Look, I had all kinds of crazy thoughts about where I’d be at this age when I was younger. They ranged from simple stuff like owning a secret liquor cabinet (working on it) all the way to thinking I’d already be pulling down six figures as an investment banker (in spite of the fact that I would only just now be finishing my MBA). Shit changes, and that’s fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever made a better decision than switching majors two years into school. But there are still a few things I assumed I’d have done by now that I occasionally wish had already happened.
1. Buy A Car
I’m in the weird middle ground of postgrads who have received assistance from their parents. I pay for everything in my life, and I’m self-sustaining. I know a lot of people whose rich-ass parents rent them an apartment that is entirely too nice for a postgrad and let them use their credit card in case of “emergencies,” which usually means buying rounds of shots for everyone (not that I’m complaining). But my parents also helped me get set up in my new life. They paid for my phone and car insurance for a year after I graduated. And most importantly, they let me keep the dinged up Buick I had been driving ever since I wrecked my truck (the long, lost love of my life) back in high school. Not having a car payment has been huge for me, and I’m thankful for it every day. But I do regret that I haven’t had the opportunity to experience purchasing my first car with my own money. I imagine it’ll be a lot like how I felt buying my first CD with money I made raking leaves (it was the “Space Jam” soundtrack, for the record). The fact is, I’m not really in a place where I can afford to spend that much on a down payment, and have another monthly draw on my already feeble bank account. Which I guess is more a statement about my life in general, rather than the actual car itself.
2. Travel To Europe
I was scheduled to do a study abroad semester at Oxford University my junior year and I pulled out at the last minute, because I recognized that I only had a year of college life left. I didn’t want to spend six months of it doing something that I could do on my own after graduating. It ended up being a great decision, because I later used my study abroad scholarship allowance to tack a film program in Los Angeles onto the end of my undergrad. But my assumption that I’d just save up a few thousand dollars in a few years and take two weeks off was quite premature. I still think traveling is something that’s hugely important for your twenties, because it allows you to get some perspective on the world while you still have the freedom to just take off. The catch-22 (or as I call it, the catch-20-something) is that you often don’t have the means to fully explore that freedom.
3. Have A Successful Long-Term Relationship
This is something I’m torn on. On the one hand, I intentionally avoided dating anyone seriously in college because I knew that I’d regret tying myself down during those years. I also realized I could get sucked down the same early marriage vortex that so many of my friends did. But it is sort of a “hard look in the mirror” moment to realize that you’ve reached the quarterlife point, so to speak, and still have yet to experience a romantic relationship with someone that lasts longer than a month, or ever goes deeper than meeting up for drinks, followed by doing the electric boogaloo at whoever’s shitty apartment is closer to the bar. There have been plenty of opportunities, just none that felt like something I should invest my time in. I actually wish it was the “I’ve never had a girlfriend because I don’t know how to attract women” kind of thing. The 25-year-old virgin scenario would be preferable. It’s a helluva lot easier to update your wardrobe and practice talking to girls (in a montage of course) than it is to somehow conjure up a person who matches up with what you want or need in a significant other like some sort of intimacy wizard.
4. Started Investing In Retirement
Being a finance major for as long as I was, I know a lot more about investing than your average postgrad. I had the perfect plan of maxing out my 401(k) since the employer match is free fucking money, and then splitting the rest of my “extra investment money” into various IRAs, Vanguard accounts, blue chippers, and a small percentage for fun, high-risk stuff. I put that in quotes, because the concept is laughable now. It’s great that I have a concept of what to do with my money once I have it, but paying off student loans is about as close to investing as I get right now. It follows the same general concept of investment: putting money toward something that involves interest, and doing it diligently to ensure you have more money in the future. The only difference is that the interest percentages and the flow of money are in the opposite direction. Fun stuff.
5. Have A Career
This isn’t as sad as it sounds. I have the blessing of knowing exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, which is something that a lot of people my age can’t say. I’ve chosen an industry, however, that requires a lot of luck, and also usually requires spending several years scraping by and working on your craft while being paid little to nothing for the work you do. It’s like being a stone mason who has to build a certain number of increasingly better temples to prove he deserves to actually get paid for one, the only difference being that I use words instead of granite. And there’s no physical labor. And I get to wear gym shorts every day because I work from my air conditioned apartment. Okay fine, it’s nothing like being a stone mason.
But I digress. There are days where I wish I would have just stayed at my salaried corporate job and focused on working my way up to management. I’d probably have done a few of these things on this list by now if I had. But I’d probably also hate my life. So instead, I’ll just pencil these things in as “Things To Do Before 30,” and hope that I get my shit together in the next five years.