Your twenties can often feel like a messy, seemingly endless series of unfortunate events. Lots of mistakes are made – or, sometimes, the same mistake is made several times over – and the whole thing can feel like an ongoing assault course of failures. But a Twitter thread has sparked a much more productive approach to the discussion of what is arguably our most turbulent age period, with women over 40 reflecting on their own experiences of their twenties and offering up pearls of wisdom to those still living it in the process.
“If you are a 40+ woman, what one piece of advice would you give to your 20-something self?” asked Nyasha Junior, an author and academic. The resulting answers were a much-needed mentoring session from hundreds of women who had been there and seen it all before.
From work to relationships to self esteem, nothing went uncovered. There were catchy quotable tips that wouldn’t be amiss on an Instagram feed as well as practical, actionable advice. “Write your name on the bottom of every document you produce at work, when volunteering and keep a copy for yourself,” said one smart Twitter user. “Keep track of every accomplishment – no one else will.”
“Learn your strengths and design a life where you use them everyday,” another chimed in. “Get liberated from the myth of well-roundedness. Find your edge, sharpen it, and then use it to craft a life you love.”
You're an undercooked version of the women you look up to and some day you'll be even older than they are
Among insistences to save as much as you can, to travel as much as you can afford and to never, ever skip sunscreen, a large chunk of warnings unsurprisingly centred on relationships (since many of our most debilitating mistakes are usually made in our twenties). Thankfully, these newly appointed Twitter fairy God mums had bucket loads of advice to ensure the same mistakes weren’t made.
One had just five words to say to her twenty-something self: “Leave after the first lie.”
“Learn to disassociate love from heartache and pain,” advised another. “Those feelings are the result of trying too hard to love people who deliberately mistreat you.”
And harsh but telling words for those of us who have wasted more than one evening expectantly watching a phone screen, willing it to ring: “If you find yourself waiting for someone to call, the relationship is already doomed.”
Some of the wisest words however were on aging, from women in the process of it. “I’m 62 and I’d tell her things get better with age,” a Twitter user said. “I feel like my most productive and creative right now. And I’ve got no more fucks to give. Aging is everything.”
Another embraced the wonder of change, not just in the sense of getting older but in terms of constant reinvention: “You are allowed to reinvent yourself as often as you want because evolution and change should be celebrated,” she said. “Be your own Goldilocks. For one man, I was TOO much. For another, I wasn’t enough. For me – I am just right.”
A personal favourite of mine kept it short, sweet and salient: “You're an undercooked version of the women you look up to and some day you'll be even older than they are (and they're not ‘old’).”
Older women (which society so frequently renders invisible) are wonderful fonts of wisdom and confidence, but are rarely celebrated or heard in the same way as older men are. But their amazing advice just shows how important it is we listen. In the words of another twenty-something mining the thread for gems, “just here to say: thanks aunties.”