How to Survive Your Twenties - Dundurn
Nov 11, 2021

How to Survive Your Twenties

Tara McGowan-Ross’s definitive guide to surviving your twenties.

1. Don’t die.

Arguably the most important part of surviving your twenties! You may still have that post-teen invincibility feeling, but it is a delusional trick that your not-yet-fully-developed brain is playing on you. You are not invulnerable, physically or emotionally, and you have to protect yourself. That means you have to look out for your body, ask for help when you need it, protect your emotional wellbeing (Google “boundaries” and “codependency”), get sleep, do not drink too much (very often) and don’t do too many drugs.

2. Take risks.

This is the flip side to #1. Nobody can live a life of constant, non-stop adventure and excitement— that is a fantasy, and a dangerous one. However, don’t think that you can eliminate all risk from your life and never get hurt or have things fall apart — perfect security is also a fantasy. That fantasy is equally dangerous. Work out which risks might have some seriously worthwhile rewards. Seriously consider the worst possible outcome of your risks. Radically accept the worst possible outcome. Then go for it.

3. Avoid debt like the plague.

Throughout your twenties, and the rest of your life, there will be a myriad of institutions, authorities, and other forces offering you lots of debt. These forces will even tell you that being in debt is some kind of good thing. I’m not much of a conspiracy person, but let me put on my tinfoil hat to tell you that this is part of a multi-level capitalist ploy to keep you broke, stuck, and desperate. Do not fall for it. If you’re like, well, actually… then they already have you. Deprogram! If you’re already in debt, it’s not your fault. It’s a conspiracy!

4. Go on a minimum of 3 very insane adventures.

These do not have to be expensive — they can be for work, even! Tree planting, volunteer trips, working holidays, study-abroad programs, all of this counts. But Tara, you may be asking, surely one or two adventures of adequate insanity would be enough to sustain this decade? Wrong! Three is the minimum.

These adventures should expose you to radically different ways of living than your own, and they should probably be at least a little bit arduous. These experiences will make you a better, more tolerant, more empathetic person.

5. Remember that there is no deadline.

You do not have to graduate from university when you are 22. You do not have to be married at a certain time. You don’t have to be single for a set length of time. It seems like it matters, but it doesn’t. By definition, nobody on earth is as concerned with your timeline as you are — they might say they are, but they are actually projecting about their own timeline. Sometimes, concepts that seem like they’re hurtful are actually powerful and liberating. So say it with me: nobody cares. I can do what I want.