- Rachel Reynolds
20 Things I've Learned In My 20s
Wow - here we (almost) are: the big three-oh! Yup, I turn 30 in just a few days! When I think about trying to summarize my 20’s in a quick lil intro paragraph, I truly have no idea where to begin. They say your 20’s are your defining decade, and I suppose that is the most concise way to put it.
I started my 2nd decade in life as a junior in college, studying graphic design, staying up til 2am on the regular, waitressing, and cheerleading every Saturday. I’m ending that same decade as a happily married, full-time artist, who loves to go to bed by 10pm and spend my Saturdays by being the first in line at vintage furniture markets. I've made (lots of) mistakes over the past 10 years, but I know that everything I've done has shaped me into who I am today.
I think everyone can agree that their 20’s seem to be a wild combination of years, where every event leads you to learn a little something about yourself, the world, and who you want to become. On top of all these smaller events, I would say there were 3 big pivotal moments that really defined and shaped my 20s. 1) When I decided to not take the full-time event planning job I was offered my senior year of college, and instead moved to Florida to meet all new people and do the Disney College Program. 2) When I quit my full-time graphic design job in Nashville to pursue my freelance career and live as a nomad for a year. 3) My first date with Curtis.
I’ve seen other bloggers write this type of post - 20 things I’ve learned in my 20’s, and I absolutely love it! I think we all go through so much in this decade, and learn so much from it. And though I know that I will always be learning and growing, I thought today it would be fun to look back and think about the things I’ve learned. So without further ado, here it is!
20 Things I Have Learned In My 20s:
1. It’s okay to feel lost
Before your 20s, your whole life is pretty much set up for you. For me, it was pretty typical: grade school, high school, then off to college. It wasn’t until after graduation that I realized this ‘freedom’ I was so excited for was actually a lot scarier than I thought it would be. What do I want my career to be? Where do I want to live? It’s all up to me! It’s natural to feel lost at times, especially with being faced with so many decisions. For me, I try to listen to my intuition and follow that - and it *usually* leads me to good places :)
2. Things don’t work out for a reason
Warning you now, this list of 20 things will probably include a lot of well-known cliches, ha! But hey, they’re cliche for a reason. The times I spent crying about a job I didn’t get or a relationship that didn’t work out - that all seems so small now. And so obvious as to why they didn’t work out. Don’t get me wrong, your feelings are totally valid and you have the right to be upset, but better things are coming.
3. Traveling is amazing, but in a different way than I see online
My generation is the first generation to really grow up with pinterest and bloggers and perfectly curated instagrams that make traveling look like your dreams come true. And trust me, it is a dream come true. But not in the picture perfect way you see online. It’s a dream come true when you get to connect with people across the country who share the same values with you, or when you see a sunset that truly takes your breath away, or when you finally get to take a shower after a delayed flight and 14 hours in the airport. I would encourage anyone to travel as much as they can in their 20s.
4. The world is a lot bigger than I thought
And on the note of traveling, wow - the world is truly a lot bigger than I thought. I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and while I always knew there was obviously more to see - I had no idea how much was out there. A world filled with people with a million different upbringings, different values, and different outlooks. And there’s still so much to see, and so much to learn.
5. Do the Disney College Program (or other interesting type of internship)
I know I know, Disney Adults don’t exactly have the best rep..but I swear doing the Disney College Program absolutely changed me. I got to meet so many people from all over the world, every single day. They said at orientation that you will meet your friends for life at Disney, and I kinda thought yeah, yeah - I’m not even here for that long. But, I swear my Disney friendships are my closest friendships. Something about living with 6 girls in a 2 bedroom apartment, working 50 hours a week in the hot Florida sun will really bring people together, ha! I know it’s probably changed since 2015, but I really couldn’t recommend it enough - or another type of fun internship!
6. A dog really can be your best friend
I got Leo when I was 23 years old and doing the Disney College Program. It was towards the end of my program (and I was feeling a little lost) - when I found this perfect chicken nugget dog sitting at the Orlando Animal Shelter. Since then, Leo has always been by my side and has been a constant companion, even on days when I felt so lonely. He really is my best little friend.
7. You deserve good things
You really do, and you have to believe it. I think a lot of people think that I’m like this super confident person, and though I slowly have gained confidence in my 20s - it wasn’t always that way. I've had horrible bosses and just thought that was the way it was supposed to be. It's not! It took me a bit of time to realize that the world was not out to get me, and to not be so anxious when something good happens - it's supposed to be good!
