Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The big 2-0


"It's those years when you're in your 20s, when everything matters and nothing matters at exactly the same time. Now that is beautiful. Really beautiful." -RJ Shaughnessy

Earlier this week, my little sister Melissa turned 20!! While it's hard to believe that we're not kids anymore, I couldn't be more proud of the beautiful woman Melissa has become both inside and out, and I couldn't have asked for a better best friend. Now I know that 21 is the birthday that everyone usually makes a big deal about. However, I feel that turning from 20 is a huge milestone, and her birthday has made feel just a little reflective about what an awesome time in your life your twenties is. Sure, your teen years are fun, high school is great, but your twenties is the time that you really start to come into your own and really shape the identity of the person you want to be. In your twenties, you feel like your life is just beginning, and there is such an excitement of having the world at your finger tips, and the open road of life stretched out in front of you. During the years of your twenties is generally when you experience some huge milestones-graduating from college, starting your first real job, moving away from friends and family, getting married, and possibly even starting a family...that's a lot of excitement to pack in to ten years! Everyone takes different paths on the road life, and these years are filled different experiences for everyone, or the same experiences that may just happen at different times. For me, getting engaged, planning a wedding and being married has been something that I've gotten to experience a little bit earlier than my friends, as 22 is a little on the early side to get married by today's standards. However, that's the path that my twenties have taken and I wouldn't change a thing; marriage has been the biggest blessing and the most wonderful thing that I've ever experienced, and I am excited for my friends to get to see what it's like. My friends are all doing different things with their lives--some are still in school, some have moved across the country, many have started jobs, and everyone is growing and learning a lot about themselves. I think that really the process of self-discovery is the most significant thing that happens during your twenties--you learn how to survive on your own apart from your parents and your high school and college friends, you learn what you like and dislike whether that be in a mate, in a friend, in a boss, in a city, etc., and then you go about the process of arranging a life that is best suited to you. And while your twenties can be fairly stressful as there are so many new experience, I think that the quote I started this post of with perfectly highlights what's so great about this time in your life--you're still young. You're going to make mistakes, and that's OK. While you're twenties are a monumental decade, it's so important to not take yourself to seriously, keep your sense of humor, and have FUN! Now, Melissa is just starting her 20's and I am so excited for her as she's so adventurous, creative, and ambitious, I know that she has such a bright future ahead. She's got big plans to travel the world and make a difference, and I really admire her free-spirit and her "sky's the limit" attitude when looking towards her future. I know that we may not always have the luxury of living in the same state or even the same country like we do now, but the closeness we have now will never change, and I'm so excited for what lies ahead for her. So, in honor of her birthday, I have decided to make a little list of 20 things to do during you're 20's...I got this idea from another blog I stumbled across, and I though it was really great...the things on the list are things that I aspire to do, so feel free to use it as a jumping off point to set your own goals for this exciting time in your life!
  • Travel-Your 20's are the time to get as many stamps in your passport as possible, and to get out and see the world. Our parents always taught my sister and I that traveling was one of the best ways to learn, and as I've gotten older, I've realized just how true that is because it not only teaches you about other cultures, but it teaches you about yourself as well. There are so many places that I want to see, both in the United States, and all over the globe, that traveling is really going to be a big priority for Cam and I over the next few years.
  • Read-Once you graduate from college, you can actually start to read for enjoyment, so for me that means a mix of new novels, interesting non-fictions, classics I never read in HS/college, and recommendations from family and friends. My goal-read @ least 200 books during my 20's...that's only 20 books a year, so ideally I'd love to read more, but this is what I'm setting as jumping off point.
  • Learn-Along with reading, during your 20's, I think it's so important to have the attitude of being a life long learner. What's great about your twenties is you have the freedom to learn about things because you want to, not because you have to, so why not learn a language (I'm even thinking of brushing up on my Italian), learn a new skill, and take this time to learn about your finances! I'm beginning to realize just how important this is...
