20 Things I Would Tell My 20-Something Self

Earlier this week I had a couple of moles biopsied at my yearly skin screening. This happens every year or two and it freaks me out every single time. As the doctor scrapes off the mole, I internally kick myself for not wearing sunscreen in my teens and early twenties. The amount of sun damage I have now is a literal health concern.

It got me thinking about how I wish I could go back and tell 20-something Julia to wear sunscreen and save more money and stop worrying so much about what other people think. During my morning walk with Boots yesterday, I jotted down a list of things all the things I would tell her.

1. Wear sunscreen. Every day. But especially when you’re “laying out” at the beach or by a pool. A tan might look cool now but wrinkles won’t look cool later. And you know what else isn’t cool? Skin Cancer. That is very uncool.

2. Moisturize your neck. It will be the first thing to go as you age. Prevent neck and decolletage wrinkles by continuing your face routine down to your chest. And do it daily.

3. Leave the guy who makes you feel bad about yourself. He’s not worth it. You deserve better.

4. Save more money. Max out your 401K and IRAs. Automatically put money from your paychecks into savings, even if it’s only $20.

5. But when you do spend money… Spend less on things and more on experiences. Enjoy what the world has to offer before you have kids.

6. Go to therapy. Girl, trust me.

7. Forgiveness feels better than holding a grudge.  Let it go.

8. Let go of your childhood traditions. You’re growing up. Families change. It will never be the same as it was but that’s ok. The new traditions are going to be pretty great too.

9. Stop putting so much pressure on New Year’s Eve. It’s never going to be the best night of the year. I promise!

10. Enjoy being single for a while. Use that time to do the things you enjoy. He is coming. And when he does, you’ll know it.

11. Put effort into the friendships that bring you joy. The ones that are convenient aren’t necessarily the ones you should be spending your time on.

12. Stop buying uncomfortable shoes! Save up for one well-made, comfortable pair instead of 10 crappy ones.

13. Get more sleep. Despite what you may think in the moment, nothing good happens after 1am in New York City. Go to bed early on a Friday once in a while!

14. Be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. Work hard and remember that you are not above entry-level work. Everyone has to start somewhere. So crush it every step of the way. Whether that means getting coffee for your boss or answering phones.

15. Call your grandparents more often. They won’t be around forever. Write down their recipes. Listen to their stories. Cherish every moment.

16. You don’t need that last drink. Oh, and FYI hangovers get worse.

17. Speaking of that last drink, don’t drunk text your ex. Or drunk Facebook message or drunk dial. In fact, you should probably just delete his info.

18. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. You do you.

19. Stop sucking in your stomach. Your body is beautiful just the way it is.

20. Everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to. The best is yet to come, my dear.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 20-something self?

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  1. Morgan E. Morgan said:

    I love that you said to let go of childhood traditions. This was my first Christmas married and I really struggled with the holidays not looking like they were “supposed to”. It is so important to lean in to my new family and in order to do so have to let go of some childhood comfort. Excellent advice!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh man. I remember that feeling. It’s so hard and such a rude awakening when it happens. But every year it gets better and easier. And if/when you have kids, it is magical no matter where you are or who you’re with!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  2. Carlye said:

    This. Great post! Can relate! Also, I would add: Introduce healthier food options earlier – Your metabolism slows down as you get older, so think before you eat! 🙂

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good one! Less pizza, more greens!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  3. Marielle said:

    Ok I Love this!!!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thank you!!! So happy to hear it!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  4. Valerie said:

    Love this list! Especially letting go of your childhood traditions. I would add find a hobby, even if it’s a new hobby every year. Find something you enjoy doing or pushes you to learn a new skill. I love volunteering for local museums and every time I move, I find a new museum or historical society to volunteer with.

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Absolutely. Good one!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  5. Sarah said:

    Thank you for writing this! I’m in my mid 20s and have been going through a lot. This article is a good reminder that many people struggle in their 20s and it will all work out in the end.

