20 Things You Must Do In Your 20s, From Someone Who's Done Them All

I wrote this piece awhile back, on the eve on my 30th birthday. After numerous attempts to get it published, I decided to say "fuck it" and push it out myself. It's a bit of a long read, but I felt it was worth sharing.

As I enter my 30s, I look back on the past decade with a slew of different emotions. In these past 10 years, I’ve been through some amazing highs and some absolutely devastating lows, but all these experiences have helped shape and mold me into the person I am today. Am I where I thought I would be when I was a teenager? No, not even close. Am I mad or frustrated with that fact? Hell no. The truth is, I’ve learned so much about life from just from getting out there and experiencing it - the good, the bad, and everything in between. I’ve been all over the world, done things I never thought I’d do, and met more people that I can even remember. In some ways I feel I’ve lived multiple lifetimes just in the past decade, yet at the same time I have this burning desire to experience more. I’m excited to get out of bed every morning and see what the new day has to offer. Don’t ever take this time for granted. Your 20s are an exciting and crucial time in your life. And while I know just how fun it can be, I know that at the same time they’re incredibly challenging. So I write this not to tell you how to live your life, but to let you know that we all go through the same shit. No one gives you a roadmap for your 20s. You need to figure a lot out on your own. So stop worrying about the pressures from your family, friends and society. This is your time to explore everything wonderful about life. Take it from someone who has been through it all.

 

Be Selfish

Most of us are taught from a very young age to look out for others and treat them with respect. And by all means, we should continue to carry on those lessons as we grow up. But sometimes people get so caught up in looking out for others, that they forget to look out for themselves. Our lives start to take a back seat to everyone else’s life. It can happen within our families, at work, or in social circles. For reasons good and bad, we push aside the things that we really want and feel because we think that we’re ultimately contributing to the better good. But what you don’t realize is that you truly can’t help others until you know how to help yourself.  Figuring out who you are takes time and a lot of trial and error. Your 20s are the time to be selfish and figure it out. Make plans, break plans, date a lot of people, work different jobs, explore, eat, drink, laugh, cry, have great loves, have great fights – do what you want to do. Nothing is finite. Experience it all now and use the lessons you learn to become the best possible you.

Fall In Love

I think The Beatles were on to something when they famously sang, “Love is all you need.” Love is an absolutely beautiful thing. It affects us deeper than any other emotion. And yet as much as we talk about it, it’s still a very difficult thing to describe. What is true love? How do you measure it? How do you really know when it’s there? There are so many questions that we really can’t answer. But here’s what I can tell you. I do believe in true love. When it’s real, you just know it. But I will also tell you that it’s possible to fall out of love. And that fear of falling out of love, or not receiving love, or a past love, scares people so much that they don’t even open themselves up to fall in love. We start to close ourselves off to new and wonderful people. It’s a defense; we never allow ourselves to experience love because don’t want to experience the pain that sometimes comes along with it. But avoiding the potential lows means you never get to experience the highs. Opening yourself up to another person and sharing your life with them on a deeper level, not only enriches their life, but yours as well. Allow yourself to fall in love. It may work out, it may not, but either way you continue to grow as a person.

Work Many Jobs

When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional hockey player. Once I got a guitar, I wanted to be a rock star. Those are the only 2 things that I have ever wanted to be. Even now, I’m still not sure what I want to be. I know there are people are who doctors and layers, and from a young age knew that’s what they wanted to do and followed through with it. But I don’t think that’s the majority of us. You don’t have to have it all figured out in you’re 20’s. Now is the time for trial and error. Working a lot of different jobs offers you a chance to gain a wide variety of skills and learn a business on someone else’s dime. It also gives you a chance to figure out what you’re good at. Act like a sponge and soak up the vital information from everywhere you go. Then use that information to be success in whatever you do later on in life. 

Go Skinny-dipping

Go by yourself. Go with a lover. Go with a group of friends. Go in the ocean. Go in a pool. It really doesn’t matter, just take your clothes off and get in the water. Push yourself to experience things that scare you. And trust me, there’s nothing as freeing and fun as swimming around with no clothes on.

Get To Know Your Parents Better

I was having dinner with my parents one night, and they somehow started telling me a story about when they first met, a story I had never heard before. And as I was sitting there enjoying the story, I wondered what else I didn’t know about my parents. I started asking questions because I wanted to talk to them and get to know them more. We all question at some point whether we’re actually the spawn of our parents because our ideas and views seem so far apart that there’s no possible way we could be related. We think that our parents don’t get where we’re coming from, and they’ll never understand us. But that changes as you get into your 20s, and you grow into the person you are and start talking to your parents as adults. And sure it may be a different time, but your parents do get where you’re coming. The more I talk to my parents, the more I see both of them in me, and the more I realize how much we do have in common. It’s brought us closer together and helped us grow even more as people.

