20 Important Lessons Learned in My 20s

By  |  20 Comments

i woke up today and i turned 30 years old. i also ate a mug full of cake crumbs submerged in milk last night before bed but trust me, my birth certificate can confirm i really am 30. i am a reflective person. i like to process things. i am nostalgic.

it was fun to sit on the floor with my husband last night and discuss our 20s. though i am convinced i shall always feel 23, when i’m near early 20-somethings, the feeling ceases. cheers to a new decade and cheers to the highs and lows of my 20s!

20 lessons learned in my 20s

here are 20 important lessons learned in my 20s:

1) relationships are choices

aside from yourself, you don’t actually have to continue on in a relationship with anyone else. if you stop finding things in common with your friends you have had since second grade, you don’t have to remain in that friendship. i am grateful for the relationships i have with  my family members but again, they are each person’s choice. the same goes for me and my husband – we both consciously choose to be in a relationship together.

2) your parents busted their ass for you

i mean, i sort of always got this on some level but it wasn’t until out popped my very own newborn that i fully understood. it is hard to have a baby. it’s exhausting and thankless and you constantly worry whether you are screwing up or if you accidentally got spicy pepper on her hand that she’s about to suck on. i know i will continue to find this to be true as my daughter develops and grows through each stage but damn. thank your parents.

3) you can do hard things

you really can. i really can. it’s important to remind ourselves that we are strong, capable and can do hard things. those are things are actually what makes us stronger, faster, smarter (and/or what eventually brings a human into the world).

4) give money, time and love generously

when we were 22, i had just started my master’s degree in social work and moved to portland, oregon – one of the states with the highest unemployment rate. we had $84 in our bank account and didn’t know how we were going to pay rent. it was then we decided we never wanted to be in that position again and also when we decided to start giving 10% of our money to ‘good causes.’ it was a turning point for us to learn to budget differently and find peace with money management.

5) this too shall pass

the hard times will pass. the good times will pass. people will pass. this is life – do not take that lightly.

6) create and choose happiness

i have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. it has taught me how vital it is to figure out what the hell makes me happy, create more of it and then choose to do it.

7) everything changes

our surroundings, our opinions, our friends, our hair, our spouse, our income, our desires, our bodies, our passion, our hobbies, our hopes, our dreams. it all changes. be prepared for never knowing how everything will change but know that it will.

8) people will disappoint you

sometimes it’s on purpose. sometimes it’s because of unrealistic expectations you set for that person. people are people and that means disappointment will happen. learn to readjust and talk through expectations, forgive and carry on (for this too shall pass).

9) being negative requires effort

the first half of my 20s (really the first half of my life), i was a proud pessimist. i could list at least 17 things wrong with every scenario, real or imagined and tell you why everything was terrible. i am happy to say i’m recovering and have found that being negative actually draws more energy from me than finding the positive. turns out my world also looks different now.

10) marriage is what you both make it

we don’t have a perfect marriage but i am proud of the partnership my husband and i create together. we have had our rough patches and we both know we will encounter more. we are both dedicated to making it work and working together – there is truly no one else that i can be 100% myself with, laugh to the point of tears with and adventure through life with than my husband.

11) goals are actually very useful

turns out, when you stop making fun of goals and set some yourself while doing the work – you can do incredible things. you may have even thought these were once impossible but goals are our friends.

12) make conscious choices

don’t get married just to get married. don’t have a baby because ‘that’s what you do.’ heck, don’t even eat that donut simply because it’s sitting there (i’m still working on that one). think through your choices, weigh the options and know that even after you do all of that – not every choice will be perfect but at least every choice will have been given thought to it.

13) take care of your body

i lost 45 pounds when i was 23. more than losing the weight, i figured out how to eat healthier and exercise. i found a way to manage my anxiety through exercise and now crave the endorphins. i learned what it meant for me to care for my body and in-turn, my body cares much more for me.

14) therapy is good

i mean it. if you have never talked to a therapist before, go. for someone to sit and listen without judgement to your thoughts and feelings is quite therapeutic – ha! being able to process things with someone who doesn’t know you like your family and friends is powerful and helpful.

15) redefine what success looks like

when i moved from the social work field to entrepreneurship, my definition of success stayed the same. no wonder i felt unsuccessful for the first 2 years of owning our business. first define what success looks like for you and then keep redefining it as you learn more and grow more.

16) go all in

either you are in or you are out. stop with the plan B’s and go all in with plan A. we hold ourselves back when we keep a piece of ourselves hidden/reserved/in-the-safety-zone.

17) travel far and travel often

i mean, you don’t necessarily have to go to antarctica but go some place far. strip away your comfort zone, get lost (but not too lost), try new foods, meet new people, open your mind and soul to the world that exists beyond what you know.

18) prioritize your people

know where you stand with how much time and energy you put into people in your life.

i have learned if i don’t take care of myself first, i become a super irritable and bitchy wife as well as a very impatient and sobbing mother.

