9 Signs Your 20s Are Not Going as Planned (and why that’s a good thing)

You’ve nurtured your plans your entire life. Fed them. Loved them. Taught them how to read.

Then you hit your twenties and your plans run off with a biker gang in the middle of the night, and the last time you hear from them they’re somewhere in Jackson, Wyoming working at the Piggly Wiggly.

Can you relate?

I’ve written about the 25 Signs You’re Having a Quarter Life Crisis, now here are the nine signs your 20s aren’t going exactly as you planned, and then why that actually might be a good thing.

9 SIGNS Your 20s Aren't Going as Planned (and why that's a good thing)Photo by Designm.ag – Creative Commons. Design by Paul Angone

9 Signs Your Twenties Are Not Going as Planned

1. You’re living back with your parents. In your old room. And you just came down on a Saturday morning to see, strangely enough, a list of chores stuck on the kitchen cabinet with YOUR NAME on it.

And just like that you’re fifteen again.

At least take solace that there’s now a record high 21 million other twentysomethings living at home in the United States alone. Millions of twentysomethings are posting amazing pictures of their lives on Instagram, then going back to their bedroom with their plane and train bedspread. They just don’t exactly take a picture of that.

2. You’re working a crappy job you don’t want, in a field that you didn’t know existed, and are pretty sure every day working there cuts five days off of your life expectancy.

3. You still have acne.

Seriously God? Still? As if living back in my bedroom with pictures of trains on the bedspread is not enough with a curfew of 11:00 p.m. But acne? I might as well start cramming for my Chemistry final and

4. You’re a fully committed, full profile, full throttle Internet dater. Under an alias of course. Just in case The Google decides to tell the world.

5. You would gladly accept a non-paying internship in a good company, but you can’t even get hired to work for someone for free.


A. There’s 553 applications to be given the grand opportunity to be paid nothing.

B. You have to be in college to get hired for it. So you enroll in The History of the Forrest at your local community college so you can check the box — Yes I’m still a college student.

6. You’re driving the same Honda or Toyota you’ve had since high school — 220,000 miles later. Granted there’s no air conditioning, right mirror, power steering, and the back seats are filled with an assortment of fast-food wrappers, clothes, a Halloween costume, your 2011 tax returns, a 64 pack of Mountain Dew, and a small, growing family of raccoons. Yet, it still runs so you keep driving it. And the racoons seem content. (I might have just fully described to you my 1993 Honda Civic Hatchback. No jokes here).

7. As I wrote in 25 Signs You’re Having a Quarter-life Crisis: “Your part-time, temporary job at Starbucks has lasted three and ½ years.”

8. Every night you swear you’re going to do something productive. Work on that resume, hammer out that business plan, novel, website…,but dang it, if there wasn’t a Duck Dynasty marathon on again…

9. The only thing you’ve figured out in your twenties is everything you DON’T want to do.

As I wrote in my book 101 Secrets for your Twenties:

“Being in your twenties is about playing a game of Emerging Adult Elimination. Every time you cross something off the list, you’re coming closer to naming a winner.

Why Your Plans Not Going as Planned is a Good Thing

It doesn’t exactly feel like a good thing when you’re sitting there watching your plans go up in flames like a brush fire.

But let’s be honest — we never really had a plan in the first place. Or at least, not a good one.

We had a dream of making a difference or braggable amounts of money, but we didn’t have this strategic plan on how we were going to get there.

Amazing was just going to kind of happen.

But when your plans don’t go as planned it forces you, kicking and screaming, to find a better plan.

Your twenties are about slowly building a plan that actually has a foundation to it – built on failures, strengths, mistakes, values, wrong turns, vision, etc.

Your twenties are about building a plan based on who you are, who you’re not, and who you’re becoming.

Your twenties are about failing, tweaking, then trying again.

One of the most crucial skills we can learn in our twenties is adaptability.

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.” – Max McKeown, Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty.

One of the most important traits we forge in our twenties is resiliency.

Our twenties are not about them going as we planned, but how we adapt, change, and grow when they don’t.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

How have your twenties NOT turned out like you thought they would?


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Like advice from a wiser, funnier, older brother Paul's been there, done that, and wants to save you some pain and some trouble.

– Seth Godin, New York Times bestseller and author of The Icarus Deception

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  • http://joannamuses.com Joanna

    You start to get grey hair and you STILL have acne

    • admin

      HA! Ain’t that the unfortunate truth.

    • http://Website Tab

      Yup, acne is not just for teens and twenties. Expect it in the forties and fifties, and for some lucky ones, even the thirties. Zits are not a high school phenomenon as much as reassuring parents might have wanted you to believe.

  • http://Website Lily

    Well, Paul, I’d have to say I’m not even a tiny little bit surprised by how true this is. Seems like these twenties of our lives are turbulent for a reason – so we can gain wisdom from the experience that we acquire when our plans don’t work out and apply that wisdom later on. Another pearl coming from you at the right time for me. Thanks!

    • admin

      Awesome. Thank you Lily! Much, much, much appreciated.

  • http://Website Tab

    Great article.
    Do have to mention though that I laughed more than you might have expected since Piggly Wiggly’s are predominantly Southern stores (though recent forays have expanded their territory of 14 states all the way north to IL, WI and MN) and definitely not anywhere in the West. When I moved to the Carolina’s and saw one, I actually burst out laughing that there was a grocery store named that which grown adults were willing to be seen in. Got used to “southern ways” so could later venture in one without laughing, but still smiled.
    Anyway, don’t worry, the point of your article wasn’t lost on me, and your car sounds like my husband’s (miinus the Mountain Dew) so I guess I will cut him some slack…maybe it’s a man thing.
    Seriously though, good article.

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  • http://www.betweentheleafs.wordpress.com Katy

    I laughed, groaned, and nearly cried laughing some more.
    It’s true. It’s all true. Being in the Twenties is like crawling forward, inch-by-inch, using your fingertips to pull yourself along a cobbled street. Sore, discouraged, and progressing just begin to describe it…

    Thank you, for this telling article. It did me good today.

    • admin

      Well-written! Great thoughts! Thanks Katy for the encouragement in return.

  • http://Website caro

    …. you are afraid to make a five year plan with your therapist because you dont want to feel the same way
    five years from now…

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  • http://AllworknAllplay.com Elizabeth Flores

    Lol wow this is all so so true. It seems silly now looking back thinking that after college we were all going to have it figured out. We’re taught fear so much (fear of being poor, fear of living with mom and dad forever…) that we then begin to fear failure which leads to failure to adapt because we never change or take risks.

    I would add to your list…you start to sound like your parents, you begin to fall asleep earlier and earlier each day, you still cant afford to buy Starbucks everyday…

    Thanks for the great article!

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