Stop Romanticizing Your 20s

Why you should enjoy getting (a little) older.

One of my friends invited me on a hiking trip back in January, the weekend before classes started. “Come on, it’ll be your last chance to get away.” That used to be true. But honestly, my last chance to get away happened about five years ago.

You know what I miss the most about my 20s? Leisure time. Masturbating whenever I wanted. A completely unstructured day.

The freedom to spend hours working on an article, then just deciding to grab sushi and espresso on a whim.

Not having to plan a movie two weeks in advance.

You see, my spouse got to see End Game last weekend. I’m still waiting on my turn. It’s not that I can’t. Just that something else always seems way more important. Like laundry. I’d honestly rather catch up on laundry than spend an afternoon at the movies.

When you’re 25, nothing really competes for your time.

You can just wake up and spend a morning at Starbucks if you want. Then you can slide over to the sushi bar. Then you can go for a long walk. That night, you can round up some friends and see a movie. You can even tack drinks on later, if you want. If you don’t meet a guy, you can just go home and sleep in your own quiet bed. There will not be a baby waiting there to wake you up in the middle of the night.

Yeah, movies. Sushi. Coffee. Sex. Or just porn. You got to do all of that in one day. But you forget something.

All of that fun went on your credit card.

You spent a lot of that time worrying if you’d ever fall in love. Or be able to afford a house. So, you know, not so great after all.

My friend who goes hiking recently reached his late 40s, which I’ve heard can feel like your second 20s. His freedom has returned.

His kids are in college. He’s between marriages. So there’s literally nobody competing for his time anymore.

It must be nice.

I’m looking forward to it — not necessarily divorce, but a return of freedom. Maybe you are, too. But that doesn’t mean we should miss our 20s, like I catch myself doing more and more.

Let’s be honest about our 20s. They kinda sucked. Sure, we had oodles of unscheduled time. But also no money. No career. Not a whole lot of respect. And a very uncertain future.

You have better sex in your 30s.

You might have more sexual partners in your 20s, but not necessarily better sex. At the time, sex in your 20s feels awesome. You’re just happy to be there. So is he. You have low expectations.

You don’t really know what you’re doing. What, a book about sexual health? Ha, ha. No thanks. You got this.

When you’re young, you always think you know what you’re doing.

Especially if you don’t.

But then you got married, and discovered married sex. The kind of sex where you actually talk about what you like in bed. The kind where you feel secure enough to experiment. Maybe you even watch porn together. Try out costumes and wigs.

Married sex rocks. If you got there in your 20s, congratulations. You’re an early bloomer. The rest of us had no idea. You don’t have to be married on paper to enjoy the benefits of married sex. I’m really just talking about a long term, committed partner. Someone who plans to stick around.

You spend time more wisely in your 30s.

We remember having more free time in our 20s. I’m barely on time to anything anymore. Everything feels like a steeplechase. The weekends I had to decompress are gone. If anything, they just add more stress. Monday feels more like Saturday than Saturday does.

But I also wind up accomplishing way more than I used to. Honestly, we waste a lot of time in our 20s. Seriously, so much.

In your 20s, you can wake up on your day off and decide what you’ll do. You don’t have to plan anything. If you want to spend the entire day alone, working on a project, you can. Hiking next weekend? Sure thing. Or that’s what you remember.

Maybe your life felt more open to spontaneity. You took a few impromptu trips. But you also spent a lot of time on YouTube. A lot of time at bars trying to find the right one. A lot of time sitting in coffee shops, browsing the web and waiting for someone to ask you out.

It wasn’t exactly free time. Just empty time. Hours upon hours every day that you didn’t exactly know how to fill. Sure, you need some of that. But you have to fight for it now. It’s hard won, so you don’t waste it anymore.

You make more money in your 30s.

Nobody really enjoys scrambling through the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon. But at least you’ve got enough cash to buy fresh vegetables now. Like, so many veggies. Your heart loves you.

You think you eat healthy in your 20s. But frozen Lean Cuisines on sale aren’t healthy. Just look at the sodium content.

Trade offs, you know…

You remember having “enough” money in your 20s. You didn’t. Think back, you were putting everything on your credit card. Groceries. Cheap dates. Movies. Beer. All while banking on the slim hope of finding a real job, before you maxed out your Chase account.

Remember that slight twinge of guilt every time you swiped your card through that machine, just to buy a pair of shoes? It’s gone now. Rejoice, and stop pining for your 20s.

You’re probably healthier in your 30s.

Fine, you were skinny in your 20s. Cool for you. You could eat anything at any time of day, and not gain a pound.

Your metabolism shifts a little in your 30s. Suddenly your body comes with a set of instructions, like you’re a gremlin. “Don’t feed her after midnight.” Terrible things happen.

You start reading up on the nutritional content in all that crap you put in your body. You discover that soy is actually terrible.

You learn about things like hydration, and dark greens. You even (gasp) download an app to track your food intake.

You can still do everything you did in your 20s.

Just because you’re 30-something, that doesn’t mean you have become boring. You don’t have to be 25 to post a selfie. The question is whether you want to. Maybe you feel less of a need.

Hitting your mid 30s doesn’t mean you can’t start a podcast or a YouTube channel. It just means you’ll approach it with more moderate expectations. Your days of just plunging into something without any caution and planning are probably over — for now.

You’ll probably have less time to do that kind of stuff. But you’re also better at planning, so you can make it happen. This might surprise you, but almost everything you could do in your 20s, you can still do now. You just won’t do all of it with the same cavalier, carefree attitude.

Stop wishing you were 25.

We tend to slap an Instagram filter on our past. We see a sign of aging and freak out. Start pining for the things we used to do, that we may never do again. Like just walk into a bar and start talking to strangers. It’s not that I can’t do that now. I just don’t want to. What’s the point?

If a genie snapped his fingers and sent you back to age 25, you’d probably enjoy it for a day or two. And then you’d start to hate it. Time doesn’t reverse for a reason.

That’s what really happens in your 30s. The stuff you lived for in your 20s no longer interests you. You’ve matured.

We might want the body we had at age 25. But not the quality of life. For most of us, that part sucked.

When you really think about it, we spend the majority of our 20s hoping and wishing for our 30s. We’re here now. Relax. Enjoy your slower, quieter, more stable life.

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