Experience Is Everything: 11 Life Lessons 20-Somethings Only Learn The Hard Way


They say there's no teacher quite like experience, and I have to agree. Sometimes, we're so stubborn that we repeat mistakes four, five or 50 times before finally learning from them. Thankfully, there's no better time to make mistakes than your 20s, while you're young and can adapt accordingly.

If you think you've got life all figured out, you've probably already had to learn one or more of these lessons the hard way:

1) Never Go To The Grocery Store Hungry

It's happened to the best of us: You run into the grocery store hoping to pick up something for dinner real quick since you're starving and don't want to go through a drive-thru yet again. Next thing you know, you're in the check-out line with $100 worth of groceries (half of that in cookies alone) because everything you saw looked absolutely delicious.

This is a lesson I've learned the hard way. Friends don't let friends go the grocery store hungry.

2) Always Put Something Back In Its Place

It may take a couple mornings when you're late to work because you can't find your keys, or you might lose one or two earrings while rushing to take them off at night, before you realize you should have a set spot to put those things.

The old adage is true: "A place for everything and everything in its place." It makes your life that much easier.

3) You Get What You Pay For

While it's tempting to always get the best deal in life, more often than not, you get what you pay for. This applies to everything from mayonnaise to cars. Once, I thought I was getting a great deal on a convertible, and I ended up having to jumpstart the car every time I wanted it to turn on.

I got my money's worth and learned a valuable lesson, which brings me to my next point...

4) Car Maintenance Is Cheaper Than Car Repair

I cannot stress how expensive new tires are or how much it costs to fix a car with engine issues. Performing regular car maintenance will save you time and money in the long run, a concept you don't fully appreciate until you're stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow -- again.

5) Happiness Is About Perspective

It's easy to get caught up in our failures as 20-somethings. We want it all, so much so that we spend most of our time focusing on what we think we still need instead of celebrating all that we already have.

Sooner or later you realize you should have spent a little more time living in the moment and a little less time worrying about your 10-year career prospects.

6) It's Better To Be Alone Than In Bad Company

You're going to come across a lot of people in your 20s, and eventually, you'll have the choice to continue engaging in meaningless relationships or wait for something better. In that situation, it is always better to be alone than in bad company. Don't settle for interactions that make you feel inferior.

Hopefully this is a life lesson you don't have to learn more than once.

7) You Only Get One Body

As much as you want to believe you can live on the cupcake and ice cream diet, it will catch up to you in time. Eat well, be active and schedule regular doctor visits.

The value of good health is not a lesson you want to learn the hard way.

8) Too Much Alcohol Is Not Fun

Ever taken eight firecracker shots in a row and woken up in a “Dude, Where's My Car?” scenario? Right, me neither. These situations seem humorous from afar, but if you're constantly hating your life on Saturday morning and trying to piece everything together, it's only a matter of time before you start groaning, “I'm getting too old for this.”

9) The 'Send' Button Is Final

Just think of Regis Philbin asking you, “Is this your final answer?” before you send work emails, text messages, status updates, tweets or make any phone calls while emotionally heightened or inebriated.

Trust me on this one. Also, it's a good rule of thumb to double check the person to whom you're sending a message. It always pays to double check. I'll spare you the details on the many, many times I learned this lesson the hard way. I still grimace at the thought. Speaking of which...

10) You're Never Too Old To Be Embarrassed

Unlike reckless binge drinking, embarrassment knows no age! Just when you think you're Joe Cool and have everything under control, you walk into a sliding glass door -- literally -- or you bend over and have your pants split open at work.

11) When It Comes To Friends, Quality Is Better Than Quantity

When you're young, you're worried about getting 50 to 100 people to show up at your birthday party. As you get older, you realize you'd be happier, and luckier, spending your birthday with even five close friends.

If you have a handful of people you can really count on at the drop of a hat, consider yourself lucky and make sure you work to maintain those friendships.

These are just some of the many life lessons you learn the hard way in your 20s. Good news is, it supposedly gets easier. Hang in there, 20-somethings, and take those life lessons in stride.

Photo via Flickr