  • Budget-So I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the best person when it comes to money, I'm more of a words person, numbers kind of annoy me. But whether you're married or single, taking control of your finances when you're young is SO important. If you choose to stay ignorant and ignore your financial situation, you're only going to be hurting yourself in the long run. So a big part of taking control of your finances is creating a budget for yourself. Since your 20's is the first time for most people to be financially supporting themselves, it can definitely be a bit of a learning process. Now I have never liked the word budget. To me it was basically like a diet with money, where you'd have to restrict yourself and never get to enjoy life. However, that's so not true, a budget actually gives you greater financial freedom because it allows you the ability to see exactly where your money is going and the security to know that you're going to be able to cover all your expenses and not put yourself into debt (a HUGE pitfall many 20-somethings get caught up in that you want to avoid at all costs). Cam and I have actually been using a really cool website called Mint, which allows you to track all your spending and categorizes your purchases. Taking a little time now to better understand and plan for your finances will make a huge difference in the future!
  • Save-On that note, if you want to be financially secure, it's so important to start saving (and investing) now in your twenties as opposed to later down the road. Again, I am by now means an expert on this, but the numbers speak for themselves--if you were to save $100 every month from age 20 on that was earning 10% interest, by the time you were 65, you'd have over $1 million. However, if you wait until age 30 to start saving $100 a month, you'd only have less that $380,000 saved...quite the difference!! When you're in your 20's, talking about things like saving for your kids college education or retirement isn't exactly the sexiest of topics. However, you're only putting hurting yourself by waiting to save until you have more money, your married, or whatever excuse you might use. Money isn't meant to be a burden, it's meant to be a tool to help you accomplish the things you want out of life, whether it's vacations, h0mes, cars, etc...doing a little research about the importance of saving and building up a nest egg now in your 20's is one of the very best things you can do for yourself in the long run.
  • Create-Your 20's is a time to be inspired and express yourself, so I think that having a project to pour your creative energy into is a really great outlet to have. So whether it's a book, a blog, a piece of clothing (if you're like Melissa!), creating something is a wonderful process that everyone should get to experience.
  • Exercise-During your 20's, you have the blessing of having youth on your side, so this is a great time to get active and do things that you enjoy that will help keep you in shape. When you're young, the last thing you want to do is be overweight and unhealthy, so scheduling time for regular physical activity that you enjoy is such an important habit to develop during this time in your life.
  • Eat Healthy-On the same note, you can workout all you want, but if you're putting crap into your body, then it's all a waste of time. Your 20's can be a busy time, and that usually translates into eating foods that aren't healthy for us or resorting to things like crash diets that are terrible for you. Learning to eat the natural, unproccessed foods that your body craves will benefit you not only in your 20's but for the rest of your life, so that's why it's so important to get into the habit now, your body will thank you!
  • Sleep-This is a tough one for me, I am terrible at getting 8 hrs of sleep a night. If you start to do any reading on the subject, you realize how great getting a full restful night's sleep is and how bad being sleep deprived is, but still, I can't seem to get to bed on time. During your 20's you're trying to burn the candle at both ends, get up for work, go out at night, and basically do it all. But I'm slowly coming to the realization that I need to take advantage of the child-free years during my 20's to indulge in a good night's rest!
  • Volunteer-Channel the time, energy, passions you have available during your 20's to do some good for those in need. Everyone has different gifts and talents, and there are so many organizations in every community that would love the help. This goes back to your 20's being the time for you to figure out what kind of person you want to be. Sure no one is telling you have to volunteer, it's not required for Student Council or your sorority, volunteering in your 20's should be a habit that you want to get into because you start to realize that helping others feels good. Right now, you might not be at a point financially in your life where you can make a big donation to a charity, but could you donate a few hours of your time?
  • Set Goals-It's easy to come out of college like Pollyanna, very idealistic and bright-eyed...and then become discouraged and disillusioned once you get in to the working world. That's why it's so crucial to set goals for yourself--to see where you want to go in life, and then set the steps to get there. It's easy to sometimes feel like you are just wandering aimlessly through your 20's, especially when your career seems to be hitting a dead end. That's why staying focused and using your goals to motivate you is great for helping you reach your full potential. That's not to say that your goals aren't going to change over the course of your 20's, which is why you should keep constantly reevaluating them to make sure that you're moving in the direction you want to go.
  • Date-Although I may have already hung up my dating shoes at the ripe old age of 22, I do think that it's a exciting and important part of your 20's. Dating different people allows you to figure out things that you want and don't want in a partner, and it's definitely fun! Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you should just date tons of random people who you know are wrong for you, I do think you should be dating with a purpose, which is to eventually find you're mate. However, all I'm saying is don't be close-minded to who Mr. Right may be because you can't always judge a book by it's cover, so don't be afraid to date someone that's not your type.
