Your 20s are an amazing decade. They're the years in which you're in your physical and social prime. You have the ability to party all night and still be somewhere in the morning. What's more is, you're brimming with an endless optimism for all that life can hold.
As we age, we become jaded by reality. We stress about past mistakes, and we start fearing repeating our failures in the future. We become deflated when we fall short of artificial deadlines or milestones. We focus on our shortcomings, instead of our potential.
It's no wonder why people reflect so nostalgically about their youth. Ignorance is bliss, after all, and it's a blissful misperception of the young that things will always work out according to plan.
In reality, life is messy. It's imperfect and filled with disappointments. But the beautiful thing about it is that every misstep moves you in a different direction, and often to a destination that's much more fulfilling than the one you originally envisioned. So, if you're freaking out about turning 29 and having only one year left in your 20s, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Physical awareness starts later in life.
How many 20-year-olds do you know who can appreciate the nutritional value of kale? Most are busy stuffing their faces with Taco Bell at 4 am, after a night of binge-drinking. As you age and are no longer able to metabolize hamburgers at record speeds, you start to appreciate that your body is only as efficient as the food you fuel it with.
You realize why your parents have always made such a fuss about eating vegetables, and you actually start to branch out beyond the potato. Health and nutrition is a priority that frequently begins in your late-20s, and it will be beneficial to you for the rest of your life.
2. There are things to enjoy about every life stage.
Maybe you're not married yet. Maybe you're the last person in your friend group to have a baby. Maybe you haven't finished college yet, or maybe you're still living with your parents. So what?
There are pros to each of these. You're single and childless? Go travel. You won't be able to take 12 days off to go see the Great Wall of China when you have a kid at home, and it's much harder to hike with a stroller. You haven't finished college? This is the perfect time to explore a passion project and embark on an adventure that's important to you.
You're still living with your parents? Living rent-free is awesome. Use the extra income to build up your shoe collection (or savings account, if you're a more prudent Millennial). The point is, there's something to be enjoyed in every life stage.
3. With age comes wisdom.
Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.” With age comes not knowledge, but wisdom.
You realize you're not infallible or unbreakable. You become appreciative of those who have made sacrifices to help propel you forward. You learn that being simple and genuine are much more desirable traits than being flashy or lavish. You feel humbled instead of entitled when you win.
As you near 29, you start to reflect on not only how different you are from when you first started this decade, but also on how much more you still have to learn. That's wisdom.
4. You're the adult now.
It's official. You were kicked out of your parents' health insurance plan. You're now the primary number on your own family phone plan, with others leeching off your data. You have bills to pay, and you no longer receive a tax refund. Congrats: You've made it to adulthood.
Sometimes, that sucks. But the upside is the respect that being an adult commands. You are the voice of reason. People take you seriously.
If you complain, people will rush to address your issues, instead of dismissing you as a bratty child. No one questions when you come and go, and your close friends loan you money without hesitation. You, my friend, are finally a grown-up.
5. It's never too late.
When you near 29, you panic at the thought of only having one year of youth left. Every day that passes is like slowly crawling toward death. You're not really sure at what point your life became work, sleep and repeat, but you're not happy with the transformation. You might be kicking yourself for not dyeing your hair pink when you had the chance or failing to attend enough keg parties in college.
The good news is, at 29, you're not even halfway through the game. That leaves plenty of time for reinvention, finding love, having fun, learning and discovering yourself. There's no magic button that gets pressed when you get to 30 and binds you.
In fact, it's quite the contrary. Remember how ordinary you felt the day after you turned 21? At the end of the day, age is nothing but a number.
With that in mind, embrace this year. Feel free to live like you're in your 20s, but know that the best is yet to come.