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Your 20s are so hard. They’re a time for growth and change but the growi ng pains are intense. I promise it gets better!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  6. Sara said:

    Don’t pay attention to other people’s timelines. I can still take this advice now at 36 🙂
    And I don’t think it’s ever been an issue for me, but for many people I know: comparison is the thief of joy. You do you!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That is a good one. Both of them are!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  7. Libby said:

    Love this post Julia! I am 25, but I have things I would tell my college self: to have more fun and enjoy the college experience, and not to over stress and over schedule classes because you will not get the grades you want/deserve. Also that it is ok to take many gap years and get a graduate degree before you finally feel confident to apply to medical school!

    xx Libby

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Great advice. I second the gap year tip!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  8. Carrie said:

    This is amazing and so true ❤️

    2.6.20 · Reply
  9. Casey said:

    Fantastic advice, thank you from this 20-something!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      So glad you like it and don’t forget to moisturize your neck 🙂

      2.6.20 · Reply
  10. Kristin said:

    I just think #10 is so beautifully written in its simplicity and poignancy. Rest of the list is spot on as well.

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thank you. That is one I really needed to hear (and believe) at the time.

      2.6.20 · Reply
  11. Olga said:

    In my late 20’s now and love this so much! Great advice!

    Olga
    http://www.littlethingsolga.com

    2.6.20 · Reply
  12. Brigit said:

    I definitely needed to read this! I’m 28- nearing 30 and these were all great reminders. Thank you!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Your 30s are the best, trust me!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  13. Stephanie said:

    Yes! Sunscreen!!! I had a Mohs procedure last spring at age 39 to remove basal cell carcinoma from just below my right eye. If I could attach a post-op pic of my lovely black eye and bandage as a cautionary tale I would! The scar is actually hardly noticeable now but it’s still so scary! And makes me wonder if I have other spots hiding somewhere. I had regular full body skin checks but the dermatologist wasn’t concerned about this one until it bled for no reason once. It hit home that you really have to keep an eye out yourself, the doctor isn’t going to catch everything without your help.

    Also, enjoy being single more instead of just waiting for the right guy to come along !

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh my gosh, that is so scary I’m sorry you went through that!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  14. Alyssa said:

    I love your comment about letting go of family traditions! As a person who grew up with so many it is exhausting to keep them going, especially when you are doing them for other people. I’m 31 and finally realizing I don’t want to show up to every and all things we were expected to be at in our teens. It is refreshing to take that time and create new traditions…and makes the holidays WAY less stressful! This is a fun post; and one that made me laugh and say Amen so many times haha!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Exactly! The new traditions have to be for yourself and your nuclear family!

      2.7.20 · Reply
  15. Shannon said:

    Number 9!!! New Years used to (and sometimes still does) give me so much anxiety. It’s never worth all the stress of making plans and finding an outfit. Committing to a casual get together at home for next year!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I hear you on that! We do the same thing with the same friends every year now and it’s so much better. We go to one of our houses and make dinner and play games!

      2.7.20 · Reply
  16. Kelly said:

    If you have in any state or abroad and they say “come visit and stay with me!” DO IT. Don’t brush it off. See more places with good people!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      YES. I second this one.

      2.7.20 · Reply
  17. Hi Julia! I’m Nicolette’s sister, Olivia and I was just scrolling through your website and stumbled upon this! I love love love this post and will definitely share with my roommates when they get home!

    2.11.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Ahhh I love you and I don’t even know you! Thank you!

      2.12.20 · Reply
  18. Shar said:

    I just turned 26 but I would tell 20yo me these things:

    1. Let some people go. It’s ok. Be ok with people letting you go too. I dislike that social media has made people so afraid to be ok with the fact that some people no longer want you in their lives.
    2. Establish a workout routine. Yo, get sick less. Thank you.
    3. Be ok making more decisions based on little information.
    4. Trust your intuition more when it comes to your career. If you know what makes you flow into deep work, you’re good at it, and you make money off of it, don’t stray too far off this path
    5. Focus more on making friends than romantic partners. Friends stick around longer and are way more fun. And when you do have a romantic partner, don’t let them be your only support network.

    2.14.20 · Reply