I’ve reached a point in my life where I need to admit something: I’m getting old. I’ve replaced the phrase “when I grow up” with “when I choose to be an adult,” and most grown-up responsibilities have become part of my routine. Life is full of commitments, and whether or not I want to, I need to address them. Ignoring them could have serious repercussions on my finances, health, or relationships.
I’m now in my early 30’s. This means I am young enough to remember some of the things I could get away with as a young adult. In fact, I still do some of these things even though they’re not the healthiest or most mature decisions. As I continue to get older, I begin to identify more areas where I need to take responsibility. Some things are best suited for young adults, and I am preparing to move past that stage in life.
This doesn’t mean I’m a perfect person: far from it. It just means I am consciously making an effort to educate myself and improve my life. Some of my bad habits need to be left in the past. At this point, I will associate these habits with “things I did in my 20s.” While I know I may resort to some of these old behaviors, I’ll probably groan to myself and say “I’m too old for this.”
1. Ignoring My Finances
In my early twenties, I was fortunate enough to have very few financial responsibilities. I lived with my parents after school, and this allowed me to save a good percentage of my income. I was blessed with a financially savvy mother, and she gave me a lot of advice that would set me up for financial success. Of course, as a 24-year-old, I really didn’t want to lose part of my paycheck to a 401K or Roth IRA. Reluctantly, I followed her advice because it sounded like the right thing to do.
I also have a mother who likes to remind me that she won’t be around forever. As such, she tells me to be more proactive with my money. During 2020 I finally took it upon myself to understand all the sources of income I’ve established. It was kind of like weighing myself before a diet, but once I knew the starting number I could start to make improvements. Now I have some goals and a better idea of my monthly expense. I also know where to contribute money to maximize savings and let interest work in my favor.
Saving money is a long-term game. Your early years can have a huge impact down the road, but they’re often ignored. You can’t turn back time, but you can take the initiative to change your future.
2. Eating Whatever I Want
I remember being in college and complaining that there was nothing to eat. So, I’d settle on an endless supply of pizza and desserts, even though I wasn’t going to love it. Years later, I don’t have the same ability to just eat garbage and get away with it. In fact, I don’t even really want to. An all-you-can-eat buffet sounds like an hour of fun and a night of pain.
I can’t even blame my metabolism here, as I have noticed multiple effects as a result of eating poorly. When my diet incorporates more fruits and vegetables, less sugar, and more water I feel better. Processed foods often make me feel bloated, lead to weight gain, and can reduce my mood. In college, I could feel OK after a day of eating nothing but carbs. Now, my body rejects that concept and I feel better with more balance.
3. Having No Skin Care Routine
I get up in an era of tan celebrities who looked like they went to the beach seven days a week. Now that I am older, I know that the golden glow is a result of skin damage. As appealing as a tan can be, the long-term damage isn’t worth the temporary appearance boost. Any time I think of heading into the sun, I think of SPF shortly after. If you’re not convinced that suncare is important, just try looking at pictures of melanoma. That should scare you straight.
Beyond being cautious in the sun, there are other parts of getting older that will start to creep up on you as your thirties approach. Your skin starts to show signs of aging, and it reacts more severely to the weather. Having a good moisturizer can improve your overall appearance and keep your skin feeling fresh.
While aging is inevitable, some people will continue to struggle with acne into their thirties and beyond. If you’re in this scenario, it’s not your fault. Likely you’ve been dealing with these struggles since you were younger, but it’s not a bad idea to reevaluate your routine. A dermatologist can help you, and you might want to hear about the advances in acne care. In fact, once you get older it might be a good idea to have a yearly check-up with the dermatologist to ensure there aren’t any surprises on your skin.
4. Crashing On the Floor
When you’re young and poor, the desire to travel can outweigh the desire to stay in a nice place. If you have a friend in another city, it’s tempting to just sleep on their floor and avoid paying for a hotel. Even if it’s just going out for a night, it can be tempting to sleep at your friend’s apartment rather than take an Uber home or paying for a comfortable bed.
