Today is the last day of my 20s. I’ve learned a lot in the past 10 years, and I still have so much more to learn. So much. But here’s what I have learned:

Debt sucks. Really really sucks. Whoever said “money can’t buy happiness” obviously never had any debt. Maybe you can’t buy happiness, but a lack of money certainly can make you miserable.

Relationships take work. I’m lucky to have parents who are still happily married. However, I very rarely saw any hint from them that marriage actually takes work, and it gave me a rose-colored view of marriage, and what it takes to make one successful. And another reality check – even non-romantic relationships take work. Gone are the days you can just call up any of your friends and hang out together that night, or even that weekend. Now you need to plan things in advance, around family schedules and baby-sitters and the desire (or at least time for a nap in advance) to drive an hour to wherever they now live. Or they live in another state and seeing them requires booking a flight or waiting for when they come “home” for the holidays. (Is it still “home” if they haven’t lived in this state in over a decade?) And then you feel like the worst person ever, because you have all these great people you consider your best friends, and you haven’t even talked to some of them (offline) in six months.

Real friends will be there. But, continuing that thought, you can go six months (or longer) without talking to someone you consider a true friend … and they will still be your friend. So that’s comforting. But note to self – your smartphone still functions as a PHONE. (I’ve always been a terrible “phone person.”)

I’m really lucky to have been born into a great family. I get along with my parents. (Obviously, or we wouldn’t have moved in with them.) They have always loved and supported me, no matter what. I consider my older brothers, and their wives, among my best friends. (One of my sisters-in-law actually has been a best friend since before she started dating my brother.) I have a lot of really cool cousins, on both sides of my family tree. Some of them are close enough in age and geography that we actually get to spend time together. Others may live around the world and I rarely see them, but they do cool things and I am proud to be related to them.

Schwartz Family
May 2011. The Sailor, me, Dad, Mom, sister-in-law, oldest brother, niece, sister-in-law, middle-older brother.

Your career shouldn’t define you. I love what I do for a living (online marketing). But it’s not my life. It doesn’t define me. It’s a paycheck, it’s rewarding, it is at times fulfilling, fun, interesting, and challenging. But I refuse to let it consume me, or take over my life. Sure, we all want that perfect job that makes us feel like we are making a difference in the world while also being so perfectly fulfilled on a personal level … but I’ll settle for a paycheck, respect from my boss and co-workers, and doing work that is enjoyable most of the time. But there is more to life than your job. (Like all of the people mentioned above.)

You can’t do everything. I’ve always had a variety of interests. When I was a teenager, I could pursue them all – academics, music, dance, sports. I’ve tried to carry this over into my adult life, through volunteering, running, dance classes, joining community bands, playing recreational soccer, oh, and working full time. But I realized that I can’t do it all, unless I am fine with sucking at everything (which just makes your “fun” activities frustrating). Obviously I can’t give up working full time, so now I force myself to focus on one “extra-curricular” at a time. Obviously right now that is running. And volunteering when I can fit it in. Which lately, hasn’t been that often. (Other than fundraising.)

I’m not ready to have kids. Not having our own place makes it really easy to avoid this whole “having kids” thing. For awhile, I was 100 percent certain that I wanted to have kids someday. But the more I am around people who do have kids (and around the kids themselves), the more I question if that is what I want. In theory, yes, I would love to “have it all” – own a house, keep working, raise well-adjusted children. But when I look at the amount of sacrifice it takes, and reflect on my own goals and desires, it isn’t such an easy answer. (For the record, The Sailor is also kind of in this “do I or don’t I?” place with me in regards to wanting kids.)

And now, with all my knowledge and wisdom (yeah right), I’m ready to turn 30 tomorrow. Sort of. Not really. Don’t have much of a choice though, do I?

P.S. – I’m going to laugh if within a month of posting this, somehow life contradicts everything I’ve written above.