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Dress: Red Dress Boutique c/o | Earrings: Kendra Scott c/o | Bracelet: Kendra Scott c/o | Heels: Forever 21 | Sunglasses: Karen Walker
Today is the last day of my twenties. Tomorrow, I turn 30. Woof. It honestly didn’t feel real until I had these balloons in hand. And as my best friends come into town for the weekend, I know it’s about to get REALLY real. As I enter my next thirty years, I am feeling more reflective than usual… maybe even borderline panicky. Your twenties are so important! They lay the groundwork for the rest of your life. Did I spend them correctly and efficiently?
I began this decade in college working towards a career in NASCAR and here I sit at the cusp of 30, a self-employed blogger. And yet, one led seamlessly into the other. Every step forward, setback, experience, tragedy, relationship, and heartache led me to today. And I’m genuinely happy! So I have rounded up the 20 things I learned in my twenties and broke them down into the categories of Relationships/Love, Work, and Life. If only I could give this list to 20-year-old Cortney…
DON’T SERVE FREE MILK: Do you know that awful feeling of sleeping with a guy and then never hearing from him again? I don’t. Because I have always subscribed by the old adage of why buy the cow when the milk is free. What’s the rush?! Get to know each other first! Now I’m not advocating saving it for marriage (unless that’s your thing), but if there isn’t mutual respect, trust, and a define-the-relationship talk – it’s too soon! I guarantee it will save you a ton of regret and heartache.
YOU GET TO PICK YOUR FAMILY: You better be damn sure you like your spouse’s family before you tie the knot because these are the people you’ll be surrounding yourself with the rest of your life. His parents will be your parents and vice versa. As an only child and only grandchild, it was so important to me to marry into a family with nieces and nephews and cousins and siblings. Date with purpose and consider the big picture.
IT’S OK IF YOU CAN COUNT YOUR BEST FRIENDS ON ONE HAND: As you get older and busier, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the kind of relationships you had in college. You will fall out of friendships and that’s OK. But also realize that these relationships take work, so cultivate those that are closest to you. If they’ve made it to 30 with you, they’re likely to last a lifetime.
EVERYTHING YOUR PARENTS SAID IS TRUE: Oh, and you’ll turn into them. Congrats.
YOU’RE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP: Surround yourself with people who motivate you and lift you up. Energy suckers and lazy folks aren’t worth your time. Spend too much time with them and you’ll become them.
DON’T CHOOSE THE SAFE OPTION: Go to a college in another state where I don’t know a soul? Made my lifelong best friends (and of course an amazing education). Move to North Carolina to follow my dreams of working in NASCAR? Learned to support myself. Pick the too-good-to-be-true guy over the safe bet? Hell yeah, I’m married to him now. Leave my six-year career in NASCAR to pursue a career in blogging? Other than taxes being sucky now, I have never been more fulfilled in my life. The safe option is safe for a reason. Learn the worth of the road less traveled.
COLLEGE DOESN’T PREPARE YOU FOR THE REAL WORLD: Every one of my college courses was after noon. And I only had to be in class for 3-5 hours a day. The rest of the time I spent partying, hanging out with friends, or napping. My first real job was from 7:30am to 4:30pm every day and holy sh*t, it was hard! I was spoiled by college! Enjoy this unique period of your life but do yourself a favor and intern as much as you can. These internships will prepare you for the workforce FAR more than any professor will.
WAIT TABLES: People who mistreat servers are seriously THE WORST. Working in a service job (if only temporarily) is essentially a crash course in how to treat people of all personalities and walks of life.
SUCCESS TAKES TIME & HARD WORK: To be successful, you have to be willing to work harder and longer than everyone else. If there’s a shortcut to overnight success, it isn’t a big enough goal. So dream bigger, work harder, and learn to love learning.
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO, BUT NOT EVERYTHING: This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I have 1,000 dreams! Blogging, NASCAR, web design, photography, and more! Learn to prioritize because if you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to achieve anything.
ASK & YOU SHALL RECEIVE: Learn the power of asking for what you want. Your boss doesn’t want to give you more money, but you may deserve it! That guy might be too nervous to ask you out, so ask him! That business owner is a wealth of information, ask them to be a mentor! The worst answer you can ever get is no and you’ll be right back where you started. Big deal! So speak up and ask for more.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Everyone makes mistakes. How you handle them is what’s important. So own up to it and work towards a solution.
YOU WILL EXPERIENCE REJECTION: It’s going to suck and you’re going to mull over it for years. But no matter how special you think you are, you aren’t going to get every job, guy, or opportunity that you want. You could be the hardest worker or the most qualified and they STILL may not like something trivial about you. Try to let the feeling of rejection go and move on. Life has a funny way of working out the way it should.
LOVE WHAT YOU DO: 1/3 of your life is spent at work so it is essential to find something you’re passionate about. You likely won’t get your dream job right away, but that’s OK. Bite the bullet to pay the bills in the beginning. But make sure that you’re constantly laying the foundation of your dream job. Don’t waste away building someone else’s dream for them.
HAPPINESS IS FOUND IN GROWTH: And growth is found in learning. Learning doesn’t stop when your education does. So reach out to mentors, scour the internet, join a class, or read a book. Strive to become a better, smarter person every day.
ANXIETY HAPPENS: Your twenties will likely be the most life-altering decade of your life and sometimes all of these changes catch up with you. IT’S NORMAL. Once you start talking about your anxiety or depression, you’ll be relieved to realize how many people are feeling the exact same way you do. You aren’t alone in your struggles. Share your feelings and listen to others. It’s more therapeutic than drugs. But hey, sometimes they’re great too!
INVEST IN EXPERIENCES: Travel is always a good idea. Did you know that the more time passes after an experience, the more favorably you look upon it? It true! And on the flip side, the longer you wear that pair of heels you HAD to have, the less favorably you will look upon them. Spend your money wisely and learn to be a better citizen of the world.
BE BRAVE: You know the old cliche – “everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” – embrace it, because it’s true. When I think back on the last decade, the list of things I am proud of myself for all took major balls. And your balls will never be as big as they are in your twenties, so take major advantage of it. Heck, jump out of an airplane… I guarantee you’ll want to do it again. I know I did.
BE ORIGINAL: The fastest way to get overlooked in to blend in. So embrace what makes you you and shine like the unique snowflake that you are!
NOTHING IN LIFE WILL LOOK AS GOOD AS PINTEREST: Do yourself a favor now and step away from Pinterest. Know that the perfect parties, weddings, recipes, etc. are likely staged by brands or photographers – they aren’t even real! And if they are real, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to afford it. Pinterest, like other social media sites, is a highlight reel. So stop playing the comparison game or trying to keep up with the Jones’.
YOU CAN’T PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME: You can be the juciest peach and there will still be someone who doesn’t like peaches. I spent too much of my twenties trying to get people to like me, but I am slowly learning that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Understand that what people say about you is much more of a reflection on them than it is on you.