How to Survive Your Twenties

Last week I wrote a post about how self-help/how-to lists are often written by people completely unqualified to tell you how to live your life.

This week, I’m writing a self-help/how-to list about surviving your 20s.

Hey, my blog is not called Hipstercrite for shits and giggles.

I’m not even finished with my twenties, so I’m certainly not the best person to heed advice from, but I’ve come across many articles about how to survive your 20s and I think they’re full of crappola. Most of the articles will say something like, “Find balance” blah blah blah. Well, that’s bullshit. You’re going to be a basket case of questions and worries and imbalance for a good chunk of your 20s. The best you can do is try not to let yourself go insane.

Looking back on my 20s, no amount of advice or wisdom from others was going to prevent me from making the choices I did. I was going to do what the hell I wanted to do, but looking back, I certainly learned a lot from my mistakes and wished maybe I at least had one ear sticking out of my asshole.

1.) Remember that you’re not the only self-centered twenty-something going through shit, with “shit” being relative
It’s really easy in your 20s to think you’re the only gosh damn person who is worrying about employment, money, relationships and creative endeavors. Well, guess what? You’re not! In fact, probably the majority of people have more shit to worry about than you do- like getting their house foreclosed on or trying to figure out a way to pay for their medical bills. Everyone is a stinkin’ bag of insecurity and anxiety in their 20s and the ones who are not are just in denial. Wait until it hits them at 40. All the questions and concerns and drama that you are going through is not new, to anyone, ever, in the history of the planet. You can sit there and rattle off about why you keep hooking up with a dude who treats you like crap or why you hate your post-graduate job even though it was what you always wanted to do, but after awhile, you sound like a self-centered boob. Talk to friends and realize that- SURPRISE!- they’re in the same boat and take solace in that.

2.) Don’t Date Jerks
But you’re going to anyways, so the best way to deal with it is to remember that you’re better than that and one day you’ll wake up and realize it. Whether it be men or women, twenty-somethings are usually an insecure mess pile and they’re not going to be the best people to date. In fact, they may take out their own insecurities on you by treating you like poo: not calling you back, disappearing, cheating on you, etc. Your twenties are about figuring out who you are and what you want in a partner, and sometimes it may take you into your thirties to figure that out. Or maybe you thought you figured it out and one day you wake up next to your significant other and say in a low rumble, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Dating jerks early on is not going to help your already questionable self-esteem get any better, so try to avoid creating piles of baggage by not doing it in the first place. Date someone who is 40 and who can navigate you through this difficult decade of your life.

3.) Get a Job
Listen, don’t be a bum. I know the job market sucks right now and I know that reportedly 54% of kids under 25 are unemployed now, but get a job, any job. Living in your parents basement, whining about not being able to find a job in theater because that’s what you got your $60,000 degree in, not paying your bills and becoming complacent is not going to help anyone. Taking a year off to relax and save money living at your folks is one thing. Getting an allowance from your folks at 30 is another. Working is what keeps your mind active and your ambitions alive. It is also what makes us independent from your parents vice-like grip. Everyone has to work (unless you come from a wealthy family therefore I quietly judge you) and sometimes you might have to work at Forever 21 or Domino’s until that job you really want comes along. And if you think you’re better than working at Forever 21 or Domino’s and it’s better to have no job than work at places like that, well, I feel sorry for you.

4.) Pay Your Bills
It’s easy not to understand the severity of falling behind when you’re younger. Running up your credits cards and then not paying them, telling yourself, “Oh, this will fall off my credit report in seven years” is not responsible behavior. Because, guess what? If you want to buy a house or car and the ‘rents won’t co-sign, you might be shit out of luck. Or, what if the creditor decides to go ahead and sue you for the amount owed to them? How about them apples? Being financially responsible at an early age, no matter how difficult it is, will only help you in the future. I’m not telling you to start an IRA or 401k like those other lists tell you. Fuck, I live paycheck to paycheck so I don’t expect you to start contributing to savings accounts right yet (unless you’re that uber-responsible person that doesn’t apply to this entire post at all). Plus, the economy sucks right now anyways, so if you need your dough to survive, keep it. Save yourself a lot of future stress by staying on top of your bills as much as you can, and if you can’t, call your creditors and discuss your situation with them. You’ll be surprised what can happen.

5.) Make Friends With People Older Than You
Because they’re the only people who will tell you to shut the hell up when you start rambling about your shit. I’ve always gravitated towards people who are older than me because a.) they’re more interesting b.) they’re loyal friends and c.) they can give you excellent advice because they’ve already been through it all. Your older friends will keep it real. They’ll look at you and roll their eyes when you tell them for the 50th time how “life is so difficult”. I don’t know where I’d be today without my older friends who range from ten to fifty years older than me. I look up to them and they’re some of the first people I go to for advice.

6.) Listen to Your Parents
Your parents are not as full of shit as you think they are. Remember, they went through the same experiences you did and you are a piece of them that they have known for 20+ years, so they kind of know you better than anyone. My parents were always the first people I went to for advice, but I didn’t always listen to them. I typically tried to convince them how my decision was the best decision and they trusted me and supported me. Looking back, there were a few times where I wish I just stopped talking and listened. Regardless of what we think, our parents are on our side and they only want what is best for us.

