Something like a möbius strip
July 8, 2018 8:33 PM   Subscribe

I have a kind of inverted advice-for-nearing-end-of-20s question: what advice are you happiest that you didn’t take in your late 20s/early 30s? How did choosing the less wise/more likely disastrous option work out for you?

I’m turning 29. I like advice. I like those classic Asks seeking life advice at certain pivotal ages and moments. And yet — I’m wondering when following sound advice is precisely the wrong approach to take, for whatever reason. (I also fully acknowledge and embrace the impossibility of asking for non-advice advice.) Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Oooo... fun! (and happy bday)

I woke up one day when I was 27 and realized it was time to move. I spread out a map and started looking at all the choices. I was totally Goldilocks about it: too hot, too cold, too big, too small, etc. I decided on San Francisco. I quit my job, gave up my apartment and left a great group of friends to move to a city I had never visited with no prospects, very little money, and no real plan. Not many folks thought this was a good idea because it was not a good idea. But moving to the Bay Area was the best stupid decision I’ve ever made. Because sometimes you just need to jump in and make it work, despite all reason and logic.
posted by jenquat at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2018 [11 favorites]

I was a little younger than what you're asking, but maybe it's still applicable... When I was choosing a graduate school, by dad told me to go to a crappy city (he did his PhD in Houston) so I'd work hard and get done fast. I had a grand time taking 7 years to graduate in San Francisco instead.

(this is only the 2nd answer, but so far 100% of people don't regret moving to San Francisco in their 20s.)
posted by juliapangolin at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

“Don’t cash out your 401(k)” is generally very sound advice, but doing so after a messy layoff at age 30 probably saved my sanity, my house, and my marriage, and may have indirectly improved my career prospects.

(“Buy a house now because the bubble will never, ever burst in this market” was not great advice five years earlier, but being young and fearless we took it, hence having a house to save half a decade on.)
posted by armeowda at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Advice I'm happy I didn't take:
1. Buy a house.
2. Go to Business School
3. Buy a nice car
4. Get married ASAP

Instead, I was rather lucky out of college, unlucky for a while, and then repeatedly fantastically lucky.

I recommend being lucky as consistently as possible. Anything you can do to improve your luck stat is a good investment.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:58 PM on July 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

“You should marry him - you’re not getting any younger, and you two seem great together.”

“If you don’t have kids, your life will be so empty.”

I didn’t and don’t, and I have never been happier. I was raised to be a good wife and mother. I finally realized that it wasn’t the only path I had to follow.
posted by umwhat at 8:59 PM on July 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

My life got a lot better in my twenties after I stopped taking career advice from people who weren't in that field or had never held a job before. I suspected at the time that the advice was wrong, and in retrospect I wish I had stopped listening to those folks much sooner. Now I strategically seek out advice from trusted sources, judge it according to what I know about them and pool information.
posted by Toddles at 9:00 PM on July 8, 2018 [14 favorites]

Nobody really gave me any life advice except have babies before it's too late, though my horrible (now late) father thought I should go to law school so I could take over his practice (as a convenience for him), though he later admitted he became a lawyer (in the 1940s) because lawyer and doctor were the only professions he knew of and he hated the sight of blood. But I also didn't do things people WANTED me to do, even if they didn't (per se) advise it, and I think that counts for your question.

I didn't go to law school.
I didn't marry the one who asked.
I didn't stay in the soul-sucking profession in which I earned an advanced degree.
I didn't change to a profession that would make gobs of money but would have stressed me out.

