20 things learned in my 20s


It’s the final week of my 20s, y’all.  I’m running down 30 like a lion runs down a gazelle, or, in the case of “The Lion King,” a wildebeest runs down Mufasa.  [Wah, wah – killjoy.]

Nothing against the 20s, but can everyone agree that they are some weird years?  Don’t get me wrong, the 20s haven’t been all bad – most of my best stories thus far happened in this decade – but I am ready to move beyond them.

However, I have learned a thing or two or twenty in my 20s.

  1. Suitcases.  Do not own a gigantic suitcase.  You will be tempted to fill it up completely – which means it will weigh over 50 lbs. and result in a penalty fee at the airport.  Invest in a smaller bag to keep yourself in check – you won’t wear all of those shoes anyway.
  2. You can’t do everything.  Growing up in America, kids are taught that they can do anything.  And while it’s true that we have a tremendous amount of options and opportunities open to us, it’s important to remember that we cannot pursue every path.  Even the most abundant life involves choices – and saying yes to one thing oftentimes means saying no to a plethora of others.  This is okay.
  3. Learn what’s worth the investment.  Good concealer is.  A good sports bra is.  A good set of knives is.  Wine glasses, bangle bracelets, and sunglasses are not.
  4. Wherever you go, there you are.  When faced with the temptation to run – from a city, from a relationship, from a job – don’t count on the change of circumstances to fix your problems.  Three or six or nine months down the road, you’ll wake up and realize that you’re the same person dealing with the same stuff.  Tackle the real issues – which are probably with yourself, anyway.
  5. Don’t drink & Facebook.  Just don’t.
  6. Hang curtains.  It ain’t home until the curtains are hung.  As one who has moved a lot (a lot a lot), I’ve realized that fastest way to make a room feel “finished” is to hang curtains.  But you won’t find me wielding the drill – it’s good to have an excuse to talk to boys.
  7. Most conflict is fueled by fear.  When someone attacks you, it’s safe to say that in some capacity, they’re probably afraid.  Let this knowledge give you grace for that person.  On the flip side, when tempted to lash out, inspect your own heart for insecurity.  You’ll probably find it.
  8. You can either be right or be happy.  Have enough humility to not have to be right all the time.  I’m working on this one.
  9. No muffin tops.  Listen up, ladies: I have it on good authority that men do not care how much you weigh, nor what pant size you wear, nor any other kind of “number” you attach to your self-worth.  Take care of yourself.  Exercise in a way that feels enjoyable.  Eat colorful produce.  And then buy clothes that actually fit, no matter the size.
  10. Student loans are not “free money.” They are not.  You will pay – for a very long time.
  11. Dating.  I’ll just go ahead and say that 90% of dates are a waste of a Crest Whitestrip.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re a waste of time.  Sometimes you meet a good one, and sometimes you feel understood and seen, and sometimes you connect and talk and think and laugh, and sometimes you get kissed like the angels sing, and it’s… the best.
  12. A dog is a big responsibility.  But worth it.
  13. Nothing is unforgivable.  Growing up in the church, I was taught in a round-about way that certain sins are worse than others.  These days, I do not believe that this is true.  We are never past the point of forgiveness, and never too far gone for grace to hit us like a tidal wave.
  14. Don’t mess with your cowlicks.  You will not win.
  15. Dreams are important.  Pay attention to them, make time for them, foster them, and grow them.  The best dreams are the ones that you’ve had since you were too young to know your so-called limitations.
  16. Don’t let money be an obsession.  Be a good steward of your cash.  Watch where it goes, and be aware of how you’re spending it.  But good grief, sometimes it’s okay to spend the extra $4 for guacamole on the side.
  17. You cannot change your body.  Oh sure, you can gain or lose weight.  But your height?  Your hips?  The shape and length of your legs?  Those are here to stay.  Get nice and comfy with them – because no amount of dieting or running or stretching is going to change your basic body structure.
  18. Being single is hard, and being married will probably be hard – just like being single is great, and being married will probably be great.  No matter what relationship status you find yourself in, there are going to be tough parts and great parts.  There’s no use in playing the “grass is greener” game, because once we reach “the other side,” I’m pretty sure we’ll find that it’s all just grass.
  19. Trust your instincts.  You’ve lived long enough to know when to go with your gut.
  20. And finally, it’s okay to be happyIt’s okay to be happy!

I know that 30 is just a number, and that Saturday, August 4th will be just another day, but I can’t help but think that this birthday signifies the beginning of a new chapter.  It’s a cause for reflection – for looking back and remembering, and then looking ahead and hoping, and ultimately, feeling so thankful for the good gift that is my life.



  1. HopefulLeigh on July 30, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    I’m nodding in hearty agreement with #11 and 18. Great list, Annie! Happy birthday week to you.

