10 Hard Lessons I Learned in My 20s


This past weekend I celebrated my 29th birthday. It rolled in with a few bottles of rose champagne, tons of well wishes (thank you guys for all of your love!) and a panic attack I didn’t see coming. A few years ago, maybe around 25 or so, I subconsciously starting preparing for the inevitable breakdown that would ensue around my 30th birthday. But the older I got, the more I’ve actually been looking forward to my 30s: Starting a new chapter in life and leaving a decade of learning hard lessons in the dust. My 20s have been great; They’ve been hard, but they’ve been great. And when I stopped to think about only having 365 more days to celebrate my 20s I became very overwhelmed. Am I who I thought I would be at this age? Am I in the job I’m supposed to be in? Should I take that contract position in Kabul? Am I supposed to be married? Should I have settled? Am I supposed to have two kids like the rest of the girls I went to high school and college with? Do I want kids? Should I still be renting? Shouldn’t I have bought a place by now? I don’t even know what neighborhood I’d buy in.

All reasonable questions. All questions I’d thought about before. But when they hit you all at once, in one moment, it’s debilitating. I knew it was a moment. I knew that it would pass. Most importantly, I know that the answers to these questions aren’t definite. There’s not one path to choose. There’s not one choice to make. That’s the greatest and most terrifying thing about life.

Saying goodbye to my 20s will be bittersweet but learning huge lessons about life and about myself makes it a little easier to let go. I’m hopeful that I’m lucky enough to learn just as many valuable lessons in my 30s.


  1. You will not change anyone. I learned this one early on and the last 10 years have only solidified it. People change but because they want to. Period. Be an inspiration but know it has to come from within themselves.
  2. If you can count your closest friends on one hand you’re unbelievably lucky. My mom used to say this to me when I was younger and I thought she was nuts. I had tons of friends. I love meeting new people. Drinks? Sure! Co-ed softball? Absolutely! Move night? I’m there! But friends and the people you can count on to pick you up when you need it most are completely different. I have 3. And I’ll spend a lifetime making sure they feel the same way about me.
  3. Some friendships will fail. Which will make the ones that thrive that much more special. I didn’t realize this until it happened. It sucks. But it’s a part of growing up. Priorities change. People change. And it makes you realize what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to deal with.
  4. Someone else’s success is not your failure. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Use their success to inspire you, not defeat you. And for the love of God, help empower other women.
  5. Bashing other women isn’t helping you in any way. This is a big one. Stop throwing up road blocks for other women. We deal with enough shit as it is. Collaborate. Inspire. Empower. Putting other women down doesn’t lift you up. Actually, it does the opposite and makes you look like a complete asshole in the process.
  6. Do what you love and the money will come. I’m still in the process of learning this one but it all started with this blog! District Sparkle started as a creative outlet and it turned into a small business. It wasn’t my plan but it’s one I’m most proud of.
  7. Money isn’t everything. But one day it will be. My mom is a big supporter of the first part of this one – “Money isn’t everything.” And she’s right. But one day it will be. One day I’m going to retire and I’m going to want to do so somewhere in my 50s, possibly 60s. So, I’m squirreling away money in my Roth IRA and 401k and passing on the newest iteration of the iPhone. And maybe I’ll take that higher paying job in a city I don’t plan on settling down in for a few years. Because money isn’t everything. But one day, it will be.
  8. If you want big rewards, you need to take big risks. This is one that is ingrained in us early on. It’s one I wasn’t ready to learn until about a month ago. Stop being so afraid of making a mistake and get the hell out of your comfort zone. Right now. Move to that city. Apply for that job. Ask that guy out. Go get a fish. LIVE YOUR DAMN LIFE.
  9. Your 20s are for making mistakes. SJP was right. “Your 20s are for making mistakes. Your 30s are for learning lessons.” So go make them. Don’t be a damn fool but go try things out. You have the luxury to do so.
  10. Let it go. The hardest lesson, but in my opinion, the most important one. Holding onto a grudge is pointless and toxic. You don’t have to forget, but for your sanity and health you should forgive. It’s not your job to teach the world (or that person) a lesson. You don’t need to be a pushover you just need to rise above it.



Everyone learns different lessons at different point in their lives and I’d love for you guys to share a few lessons you’ve learned in the comments below!

Here’s a few majorly empowering books I’ve read along the way:

Previous Story
Next Story
  • Meghan
    August 23, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I love this SO Much! And can seriously relate to every single one. When I turned 30 last June I had all the feelings and wrote a post about 30 things I’d learned by 30 which was an awesome way to reflect. By the time the day rolled around it was so.damn.empowering to be entering a new phase in life. Safe to say 30 was one of the best years of my life and 31 is looking like it’ll be even better so far. Here’s to you and all you’ve achieved, friend!

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      August 24, 2016 at 11:05 am

      YES. It empowers me that you’ve empowered yourself. Weird? But true. And I loved your post. It’s always comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s still growing up and inspiring to see the ways other women lift themselves up. Get it, girl.

  • NC
    August 24, 2016 at 11:42 am


    1) the KonMari book changed. my. life.
    2) The timing on this is perfect. I have grabbed life by the horns (I finally understand that expression now) so far this year – and not in the glamorous, vacations-on-a-yacht way that instagram portrays it. But in the hard, reflective, challenging, take-charge-of-your-life way, and holy titties it’s been amazing. Eye surgery (terrifying), treating lifelong anxiety (freeing), moving back “home” and in with a boyfriend (challenging, ego-testing, and emotional), taking a new job in a new field (challenging, hard, testing, and ultimately I hate it but I tried), taking on side gigs and volunteer projects (challenging me to be a better leader, do more, find my passions, etc.)…

    Literally just last night I put in notice to my boss that I would be leaving the company (after having been offered a promotion on Monday). I have potential possible opportunities in the works, but nothing else lined up, no sure thing to go to. I just decided to chase my happiness, be honest with myself (and my employer) and hot damn it’s an incredible feeling.

    The biggest thing I’ve learned looking back on my 26 years is to trust in yourself… someone else will always think you’re crazy, or will always have a horror story from someone who did something similar and failed. And you can spend your life listening to that and letting it limit you to their same level of mediocrity, or you can trust that you’re going to figure out what’s best for yourself, and make yourself happy doing it… it sounds SO corny (and a little stubborn) but really, at the beginning of every day YOU have to be the one to get up and partake in YOUR life, so make it about what you want.

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      August 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      It doesn’t sound corny or stubborn AT ALL and I’m making it my new mantra: “at the beginning of every day YOU have to be the one to get up and partake in YOUR life, so make it about what you want.” It’s so true. And I feel like the more we live, the more we forget this. At least I do. Completely. I’m hopeful that recent efforts prove fruitful and I can share the second part of all this with you soon.
      As for your recent happenings, :: slow clap :: From personal experience, it’s easier said than done and it sounds like you’re killing it. Make sure you take a moment to be proud of the decisions you’ve made that have gotten you here.

  • Weekly Roundup - wit & whimsy
    August 26, 2016 at 6:01 am

    […] loved Meaghan’s post about lessons she learned in her 20s. I could relate so much (here’s what I learned by the time I was […]

  • Brenda
    August 31, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Possibly my favorite post ever on your blog (& that says a lot since I love your content).

    • identicon
      District Sparkle
      September 7, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Thank you so much, Brenda! Hoping to introduce more lifestyle posts in the near future!