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  • Reply That Chelsea Girl™ August 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    "And if you think you're better than working at Forever 21 or Domino's and it's better to have no job that work at places like that, well, then I feel sorry for you."

  • Reply Penny Lane August 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I am only one year into the twenties and I am already overwhelmed. Uh oh. But I know I am not the only one, and your post solidified that.

    Being in your twenties I think is one of the toughest but also most exciting time in one's life. I am waiting to see how it goes.

  • Reply Kellyn D August 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I love this post! Especially the bit about dating jerks cause everyone I know is dating jerks and/or getting divorced at 22. It's sad, really.

    Also, I definitely need to start listening to my mom. She's got a lot of advice I just don't pay enough attention to.

  • Reply Jennifer August 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    My favorite posts of yours always have the 'WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?… AND HOW TO FIX IT' theme.

    The best advice I've recieved thus far came from a wise-while-tispy girl at Beauty Bar, who I started speaking with after realizing her and her bestie were wearing similar outfits to my friend and I.

    She told me two things:
    1) Don't get married when you're 24. She was recently divorced, and suddenly got very serious, a turn from the previous lament over Urban Outfitters pricing, held my hands while looking at me the eye, and emphatically repeated – Don't get married at 24, you don't know what you want at 24. Real talk, drunk girl, real talk.

    2) Your 20s are for do-overs. Make a mistake and take a shitty job? Mess up a relationship? It's not the end of the world. Take all of the things you've learned from the intern-level tasks and the questionable hook-ups, and realize they at least make interesting party-stories (or blog entries).

    After taking a photo together (had to, similar fashion), my spirit guide disppeared into the night to help another girl considering a 2AM text plea to some guy without a car.

  • Reply Tara August 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I'm turning 21 soon, and sometimes I find myself wishing I could just fast-forward through all of the bullshit and get to the "good" part of my life…and then it occurs to me that there will likely never be a part of my life where there isn't some sort of bullshit going on. It just changes.

    I haven't experienced the bad relationships yet, or found the loyal friends, or learned my lesson about being financially responsible, and sometimes I feel like I'm missing out…like I'm just kind of sitting off to the side while everyone else is in the game. I know others probably deal with this, but I feel like many of my peers are already learning these lessons and having these experiences, while I'm just…there. I hate being so inactive in my own life. But hey, maybe this is just an example of one of those "learn the hard way" lessons that I just happen to be going through right now and don't realize it. Good post.

  • Reply Big Mark 243 August 1, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Solid advice, girlfriend!

  • Reply Jo and the Novelist August 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    It's weird, no matter how many people tell me that "your twenties suck" I still feel like I'm the only one having a suckfest of a decade.

    Excellent, excellent advice. I think I'll even print this post out and stick it on my mirror and read it every morning until my 30th birthday.

  • Reply Perk August 2, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Points well made. I might make this one change to your excellent advice.

    Don't just get a job, get two jobs.

    I was at my best when in my 20s I worked two shitty jobs. I had the time to do it, and looking back, I'm surprised at how many important connections I made while working those second jobs that I wouldn't have made sitting at home in Dad's basement.

    When it gets to be too much, you can always quit one job and keep the other.

  • Reply Kimberly Kaye August 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    "Make friends with people older than you"–best piece of advice you can give, and always left off these kinds of lists. Good post, great advice. You're my hero.

  • Reply masterandcaptain August 4, 2011 at 12:58 am

    This is some of the best advice I've ever been given. Thank you. I'm still about nine months away from my 20th birthday, but I'm already in the rut. I'm determined to start it off right!

  • Reply Damian August 5, 2011 at 4:02 am


  • Reply Lauren MB August 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Fantastic advice; I'm 25 and I feel I've dealt with or have tried to accomplish pretty much all that's on your list.

    I would add "Take your time with life experiences". If you don't want to party through college, don't. If you want to wait until your early twenties to lose your virginity, good for you.

    I feel that college kids 18-20 who view college as the only here&now and don't consider the future, look at life as: "party, travel, buy a car, date every guy, pull all-nighters, go!go!go!, have-a-serious-relationship-before-I-even-know-what-a-serious-relationship-means"– …it doesn't have to be that way if you don't want it to.

    I was a late bloomer myself, and a very good friend of mine told me once (while I tripping on shrooms for the first time at 25- case in point) that she thinks it was good for me to have these life experiences a little later than most people. I've always thought that, but to hear someone say it- it was validating and encouraging.

  • Reply LaceyR April 24, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Loved your post.

    I would say that one thing I would add to the list is similar to Lauren MB, don’t be pressured by your peers accomplishments.

    I know that as a 24 year-old a lot of my friends are getting married, getting nice salaries and, yes, even having children. I know at times that I panic a little when I have none of those and think, “Where did I go wrong?”

    Answer: I didn’t. I just have different goals.

    So after going to five weddings in three months and being asked a thousand times what I do again, I still appreciate that I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made up to this point. I can’t take myself too seriously. Twenties are about exploring your passions so that you can make a living off of them in your thirties and onward. And thus why I enjoy reading your articles, live by example, right?


    • Reply hipstercrite April 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Good one, Lacey! I agree with you. It’s hard not to ask yourself questions when you see peers getting married and having kids. At the same time, I wouldn’t live my life any other way!

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