8. Comparison really is the thief of joy
Another cliche, I know. But it’s true. I heard on a podcast once that if you see that one of your friends got married, one bought a new house, and one got a new job - your brain will combine all 3 together, and make you think that you should also get married, a house, and a new job (even though it was 3 different friends that you saw accomplish these things). I just thought that was really interesting. We really are all on our own journey, and I think it’s important to stay focused on your own goals, and what’s important to you.
9. Start acting like what you want to become
In the spirit of achieving goals, I also like this mindset. I suppose it’s more of like a fake it til you make it mindset. Say you have an entry-level job, but you want to get a promotion. Call it manifestation or what have you, but start dressing the part. Start acting like what you want to become, and more likely than not - you’ll become it.
10. Some friendships will fizzle out
And it’s really hard. Your 20s are full of making decisions and finding your path, and sometimes that means your path doesn’t align with your friends. I don’t think this is talked about enough - how hard it can be to go through a friend break up. Just know that if you’re going through one, it’s natural - and it’s okay to be upset, but it’s important to make sure your life is filled with only the most genuine of friendships. The good thing is that these friends really do turn into family.
11. Own up to your mistakes
There's no doubt that you will make mistakes in your 20s... and probably your 30s, 40s, 50s and so on. I think one of the most valuable lessons you can learn is to admit when you messed up, and work on making it better.
12. Find a fun way to stay active
I cheered all through college, which means when I graduated it was the first time in my life I wasn’t mandated to work out at 6am. It took me a minute to figure out what it meant to stay healthy on my own - but over the years I have found that group classes and long walks are what make me happy!
13. Our society’s alcohol norms aren’t exactly normal
Look, I love a glass of red wine or a spicy margarita - but over the past couple of years I’ve really had a look at how much alcohol can consume us and our social lives, and it’s been really nice to cut back on it. And it’s really helped with my anxiety.
14. Speaking of anxiety, it’s okay to get medicine for it
I plan to open up about this more later - but it took me up until the last few months to realize that it’s okay to take medicine for anxiety (or any mental health symptom). I tried everything to not be on it (for some reason I thought it would dampen my creativity, which it has not) - I went to therapy, worked out, journaled, drank less, etc. But it really is the extra piece that makes my brain feel more level.
Growing up, I thought politics was such a snooze fest. Ohh how ignorant and privileged that mindset was! It really is up to us to educate ourselves and use our voice, and to not do that really is such a shame. Your voice is so important.
16. Trying to be all things to all people will be exhausting
I’ve struggled with this a lot with social media.. Especially during the pandemic and with so many causes to care for. One time I posted a picture of my iced coffee and then immediately deleted it because it had a straw in it and I was worried someone would think that I didn’t care about sea turtles… I do love sea turtles! But over the years, I’ve learned more and more about who I am and what I stand for, and I really just try to be more true to that. People will always have opinions, and I’m grateful my skin has gotten a bit thicker.
17. Don’t overspend
Another thing with social media is that it really promotes overconsumption - which can be easy to get caught up in. It’s so important to make a budget and take control of your finances in your 20s. You got this!
18. My parents have sacrificed so much
Look, in my teenage years - I was not the most pleasant person to be around (if you were my dad and stepmom). Maybe it’s the combination of growing up, hormones balancing out, and actually having to pay my own bills - but somewhere in that mix I realized just how much my parents have given to me and how grateful I am. It makes me cringe to think about how mean I was in my teens! I’m so grateful for my relationship with my family.
19. Marriage is not about a wedding
If you want to read more about our wedding, you can check it out here - but let me tell you, that’s not even the good part! I really can’t describe the feeling that I have found with the trust and comfort of marrying my other half. Of waking up next to someone who truly most likely knows me better than I know myself. It’s not all roses and butterflies alllll the time, but it really is the best feeling in the world.
20. Embrace your inner child
I’ll end with this. The world can be tricky sometimes - there’s work and bills to pay, and your 20’s is really when you realize this for the first time. I think it’s up to you to play, and to embrace your inner child. Paint, write, cook, dance, make candles - do something that will bring you joy. You have to feed your inner child, and find joy in the simplest of things. I think that will be my secret in feeling young forever.
And there we have it! Wow, what a decade it has been. I can’t wait to see where this next one takes me!
I truly can’t thank you enough for supporting me throughout the past years. It’s been a wild ride. I started painting when I was working at Disney trying to figure out what I wanted to do.. And then have taken about a million twists and turns since then. Whether you've been here since the beginning or have just started reading - thank you for cheering me on, reading my blog, and supporting my art. Y’all are the best, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you so much!