I’m writing this as I enter into what is my last year of my 20s. It feels a little crazy to write that! I’m starting to realize just how big the gap has grown between myself and the 20-year-old young women who read my work. Nothing says “old” like asking “Has anyone here played Zoo Tycoon?” and hearing only crickets, except maybe thinking a song you love came out in 2014 when, in fact, it came out in 2009. But I digress.
Our culture celebrates the 20s as a season of discovery. This “discovery” may include partying, dating or sleeping around, multiple career changes—all in an effort to find out who we really are. As I approach 30, I hear people say, “I loved turning 30 because I figured out who I really was.” And while that’s great, I think we can know who we are a lot earlier than 30 years old. Nor do we need to abuse 10 awesome years of our lives to discover God’s purpose.
I made mistakes and fell flat in my 20s, and I’ll do the same in the next decade, too, but thank God for His grace! I believe my 20s—especially the latter half of them—were a truly freeing, strengthening and emboldening season. I hope the same for you.
Having made said mistakes, today I want to share eight ways you can ruin your 20s experience. This is not to be depressing, but so you can catch yourself sooner than I did.
1. You keep dating the same type of guy…even though it’s clearly not working for you.
I had a consistent type for years despite the fact that every time I dated my “type,” we broke up. Get a clue, Phylicia! But early in my 20s I was more concerned about what other people thought of my boyfriend—how we looked together, his goals and accomplishments, or even just the status of being IN a relationship—than how good the relationship was for me. When I opened my eyes to guys who weren’t my type (and who I wasn’t even attracted to at first), I met a lot of great people and eventually met Josh, my husband.
2. You’re searching for your calling like it’s a blueprint for life.
Here’s why this doesn’t work and isn’t biblical.
3. You hold bitterness against your parents—especially your mom.
This will hold you back in more ways than you can count. Here’s how to forgive your mom.
4. You’re holding onto familiar friendships instead of making new ones.
I’m not saying you should let go of ALL your old friends. But if you’re trying to force a connection, doing all the work to maintain a relationship where the other person clearly doesn’t pull their share, it may be time to move on. We tend to keep our high school relationships out of familiarity and fear of making new friends. Don’t let fear hold you back. There are so many great people in the world!
5. You always say you’ll travel, but you never do.
You can still travel when you’re married with kids. Josh and I do it! But I do wish I had traveled more (and not just home for Christmas) when I was in my early 20s. Grab a great friend, save up some money and buy experiences, not just things.
6. You refuse to put down roots right where you are.
Mistake #1 on my own list: refusing to embrace the city in which God had me. Even though I’ve lived in a few different places that weren’t my favorite, when I invested in the community, showed up, engaged with people and made an effort, leaving was a lot harder than I thought it would be—because I formed relationships. Don’t bide your time waiting for something better. This is it, until God moves you.
7. You live for the approval of others.
You answer to God alone for your decisions, ultimately. And even though you owe your parents respect and your friends love, their endorsement of your life choices cannot be your primary lens for life.
8. You live as if you can do life without Jesus.
If you’re reading this, you probably identify as a Christian. But do you live like one? Do you actually follow Christ in daily life? Do you act like Him, seek Him, listen to Him, read His words? That is what Jesus meant when He called us “disciples.” A disciple is constantly learning from their teacher. Your 20s are the time to pour yourself into your walk with the Lord. Nothing you do will matter here if you aren’t seeking Him in His Word and following His Spirit’s leading.
And if you do seek Him, you’ll have the wisdom to face everything else here.