10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Turned 20

There are so many things I wish I had known before I grew up. I think most things that we learn throughout our early adulthood are universal {that is to say, everyone individually must learn them}.  But I think there are some things that need to be constantly reinforced by the people around us for them to really sink in. So, without further ado, here you go: the top 10 things I wish I had known before I turned 20.

 

  1. Many girls are inherently mean and catty. Nothing you do or say is going to change that. A lot of girls, especially in high school, I think, have a problem with other girls, regardless of whether or not they’ve actually done anything to deserve unkindness.  It took me a long time to realize {and, to be honest, I’m still realizing} that girls aren’t mean because of something I did, but rather because something is wrong with them. Maybe they’re jealous, or maybe they’re just confused about their lives. Either way, it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it makes life so much easier when you let go of anger that other people feel towards you.
  2. Boys are boys. You deserve a man. You can’t change a person you’re dating, and I think we’re taught as young women today to chase after the boys who seem to need a strong female influence to make them “right” or “whole.” But come on—do you really need another person who needs you to do stuff for them? These are your formative years, and you don’t need some dude leaning on you to take care of him and make him whole.  Boys can’t help bugging you to let them copy your homework or asking to borrow a few bucks to pay for their movie tickets. And guess what the scariest part is?  Some guys never get much more mature than they are in high school {I’m looking at you, ex-boyfriend}.  But a lot grow up fast when they get to college, and become more interesting, kinder, and much better boyfriend material.  If I wish I’d had one piece of advice in my younger years, it would be: don’t bother dating anyone seriously in high school. Go out with a few guys just to experience dating and not be unprepared for a relationship someday, but focus on your friends. You don’t even know who you are yet.
  3. The mean girls really are just jealous. One of the hardest parts of my post-high school experiences with the people I had gone to high school with happened a couple years after I graduated. An ex-boyfriend texted to ask if a horrible rumor he had heard about me was true {it wasn’t}.  I told him that, but underneath my calm words, I was pissed. Who would say something like that? He wouldn’t tell me who said it {asshole}, but he did imply that it was one of the girls in high school we had always joked about for being jealous of me. I was nothing to be jealous of in high school. I was head-over-heels for a guy who treated me like crap, completely unaware of the fact that I deserved more. I was okay-looking, but going through the many awkward parts of growing up.  So I couldn’t understand why someone would envy me, especially not enough to make up some cruel lie about me.  But then I realized, people probably didn’t see all the hard parts of my life {because I choose not to display that on Facebook and Twitter, duh}, and maybe they thought my life was better than it really felt to me. To those “haters” I say: thanks for making me realize that I’m someone wonderful and special enough to make others jealous. But making up rumors {especially two years post-high school} is pathetic, and you need a life, come on.
  4. The first time you love someone will change your life, but might not last, and that’s okay. Your first love is going to feel big and earth-shattering. It’s probably going to change the way you look at every other man you ever date.  But it probably isn’t going to make you happy for the rest of your life, because you’re in such a formative, transitional period of your life.  You’re going to grow up and start to become interested in lots of other things, and people often grow apart as they get older. Maybe if you don’t start dating until you’re finishing up high school you’ve sort of figured out who you are {if you’re lucky—I still had a lot of growing up to do}. But if you start dating a person at fourteen or fifteen, you probably still have a lot of growing up and changing to do. Somehow, friendships withstand our personal changes better than relationships usually do.
  5. There are far better things ahead than any you leave behind. I wouldn’t say I had a particularly terrible high school experience, but I also can’t imagine wanting to go back to any of my reunions. Our generation doesn’t need that stuff: we see everyone on Facebook and we know what their college boyfriend looks like.  I don’t need to fly across the country to see them in ten years, because I honestly just don’t care that much. My college friends became my family to me. They saw me at my worst, and they loved me anyway. I met someone who made me forget all the losers I dated before him.  I fell in love like I was fifteen again, only this time, the guy treated me like a princess, and I didn’t want to break up.  If someone would have told me what was lying ahead for me when I was feeling my worst in high school, barely able to force myself to go to school because of the catty drama or the jerk I was dating, I would have felt so much better. But part of the beauty of life is the sheer mystery of what lies ahead, so just trust me when I say, there is always something better than whatever’s going on right now waiting for you, you just have to keep going and get to it.
  6. You won’t stay friends with everyone, and that’s a good thing. High school graduation is a great time to drop all the toxic friendships and relationships you’ve entered into.  Give yourself space for new friends. The person you are when you’re entering college is a lot more like the person you’re going to be for the rest of your life {although I assure you there will still be a lot of growth ahead for you}. You’re supposed to ditch the friends who talk behind your back. You’re supposed to let go of all the people who make you unhappy. You get to replace them with people who make you laugh and take you out for ice cream when you’ve had the worst day.
  7. Roommates are not the devil, and having one is not as difficult as everyone would have you believe. Some of my favorite friendships have been with roommates.  They are different than other relationships in some ways, but especially once you aren’t sharing a bedroom anymore {so basically any year after freshman year} having a roommate or two is really fun. They live with you, so you can ask them to hang out anytime, and if they’re people you’re genuinely friends with, you can ask them to watch a movie or go do something if you get lonely.  They’re just comforting to have around, and mine always provided entertainment and good conversation.  My college experience was unique because I had a serious relationship. My roommate also had a serious boyfriend, and our two boyfriends were roommates, so we spent a lot of time together, both at our place and at his. It honestly made us closer, and we’re still best friends.  She helped me get through all the tough parts of college, because she knew both me and my boyfriend so well.  And I was able to do the same for her.  Our third roommate hung out with us just as much, but got to bring along random guys. We both lived vicariously through her wild dating stories. I can’t imagine having any other two roommates, honestly.
  8. There will come a time when you have money troubles and you will have to ask your parents for help. I know, I know, nobody wants to ask their parents for money. For me, it was so stressful having to ask my dad for a check to help me eat and pay for my textbooks that I would practically make myself sick for it. But the more I talked to my friends, the more I realized that everyone had been through a similar time, and their parents had helped them as best they could. College is a transition period, you’re not financially independent, but you’re not living under your parents’ roof anymore, either {which means they aren’t paying your way}.  I recommend getting a part-time job. It’s not too hard juggling a job with school {I’m expected to do it in grad school}, and it makes a huge difference in being able to do fun things like go out to dinner or splurge on a dress for a fraternity formal or function. 
  9. You will make mistakes and regret them the next day, and later they will be the best stories you have from your youth. No real description needed here. Go places, meet people, have fun, and only regret things for a short amount of time before moving on and letting go.
  10. Never give up. There are going to be times {for the rest of our lives} where things feel difficult. There is probably never going to be a day from now until I die where I don’t feel a moment of fear or hesitation, or at least frustration with something I have to do.  That is called life.  Don’t give up, though, because there’s so much amazingness to experience if you’re willing to hang on, push through, and find it.  You can do it, and having a strong, supporting group of friends/family helps so much. 

