things I wish I knew before turning 20Whoops, there it goes. Time just flies, and suddenly you’re not in your early 20s anymore (in fact, I’m way past beyond that..) but luckily we all also get to learn a whole lot during that time that just seems to whiz past. Just about now I realized all the things I wish I had known already in my early 20s, and they probably would have saved me a lot of trouble and energy… things I wish I had known in my early 20sSo here it is, my top list of all the

20 Things I wish I had known in my early 20s

1. Only you are responsible for the way you feel!
Sure, people can hurt you. Situations can bother you or make you crash down. But in the end, it’s all about your own decision how you feel about things. It is your own decision if you want to pick yourself up, or if you want to wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life.
2. Happiness is a choice
This is almost the same as my first point, but as it is so important to understand, I will emphasize it another time: You choose to be happy with what you have. Don’t wait for happiness to come, as this won’t ever happen.
3. Self confidence comes from within
For me, it also grows more the older I get. The more I asked myself profound and spiritual questions like ‘who am I’ ‘why am I here’ ‘what do I want’, the more self confident I grew, and it’s only getting better. Also: nobody can give you self confidence – it  comes from within.
4. It’s better to let people go
If they don’t want to be with you, don’t support you, don’t go in the same direction like you do – it might be better to let people go. If they’re meant to be with you (in whatever relationship you were – personal or professional), they will return and stay.
5. Stress less
…and worry less. All things make sense in the end, no matter how confusing or bad they might be. It’s going to be alright in the end.
6. You don’t have to take every opportunity
Choose wisely. Don’t let yourself getting talked into something that you don’t really want from your heart. Listen to your gut, and you will know which path to take. Don’t think that there’s only 1 opportunity, because when one door shuts, another one will open.
 7. You’re  beautiful – no matter what
I’ve learned to accept myself in pyjamas or without makeup, any glamour or without high heels. (Goddammit, I didn’t even own one single pair of flat shoes before I turned 25…) You. don’t. need. all. these. things. to. be. beautiful. !
8. Let go of grudges
Do you know the saying ‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’? – Well, I guess this sums it up. Holding on to grudges won’t ever make you happy. So forgive and let it go.
9. Be yourself
Don’t try to be someone else. Get inspired though, but don’t force yourself into a role. Be authentic. You have one superpower, and that’s being yourself!
10. Go out as much as possible
Because when you’re growing ‘older’ the chances are high that you don’t ‘need’ to go out as often any longer (or you might just prefer to fall asleep during a movie at 9:30 PM on a Friday night, like I do somethimes, haha..)
11. Keep in touch with old friends, as you might lose contact completely
So yes, that’s truly a sad thing that I’ve learned. (Vivianna from Helsinki, if you ever come across here and read this, I’d love to get in touch with you again. I sadly can’t find you anywhere online and I’ve lost your email address.. :( )
12. Grandparents don’t live forever
Although this is a fact that I already knew, and although I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, I wish I had been more aware of the fact that the time we get is always limited.
13. Health is the most important thing
Yes, you’ve heard about that. But in your 20s it’s all about adventures and easiness. But once you’ve experienced a family member or friend or even yourself getting seriously sick or ill, you’ll start to think about the importance of health. Also, it’s important to give your body rest when it needs it.
14. It’s not important what others think of you
Stop caring so much! It’s just a waste of time. Do your own thing and be proud of yourself.
15. Not all men are horrible ;)
Yep. In my early single-20s I thought that there might not be even one single man out there worth dating seriously, because I thought they’re all superficial and shallow. But thank the universe that in the end I found a very decent and kind man after all… ;) And luckily I also don’t think that way in general any longer.
16. Accept help
Letting other people in can be pretty tough sometimes. It surely isn’t easy to accept help. But in the end, it’s all about connection. And connection with other people allows us to heal.
17. Don’t wait…
…for others, for the right moment, until whatever happened before you ‘can do’ anything. That time won’t ever be just right, so do it now.
18. You’re not old
Stop complaining about ‘how old I am already’ and enjoy life instead. Life certainly isn’t over when you’re ‘already’ in your early 20s… ;)
19. Be more grateful
Say thank you to other people. Say thank you to yourself. Don’t take anything for granted. Open your eyes and be grateful, every single day. For what you have, for who you are, for everything and everyone in your life.
20. Allow change to happen
Change is the only thing that’s constant, and if you’re holding on to things, they can’t evolve, which means that you’re stuck, and you don’t allow new things to come into your life. Instead: invite them in!   On the other hand and after all, it’s not too bad that I didn’t know all these things back then already, because I possibly would have been bored a lot, as everything in my life was about learning all these things… ;)
 But luckily I also already knew these things:
  • Life is all about connection, love and relationships …and with relationships I don’t only mean romantical ones. I mean the connection between people, real friendship, unconditional love for the world and all its beings, like animals and plants. And of course: romantic relationships as well.
  • Traveling alone is THE thing make you grow the most. Back then I travelled to Sweden, Copenhagen, New York and Paris – all by myself – and explored several cities on my own. Not because I didn’t have anyone to go with me, but because I dearly wanted to. You never know what could happen right around the corner. And you never know whom you’re going to meet. Besides that, traveling alone is the biggest adventure you can possibly make, and it is also very good to strengthen your self esteem.
  • It’s the best time to be selfish …because you might not have too many obligations or duties yet. So go for it! Do that thing, change that job that you don’t like (although others would expect you to keep), take that course, go out into the world and make yourself grow!
  • It’s the best time to take risks …because they say ‘no risk no fun’, right? I did things in my life when I just closed my eyes and jumped into that pitch black hole of the unknown. Sometimes I failed miserably by doing stupid things, sometimes it resulted in the best things I ever did, like spontaneously moving to Sweden fo a few months, which I decided two days before I actually left… I will tell you more about that story in another blogpost though… ;)
  • You will never geht more free time before… …starting a relationship, getting a serious job, owning a home, getting pets, possibly starting a family.
And last but not least…
…saving money is never a bad idea. Already in my early 20s I was wise enough to know that the money that I was earning could be more important and better spent on ‘bigger things’ later on, than to just spend it on the latest clothes back then. Although I really love shopping and buying new things, I will always keep a bigger amount of the money I earn on the side for the things that I really see as important (like for example I invested in my teacher training to become a Yoga teacher, or I invested in journeys to see the world.)  

