5 Things I Wish I Knew in My 20s

It has been twenty years since I graduated college and I've found myself reflecting on choices and advice that I would have appreciated receiving as a young graduate.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

If I could go back in time and give my 23 year old self advice, here is what I would tell her:

1. DON'T LIVE BY SOCIETY'S EXPECTATIONS. FIGURE OUT WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, AND AS YOU DO, LIVE BY THOSE PILLARS.

You will never have as much freedom and opportunity as you do right when you graduate college. The pull is to make sensible choices and get a job - to be practical versus pursuing passions or inklings of passions. However, there will be no better time to volunteer or intern for next to nothing pay than right after high school or college.

I became a Christian in college and my hero was Mother Teresa. I had thoughts of going to India and serving with Missionaries of Charity, but I took a more practical route. I chose to volunteer at an inner city school in Philadelphia, which was a wonderful life informing decision. It was the more practical choice, however, because it helped me discern a career path versus pursuing something based on curiosity.

The pressure to get a job right after college is great, especially if you have student loan debt. However, I want to encourage you to take a year or longer and try something based on curiosity and not practicality. There will be many decades of practicality, but never this much unencumbered possibility.

2.MAINTAIN THE PASSION ALONG WITH THE PRACTICAL. KEEP AN OUTWARD FOCUS.

As you grow older, the pressure to make practical self serving decisions will increase, especially if you start a family.

After I finished my years of service at the inner city school, the realities of where I would live, how would I pay the rent/school loans/ food, etc became my focus. That is natural and a part of life. However, it became my central focus and I completely put aside the pillars of justice, relationship, and community in my pursuit of stability. My actions became much more self serving and less outward focused.

Make the choice of being outward focused and generous with your time and money now so that it becomes a lifetime habit, a pillar.

3. INVEST IN EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.

My family is moving more and more in this direction. My husband and I do not give each other gifts on many occasions. This started out as a practical thing when we were financially strapped, but we have continued it because neither of us has a "love language" of receiving gifts. We choose to plan trips or experiences together instead.

We're trying to do this more with our children too, slowly getting them to think of celebrations as a time to be together and honoring each other instead of connecting birthdays and holidays to times of receiving gifts.

If you're planning a family - think through how you want to celebrate holidays and birthdays ahead of time. The societal norm will be to have a long wish list, big birthday parties, and gifts. Is that in line with your family values? What are the intentional choices you will make to counter the pull of marketing?

4. BE THOUGHTFUL CONSUMERS

When we were getting married, I naturally assumed we should have a wedding registry. We got many practical items like sheets, towels, and plates that we still use today. That was a blessing to us as we started our married life together.

However, we were pretty clueless as to what we would actually use and need. We registered for many items that "we might be able to use" because we had that nifty handheld scanner that automatically added things onto our registry. The concept of a clutter free weddings was never presented to us.

The same thing happened to us when we were having our first baby. We registered for the things listed in the baby books that told us what we ABSOLUTELY must have. Can I just give you a heads up - you will NOT need a diaper genie. Wrapping them up tight, or plastic bags work just fine.

Wait to purchase things until you know what you need. It will save you the time later when you end up donating or consigning the pieces! Another tip: kids consignment sales have great, barely used items for a fraction of the price.

5. WHEN YOUR PRIORITIES OR LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE, DE-OWN THE THINGS THAT ARE NO LONGER RELEVANT OR IMPORTANT TO YOU.

If you follow points 1-4, you probably won't be overwhelmed by clutter. However, everyone has stuff. Clutter accumulates over time. I am at a place where I am decluttering with intention - determined to only keep what we use and love as a family. It can be overwhelming because I haven't been divesting our home of things on a regular basis.

If your closet is bulging with clothes that you no longer wear (or have never worn) - donate them to your local thrift store. You can use the KonMari Method to figure out what to keep.

If your children have outgrown a stage of clothes or toys, donate them to a friend or your local thrift store. Don't hold onto them "just in case". Someone else could use those clothes instead of them being in storage.

If you were once a scrapbooker or hoping to be, but no longer scrapbook - let go of your materials. You can insert any craft in the previous sentence. Donate it to a hospital or community agency that will be able to use it.

These are a few suggestions that will hopefully nudge you to consider whether there are things in your apartment or home that could be de-owned. The things that need to be let go of will be different for everyone. The memories have been made, most mementos can be let go of.