Alexander Skogberg

UX, Web & Design

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Nine things I wish I knew at 20

On May 22, I’m turning 30. It should be just another birthday, but it feels different.

Even if you’re far from old at 30, you can’t really view yourself as being that young anymore. 30 is also an age where many people has made or are about to make major life decisions such as getting married or having kids.

One way or the other, things change and it can make you reflect about much more complex topics than if you should get a PS4 or an Xbox One.

With that said, here are nine things I wish I knew when I was 20 years old. Some of them I actually knew, some of them I didn’t and one or two of them I might have read in a post similar to this one.

1. Spend time with your parents

A tough realization when growing up is that your parents won’t be around for as long as you would like. It’s a depressing thought, but it makes you appreciate the time you have with them more.

In 2005, I moved a long way from home for college studies. During my first winter holiday back home, it dawned on me that I would never see my parents on a daily basis as I had done for the past nineteen years.

Since then, I’ve made sure to spend a lot of time with them during school holidays, vacations and other weekends. They are still here, still healthy and I love having them around more and more.

2. Hang out with your friends

When I moved away from home, I thought I would lose touch with my childhood friends. I knew we would hang out again from time to time, but I thought we would quickly grow apart and lose our special bond.

Luckily, I was wrong. During the following years, we spent more and more time together than I would have ever imagined. We didn’t grow apart, we continued growing up together.

Today with kids, jobs and some of us living in different countries, things have changed. We don’t hang out as much as I would like to, but we laid a solid foundation that’s still there. It’s nice.

3. Eat well and exercise

During the Easter break of 2006, I was back home sitting in front of my computer one morning just wearing my underwear. My dad saw me and said: “You’re getting the body of an old man”.

He was joking, but he had a point. In just six months I had gained a few kilos by drinking too much soda and eating too much kebab and pancakes. Puberty was over and my body wasn’t having it anymore.

Right away I cut out soda, pancakes and kebab from my diet and started swimming multiple times a week. I still ate candy, but only when going to the movies. Next Easter I had lost almost 10 kilos. Woho!

I’ve maintained this healthy lifestyle since then and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I believe it’s never to late to start to getting healthy, but it’s so much easier if you begin when you’re 20 instead of 30.

4. Enjoy your school holidays

A lot of people romanticize college life. Sure, it was awesome with all the freedom, great classmates, parties and that general sense of being on an adventure. But it’s easy to forget the bad parts such as never having any money, the tough exams and the constant deadlines.

I prefer working, but one thing I badly miss about school are the long holidays. They felt never-ending and were so incredibly sweet.

Make the most of this time. Go out and party, organize barbecues, go swimming, play board games, take long walks, exercise or hang out with your family.

You’re most likely to never have this much time on your hands again. Don’t waste it. I sure didn’t.

5. No one cares about grades

Getting good grades feels great and can give you many options if you wan’t to continue studying after high school. But after that, they don’t matter.

When I started applying for jobs in 2010, I learned that no employer gives a crap about your grades. If I had known this earlier, I would have saved myself much stress and anxiety.

If you pass a college course, be happy and move on even if you got a low score. Just make sure you learn what you are supposed to. That’s what’s important.

6. Go out as much as you can

I’ve never partied particularly hard, but from my late teens to my mid twenties I’ve definitely enjoyed going out with my wilder and thirstier friends. Sometimes I got drunk, sometimes I didn’t and sometimes I just stayed sober and was the designated driver. I didn’t care which, it was still fun.

A few years ago, I noticed a sudden and steep decline in the eagerness to got out among my peers. It never recovered and today it’s simply not as fun as it used to be. It’s fine, but also a bit sad. We had so much crazy fun for so long.

Make sure to go out when you and your friends still want to. Think twice before saying no. Just don’t party too hard for too long.

7. Get relevant extra work

Applying for your first job can be a nerve-wracking experience, so having an ace up your sleeve won’t hurt. For me, this meant getting relevant work experience while studying.

During a winter break I managed to set up an interview and land a summer employment at the shipping company Viking Line. There I spent two summers doing first line tech support and two more doing web development. Great job, good pay and fun colleagues.

Later on, this experience gave me a pay increase when negotiating the contract for my first job. But more important, it gave me confidence when applying for jobs. I believed I had an edge over other freshly graduated engineers and it payed off.

8. Don’t stress finishing school and getting a job

Right after finishing high school I went to college and right after college I started working. It felt fantastic to have finished school and gotten a great job at age of just 24. I was excited, relieved and enjoyed the satisfaction of accomplishment.

However, in later years I’ve grown a bit jealous of friends who weren’t afraid of taking a different path. Some saved up cash and travelled, others studied further abroad, some took a year off from their studies and so on.

When you grow older, you get more comfortable and it gets harder to go on these “adventures” (even though it’s all in your head). It wasn’t until I was 29 that I finally made that long trip to the United States that I had always wanted to do.

If you have the luxury of not being that dependent on money, don’t stress finishing school and getting a job just because it’s expected. If you rather want to have a break and go on an “adventure”, just do it.

9. See the bands you love

If it’s one thing I’ve taken to the limit, it’s seeing the bands I love live.

Since 2004 I’ve seen Metallica, KISS and The Hellacopters six times each, Foo Fighters five times, Slash three times, AC/DC and Iron Maiden twice, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, The Offspring, Faith No More and Tenacious D just to mention a few.

These experiences have been nothing short of awesome and I’m so glad I’ve seen the bands I love (often multiple times) before they quit or lost their edge.

If a band you like is coming to your country or city, just get the tickets and worry about if you have the time to go later. You won’t regret it.

Finally…

This was a fun, tough and interesting post to write. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and that some of my experiences will help you form yours.

If you have any advice of your own, please share them in the comment section. I’d love to read them.

/Alex

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