If you also have some things that you want to add to the list ‘things I wish I had known’ above, please feel free to write them in the comments :)


All photos by


  1. Frank Maggiolino Reply

    One thing that I would add is to stop concentrating on your regrets. I used to concentrate on my regrets, such as I should have expressed my love for my parents and grandparents while they were still living more than I did. I finally came to realize that no matter how much I regretted not telling them how much I loved and appreciated them, nothing would change by my lamenting. I since have stopped regretting about things that I unfortunately cannot change.

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Hello Frank! Thank you so much for your thoughts. I agree, that’s a point that’s missing on the list above: regret can never lead to anything else than self destruction. And you’re totally right: Regretting things that you cannot change is not helping anyone. Sorry to hear that it was a hard time for you. But also, I’m happy for you that you got over the regret. I wish you all the best!

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Hey Tiffany! Thank you for taking your time to read it :) <3

  2. A great list! Life gets some much better when you realize many of these things – especially when you let go of grudges and stop caring what others think!

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Yes, I agree totally! I just hope that people in their early 20s understand this a little faster than I did, haha… :D Thanks for your comment!

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Hello Nicole and thank you very much for your comment! So great that you already live by these things, that means you’ve already learned a lot in your life <3 Have a wonderful day :)

  3. These are all so true. I am in my late 20s and was fortunate to learn these by age 26. I wish I had learned these earlier though because I would have saved myself a lot of heartache and negativity in my life. Better late than never though ;) Great post!

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Same here, haha! Thank you very much for your comment, Amanda! That’s so true. There would have been a lot less heartache and negativity, but I guess life is all about learning to deal with these things… ;) Have a beautiful day! <3

  4. Thank you for sharing this post. I will be 31 this year and while I’m looking forward to the many beautiful chapters that this decade holds for me, there are times I wish I would have enjoyed my 20’s more than I did. I spent a good portion of my 20’s dealing with self-esteem and self-criticism issues, which kept me from fully enjoying that period of time. It wasn’t until I was around 28 that I began to live and enjoy me life. I’m in a much better place today and plan on making my 30’s some of my best years. :)

    • Elaine Valerie Reply

      Hey Sunny, you are definitely not alone! Looking back, I also think that I could have been more happy – and many others think that way, too. But this would end in regret, which can’t be good either. So let’s just see our 20s as practicing for the 30s.. ;) After all, we’ve come such a long way and now we can really enjoy life because of that! <3 I wish you all the best :)

Write A Comment