Fail At Something

By now you’ve heard the classic stories of failure about Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey and countless others who were knocked down and had the odds stacked against them, yet found a way to become successful. Failure will very much be a part of any success. The problem is that most of us are so crippled by the thought of failure, that we never even take the risk. We think that if we play it safe, or stick to what we know, that we never have to experience failure in our lives. And while that may be true in some sense, if you never experience failure, you will never experience great success. This can be success in career, relationships or personal growth. Learn to embrace failure in your 20s and grow from it, because no matter what you do to fight it, failure is always lurking around the corner. Make failure your friend and grow together.

Travel Abroad

Traveling for me is like food for my soul. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and yet for how biologically similar we all are, each and every one of us is truly unique. Just traveling through this country, you wouldn’t believe how diverse we are. But traveling abroad gives you a whole new perspective on life. Not only do you learn about other geography, cultures, traditions, and languages, but also through your travels and experiences you learn humility and compassion. When you travel abroad, even for a brief time, you experience life as someone else would. And through that you get a better understanding of your fellow man. We may think that other cultures and traditions are strange, but people there may think the same thing about us here in the states. I’ve been to places where not a single person spoke the same language as me, yet we were somehow able to communicate and share things with each other. The reality is we’re all connected in some way. So take the time in your 20s, before you have too many responsibilities, and travel abroad.

Experiment With Drugs

I know I’ll catch flak for this one, so let me lead off by saying this: yes, (some) drugs are illegal. They are addictive, and they can absolutely devastate your life and the lives of your loved one. I’ve personally lost good friends because of drugs and have had plenty of other friends and family go through rehab. Drugs are dangerous and should never be taken lightly. It’s been my experience, though, that in the right context, drugs can be a fucking blast and self-exploratory in lot of ways. But, don’t be an idiot. I didn’t try a single drug until I was 24. By that time, I understood my body and knew how it could handle certain things. I would experiment with people who have already tried the drug and can explain it you and put you in a safe environment. Before you dive in, know your limits or what you’d feel confortable with. If anyone tries to push you to try something you don’t want to try, walk away and find a better crowd to spend your time with. Be smart, and have some fun.

Don’t Stress Too Much About Money

Easier said than done, of course. My biggest stresses in life always revolve around money. It can be a struggle in your 20s; I can’t think of how much ramen and pasta I’ve eaten over the years. But looking back on it, it helps develop resolve and character. You’ll learn the value of a dollar, and what it means to work for it. You can get by in your 20s with just getting by. Be smart, treat yourself once and awhile, and just keep working hard. The money will follow.

Go on a Cross-Country Trip

When I was a baby, my parents used to get me to go to sleep by driving me around in the car for a while. And since then I’ve always found being on the road to be comforting and calming, while at the same time restorative. There’s nothing quite like being out on the open road. And I’m not talking about sitting in LA traffic wanting to rip your hair out. I’m talking about getting out there and going on an adventure. Cruising with the windows down and the music blasting. I’ve driven across this country more times than I can count. I’ve done it by myself, with friends, with family members, even with random strangers a few times. And I can honestly say that each trip has been unique in its own way. They all carry their own stories, challenges, friends, women and music. This country is massive and so different everywhere you go. And that’s what still makes driving across the country exciting to me. The open road feels like its own world with its own rules and truths. You learn so much about yourself, as well as the people you travel with. So take the time now to make a cross-country trip happen.

Reconnect With Old Friends

On my most recent road trip, I was cruising through Iowa and somewhere in the back of my brain I had recalled the fact that my old band mate, Pete, was now living there. I hadn’t seen Pete in close to 10 years and hadn’t even talked to him in a year or two. I called the number I had, hoping it still worked, and to my delight Pete answered the phone. He was living in Iowa City, about an hour from where I was. So I decided to pop in and have dinner. We ended up just talking for an hour, chatting as if no time had passed at all. And I realized that by the time you’ve hit your 20s, you’ve already met thousands of people. Some of them stick, some of them don’t. As you get older, it gets harder and harder to keep up with a wide circle of friends. If you get the chance to reconnect with an old friend, take it.

Let Yourself Get Rundown

The human body is a pretty amazing thing. We don’t think about breathing or walking or other basic things we do, but every second, there are millions of tiny reactions happening within our bodies, unaware to us, that make us work. We’re capable of doing so many fantastic things, but we don’t know just what we can do unless we push ourselves. In my 20s living in Pennsylvania, I would work a 10-hour day, go home and shower then drive almost 2 hours to New York City. There I would go to concerts and hang with friends. We’d be drinking all night, I’d crash for a few hours, and then wake up super early and drive back home for work. It was almost as if I was training my body to work how I need it to work. Learn to let yourself get rundown in your 20s because you’re only going to have more responsibilities as you get older. You and your body will recover just fine. Stay late and put in the extra hours at work, go party the night away, or stay up all night just for the hell of it.