 

“Celebrate we will, ‘cause life is short but sweet for certain”

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Why Nobody Cares How Old You Are When You Get Married

Every few days, I see a new post on Facebook about a singular topic on everyone my age’s mind today: marriage. It seems like someone I know is always getting engaged or posting an article from an outside website either supporting or opposing people marrying at a young age. I have my own opinions on this; as a twenty-something myself, I’m just getting to the age where people constantly seem to be asking me about my future with whoever I’m dating.

But I have mixed feelings on the subject, too. On the one hand, I’m a firm believer in true love. I grew up obsessed with Disney movies, and while the princess-meets-prince-and-lives-happily-ever-after story may be a naïve conception, I do believe that there’s someone (or, more realistically, someones) out there for everyone.  I think that there are times when people just know that they’re supposed to be with someone. But on the other hand, I’ve dated someone for three years and still got to the end realizing that I wasn’t supposed to be with that person, and did not want to get married to him.  So can people get married after only knowing someone for a few months and not be taking an enormous risk?

I don’t know. I’d like to think that there’s something as pure and simple as “love at first sight.” But I don’t think there is. I think you have to really know someone. I think you have to know what they want out of life, and compare that to what you want. I think you have to see how they react under stress, and how they act after the world’s worst day. You have to know what they’re favorite song to listen to is when they’re in a great mood. And sometimes you can get away with learning all these things about someone after you’re married, and it works out fine. My grandparents’ generation did that. They got married at 18 or 19 and just hoped for the best. Well, guess what? My mom’s parents are both divorced and remarried, and my dad’s parents are both divorced. Getting married young is often a mistake (NOT ALWAYS!!!!! BUT OFTEN!). A lot of people aren’t mature enough at 19 (or 20, or 21, or 26) to get married to someone else, dedicating their entire life to that person’s happiness and joy. I know I’m not. I’m still in school! I have a million things that I want to do before I marry someone and expect them to put me in front of everything that they want.

