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Teresa Lee Headshot

Be More Selfish in Your 20s

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Before I say anything else, don't get me wrong, I am not a terrible person (or at least I hope I'm not). I volunteer. I donate money... sometimes. (Hey, I'm trying! I do still have to feed myself with my meager post-grad paycheck after all.) I look out for my friends and family, whom I love. Trust me, I am not a terrible person, but there is something to be said for being more selfish. I know this sounds like a typical 20-something mantra as Time Magazine so lovingly called us the "Me Me Me Generation" on a recent cover. We are the Millennials. We are Generation Me. We are narcissistic. We get it, your generation was much better than ours. That's nice. Whatever.

I'm an advocate of being selfish in your 20s. You're finally on your own and can make your own decisions and similarly have to take responsibility for all your stupid mistakes and bad life choices. Life is now at the stage where you can't be a complete idiot since the excuse, "Oh, I'm in college" doesn't cover it anymore. Yet there are still no real consequences that will hurt anyone else. Too hungover on Thursday morning? (Who knew it wasn't socially acceptable to celebrate Wednesday Winesdays?) You can't call in sick to your first shitty post-grad job the way you just skipped class in college. No, you're in your 20s now so you have to drag your sloppy self into work in your best outfit and hope no one notices the unwashed hair and power through the day while secretly running off to vomit in the bathroom every 30 minutes wondering if you're still drunk or just hungover (possibly a true story).

If I've learned anything since moving to New York, it's that no one else is looking out for you other than yourself. Family and friends are great, but at the end of the day, only you (and your parents, hopefully) have your best interest at heart. But the thing about parents is that sometimes what they think is best doesn't line up with what you know is best. Your twenties are your years to focus on you. BE MORE SELFISH. Not like a baby where you cry the moment anything isn't going your way, but make every decision for yourself. Your college sweetheart is taking a job in California while your dream job is in New York? Move to New York! You'll slowly begin to resent them and hate yourself when you breakup and you'll always wonder "what if" about that job in New York. Similarly, your soul mate is moving to California and your mom will just about disown you if you quit your job and follow them there? Move to California! What's more important than love after all? While this might sound at odds, the point is to make every decision for you and only you. Which one will you regret more in 10 years, not chasing after your dream job or not chasing after your Prince Charming? Do whatever makes you happy.

Be more selfish with your emotions and your time. Sometimes it's too damn tiring to care. I'm not saying be apathetic, but you need to stop caring about people who don't care about you and aren't worth your emotions. Your 20s are the time in your life that you figure out which friends are toxic and bringing you down. That friend from high school who always seems to push her negative attitude into your life and makes you just a little bit more depressed every time you talk to her? Or that frenemy who somehow even makes grocery shopping into a competition? Or that guy who seems to have lost his phone during the weekday, but somehow finds it and is able to text you at 1 am on a Saturday night? Yeah, you need to cut those people out of your life.

Be more selfish at work. Your boss is not looking out for you. Okay, if you have a great one, they might be, but at the end of the day, they care about your work. They aren't your mom. They are paying you for the work that you do, so really, why should they care about you? If you're lucky, your boss will and is a good person, but that's not a given. They care about the bottom line. They care about the company and as a 20-something nobody, you really are quite replaceable. Look out for yourself at work and learn what you want to learn and get the most out of it because no one there is going to make sure you get it.

Be more selfish in bed. Ladies, did you know that instead of lying there utterly unsatisfied after he makes yet another happy groan and passes out that you can actually look him in the eye and go, "Hey buddy, glad you're done and had your happy ending. Now it's my turn." The first time a friend told me that, I was shocked. Mind blown. You can ask a guy to do that? She looks at me as if I'm crazy, "Obviously. I expect it." Maybe you're dating a very nice and giving guy, but trust me, not every guy out there is looking out for your needs. You need to make your own very un-Disney and rated R (or NC-17) happy ending happen. And while hopefully 99% of the girls reading this think I'm an idiot, I know there is someone out there whose mind is as blown as mine was when I first heard this. Apparently I've dated selfish guys my whole life, but dear boys, that's about to change.

Look, I'm not telling you to be selfish with the people you love. Seriously, anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that if you're my friend, I will do just about anything for you. I've gone all the way up to the Upper East Side to sit in someone's car for three hours because they didn't want to lose their parking spot and it was street cleaning day. I've gone on an hour's notice down to the Financial District to drop off my friend's apartment applications (only in NYC is apartment hunting so ridiculous) because someone else was viewing it an hour later. I have sat in my friend's apartment for hours without wifi (uh, do you know how impossible that is for an always plugged-in 20-something?!) while I waited for Verizon to come fix her internet. Give your time freely to anybody who would give it right back. Just be careful or else you're going to feel cheated and like you lost something when all other people do is take, take, take.

But be more selfish now. Try to learn how to play the harmonica or how to unicycle or how to create the next Angry Birds-esque app. Go travel all over South America or just sit in your room and learn how to code/program java or C++. Go out and love a lot or never give your heart away. Just fill yourself up with everything you want and try everything. They say you learn and change and form the person you will become the most in your 20s. Because if you aren't selfish now and at least try and figure out "who you are," you might be starting your life in your 30s instead of living your life. I don't think you'll figure it all out in this decade, but it's making mistakes and crossing off the things that are wrong that help you get that much closer to figuring out what is right. Let others teach you, change you, move you, but don't let them make you. You have your 30s/50s/whatever-old-wrinkly-age to start putting the needs of your husband or child or parents ahead of your own. So for now, get drunk on some self-love and just do you.