This week, Reddit user u/Destroyer_machine asked, "What’s the worst mistake people don’t realize they’re making in their 20s?"
The question garnered a lot of interesting answers and helpful nuggets of advice! Here are some of the best responses from the thread:
Note: Some of the following contain mentions of disordered eating and substance abuse.
1."Not taking care of [your] teeth. A toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss cost less than $20 altogether. Oral surgery can cost upwards of $50,000 in the US. Take care of your teeth, homies."
2."NOT being a bit frivolous, not wasting any money, and not enjoying life. 20 is young — you have the most freedom and the least responsibilities you'll ever have. You've got all your life to work as hard as you can, save as much as you can, and sacrifice as much as you can. ... There is absolutely no harm in enjoying life for a few years beforehand."
3."I'm halfway through my 20s, and I gotta say I wish I started taking better care of myself sooner. Between 18–22, I drank almost every night, and starved myself a lot. I never worked out more than walking or biking to get places because I mistakenly thought being thin meant I didn't need to worry about exercise. Years of slouching have also seriously hindered me a lot."
4."Isolating yourself from friends and family and staying in dead-end jobs that provide just enough, but wreck your body and soul. Also, convincing yourself that anything short of the idyllic life you imagined as a child or teenager is a result of your personal failure."
5."Planning your future based on the relationship you’re in. Don’t do that. Focus on your own future, and then see if the relationship fits in it. Not the other way around!"
6."Not taking any risks. Yes, it’s important to do the responsible things like saving for retirement, etc., but it’s also the prime age to take some big swings. It’s likely the last time in your life where you don’t have any dependents and have the time to rebound if you fail."
7."It's getting less common, but going 'full adult' too early. Married at 20, three kids at 25, minivan, and PTA meetings at 30. Your 20s are the time to enjoy yourself, educate yourself, and just be a young person. Some people absolutely might enjoy it, but others just do it because they think it's how life is 'supposed' to be."
8."Not wearing sunscreen every time you're out in the sun. I didn’t in my 20s, and my skin looks horrible now in my mid-30s."
9."Not failing often enough. Your 20s are the perfect time to figure out who you are and where you want to be in life. This requires the courage to try out new things and different paths, most of which will turn out to be wrong or just not for you. At the same time, you are young enough to be able to correct almost any misstep. Later in life, you won't be able to afford mistakes as easily, so take advantage of it while you can!"
10."Using drugs or alcohol to cope with or numb difficult emotions. Don't do it."
11."Not saving any money. I'm in my mid-20s and I know a few people who got a bit too excited when they started working and earning money — they went and got a brand new car, etc., and didn't bother to save any."
"Even if you only save $50 a month, it's habit-forming."
12."Wasting time dating people you don't really like all that much, or dating people that don't like you all that much. When I think of all the time I spent with my friends talking about their 'meh' relationships, wondering where all that fun and excitement went, parsing whether the other person likes them or not, or how to make the other person like them more...bleh! Every time, we should have given the same advice: MOVE ON."
13."Not learning more. I'm not necessarily talking about college. Even just the basics of another language, an instrument, how to surf, etc. is a lot easier in your 20s than it is later in life. Use your brain!"
14."People get stuck for the rest of their lives thinking they have to live up to the social clique they belonged to in high school. I've heard people say, 'I would never do that! I can't imagine what my friends from school would say!' Forget your friends from high school, forget what you did right after school, and look forward. Go do what you want to do and do not let anyone tell you no. You are young, full of energy, and can accomplish what you want. Do not rot in your hometown."
15."Not starting an exercise routine. Once I found an activity I really liked (Zumba, for me), I found it was easier to pick back up when life threw me curveballs that made it impossible to maintain my routine. I engage in activities I like, so it's something I'll look forward to getting back to if I have to take a break."
16."Not traveling and experiencing the world. You will never feel more free, and you will never regret it."
17."Keeping friendships you've grown out of, just because you feel obligated to."
18."Letting your passion die. ... If you’re passionate about something, please never let that ember of hope die. You’ll either live long enough to achieve it or, at the very least, be proud on your deathbed knowing you kept at it."
19.And finally: "There is no race in life. It makes no difference if someone else is getting married, living away from home, or has a child. Go at your own pace. Do not believe that you are behind others."
What's YOUR best advice for people in their 20s? Tell us in the comments.
The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is 1-800-662-HELP.