  2. Lindsay Brady on July 30, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    I loved this! And it’s so completely true. I was so excited to move into my 30’s & bring with me the lessons of my 20’s. This is going to be a fun, new chapter. I wonder what treasures will be waiting to be found in this decade?!?

  3. jess van Deusen on July 30, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    Love love love this list!! :)

  4. Wally on July 30, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    You are a bright young lady Annie! You have learned a great deal in your young years! I know music has been a wonderful thing in your life, and your life is a beautiful song. Enjoy turning 30, the best is yet to come!

  5. marisa on July 30, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    LOVE this!!!

  6. Dev on July 30, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    I love this, Annie! I will do my best to learn these things during my 30’s, ha ha! RE: #18… being married IS hard and great ;) Happy Birthday!

  7. Michael on July 30, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Fabulous list! Guilty of #5 *hangs head in shame* As for #s 13 and 20? Workin’ on it. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is one’s self, and that makes it hard to be happy…Happy (early) Birthday, Annie!

  8. Peg Achterman on July 30, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    Annie if I’d thought of half of these by the time I turned 30 I would have rejoiced. You’ve used your 20s quite well my friend. I might have to share your post with my graduating students!

  9. Corrie on July 30, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Annie, I have been reading for a long time, enjoying this look into someone else’s life. I am turning 26 next month and have asked many people what they enjoyed or would do differently if they could do their 20’s over. This list gave me SO much encouragement. Whether or not I move again(4 times in 4 years, 5 different roommates), get married, or ride in a hot air balloon by the time I am 30, your list has given me a lot to pray about. Now I am off to buy a smaller suitcase! Happy Birthday to you!

  10. Brian Vasey on July 30, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    Until reading this post I never met – never even heard of – a person anywhere with that much wisdom, and still only one week shy of 30. (Let alone someone who could express so well). You’re way ahead of the pack by miles, and with a whole lifetime ahead to apply what you know and experience even more. Blessings on your birthday!

  11. Megan on July 30, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    Thank you from a twentysomething who appreciates the wisdom. I have much to learn still. I hope your thirties are filled with good experiences and laughter.

  12. Alison Parson on July 30, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    LOVE this!! We need to be friends. ;)

  13. Mandy on July 30, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    You are very wise Annie Parsons. That whole list reflects that. I think 30 is going to be a great year for you–of learning, living, loving, and possibly reaching new goals and heights. I’m beyond excited to meet you!

  14. Shanna on July 30, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    Lots of good wisdom here.

    (and happy birthday in advance!)

  15. Angie on July 31, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Annie I love this post. Every single one of those lessons is a fantastic reminder for those of us still foraging through our 20’s.

    #4 specifically reminded me of an Avett Brothers Lyric:

    “So if you run, make sure you run to something and not away from, cuz lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere.”

  16. Brit on July 31, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Ahh, so much this. Well written, Annie!

  17. Nashville Miranda on July 31, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    You are brilliant. I love this list. I’m so glad we met and were part of each others’ 20’s. And I’m even more glad (gladder?) that we’re already good friends as we head into our 30’s. Love you!

  18. Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams on July 31, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    I love this list. So much good stuff here. xoxo

  19. Jackie Graybill on July 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Lovely thoughts, all. :) I just turned 30 less than two months ago and I love the positivity attached to your well written insights. 30 is great! :)

  20. Emily from Seattle on July 31, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    30 was pretty good to me. My 20’s weren’t, so I really had nowhere to go but up! :P

  21. Kristy | Wreckless on July 31, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    I approve of this list … especially #s 1-20. PS. I’m moving again. Not running away from, but jogging toward.

  22. Mary on July 31, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I’ve said before, I’ll say it again: you’re so wise, AP. xo

  23. ali ashmead on July 31, 2012 at 1:37 PM


  24. Emily on July 31, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    This gives me so much hope! Thank you.

  25. Stephanie on August 1, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    As someone in her mid-20s, I have to say…this is the best kind of big sister wisdom I could ask for. You are so right about the suitcase. Enjoy the new season to the fullest!

  26. Laurissa on August 1, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I like you. That’s it.

  27. Jeanne on August 2, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    Happy Birthday, Annie! Love your writing and your insights! Right on, girlfriend!

  28. Creighton on August 2, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Yes. Buying more knives; it’s okay to be happy.

  29. jodie_velour on August 9, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    you are wise beyond your years.

    and i can attest to this one thing: it is all just grass. i’ve never heard it put quite like that before (you have a gift)… (sigh) it is the truth… it’s important to make peace with where we are.

  30. hootenannie » Blog Archive » Bangin’ on August 13, 2012 at 7:55 AM

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