Then, I got older. I’ve gotten some injuries and I know that the wrong conditions can be quite painful in the long run. I’d rather spend money so I can have a bed (at least a couch), and avoid throwing my back out. If I’m going for a night out in the city, I am going to have a plan to get home and be comfortable the next morning. This might cost a little more, but now that I have better control over my finances, I’m willing to pay some expenses to avoid reinjuring myself. However, if I’m in an absolute pinch I will sleep on the floor. I’d rather wake up with a stiff back than risk my life and drive home under the influence.
5. Saying Yes When I Want to Say No
When I was in school, I had FOMO (fear of missing out) before the term existed. If I was invited to an event I didn’t want to attend, I’d most likely say yes. In most cases, this really isn’t a bad thing. I lost a little bit of time, I may have been bored, but I built relationships and exposed myself to new things. Years later, losing time and being bored doesn’t seem worthwhile. I have things to do, and staying home doesn’t sound like a punishment to me.
I’ve begun to create priorities in my life, and that means there are times when I am going to decline invitations. I’m not going to pretend to be sick or lie about having other plans. I will simply say “I had a busy week and was looking forward to some downtime tonight.” If your friends are a similar age to you, they’ll understand.
Of course, you don’t want to burn all of your relationships. If you want to maintain relationships, you need to keep the word “yes” in your vocabulary. Just don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself sometimes.
6. Ignoring Fitness
I have never been more athletic than I was in my late 20’s. As someone who didn’t play sports growing up, my physical activity was limited through my high school and college years. After graduating college, I realized I was going to get fat and lethargic if I just sat around all day. So, I started going to the gym. Then, I kept going and told myself it was non-negotiable.
Being active has probably kept my metabolism working so I can enjoy some of my favorite foods. While I can no longer eat pizza and tacos all day, I’d never want to give them up for good. Working out allows me to feel OK after the occasional indulgence. I also view this as an investment in my future health. I want to be able to enjoy my later years, and I know my time in the gym will keep my body in decent shape. I’ve reached a point in my life where I worry I will lose my strength if I don’t use it, so I’m going to make fitness a priority.
7. Discrediting Myself
Growing up, it felt as if I would work hard to obtain skills only for them to be devalued. Entry-level jobs require years of experience, and your college degree qualifies you to take an unpaid internship. Somewhere along the line, it felt like my accomplishments were trivialized. If I was working on a task, I’d undersell my abilities and make myself appear less skilled than I really am.
As I get older, I know other people won’t have faith in me if I don’t believe in myself. I am confident in my abilities to do many things, and I don’t need to assume my skillset is undesirable. I am continuously taking a personal inventory of my skills. When I need to discuss my qualifications with others, I talk about those skills with confidence. There are enough people who aren’t going to value your abilities, so you don’t need to be your own enemy.
Life After My 20s
So far, my thirties haven’t felt too different than my twenties. Perhaps this is because the bulk of my first year has been spent locked indoors during a pandemic, and I know I would have handled this situation similarly regardless of age. Once we approach normal again, I think the differences between my twenties and thirties will start to become more apparent.
If I talk to others, especially people who are older than me, they will tell me that 30 isn’t old. While I agree, I can now look at pictures of myself at 24 and think “I was so young.” When I see other people who are currently in their mid-twenties, I share a similar thought. I know they’re younger than me, and I know they’re still experiencing a stage of life I have since passed. This doesn’t make me old; it means I’m aging.
My prior experiences have put me in my current position. While there may have been mistakes in my past, there are also areas where I have no regrets. If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t sacrifice the joys of being young. I also know that there’s nothing wrong with moving past this part of life. I’m currently living in a reality where I am older than the “young crowd.” As such, I am going to act like I’ve learned something. These lessons will be applied to my future and will help me develop into a more experienced person.