How to thrive in your 20s


Hunter Samuelson, Staff Columnist

When you’re young, you share your life with your parents. When you’re old, you share your life with your spouse and children. When you’re a young adult, the only person you share your life with is you.

This is the only time in your life when you’re allowed to be selfish. If you jump right into a job or relationship without truly knowing who you are and what you value, you might realize the hard way that it is the wrong job or relationship for you.

During your years as a young adult, you build a foundation that defines the rest of your life, so take yourself seriously by following these four lessons.

1. Cut out the users and abusers

It’s important that as a young adult, you are selfish with your time and emotions. You are at the point in your life where you need to stop caring about people who don’t care about you. This is a time where you need to figure out which friends are toxic and which ones are worth keeping.

Cut out the girl who shoves her negative attitude down your throat every time you talk to her and makes you feel even more depressed. Cut out the boy who always has a broken phone until it’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday night and he’s been drinking and texts you to come “Netflix and chill.”

I know it’s hard and you want that reputation as the nice one who loves everyone, but you need to cut those people out for the sake of your own happiness.

“Making conscious choices about relationships — focusing on those that energize and support, drawing boundaries or distancing from those that drain or harm — is key,” Dr. Lauren Cattaneo, a psychology professor at Mason who focuses on community psychology, said.

2. Put yourself at the top of your priority list

As a young adult, the only relationship you need to work on is the one with yourself. After all, nobody can love you if you can’t love yourself, so don’t try and find “the one” until you know yourself well enough to know what is right for you. Too many people rush into relationships and careers before they even know who they are — don’t be that person. Figure out who you really are so you can choose what is right for you.

Doing things alone not only helps you figure out who you are, but it will also make you like yourself more. When you travel on an airplane by yourself, you think, “Wow, I just did that amazing thing all by myself! I didn’t even need another person with me to have a great time.” As a young adult, you need to have as much ‘me time’ as you can because you won’t be able to travel around and go on Netflix binges when you’re 30 with three kids.

 3. Broaden your narrow path

Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “to define is to limit.” Although it’s comforting to be able to define who we are and know our exact purpose, we should try and avoid that as young adults.

As a young adult, you do not know what you like and don’t like, so try to resist labeling yourself with a certain profession too soon. As comforting as it is to know who you are and what your purpose, you need to accept that you have absolutely no idea who you are yet.

What you need to do is embrace this cluelessness by exploring as many paths as you can. Tinker around with everything and constantly try new things. Above all, stop being afraid to spread yourself too thin, because this is the time to do it.

4. Connect with your family

It is unfortunate how our parents have to deal with us when we are moody kids, and we don’t mature and learn respect until we finally leave the house. Our parents deal with the worst of us when we’re teens, so the least we can do is let them experience the best of us as young adults.

This does not mean you should pack up after you graduate and live in their basement for the rest of your life. It simply means that as a mature, young adult, you are obligated to build a strong connection with your family in return for having them deal with you as a bratty teenager. Besides, this shouldn’t feel like an obligation, but an opportunity to have a happier life.

When you reconnect and reestablish relationships with family members, especially members who you never thought you could have a strong relationship with, the quality of your life improves significantly. As a young adult, you need to realize that family is not just an important thing — it is everything.