A lot of people look at this just oppositely to what I have just said. They want to mark everything off of a perpetual to-do list that will never be completed.  And marriage is somewhere between get a job and have a baby, so it gets lumped in arbitrarily wherever it’s convenient. Get married when you’re ready. If you’re ready at 23, go for it. If you can honestly look into someone’s eyes and say that you will never meet anyone who makes you as happy as they do, and you’re not in high school and you’ve dated a little before and you can’t even put your feelings into words because they just make your insides light up, then get married. Don’t post on Facebook to defend your decision. The only people you need to convince are yourself and your significant other. Even your parents can’t do much by the time you’re an adult supporting yourself.

But if you have doubts, what’s the harm in waiting? Breakups suck, but they’re a lot less expensive than divorces. And what if you get so far into it that there are kids involved? As a product of two parents who never married, I can honestly say I wish that I had had parents who were together. I wish I hadn’t been sent over to my dad’s every other weekend. I’m an adult, and I’m completely happy with my life, and I love both my parents a lot, but they made my childhood more difficult than it could have been if they had just waited to have kids with the right person. I want to do better for my kids.

There are A LOT of things I want to do with my husband someday, whether he is the guy I’m dating right now or a guy I don’t even know exists yet. I want to go to Disney World with him, and I want to see his face light up at the things I’ve loved since I was a little girl. I want to go to Hawaii, simply because I’ve never been and it seems like the most romantic thing. I want to stay in a hotel high above New York City and watch the lights together one night. I want to find out that we’re going to have a baby, and I want to watch that baby grow into a wonderful person. I want to watch all his favorite movies, and I hope that he’ll want to watch mine, too.

But there are also A LOT of things I still want to do before I even get engaged. I want to get a puppy, and raise it to be a dog. I want to prove I can handle the responsibility, not only to others but also to myself. I want to graduate from pharmacy school and get a job and earn a paycheck. I want to pick out what part of the world to live in. I want to pick out the kind of house I want. I want to go to the beach by myself for a day, just because I need an escape from the world and solitude sometimes makes me feel a lot better (the beach always makes me feel way better). And I want to be with someone who will be as perfect for me on the first day we meet as he is fifteen years after we get married. It doesn’t have to be a fairy tale—the real thing will be better.

So I guess that’s what I’m trying to say in all this. I don’t want people to wait to get married until they’re 28 just because that’s suddenly the magical age where you’re mature enough to handle a life partner. Nope. Not true. There is no magic age. Some kids are probably mature enough at like 17 for marriage (not many). Who cares? There are people with no rights to get married at all, and that’s not fair.  If people want to get married when they’re 20, and they do get married and they stay happy for years and never split up, then how can anyone say they made a mistake marrying too young? There are people who don’t marry until 40 and still don’t make it. Making a marriage work comes from within. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with the two people who are getting married.

I believe people should be allowed to divorce, of course. I can’t imagine being with a man who made me absolutely miserable for years and having no escape. I guess that’s why it’s important to me to wait until I’m sure. Three years is much longer than many people date before getting engaged or married. And I’ve been with someone for that long only to discover that it was nothing like the relationship I wanted to be in for all eternity. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I knew from the start that I was going to break up with him eventually, but I wanted the experience anyway. I don’t think so, though. I think that in the beginning, I thought that he was the right person. He made me happy, he understood me, and I understood him. It was like having a best friend who completely got me. A soul mate, if you will. But soul mates aren’t my favorite cliché when it comes to love. I actually hate the idea of soul mates. They’re too strong to last long. You need someone who supports you, but isn’t just like you. “Opposites attract,” people say. But I don’t know if I believe that, either. There should be a balance. The person you’re with should completely support you, and always listen, and try to see your view. But they should also be their own person, with their own hobbies and their own interests. And you can share those interests with each other.

So that’s my stance about love and matrimony. When you’re ready, get married. When the person you’re with is ready, go home together and slip briskly into an intimacy from which you’ll never recover. Don’t do it because you’re the “right age,” and you’re with a person who you think you love.