If I could re-live my early 20s, this is what I'd do differently

May 10, 2017
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As I enter the realm of mid-20s (i.e. the quarter-life-crisis zone), I think about how different I am today to the total mess I was when I turned 20. While I’d like to think these formative years made me the (semi) confident person I am today, I can’t also help but cringe and wish I’d done so many things differently. If my 20-year-old self had the hindsight I had now, this is what I’d change.

I wouldn’t have spent so much time (and money) worrying about how I looked

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with taking care of your appearance. But when it’s hundreds of dollars on superficial things like fake tan and chemical hair straightening, it now feels like that money could have been put to better use. To think I would've spent an entire week’s pay working at a shitty retail job on clothes that were just going to fall apart or go out of fashion in a month.

What I’ve learned? Invest in good-quality basics that don’t go out of style and beauty products that’ll be worthwhile in the long term. I’d also tell myself to be comfortable with the pale skin and fuzzy hair I was given – I realise now that it suits me much more than changing my appearance to look like everyone else.

I would’ve let go of toxic friends as soon as I saw the warning signs

I saw red flags a solid five years before I went through the friendship breakup. Why did I put up with the screaming hissy fits and personal attacks? There was so many times it took a toll on my mental wellbeing, but at the end of it I didn’t end the friendship because I felt sorry for her and worried she would be left with no one.

I now realise that a one-sided friendship like that was not worth dragging my own mental health through the mud. If someone doesn’t respect you or treat you like a proper friend should, cut those ties early on before it drags on. I wish I did it a lot sooner.

I wouldn’t have put off internships to my final year

The final-year panic sunk in and I finally applied for my first proper internship. By first proper internship, I mean an unpaid job that wasn’t a requirement from uni to pass the subject. What had I been so afraid of? The internship was actually a lot of fun and helped me land the job I have today.

But what if I’d started way earlier? If I’d broadened my horizons and tried different industries and different types of workplaces, would I still be where I am now? I could have very easily started the search in my first or second year, but I was lazy and didn’t like the idea of working for free. Instead, I opted for two part-time jobs that were mind-numbingly boring and did not really help me in the long run. I’d defs tell past-me to suck it up, princess.

I would’ve taken better care of my mental health

Again, there were warning signs I ignored. Signs that my uni blues were more than just stress. Signs that my excessive drinking was covering something up – why did I need to be wasted to have a good time? I knew I was so afraid to go to a party sober, but I didn’t dig deeper and ask myself why. It has taken years of hindsight to realise I could have helped myself out a lot more and gotten help earlier, rather than assuming what I was experiencing was normal or not a big deal.

I would’ve taken my doubts about my degree more seriously

Every semester, and arguably every second week, I would change my mind about which of my two degrees I wanted to drop. Sometimes I could tolerate them, but I never really enjoyed them and definitely spent more time trying to decide which one I hated less. In the end, I kept both and stuck it out for five years. Even though I got to where I wanted to be, the degrees I chose weren’t the only path I could have taken to get here. I could have saved myself a lot of time, effort and anguish by switching degrees as soon as I had doubts in my mind.

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