24 Things You Should Learn Before Your 24th Birthday

On the eve of my 24th birthday, I realized: This is a big year. Mid 20s. Grown up status. I started thinking about things I have learned in the past few years, and things I SHOULD have learned. Here are 24 of them.

1. Your parents are actual people with bills and debts. I honestly didn’t really think about this until this past year. Before I thought: “There’s always money! Of course I’m not paying for drinks, or brunch, or dinner, or rent even though I’m 23.” Pay for brunch sometimes. Treat your parents. They’ve done a lot for you.

2. Loans are the worst. Literally, the worst.

3. You actually have to pay back all credit card debts. Credit cards can be the greatest. You use them because you want pretty things, and you’re broke because of loans, and YOLO. But, it’s real money. Seriously. They make you pay it back.

4. You will have horrifying roommates. There’s nothing you can do about it. Hibernate in your room, keep the ice trays full, and carry on until your lease is up.

5. Sometimes, college smarts don’t matter. I’m sure a lot of you, like myself, will graduate with great GPAs, having written wonderful papers, had intellectually stimulating conversations, and formed great relationships with your professors. Only to then move on to a job (or funemployent) that offers you none of this. You can’t do anything about this. So in the mean time…

6. Find outlets for your passions. Once you leave school, it’s hard to have those same experiences: discussing one line of Shakespeare for a 90 minute class, solving an algebraic equation—whatever your thang is. You have to SEARCH for these. It is hard, but worth it.

7. You will always want more money. Raises, big commissions, tax returns, bonuses—it’s never enough. Get used to this fact. Maybe try to adjust, maybe try to be satisfied. If you figure out a way to do this– tell me how.

8. Being so drunk you can’t stand isn’t cute anymore. And, was it ever? Ok, maybe on birthdays, celebrations, one post-break-up-outting. But other than that, seriously, it’s not cute.

9. Know how to cook one meal. At least one meal. Not just for dating (though it helps!), but for yourself. Experiment with cooking. Have fun using what you have in the house. Follow recipes. Change recipes. You’re a grown up now.

10. Taking a decent job is not selling out. It may feel like it at first, but it’s not. There are bills. And a 9-5 is not that bad. You learn a lot, meet people you never would otherwise, and you can decorate your cube. It is not selling out to want your bills paid and have happy hour money.

11. Furniture is expensive. And apparently owning a Craigslist bed isn’t appropriate after a certain age (some would say ever). End tables are always 100 dollars. People never talk about this. Hand-me-downs and thrift shops are your friends.

12. Gaining weight is really, really easy. The Freshman 15 is a well-known evil, and as such, we are prepared for it. The Cubicle Life 20 is something you are unprepared for, but is just as real. Sitting all day, free doughnuts, wine every night from cubicle life stress, etc. The setting and lifestyle are perfected for adding on the pounds.

13. Losing weight is really, really hard. Really hard. And gyms / yoga studios / spinning studios / LuLu Lemon are expensive. And eating a full pizza at 3am has lasting effects now that it didn’t when I was 21. You have to work at it once your body gets older. Really, really work at it.

14. You will grow apart from friends. You will have different work hours, different passions, different area codes, different interests. You are not the same people you were at 18. And that’s okay.

15. Vacations are really hard to take. PTO? Plane tickets? Hotels? Ha!

16. You need a hobby. Or hobbies. You’ll have time to fill once studying stops. Start a blog. Go to yoga. Start kick-boxing. It makes you more interesting.

17. Sometimes, relationships just end. Sometimes there’s no good reason. People fall out of love. People lose a connection. People want something else. It will happen, and it will suck. But you’ll be okay.

18. How to manage a budget. I don’t do this. I’ve never done this. I buy what I want because I want it, money or not. I’m learning people do not find this attractive, and it actually becomes a serious problem. Living within your means is important. And it’s a good skill for life.

19. Drinking is not easy anymore. I am writing this from my couch at 7pm, where I have been all day (save for the 30 minute brunch session where I ate a gigantic burger). I used to be able to jump back from a hangover by a tasteful noon. Not anymore.

20. Family is the most important thing. Call your grandparents. Write thank you cards. Take your parents out to lunch. Visit your siblings.

21. Making friends in the real world is hard. Once you graduate, especially if you move to a different city—you realize how hard it is to actually meet people. Join book clubs. Find a great yoga studio. Join a kickball league. It takes effort, but it’s necessary!

22. Know when someone’s not into you. By this age, we should know better. He didn’t respond to your texts for 3 days? Please, stop texting him. Please.

23. Staying in for a full weekend can be incredible. Yes, it’s tempting to go out on Friday and Saturday, and have a Sunday Funday. Freedom from the work-week! But, in my old age, I’ve learned how absolutely marvelous it can be to do absolutely nothing all weekend. Spend time with my dog. Watch an entire season of something. Hibernating at its finest.

24. Indulging yourself is important. Always take time for yourself. Especially when you think there’s no time to take time. Read a book. Take a bath. Get a mani-pedi. Sleep all day. Recharge.

Plus: Read Angela’s most recent reflection on what you should learn before your 25th birthday.

[Lead image via Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock]

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