  • Cook-If there is one skill that you should develop during your 20's, in my opinion, it's cooking. My dad always used to say that once you get the hang of it, cooking a good meal is really easy and can be done very quickly, and it's true! Most people get takeout a lot during this time in their life because they claim they don't have the time to cook, however, with a little practice, you can very quickly put together a great meal, that will be cheaper and healthier than dining out. And if you can hone your cooking skills now, think about how much easier it will be when you actually have to cook for a family! Also, I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to become Julia Child, but if you can learn the basics, and even learn how to make just one dish really well, you'll be doing yourself a big favor.
  • Experiment with your look-Your 20's is the time to try new things, and how are you going to figure out what you like if you stay in a rut? So whether it's chopping your hair, playing around with trends, getting a neon manicure, wearing a crazy outfit, changing your hair color, use this time in your life figure out how you feel most confident, and don't be afraid to do something out of character!
  • Develop your style-That being said, by the time you get to your twenties, you start to realize what things you feel most comfortable in and so this is the time when you can really define your own style. Whether it's a signature scent that you love, a silhouette that flatters your shape, or a shoe that brings your look together, your 20's is the time to develop the message you're trying to send with your style.
  • Splurge-As you start to create your own signature style, you realize there are certain pieces that just define "you"--whether it's a great coat, an awesome bag, amazing boots, whatever it may be, I think that you're 20's are a great time to indulge a little and really spend some significant investment pieces that will help build your wardrobe. This may seem contradictory to my points about budgeting and saving your money, but really it's not. If you really love something, it's worth spending the money to buy quality, that way it will last you all through your 20's and you'll always look great and be confident, as opposed to buying cheaper knockoffs that will just fall apart and cause you to waste more money on replacing them anyway. And splurging doesn't have to just mean huge purchases, it can be little ways to treat yourself too. Granted you don't want to lose sight of your budget and saving, but occasionally something like a mani/pedi, a massage, or even a great dinner or bottle of wine is a necessary expenditure :)
  • Establish a circle of friends-Having good girlfriends who will be there for you is one of life's greatest gifts. During your 20's, you start to establish the circle of friends that you can really depend on, and who are going to be in your life for the long haul. As you leave college, you realize that some of your "friends" were more just friends of convenience, those relationships begin to fall by the wayside. Maintaining friendships can take more effort in your 20's because you actually have to take the time to get together, which can be much more difficult as people move apart. However, your true friends will always love you and be there for you, so it's worth putting in the time to nourish these relationships in your life.
  • Take a risk-Your 20's are a time to (*throwback reference* as Ms. Frizzle would say) take chances, make mistakes, get messy! This is such a great time in your life to find out what you're made of, face your fears, and create memories that you can look back on and smile in your 80's. So whether that's something big that genuinely frightens you like sky diving, or something small that makes you mildly uncomfortable like going out to dinner alone, your 20's is the time to do these things!
  • Laugh-Nothing feels better than having a good laugh, and in my 20's, I want to be doing as much laughing as possible. This means keeping a sense of humor, even when things are tough and appear to not be going my way. This also means surrounding yourself with people who are positive, make you laugh and build you up, as opposed to a bunch of negative Nancies.
  • Strengthen your faith-I put this as the last point, not because it's the least important, quite the opposite, I put this last so it would be the last thing you read in this post, so hopefully you'll remember it! Your 20's is the time when you start to build your identity as an adult seperate from your family, and when it comes to faith, I think this is huge. When your younger, it's easier to bank on the fact that your family goes to church or your parents are Christian, and not get all that serious about it yourself. Then you go to college, and you're surrounded by a great many influences that can cause you to put your relationship with the Lord on the back burner. But your 20's are the time that you really need to stop making excuses and realize that if faith is really something that's important to you, it's something you need to make your own, and that means putting time into developing your own personal relationship with the Lord. This is so crucial especially as you look towards marriage, because it's very difficult to get in to a committed relationship with another person and think it will work out when you're relationship with God isn't a priority. That's not at all to say that I'm perfect or I have everything figured out in my walk with the Lord, obviously it's a process that will continue, both after your married and for the rest of your life. However, what I am saying is that your 20's are a great time to build a strong foundation of faith on which you can build a good life :)

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