19) because you haven’t done it, doesn’t mean you can’t do it

i didn’t know how to operate a blog before i started blogging. i didn’t know how to run a business before i ran a business. i didn’t know how to ride a camel before i rode a camel in iowa (true story). stop letting the fear of not knowing how to do something get in the way of going after it.

20) dream big – seriously

the time will pass either way. our lives will eventually end. there is no “i’ll try that when i have ___, ___, or ___.” the time is now. the world will meet you with the same energy you bring to it – so dream big!


  1. Elyse @ Just Murrayed

    January 25, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Amen, Chelsea! Happy Birthday and welcome to your 30s, don’t worry, if you’re like me, the 30s are going to be even better than your 20s.
    Elyse @ Just Murrayed recently posted…Homemaking In The Modern World

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      thank you elyse! i’m already taking your approach that my 30s will be even better than my 20s! glad to hear you feel that way too!
      chelsea recently posted…20 Important Lessons Learned in My 20s

  2. Claire

    January 25, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Happiest of birthdays Chelsea!

    I adore this post. In fact, the first time I came across your blog was when one of my friends Mom’s posted your blog “29 Things Every 20 Something Should Know” on facebook. And from then on, I’ve been hooked 🙂

    I particularly resonated with #16 “Go all In”. Amen Sista.

    Love your words and wisdom.
    Now enjoy your day with your family and the ones that make you happiest!

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      thank you claire! i didn’t know that’s how you came to my blog – love it! yay! so happy to always see your name pop up in the comments so thank you!

      “go all in” so much easier said than done and something i need to gear up to do again! hope you are all in on something great and important to you currently 🙂

  3. Jennifer Haston

    January 25, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Happy Birthday you fabulous woman!!! #1 is my favourite.. and an excellent reminder. Thanks for being you!

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      thank you so much jennifer! your sweet voice message sent to me was an added bonus – you are so great!

  4. Audrey

    January 25, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Perfect, thoughtful list, friend. Happy Birthday!!! <3
    I think we're very similar in terms of fighting the anxiety/depression/pessimism throughout the years. And the whole setting expectations but forgetting to adjust with life's changes and curveballs. I love your outlook on the past 10+ years.
    Audrey recently posted…The Revised 30 by 30

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      thank you audrey! glad you can relate to the whole setting expectations but not readjusting thing. it’s hard but important (and something i still work on regularly)! i also hope your depression is going okay this winter as i know that’s a hard time (at least for me) when it hits again hard! take care of you 🙂
      chelsea recently posted…20 Important Lessons Learned in My 20s

  5. Penny

    January 25, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Good morning and Happy 30th Birthday. The 30’s will be great for you. You will have happiness and sorrow but hopefully more happiness, love and success. I love your blogs and wish you had written them and I could have read when I was in my 30’s. Now that I am in my 60’s I find that I am still working on some of these issues. Oh well… life is a constant learning process. I am sure you will give these words of wisdom to give to your daughter when she is old enough because you are such a great mom. Again as with yesterday’s blog I am going to share your thoughts with my other friends. Thank you so much for doing this. Penny

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      thank you penny! i am actually excited about what my 30s will have in store! i so appreciate you reading my blog and for your comments 🙂 i really appreciate your kind words and yes, please share with anyone you think might benefit!

  6. Paula Howley

    January 25, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Happy Birthday excellent human! I adore you Chels and am SO DAMN proud of how hard you work on everything in your life. I have learned a lot from you. Have a wonderful magical day/year/life!
    Paula Howley recently posted…PIVOT

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      haha you’re the best paula. i am totally going to start wishing people happy birthday and adding the ‘excellent human’ to it (though only for truly excellent humans) 🙂 i have learned a lot from you too – keep on being a fantastic person/woman/mama/wife/vocal advocate!

  7. Amberly

    January 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    LOVE these! I may have to write a post like this next year for my 30th birthday. Happy birthday! You are amazing and such a great example to me!
    Amberly recently posted…Countdown to Valentines Day in a Meaningful Way

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      you totally should amberly! it’s fun to look back at the hard times and good times and see what you’ve learned from them. it was therapeutic for me. you are a great example to me too so cheers to that 🙂

  8. Vivien

    January 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Amen. And welcome to the next decade club. 🙂
    Vivien recently posted…Almost a Champ Again

    • chelsea

      January 30, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      woohooo! thank you vivien 🙂

  9. chelsea jacobs

    January 31, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Happy birthday again, friend! This is such a wise list!
    chelsea jacobs recently posted…6,000 Thank Yous (Hi, I’m Chelsea).

  10. Pingback: How 30 Year Olds Throw Down • the new wifestyle

  11. Jason Bowers

    February 5, 2017 at 12:55 am

    Life is a learning process and experience is the best teacher. Glad that you are able to see that!
    Jason Bowers recently posted…Abonnement 1turf Sans Risque

  12. Kari

    February 14, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Wonderful post! Wouldn’t it be nice if we just magically knew all these things without living them first? It’d save us a lot of heartache!

    Also, cute pregnancy pic, btw. Goals!