But I must add a caution. I also didn't do the things I wanted to do. I wanted to have a child and I wanted to move to a fun city (not in that order), but I stayed childless and in a modest community because I wasn't willing to "settle" (for a partner who wasn't ideal) or experience any (lifestyle) discomfort whatsoever. Life is a tradeoff. There are no perfect choices, just the right choices for the right person at the right time.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

"Don't sign up for that fine arts PhD program" - my dad, who thought it'd lead nowhere, and I guess was worried I'd struggle to support my family. Incorrect. 7 years later I'm more than fine. Leave naysaying for horses.
posted by threecheesetrees at 12:26 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go to graduate school for a PhD. I had good grades and academia/research seemed obvious career paths. I didn't take them, and I'm grateful on a daily basis for that decision.
posted by Nieshka at 1:31 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

1. “If you’re fed up of the city, why don’t you just move to the suburbs?”

(Reader: I moved 8000 miles around the world to a tiny island community and had the adventure of my life instead).

2. “You need a plan”

(All my best adventures have come from opportunities I could never have predicted - see above. Having a plan makes me feel like my life is over - all the surprises are gone).
posted by penguin pie at 2:20 AM on July 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

"Never date a married man."

Obviously, don't ever date a married man. He really won't leave his wife for you and you really won't live happily ever after. Also, later on if you get married, you may think very differently at 45 than you did at 25 about the institution of marriage and what infidelity means to a marriage.

All of that said, I have zero regrets. I was deeply in love with a man who adored me. The travel was great, and who doesn't want to live in London? I would never be living in Ireland 20 years later if I hadn't moved to London to carry on a completely inappropriate, absolutely torrid affair, and you couldn't pry me out of Ireland with a crane.

They also say "don't get married on the rebound." I totally got married on the rebound. It's 15 years later and we're still here! #stillmarriedfistbump
posted by DarlingBri at 3:54 AM on July 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

I broke up with the guy everyone was pressuring me to marry who felt like part of the family because I figured out he was very wrong for me. I married someone that suited me much better that my family had only met a few times. Thirteen years later things are still going strong. Some of my family members are divorced from their so called rock solid marriages, though.

I went against all family advice and bought a home as a single woman, and according to them, at the top of the market. Boy would I regret it! I didn’t, a year later it had doubled in value.

I moved interstate for work when there was no job to go to, based on the fact that it was a large city and I was housesitting so I had free accommodation. Why was I taking such a stupid risk, especially with a mortgage, I was asked? The next position I took in this city doubled my income and is still the best job I ever had.

This is not to say I havn’t made mistakes but what I’ve learnt is that no one knows me and my abilities or what I’d enjoy better I come from a very risk averse family and I get it, they feel it’s what protects them from failure but as long as you have faith in yourself and feel like you can weather the results if things don’t turn out as you’d hoped, then why not give it a go? It’s what your 20s and 30s should be about. Better to do that than to die wondering what if. With great risk comes great reward.
posted by Jubey at 5:11 AM on July 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was a little bit further into my 30s when I ignored the advice to stay with my large employer (a Fortune 100 company) for the job security and benefits. Instead, I quit to start my own company, doing what I loved. In the decades since, I have never once regretted ignoring that advice. Sometimes, a bird in the hand isn't better than two in the bush.
posted by DrGail at 5:45 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is not of general applicability, but....

I entered college in the fall of 1964 while the Vietnam war was in full swing. There was a lot of advice to enroll in ROTC or join the reserves in order to avoid the draft. I did neither. My thinking was that the war had already being going on for 4+ years and would probably be over before I graduated.

Come 1968, the war was bigger than ever. I still had the possibility of looking for a place i a reserve unit, though that was not guaranteed. My thinking was I'll let myself be drafted and take my chances. I was drafted, and the Army, in its wisdom, put me in an Army band.

To the extent that this could be a lesson for anyone else, it's that you have to examine advice closely for it's applicability to you. What's right for someone else may be wrong for you. Advice given to try to prevent catastrophe many over-emphasize the probability of a bad result just because "bad" might mean "very bad indeed."
posted by SemiSalt at 6:28 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

What a great question and responses! I can think of a couple examples.

