5 Lessons Learned from my Early 20s

27. This year felt like such a calm birthday, coming and going like any other normal day. The birthday gift to myself was not posting on social media. It also just feels weird announcing its your own birthday to the world. Instead, I focused on talking to those I love on the phone, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends. I spent the evening cuddled with Ross after he cooked me birthday dinner. It was exactly what I was craving after non stop travel since March.

As I reflect, I tend to focus more on my season of life for the past 5 years as a whole, instead of just my last year. I feel like a new season of life is beginning, where my selfish, irresponsible, days are winding down and I’m craving more nights in and time spent with the few people I truly care about. I’m over living for other people’s expectations, and focusing on molding my own future.

After graduating from Michigan State and entering the “real world” in 2014, I was a carefree spirit (still am) but didn’t have the drive to do anything extra, and my focus was only on next weekend’s plans and the next concert. I loved the freedom of the real world, even better than college, and I truly took advantage by having some of the best times in my life. Mostly highs, with a few downs – friendships, breakups, and feeling lost navigating finding yourself in a city where you know nobody. Austin will always have a place in my heart that showed me how to create and live my own life.

I feel like these 5 years (22 – 26) truly tested and pushed me to where I am today. I’m grateful for my experiences – both good and bad, but there’s some advice I’d love to give to my younger self in those pivotal years. I was probably given this advice at some point, or read it from various sources, but as stubborn as I am, I had to learn things the hard way and actually experience it. This is for you, hoping you’re not as stubborn as I am.

1. Listen to that inner voice in your head.

You may feel like you have to fit a certain mold, be a certain person, follow a predetermined path that was NOT set by you. You may be expected to go to college, get a particular major, go into a particular field, get a fancy job after college, etc. Maybe it’s expectations to find a man and start a family and do things in life in a particular order. But what if there’s this voice inside your head telling you want something else? LISTEN TO IT!!

You must listen to your inner voice and use it as a compass! There’s nobody else’s life you are living, except your own. I’m not saying you won’t be afraid, because it’s scary to take an unknown path, especially if you aren’t guided or have the support.  The great thing is, you WILL find people along the way that you need! You have to start somewhere – so you might as well start with something you enjoy. Whether it’s being active and joining a running club, to starting blog –  you will find people similar to you! Honestly, starting a blog is one of the best ways to make friends when you’re feeling lost and alone – it puts yourself out there and can give you the extra confidence to reach out to someone local doing the same thing, and say HEY! Whether it’s fashion, food, or fitness, it helps you find people who are into the same thing as you and an easy avenue to make a new friend.

2. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Continuing from lesson 1, I’ve had an inner voice telling me to start a blog since I moved to Austin in 2014, but hesitated and make excuses for myself. The excuses are all rooted in fear – fear that wouldn’t be successful, wouldn’t be as good as other people, and there wasn’t any room for me in the blogging space because I was just the same as all the other content already out there. Here’s a running list of the common excuses that flooded my brain any time I let that inner voice speak.

  • Excuse 1: Can’t come up with a blog name. I would dabble around with names, but hated them all. Examples of ones I came up with – Anna’s Adventures, The A-List. Lol. Still don’t like them. I avoided it all together and just went with my name (which I still don’t like and have a “fear” around because my last name is hard to spell and and hard to say).
  • Excuse 2: People will make fun of me. What would my friends think of me? What would the people from my hometown think? What would random people who don’t even know me think
  • eared what others would think of me? I could not get over the fear of judgement of other people that I was doing something different. I mean, you’re an easy target to be talked about – being transparent on the internet and putting yourself out there for the world to judge.
  • Excuse 3: I don’t have time // it’s a WASTE of time. I let I chose to not invest my time into building a business – because I never thought it was something viable. In full transparency, I thought blogging was a huge time investment (sucker) that I would get nothing out of except judgement from others. That it would be a waste of my time when I could be partying and out with friends. Yes – partying. Drinking, going out on weekends and laying by the pool – those were my 3 main activities when I was 22. In my 22 year old brain, I choose to not take the difficult path of work post college, to play around with friends, and HIGHLY regret it. My fears even held me back into seeing that blogging was a career option to actually make money. Jokes on me on that one – where blogging actually has so much more potential than the corporate world.
  • It took having just one person believe in your, and telling you to pursue your dreams for me to finally just go for it and start my blog. That person happens to be the love of my life, Ross, but it can truly be anyone. I wish I had someone to encourage me to start my blog earlier, but I didn’t feel I was around anyone who was encouraging of it, or I didn’t feel comfortable expressing what I wanted. If you have similar fears, thoughts, or excuses, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I’ve read so many other blogger experiences that also helped me feel like I wasn’t alone – Dani Austin, Olivia Rink, Hunter Premo, Julie Solomon (Pitch it Perfect) are all huge inspirations for me.

