Today our guest contributor Jessica Essad has come on to our blog to add to the Things I Wish I Knew series we have recently started. If you’re in your twenties or late teens, this one’s for you. And if you’re older then this post is also a must read, as you can probably relate to most of the things Jessica says.
1. LOVE your body and treat it that way. When I say this, I am not talking about fad diets. I am not talking about going juicing or getting in your AMRAP in every day. I am speaking about having a conscious, healthy relationship with both food and exercise, and as a result, your body. In your 20s its all about extremes. Party all night through the morning, go straight to work, power nap and repeat. Sure, I was conscious of healthy eating (salad is what you should have, right?), but I didn’t really understand food as being a point of nourishment for my body rather than means to a thinner waistline. So many people develop unhealthy relationships with their bodies in their 20s. That vessel that so easily went where they steered it when they were young, is now capsized and sinking below expectations as hormones and lower activity levels start to kick in. We change and those favorite “high school jeans” don’t go past our thighs anymore, and we start looking at ourselves with an especially critical eye. Our relationship with food and activity turns into a seesaw. One moment, we are eating 1000 calories a day and the next we are blacked out in a pile of Taco Bell chicken gorditas with no recollection of what happened. Here is what you need to know. Your body is beautiful. It is specifically designed to change and adapt as you age. Accept it! The most critical person is you, everyone else thinks you still look great. Eat to nourish your body. When you are hungry, feed yourself healthy, nutrient dense foods. Don’t overdo it. Find a sustainable, enjoyable form of exercise you can see yourself doing 3-5 days a week. Give yourself some grace.
2. Get a dog- I know this one is weird. If you don’t like dogs, get a cat. If you don’t like cats or dogs, get a bunny. If you don’t like animals, well… I don’t trust you anyways, why are you reading this? All kidding aside, while many don’t believe they have time, I believe having another life to care for, particularly in this period in your life, molds you into a better human. It helps prepare you for things like parenthood, or just general adult-like responsibilities. It helps you mature a little as well. On nights when you feel like partying all night and maybe missing that next day’s Economics test, the thought of Fluffy not getting his night time potty break will draw you home. They are the perfect thing to get you through a breakup (and I hate to say, most of you will have those in your 20s). Additionally, nothing beats a warm, furry heartbeat at your feet in times of stress and loneliness that will inevitably come at some point in your 20s.
3. You should work the hardest you’ve ever worked- In your 20s, you should be working the hardest you’ve ever worked. Whether your balancing college classes, an internship and a job, working extra hours and going to trade school, or working multiple jobs, this is your time to hustle. You have the time, you most likely lack the responsibility of children and significant others (although if you don’t, you are likely still working the hardest you’ve ever worked!), you need to build. If you get a degree understand all it is, is a fancy piece of paper that no one really cares about. Your merit rides on your effort, and in your 20s you should be learning tough lessons on drive, commitment, and perseverance. Whether your grinding to build your business, climb the corporate ladder, save for a year long excursion in Costa Rica (you trust fund babies step aside), the harder you work now, the easier promotions and opportunities will come later. The world won’t owe you anything, and the only way to build something is brick by brick, so you might as well do it when you are young and full of vigor.
4. Mentors are priceless- Don’t be afraid to go outside your normal scope. Find someone who is where you want to be and ask them how they got there. Talk to them, on scheduled, at least monthly calls. This should not be someone you already know, but someone you sought out. Confide in them. Don’t be afraid to share your worries, troubles, and be open to feedback. Find someone that is different from you, that can help you grow. Grow your own brand by getting them invested in your personal growth. A lot of times, mentors aren’t just incredible for personal development from an advice standpoint. They often can help with your branding, make connections, etc. Don’t be afraid to reach out to that person with thousands of followers on LinkedIn. The one that radiates success. While you may not think that they will respond, many of them jump at the opportunity to help others.
5. If you can, avoid student loans- All too often I see people with high profile jobs barely scraping by because they have an extra mortgage payment of student loans to pay. Most of these loans have astronomical interest rates. There are so many more ways to get money. A quick google search will bring up thousands of scholarship opportunities. Get with your counselor and select several to apply for. Even if you think it is a long-shot, its worth a try. Get a credit card with as low as an interest rate as possible. Put your tuition on there if you are paying for school, and work the semester to pay it off, and then repeat. You will build credit and end college free and clear of student loan debt.
6. Don’t confuse comfort with love- So many young people get married only to get divorced in their 30s. Most of the time, in addition to social pressures, I believe this has to do with not wanting to be uncomfortable. Not wanting to deal with a break up. Living with someone and not wanting to move. Not wanting to worry about splitting friends. If it isn’t amazing now, what makes you think you can make it that way? If you go into a relationship with someone wanting to change something about them, they are not right for you. Accept that and move on. It will be hard and uncomfortable at first, but in the end, it is worth it. Know that the perfect relationship doesn’t exist, but don’t use that as an excuse for staying in a less than satisfactory one. Don’t get married because everyone is doing it. Don’t stay in a relationship because no one else is single. Don’t convince yourself the person that isn’t right for you will be the best that you can get. I can tell you, as a person who had around 5 long-term relationships in my 20s, including one that resulted in a divorce, you can do better. An easy way to tell if you love someone, is imagine spending those first few months of COVID-19 with them. Locked up in the house, nowhere to go for 2 months. Would that person drive you crazy or would you still be interested in them? If its not the latter, leave.
7. Don’t be an asshole- I will admit, in my 20s, I was a complete asshole. I had little regard for others. When I went to my family’s house for dinner, I sat at the table and talked with everyone instead of rushing to do the dishes. I didn’t rush to help someone move. I didn’t go out of my way to do nice things for people. I was working 2 jobs and went to school full-time and I had no time for anyone but myself. I passed judgement on people over things I didn’t understand, which, I thoroughly regretted later in life. When you’re 20, you are likely insecure yet cocky, self-absorbed, and a little bit frivolous. Try bringing some empathy into your life. Understand that everyone’s circumstances are difference and all you can do is seek to understand and see the light in people. Practice courtesy and show compassion. Help others, and do that even when it is inconvenient for yourself. You won’t regret it when you are older.