smarter and closer to one another. You cannot change if you think already know everything. They say a jack of all trades is a master of none. 


9. If you really want to get to know someone, go on holiday with them. 

I went on a girl’s trip with six friends and came back with two. Take what you want from that. Being stuck with people you have no direct relation to is a really good way to get to know them. You can’t change distinct aspects of people’s personality, regardless of how much you ignore or persist. Things will fall into place exactly how they are meant to and you’ll see what you like and dislike about people.

10.  Vienna waits for you. 

Billy Joel said: “you can’t be everything you want to be before your time.” Let that sit there, let it nestle in between your heart and chest. Sit in the feeling and wallow in the idea that you cannot rush what is yours, some things are meant to be with or without your influence. Go on walks, enjoy your town, and find the beauty in the mundane. Wallow in the times when things are going your way and when they’re not “It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two”. 

11. Call your pets silly names

They love you more than they can comprehend the English language. They will not hold it against you. It is really fun to show someone a picture of your cat and say, “This is Pablo”. 

12. Get involved, you’ll have more fun. 

I hated hearing this. My mum would tell me this when I was in high school. Fuelled by my teen angst, I ignored this comment in protest and hated my high school experience for a number of reasons. Insecurity within myself made me think that I wouldn’t enjoy it or the people who interacted with me wouldn’t enjoy it either. I was wrong as I got involved in a university club (this publication) and you’ll make so many friends and look forward to seeing them. 

13. Mix two or three prints. 

One print is not enough, two is bold, three is ambitious, but four is too many. If you wear four prints you’ll look like a rug with legs. Two prints is very cool or European, three is fashion forward. One though says you’re not confident about your personality and you wore a loud shirt so we wouldn’t notice.


14. Talk.

Everyone is talking. In talking therapy, talking online or in person, talking with people they want to be or talking to fill a silence. It's how you move ahead in life, your career, or the crazy romantic race. That being said, I’m not huge on talking. Fiona Apple said, “I don’t talk if I don’t have anything to say” and for 19 years that’s been my motto. But you don’t move ahead in the rat race if you don’t talk. 


15. Your favourite vegetable is probably a potato. 

Don’t say zucchini or pumpkin to be cool or edgy. Don’t kid yourself or everyone around you. Sweet potato doesn’t count either. There is nothing wrong with being in the masses, there is safety in numbers. Pumpkin or zucchini couldn’t do chips, mash, croquettes or gnocchi the same way potatoes can, think about that. 


16. Own physical copies of your favourite media. 

I don’t care what big tech says, the digital future is not real. Spotify confuses me because I shouldn’t have access to this much music. I would rather cherish a few than like everything. Think about when you pass on your things to your children; you might get laughed at for bequeathing an iCloud account. Your kids would prefer a copy of your favourite book or vinyl left to them in the will. 


17. You can’t control everything. 

I know it sucks but unfortunately, not everything is in your control.  There is only a small circle of things you have power over, so why worry about the things you don’t? You cannot control if they like you or if you will get a job, but you can try. Sometimes there will be moments when you try but if it doesn't go your way and that’s okay. People can know you tried and cared but still failed. There are more unfortunate things to deal with than letting people know you care.


18. Having friends who are all over 21 when you're 17 is not as cool as you think. 

There is a reason that people over 21 are so eager to be friends with you at 17. It’s probably because they can’t make friends with people their own age. Yes, it’s fun to be driven around and invited to parties. Except it’s not normal to be 17 and at a friend’s engagement party when he’s 23.  Also, the one girlfriend you thought you were super close to but was a bit weirded out by how clingy she was, she’ll try to groom you. Then only on your eighteenth birthday will she try to grope you and that’s when you’ll realise she thought you were a lesbian even though you told her explicitly how much you loved your boyfriend. So, long story short, maybe try to make friends your own age. 


19. Always buy a pair of flats. 

Ballet flats were never a trend to me, they’ve become a lifestyle. Yes, they will give you blister on blister, but the hard work is worth it. You will look chic and everyone will think you’re European when in theory, you are just well dressed. They are the perfect way to spice up an outfit and you will love the sound they make when you walk on hardwood floors and concrete. 


20. As much as it’s your first time living, it’s everyone else’s first time too.  

It’s easy to hold grudges on little moments. Your parents embarrassed you or you saw someone trip on the footpath. As much as these things are laughable, it’s their first time living too. They are learning and making mistakes as much as you are. They are just as unsure as you. They have dreams and goals like you although they may be different. Nothing is that serious. Despite what Chuck Palahniuk said, we are all snowflakes, each as different as the next. 

Although 20 is just another year and another chapter I begin, a new decade excites me. 20 isn’t very old therefore what I’ve learnt probably isn’t as helpful to you as someone who is 40. But with age comes wisdom and I’m still young and have so much of the world to explore and friends to make and outfits to wear.


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