I succumbed to pressure to buy a house in my early twenties (it was 2005, after all) and really wish I hadn't. It wasn't the right house for me, was in a crappy area for resale, cost me a bundle over the years, and I took a big loss on it when I finally sold it nearly a decade later. Now I own a house I adore in an amazing neighborhood, so this isn't a knock on home ownership, but looking back it's clear to me that I knew it wasn't something I should pursue but did anyway.

I ignored all the doom and gloom about the library field's grim prognosis and got my MLIS anyway. I freaking loved it. I had the time of my life, met tons of wonderful people, even traveled for some of it, and my job prospects have exploded as a result.
posted by anderjen at 8:00 AM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pretty much across the board, advice of the form "That's private, nobody needs to know about that, keep it to yourself" has been terribly wrong for me, and stopping following it has been amazingly, life-alteringly great.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:15 AM on July 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Got accepted to law school, mostly because it seemed like the right thing to do and family members were pushing me to go. I interviewed a bunch of lawyers the summer before classes started and found out they were all miserable. I stayed up the night before I was supposed to go to law school orientation and decided heck no.

I have never, ever, regretted that decision. I went with what I loved, lucked into some great jobs, got a Ph.D. in something else and have had a wonderful life, overall. I wouldn't have been happy as a lawyer, and I'm glad I talked to some folks and trusted my instincts at a young age.
posted by merrill at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I remember my parents (liberal Democrats, go figure) and other older folks in my family clutching their pearls horrified about OMGCRIME in San Francisco and Oakland, where I variously lived in the 80's and 90's. I never was a crime victim, even though I walked home by myself at night all the time. And I still miss San Francisco, even though I could never afford to live there any more. Fear of crime is way overblown by the older generation (though that is changing as GenX becomes the older generation! yikes! ).

"You should have kids!" LOLnope. No rugrats and no regrets.

It is mostly young women, not young men, who get Fear of Crime and The Importance Of Marriage And Babies advice like I did. I think it's especially important for young women to push back against well-meaning but restrictive admonishments.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Count me as another one of the if-you-don't-get-married-and-have-kids-you'll-regret-it people. I did neither of those things and I'm perfectly happy about that.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:20 PM on July 9, 2018

Quit your job, break up with your partner, sell your house and move to San Francisco with no job prospects and only $7000 in the bank. Do it after the dotcom bubble bursts and the weekend before 9/11.

I had some - correction, ALL - of the best times of my life there.
posted by bendy at 10:13 PM on July 9, 2018

Also, if you hate engineering school it's fine to flunk out.
posted by bendy at 10:15 PM on July 9, 2018

This would be kind of past-tense for you now, but I remember hearing a lot of "if you don't go to college right out of high school, you'll never get back to it!" from a lot of well meaning folks and I took a gap year anyway. My family was getting stationed in Japan, so I basically hung out in Tokyo for a year between high school and college and it was rad as hell and it did not affect my desire to go back to college one whit.

Similarly (and perhaps more relevant to you now), I heard a lot of the same noise from folks about going to grad school, especially since I graduated college right on the heels of the Great Recession and the job market was very much crap anyway. But I didn't go to grad school straight out of college; I went out and got some jobs and some experience, realized "oh wow it turns out grades really DON'T matter in the real world", and went back to grad school several years later with a much healthier perspective on the whole grades thing. And now I'm like eight weeks away from being done and I'll finish everything right before my 31st birthday. Huzzah!
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:57 AM on July 10, 2018

love can fix everything (it can't).
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2018

I am enamored with the San Francisco theme in these responses. :) Happy it's been so meaningful for y'all!

And thank you, this is very fun to read and reflect on. I am indeed contemplating a couple of decisions that you brought up, and that I'm not sure what advice I'd receive from others, and this definitely affirms my "follow my own compass" instinct, however faint. (Also Toddles' point about taking advice from people actually in the relevant field is extremely on point.)
posted by elephantsvanish at 1:24 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I waited way too long to move to SF. Just got here last year, should have skipped Seattle entirely.

Except that I would probably have been even more insufferable if I started out in SF instead of Seattle.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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