These Are The Biggest Mistakes I Made In My Early 20's And I'm Not Making Them Anymore

Happy Birthday to me! It's time for some tough (self) love.
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Happy Birthday to me! It's time for some tough (self) love.
20-year-old Amber. Look at all that baby face. Look at all that hair. 

20-year-old Amber. Look at all that baby face. Look at all that hair. 

I am 25 today! I'm going to get retrospective and introspective and probably a little bath tub drunk and, of course, will be sharing all of it with you (except for the bathtub part — that bit I'll be doing solo). 

Like most 20-somethings, I make bad decisions. However, if 10+ years of therapy have taught me anything, it's that if one does not learn from one's multitude of screw-ups, they are doomed to repeat them forever and always. Who wants to be a grown adult repeating their youthful errors? Nobody, that's who. 

So, I present to you the biggest mistakes I've made in the first half of my twenties. These are the dark ones that Netflix and chill in the back of my closet with the skeletons of my past and college hoodies. These are the ones I refuse to bring into the later half of my twenties. Wish me luck. I'll probably need it.

Not Setting Boundaries

I am a yes (wo)man and a desperate seeker of approval. You know the drill: say yes to everything and everyone and every favor and every assignment and then spectacularly explode and accomplish absolutely nothing. 

Avoidance, Avoidance, Avoidance

You know that trick where you cover your eyes or your ears and pretend the sky isn't falling or the world isn't ending? Yep, I'm real good at that. The avoidance bubble is a nice, safe space to live in. There are no deadlines in the avoidance bubble. There are no "To Do" lists and no one is ever disappointed in you. The avoidance bubble isn't real and once it pops, everything goes to hell. Or everything already was hell, but you couldn't tell because "bubble!" 

So, from now on, I'm doing the popping. 

Putting My Relationship(s) First

This one's a biggie. I love my guy and my family and friends and I love hard and with my whole self. But using that love as a shield for facing my own problems is harmful. It's easier to say, "I will focus on fixing my relationship and being a better partner," than to admit "I need to get stable on my meds," or "I should focus on my career." So many of my relationships went to shit in my early twenties.

My partner and I almost split up. I stopped talking to my parents. I had huge blowouts with my closest friends. I was making myself and everyone I loved absolutely miserable because I didn't want to get my shit together. My health and happiness, I thought, was a team effort contingent on "making it work" with everyone around me. It wasn't until I started focusing on myself, my health, and my own ambitions that things got better. 

Sidestepping Challenges

Fear of failure + desire to be absolutely perfect = not taking on anything that might be hard. I've missed out on a lot in my early twenties. There are things that I wish that I'd done that I didn't do because I was anxious or unsure or not the absolute best at it. I'm sick of the taste of regret on my tongue. It's kind of chalky. (Coincidentally, this means you'll be reading many more fun, experiential pieces from me. I'm incredibly nervous. You should be incredibly excited.)

Refusing Help

This one is dark. This one meant that when I got sick, I stayed sick. When I felt scared, I stayed scared. This one meant that when I was in grad school and I couldn't find a doctor to refill my meds, I didn't take them. I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. I didn't do anything. When I felt close to imploding, I always imploded. There's nothing wrong with asking for help and now, when I say that, I actually believe it. I'd rather be weak than in pieces. 

Using Others As A Measure Of Success

Instead of living my own life and doing the hard examining, I tend to look to others to see what I should be doing. Am I there yet? Am I winning the race?  What feels worse than Facebook-creeping on all the kids who were cooler than you in high school (or college) and who have managed to extend that adolescent coolness into perfectly filtered adulthood? Not much. What feels wickedly better than seeing someone falter and knowing you're one or two or three steps ahead? Again, and guiltily, not much. 

It's a toxic and entirely useless behavior.

Wallowing

By and large, I'd much prefer to curl up in the dark and have a raging pity party for one than confront the things that lead to to said fetal position curling and subsequent crying. I have whole playlists dedicated to wallowing. I am bipolar and weepy and I write fucking poetry — wallowing comes as natural as breathing. It's comforting. It's self destructive and exhausting and much, much easier than putting on my big girl pants and stepping in the harsh light of day. 

There you have it: five years of messing up and making messes neatly packaged in optimism and emotional honesty. All that is left to say (after encouraging you to commiserate or chide or waggle your fingers or impart your wisdom in the comments) is sayonara, suckers!*

*This sentiment is 100% directed at my youthful and foolhardy mistakes and not at you, dear readers.