3. Live for yourself, not at the expense of pleasing others.

Here’s a fun mantra I started to say the year after graduating college – I’m living my life. It was my reason and excuse for everything, why I was too busy to call someone back, why I would book a last minute flight, I was LIVING my life. MY LIFE, that I created, and there was nobody or nothing holding me back. It was freeing, but I also still had that inner voice in my head telling me to be fearful of truly starting something new that was unknown (in my case, a blog).

But the root of the saying has more power than I knew – it truly means you’re living for you and not for everyone else’s expectations of you.

I realized I set invisible expectations based on comparisons of the people around me.

Those first 2 years out of college, I couldn’t help compare to people I knew my age on LinkedIn. Are they getting a promotion? Have they changed jobs? I haven’t gotten a promotion. Are they better than me? It didn’t help with family members calling saying, did you know BLAH BLAH BLAH got a promotion? They are doing so well? What are you doing? Are you doing anything extra? When’s your promotion? The constant comparison comes in many forms, but its up to YOU to ignore it, because IT’S NOT REAL. Part of the comparison starts from you, that you’re not happy with yourself. Figure out what makes you happy and just go for it – for me, it was realizing I don’t have the same career dreams at the people I am comparing myself too – which is why we shouldn’t compare! I knew I needed to start my blog and go down this path after what I wanted in order to be satisfied. 

We are all on our own path, and we can’t create ours when we are living based on the expectations others set for us, or the ones we create for ourselves that we don’t even want.

Sometimes we do things just because we are told do it, and it will please those people in your life who created the expectations, but they’re not the ones actually living your life. Spread your wings and figure out what you want! 

4. Spontaneity makes the best memories.

Not to be a bad influence, but make those last minute choices to book a concert to a random city the night before to see your favorite artist play (hello Taylor Swift), skipping out on an afternoon of work to go for a hike, and jumping fences to sneak into SXSW venues is all worth it. Change your plan ticket last minute to extend your vacation. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted changing my travel plans, but I can tell you its ALWAYS worth it. Those memories are the best to look back on, carefree, happy, and playful.

Being fun, happy and spontaneous will never go out of style. Your early 20s are the times to make mistakes so you know to learn from them. Relish on the late nights and early mornings, pulling off last minute deadlines, and making time to see everyone you care about. Do it! 

5. Buy over Leasing a Car

I’ll end with some solid financial advise I learned when leasing and buying a car (because yes I did both and want you to be equipped with the facts before making your own decision). I had a 12 year old hand me down Volvo from my parents in college, where parts were breaking down and it was more expensive to fix than the car’s worth, so I ditched it. I moved to Austin with a friend, as both of us starting at Dell for our first jobs after college. Since she had a car, I was planning on winging it without a car and commuting to work with her. I was living downtown, and could walk to most places. Yeah, this lasted 3 months before I took myself to the dealership.

I’d done my research, and based on how low of monthly payments I was comfortable with, a lease seemed to be my best option. What the dealership and advertisements don’t tell you: the amount you are TAXED on is actually the MSRP value of the car, NOT the downpayment cost. The leasing deal I thought I was getting:

Leasing Deal: $2k down + tax ($165), $199 month payments for 2 years.

My idea of $2k down + $165 in tax turned into a fat check of close to $5k. WHOOPS. Tax was more expensive than the down payment because I was actually taxed on the value of the car, $28k instead of $2k. WHO KNEW THIS? Not me. I’m not sure if this is common knowledge and I just was a clueless, but buying your first car all by yourself is such an adult experience. I’m now fully equipped with knowledge for my next car buying adventure.

Overall, the initial down payment on the lease disappears quickly and you don’t actually own anything. It’s like renting a car per day – and my rental rate was $13 a day. Calculation below.

  • Monthly Payments of $200 for 24 months: $4,800
  • Down Payment plus Tax: $5,000
  • Daily Rate for 2 years: $13.42

Final thoughts on why I regret leasing and should have bought: 2 years later when turning in my car, I had $5k less for a down payment since I drained it 2 years earlier on a lease. I should have just pulled the trigger earlier on the down payment, because lets be real, I didn’t really save that much more money in those 2 years post college that I wanted to spend on a car.

From learning to live for myself, pushing through fear, and many adult experiences like buying a car, I feel ready to take on the next chapter of my life. The more responsible me has definitely shown up the last year that I started a blog and moved to Nashville, and I love this version of me. I love being surrounded by those who support me, and excited to continue LIVING MY LIFE.


Hi, I'm Anna!

Welcome to the corner of the internet where you’ll find boho & bright style, travel adventures, and life in my latest “hometown” – Nashville, Tennessee. My love and I recently bought a house – and we’re taking on the renovations ourselves! You’ll be seeing more home content here – from DIY tutorials to home decor inspiration. We have a LOT of ideas for this house, implementing slowly one room at a time!

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  1. Connie wrote:

    Wonderful blog! ???

    Posted 5.16.19 Reply