Go To Music Festivals

Music festivals may seem like a new cultural fad, but they’ve been happening almost as long as popular music has been around. There’s something very powerful about bringing people together through music, and each generation does it in their own way. We happen to live in a time now where there are so many great festivals to experience and go to; festivals with all sorts of diverse lineups and backdrops. You can truly find a festival for whatever you’re in to. To me, nothing affects you deeper than music, and nothing also connects me to people more than music. You get a chance to be a place with so many like-minded people and experience the power of music together. It’s something you really can’t experience anywhere else.

Date A Lot Of People

I love meeting people’s parents who were high school sweethearts, got married, and are still together today. If you find your soulmate and you’re happy, then I’m happy. But on the flipside, there are many benefits to not getting married when you’re young. We grow so much as people from the time we’re teenagers, to our early 20s, and then into our late 20s. Dating a lot of people in your 20s helps you figure out what you like, and maybe even more importantly, what you don’t like. Even though many of these relationships won’t work out, I guarantee you’ll learn something from each of them. You will continue to grow, and then hopefully you’ll meet someone that you want to grow old with.

Read More Books

Reading was not my thing in high school; I hated it. I didn’t think I would ever get enjoyment out of reading, until a girl I was dating forced me to open a book. We would have designated reading time. And when she did that, I realized that I had been neglecting my mind and imagination for far too long. I started to read all types of books, by all types of authors. I started to become a better conversationalist and was able to express my emotions better. I felt creative energies that I didn’t realized I had before. There is a book out there for anything you are in to. In your 20s, dedicate time to reading, even just a little, and begin open up your world.

Get To Know A Complete Stranger

I was out with some friends one night at a bar when a girl comes up to me and says “You look like someone I want to have a conversation with on a bench at 4 o’clock in the morning.” So I decided to do just that. I left my friends, and spent the rest of the night chatting and getting to know this person. We sat on a bench in the park and watched the sun come up. We shared things that I don’t think I’ve shared with anyone. Why? I’m not really sure. But in that moment, I took the risk of allowing a complete stranger to get to know me, and I got to know her in return. You never know who you’re going to meet in life and how they’re going to impact you. Some of my closest friends I’ve met by pure coincidence. Give people a chance. Some will surprise you. You’ll never know unless you put yourself out there. 

Learn To Let Go

I’m not sure why, but when we’re younger we seem to hold on to grudges longer. We fight harder for control of things in our life. The things we seem to control hold so much clout. But when you look back at your life, the things you used to hold so tight to don’t seem quite as important as they once did. We tend to cling to certain things, whether it’s out of fear, sadness, comfort, or something else that we just can’t explain. But regardless of what we do, the world will continue to go on. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Learn to go with the flow a little more in your 20s, and I think you’ll realize that it opens you up even more.

Live in Different Places

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain! This country truly is diverse as the song goes. From what I’ve experienced, every city, town, and backwoods country I’ve ever been to and lived in has been unique in it’s own way. Especially in a city, there’s a certain pulse that city has and each one resonates a little differently. There are some places you will go, and immediately you know that you don’t vibe there. Other places you’ll connect with right away. Living by the beach is amazing, but the mountains are beautiful as well. There’s so much diversity in this country, not just with people and cultures, but with geography and weather as well. Take the time in your 20s to live in and experience different places. You’ll have plenty of time to put down roots somewhere.

Stop Acting Like You’re Old

Everyone in their 20s is at some point guilty of saying they’re old. It blows my mind. Sure when you’re in high school, even a year difference in age is a big deal. You see people who are older than you, whether they’re friends, co-workers, or classmates, and you want the things that they have. We crave the idea of being an adult. Then you enter your 20s with a bang. After a few years maybe you’re done with school, maybe you’ve settled into a job, either way all the fun you had out of the gate is gone and now you really feel you’ve become an adult. All of a sudden being an adult means you can’t have fun anymore. Wake up! Go out drinking, go to a concert, go to dinner, go to a comedy show, hop a fence somewhere, go on a spur-of-the-moment trip. You’ll recover just fine. I’ve never once looked back and remembered a night a spent on the couch, and I’ve never once regretted a night that I went out and enjoyed myself.

Get To Know Yourself

This may be the hardest one. I’m 30 now, and I still feel like I’m getting to know myself. We’re constantly growing and evolving as people, but that’s what makes each of us so interesting and unique. Sometimes I feel like we’re at constant battle with ourselves, with who we want to be and where we’re going with our lives. Learn to set aside time to work on you. Unplug for a moment and spend some time with your thoughts, without all the distractions of life. Figure out what really makes you tick, what truly makes you happy. And once you figure it out, embrace it and don’t apologize for anything. You only get one life, so make it what you want it to be.

 

 

Cheers.

Mike