When you’re young, advice from people is widely and freely given. This is usually pretty helpful, and it’s nice to hear from people who have already experienced what you’re about to go through. There’s always the chance, however, that advice–even popular advice–can be wrong. I’ve heard a few pieces of advice over the years concerning things to do/not do in your twenties that I’ve concluded are either a little off-base, or even fundamentally untrue.
“Find a job that you love.”
This is allegedly the goal for everyone. Even people who have chosen a career path in an industry that isn’t inherently “sexy” say that they want a job that they really enjoy going to every day. The problem is, because we’ve been told this maxim by so many people, we find ourselves getting constantly dissatisfied with our current employment. The fact is, when you’re at the lower level of any career path, your daily work life isn’t guaranteed to be very enjoyable–in fact, that tends to be the exception. That’s why you see so many people bounce around to a new job every year and a half or so. Looking at my friends’ LinkedIn pages reads like an entry-level appetizer menu. Sure, feel free to move companies if you get offered a job that’s a bump in both position and salary, but constantly moving laterally only serves to hinder your progress. One of the biggest factors employers look at is “tenure,” i.e. how long you stay at each job you have. If you show a propensity for moving from job to job, it shows a lack of dedication. It’s much better to stick it out longer term at a place that has some upward mobility and either try to get promoted, or leverage your experience into a better job at another company. Ping ponging around only serves to limit your future options.
“Once you’re out of the college lifestyle, being single sucks.”
Many people told me this as I was finishing college, and for the first couple years out of school, I bought into it. The rationale is that when you’re in college, most people stay single or are moving in and out of relationships and your options are always open, but once you’re out of the campus bubble, your options start to shrink. On some level, this is accurate. You don’t have a glut of parties to go to every weekend full of people just looking to hook up, or at least meet each other. But what this doesn’t take into account is that being single isn’t inherently bad. It’s fun to not always have another person who you always have to consider when you make plans. And you know what? As much as casual sex is a fixture in our generation, the slowing of available hookup options isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t have the same energy I did in college, and frankly, I don’t care if I hit a long-term dry spell every now and then. Relationships are great, but don’t feel like you have to get into one just because your romantic life is allegedly supposed to graduate, too.
“Investing is more important than paying down your loans.”
This is something you’ll see a lot on personal finance blogs. The idea is that if your student loans have a low percentage rate, it’s financially advantageous to pay the minimum on them, and invest in low-risk funds that yield a better return. Yes, it’s technically true that this method is superior, all factors being held equal, but in the real world, factors are never held equal. If you manage to stay employed consistently, you’ll benefit from the (marginal) extra money you’d have by following this method. However, you can’t guarantee that your job situation will always be ideal, and debt doesn’t just magically go away when you’re unemployed. Sure, you’ll be able to defer them in times of hardship, but then the interest starts hitting you again, basically melting away any returns you might have received from your Vanguard account. Instead, after putting back some savings in an emergency fund, throw all your extra cash into paying off those loans. You might miss out on some potential returns, but it’s worth it to get that sword away from your head, young Damocles.
“Don’t spend money on stuff you can’t afford.”
Now, I don’t want you to get your panties in a bunch right off the bat on this one, so hear me out. I’m not saying you should overextend yourself and go into more debt than you already are in. You definitely shouldn’t consistently spend money on shit you can’t afford. What I AM saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to drop some coin on stuff that appeals to you even if it’s out of your price range every now and then. It’s about adjustments. Anything that requires you to rein back your spending in order to make up for it is technically unaffordable. For example, I technically couldn’t afford to go to my buddy’s bachelor party the other weekend, but I fucking did it anyway. Am I now eating rice and beans for the next two weeks as a result? Yep. Worth it? You better fucking believe it. Life is for living. Saving money and being responsible is good, but don’t shortchange your twenties so hypothetical 60-year-old you can afford a boat.
“Don’t stick your dick in crazy.”
It’s a maxim that’s oft repeated, and it really goes for people of both genders (girls, just think of your dick as metaphorical). But you know what? I think it’s a bunch of hooey. Sure, you don’t want to date a crazy girl long-term, but there’s nothing wrong with having a fun fling every now and then with someone who doesn’t have it all together mentally or emotionally. The easiest reason is that crazy girls are good in bed. That’s just a well-known fact. But crazy girls are also fun to be around. They’re not bonkers all the time. Sometimes they’re adventurous and funny and good drinkers, which is a great combination when you’re young. Plus, your experiences with them will prepare you for life down the road with a more under control lady. All women have a little sprinkling of crazy, even the ones who are more responsible and put together than you’ll ever be. It’s good to have had some close calls with a girl who could potentially go all Carrie Underwood on your car, just so you have a memory bank of warning signs.
Again, all of this goes for women, too..