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What would tell your 22-year-old self about navigating life? These are my lessons learned.

Ah, to be 22-years-old again. Young. Full of life. Everything is ahead of you. Life in your early twenties is often a time of fast changes. You graduate college, move different places, start new jobs and begin to figure out what you want and don’t want out of life. It’s a time period of exploration.

Although, a time of exploration usually leads to many confusing periods. You don’t know if you want to stay at this job. You’re not sure if you want to keep doing this career. Should you switch careers? How do you change careers without having to go back to school? Should you break up with your significant other? Why is dating so hard? Oh, and crap, you forgot to turn off the A/C before leaving the house.

As Taylor Swift so eloquently put in her pop anthem “Feelin 22”, you’re often happy, sad, and confused all at the same time.

When I look back on my 22-year-old self, I see a guy who sort of knows what he wants out of life but feels confused amidst all the constant changes. Being young and fresh out of college, a lot of options are pushed at you.

Older adults look at you like you’re an alien when you say you’re not sure if you want to buy a house. According to old fuzzy logic, homeownership is the best thing there is. Renting is just throwing money away *eye roll*. You understand what people are saying but you can’t even imagine saving up the ungodly amount needed for a down payment on a house.

Material possessions get pushed on you at every corner. It’s all under the guise of ‘you deserve it!’. Buy a new car because your old one just won’t do anymore. Go out to eat constantly and call it networking, or brunch, or both. Get the nicest apartment, sans-roommates, that you can get. Those student loans are fine. Just paying the minimums on them is fine (spoiler alert: no it isn’t). 

So, my younger self, a lot of things are going to get pushed on you during your twenties. There is going to be an intense pressure by society, peers, and family to constantly be upgrading your lifestyle. Don’t fall into it.

Lifestyle inflation can be a dangerous thing. Don’t contribute too much to it. Let your friends pass you up. They can have their nice cars, restaurant food, big houses, and debt. Focus on you. Stay in your lane! Figure out your why, find your goals and chase them like there is no tomorrow.

Relax and breathe. There is no need to be so stressed out at this point in your life. Right now, you’re relatively string-free. There is no mortgage, kids, or partner holding you down. Relax! Take deep breaths! Everything will work out.

Life is an experience. Learn to enjoy the ride!

*record scratch*

*freeze frame*

Yeah…no. Let me explain. I actually am 22. Right now. Right at this very moment (I just had my half birthday last month!). So why am I writing a list to my 22-year-old self when I am…22? It’s because I’ve been noticing an alarming trend in many of these “what I would tell my younger self” articles. The people writing them seem to almost romanticize their younger self. It’s as if they’ve lost touch with how things were in the situation they look back on.

Let’s assume you just saw a person get in a fender bender. No one gets hurt but the person’s car gets totaled. The people in the car accident would, fittingly, be distraught and stressed. They just totaled their car and they’re already stressed enough about money. After a few years pass, the person looks back on the ordeal and gives a faint smile. I would have told myself to not be so stressed! They reminisce.

It’s easy to offer advice like that. Advice that downplays past situations and even sort of romanticizes them. College commencement address speakers love to offer the ‘embrace failure!’ advice. It’s easier to say that than think about a 22-year-old scraping by with very little after going through a setback.

So, what would I tell my 22-year old self? Listen to advice that doesn’t lean too much on survivorship bias. Remember to take risks, but have them be calculated risks. And most of all, pay attention to advice that doesn’t overly romanticize past times.

To other twenty-somethings out there, I’d refer them to this article, which is filled with solid, sound tips. It’s a good, informative read, sans all the fluffy romanticism. 


What do you think of those “what I would tell my younger self” lists?

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Colin // RebelwithaPlan

Colin Ashby is the writer behind Rebel with a Plan, a website dedicated to people who choose to rebel against the norm of living in debt and feeling financially unenlightened. He believes everyone has an eccentric quality to embrace and that lattes are sometimes a necessity (despite what the personal finance community tells you).

Latest posts by Colin // RebelwithaPlan (see all)

10 Comments on What I Would Tell My 22-Year-Old Self

  1. DC @ Young Adult Money
    January 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm (3 years ago)

    I would tell myself to calm down and not be stressed out all the time. Everything will be okay!

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      January 17, 2017 at 2:42 am (3 years ago)

      I mean, it is good advice, but it’s like telling a stressed out person to “calm down”. Nobody in the history of calming down has ever calmed down after being told to “calm down”. Haha. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Dear Debt
    January 16, 2017 at 10:18 pm (3 years ago)

    Love what you did here! 🙂 You are killing it at 22 my friend!

    Reply
  3. Allea Grummert
    January 18, 2017 at 4:08 am (3 years ago)

    Colin, you might just be the male personal finance blogger version of me. The Taylor Swift reference gave it away 🙂 But really, even our writing styles are freakishly similar!

    Amen to all of this. Thanks for being a voice in the personal finance world! I appreciate your wisdom — this part in particular:

    “Let your friends pass you up. They can have their nice cars, restaurant food, big houses, and debt. Focus on you. Stay in your lane! Figure out your why, find your goals and chase them like there is no tomorrow.”

    (But really, I just dropped a T-Swift gif in my latest blog post. No lie.)

    Reply
    • Allea Grummert
      January 18, 2017 at 4:12 am (3 years ago)

      Also I celebrate my half-birthday too. And I’m 27. And people think it’s weird.

      I’m glad there are people like us in the world! haha

      Reply
      • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
        January 18, 2017 at 8:34 am (3 years ago)

        One of the BEST comments ever! Nice to meet a Swiftie, haha. T. Swifts gifs are always welcome!

        Reply
  4. Taylor Milam
    January 18, 2017 at 11:19 pm (3 years ago)

    Hahah, I love this so much.

    For me, 20-22 were the hardest freaking years and I’m slowly starting to feel more at peace and calmer. It’s a bizarre time that no one really prepares you for and your friends are going through the same thing, so you’re all just kind of floundering together. It’s a weird time lol. Also, I think that if I could *actually* give my 22-year old self some advice it would be to try and hang out with people in different age groups and have lots of kinds of friends. I think it’s easy to get stuck in your own little bubble with your own people who are super similar to you and the perspective of different life experiences helps a lot. I recently made some friends who are in their 30’s and it’s so cool (and gave me a lot of hope!) to see people who are more settled in their careers, etc. I also work with a lot of people in their 40’s and 50’s and it’s equally as refreshing to see different walks of life and learn from each other.

    Reply
  5. Wes @ TPOHappiness
    January 18, 2017 at 11:51 pm (3 years ago)

    I would tell my 22 yr old self to invest the money into real estate and not that start-up business who’s idea was too good to be true! Haha – lessons learned eh.

    Reply

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