And 6 Other Things You Need to Know to Make It Through Your Early 20s
Maybe you’ve spent the last 12 years chasing visions of your dream college—fantasizing about ivy-draped walls and college football games. Sweet. Love that for you, Rory Gilmore. (Is that reference too old? Whatever, google it.)
Or maybe you’re a little more like me—anxiously google searching “colleges near me” November of your senior year because your mom said she’d ground you if you didn’t put in an application somewhere. True story.
Here’s the truth: there’s no right next step.
Whether you’re packing your bags for a big state school, living with your parents a few more years or still figuring out your next move, here are a few things you can do to make sure your next step is right for you.
1. Take a deep breath.
Yeah, I’m serious. Four seconds in, four seconds out. Whew. OK. Guess what? The next step is not actually the rest of your life. Fear will try to freeze you in place, telling you that you’re not ready, you’re doing it wrong or you’re going to mess up. Yeah, you’re going to make some mistakes, you’ll have to change course a few times… and you’ll be OK. As long as you’re asking God to help you go where he’s going, you’re doing the right thing.
2. Remember what Zac Efron said (sang?).
We’re all in this together. Your relationships are more important than any grade or accolade that you earn in high school or college. Where do you want to be in four years? Five? Wherever it is, you need the right people around you to encourage you, keep you accountable and help you out when you’re overwhelmed. You can’t do this one on your own.
Plus, in my experience, regular 2am Waffle House runs are practically a requirement for getting through your early 20s. And you definitely shouldn’t go to Waffle House at 2am alone. That’s like a safety hazard, right?
3. Harness your “no.”
I know, I know. Sounds like something a green-smoothie-drinking wannabe influencer puts on their IG story. But, honestly, this phrase got me through college. When you say “yes” to the good stuff that God has for you, you’re also saying “no” to other things. You might even be saying no to something you really thought you wanted. The truth is that the next few years will fly by (no matter what you’re doing) and if you say yes to everything, you’re going to wake up in your mid-twenties more sure of what other people want for you than for you than what you want for yourself. Learning to take care of yourself means learning who and what you need to say no to.
4. Don’t know what you don’t know.
As you leave high school and start getting a good look at the world beyond, you’re going to encounter a lot that you never knew or didn’t understand. You’re going to meet people different from you and you’ll find yourself in situations you’ve never navigated before. As your world gets bigger, use empathy, listening and humility to find your place in it. If you can admit that you’re still learning, you’ll build stronger relationships, have more fun and represent Jesus better.
5. Savor. The. Moment.
When I was in college, I took some time every few months to make a list of what I was grateful for. I struggled with a lot of intense grade anxiety and practicing gratitude helped remind me how good my life was—whether I was getting As or not. If you can build a habit of mindfulness and gratitude, you’ll get the most out of every moment of your young adulthood. The next few years are all yours and you just get them once, so savor each moment—even if the moment you’re savoring tastes like half-cooked Waffle House hashbrowns. Man, lots of Waffle House jokes in this article.
6. It’s not about winning the game…
You know the rest. Do I sound like a football coach in an inspirational sports movie yet? Dang, I hope so.
Here’s the truth: God wants you to have fun. He wants a joy-filled life for you. Lemme be clear, I’m not talking about “jumped off the roof of the Kappa Kappa Tau house after a few too many Millers” kind of fun. That’s not fun, that’s you calling your parents from Urgent Care so you can get the insurance policy number from them. Not fun. I’m talking about adventure and joy beyond what you can imagine right now. He wants that for you. All you have to do is loosen your grip and give him control.
Growing up is the hardest thing we do—and we all do it for our whole lives. This next step is exciting (and maybe a little terrifying). And it’s just the beginning.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to know that Ramen is truly just not that good. But let’s be real, it’s cheap and you’ll probably eat a lot of it. Just try to have a vegetable at some point, too.