The Guided Twenties: What I Would Tell My Younger Self

By Shirley Jones-Luke


My twenties were a blur. I remember images of club hopping, travelling, going to school, and working. I was enjoying my friends, my various boyfriends, and a steady paycheck. My dreams? I had plenty and they changed on a yearly basis. I was enjoying my youth and my freedom. This is a time when adulthood is all about the fun. However, when I reached my late twenties, all I wanted to be was in my early twenties. The years had flown by and I had flown them with no direction – my thirties looming on the horizon.

If I could travel back to those days, I would remind my younger self that while there’s time for fun, there’s also time to plan.  I had to do a lot of catching up once I entered my thirties. But since I don’t have a time machine handy, here are five things I want today’s twenty-somethings to know:

Follow Your Dreams – Sounds simple, right? It’s not as simple as you might think. When you’re in your twenties there are so many things to see and do. It’s like a great adventure and you want to explore every bit of it. But every explorer needs a map.

What I learned when I turned 30 was that all of my jobs (for I wasn’t career-oriented in my twenties) had one common thread – writing. When I was a little girl, I loved to write. I could spend the day writing. My jobs – from file room clerk to office manager – involved a lot of reading, organizing and explaining. These are some of the skills that writing requires. I always gravitated toward those types of jobs. I realized that I was searching for a career that was right in front of me – I wanted to be a writer.

Examine your interests and discover the link. That’s where you’ll find your true calling.

Make Connections – You need to do more than take someone’s number. It’s about building a relationship. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with people. Use this to your advantage. Follow your favorite band on Twitter. Create friendships with club owners on Facebook. Follow companies you like on LinkedIn.

When you connect with people on multiple levels, you develop an understanding of the person and/or the company. In turn, you’ll be able to see who can help you make your dreams come true. As the saying goes, a little knowledge goes a long way.

Build Your Personal Brand – You are your own advertising. You’re a living, breathing billboard of tastes, style, influence and opinion. In short, you are a brand. As you follow your dreams and connect with others, you want others to connect with you. Again, social media can play a huge role in building your personal brand. Your friends on Facebook can share in your personal pursuits, comment on your opinions, and examine your style. When you tweet, make thoughtful, insightful comments (in 140 characters or less!) that will garner you a following. Have a blog? Post regularly to it and comment on other blogs. As you build your brand, you are advertising who you are and what’s important to you.

Create Your Own Path – One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”  In the poem, Frost writes “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” I’ve always found those last lines to be quite profound because it all comes down to choice. Know who you are. Know what you want. If you’re on that road, don’t follow the one that everyone else is on. Take the one that is full of weeds, rocks, and disappears into the unknown. For sometimes, it’s the unknown that makes the best journey.

Have Fun – It’s not all about work. It’s about making time to prepare for the future. I know people in their 30s, 40s and beyond, who are still trying to “find” themselves. What’s to find?  It’s within you. And often a little fun along the way will help you to discover it.  So follow that band across the country. Help build a school in Botswana. Volunteer to save an endangered animal. Enjoy your 20s. If you combine fun with a little planning, you’ll be well-prepared for the rest of your life.

About Shirley: 

Shirley Jones-Luke is a mother, teacher, writer, and graduate student. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her son and husband. She teaches English Language Arts for the Boston Public Schools and is working on an MFA from Emerson College. Mrs. Luke enjoys reading, writing, improving the educational experience of young people, music, and fashion. Mrs. Luke can be found on Facebook (Shirley Jones-Luke), Twitter (CrazyS), and LinkedIn.


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