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I Asked Women What They’d Tell Their 28-Year-Old Selves

In partnership with SMILF

Our culture’s need to align age with lifestyle is admittedly overdone (going out makes you 20 no more than staying in makes you 30), but there is something comforting about deciding, as a group, to blame hard, intangible stuff on something as explicit and unavoidable as an age. Plus, the human propensity for self-loathing, self-exploration and self-acceptance does have a way of ebbing and flowing alongside certain decades.

That said, my current age doesn’t have a satisfying ring to it, nor an identifiable stereotype attached. Being 28 feels like sitting at the incongruous intersection of younger people thinking I’m old and older people thinking I’m young. I’m either “basically 25” or “basically 30” depending on the severity of my current meltdown and/or hangover.

Showtime’s newest show, SMILF, captures this paradox perfectly. Frankie Shaw, the creator, director and star, plays a 28-year-old woman who is adorable, kind of a mess, and also a new mother to the cutest kid you’ve ever seen (who’s played by two twin girls you’re going to want to follow on Instagram ASAP). In celebration of SMILF’s forthcoming premiere on November 5th, and to do the honorable (selfish) work of painting a more colorful picture of life at 28, I asked six women to recall their 28-year-old selves. What was fun, what sucked and what would they tell that person now?

Leandra, Man Repeller founder, 28

“I’m ten months through the 28th year of my life, and my biggest problem has been persistent over the course of the past three years: Running a company is really, really challenging, especially for someone who self-identifies as a creative, as I do. Forcing myself into a role that often feels not completely ‘right’ has led me to link my reproductive issues to the circumstances of my professional life.

But for as challenging as building and running a company has been, and for as heartbreaking as the process of achieving pregnancy has been, the ephemeral, shining moments where things feel like they are falling into place or finally make sense have made all the coal-mining, so to speak, feel like it’s been worth it. They say that no one loves to write, only to have written; I think this is true for facing personal and professional adversity, too. If you can come up for air and officially graduate from the adversity, you rarely regret it and, as a matter of fact, it becomes one of your biggest joys.

I wish I had been able to apply my retrospective thinking to the process while I was in it. I wish I enjoyed the process for exactly what it was: a process. The other thing is that no state of existence is permanent. This is so hard to remember when you’re suffering because you feel like you’re frozen inside the 59th second of a plank. If I could give one piece of advice to my 28-year-old self, I’d say, ‘Remember how you thought you would never move on or love again after your boyfriend broke up with you when you were 17? Remember how dumb you felt as a result when you got engaged at 22? Why are you letting history repeat itself, Leandra? Same thinking mechanism, different topic. For as much control as you think you have, you don’t actually maintain that much. This isn’t a bad thing; SURRENDER.'”

Andrea Arterbery, freelance journalist, 36

“My biggest joy at the age of 28 was most definitely my career. I lived in New York and worked all the time. One of my top goals as a working journalist was to have my work published in The New York Times and I’d done that, several times over. I was so proud of myself for reaching this pinnacle because I’d worked so hard to get there! But, my biggest joy was also my biggest problem. I was so busy working and networking that I never really made time for myself nor did I dedicate myself to anything other than work.

As a result, I was pretty burnt out on everything by the time I reached 30. I knew I needed to slow down, but how? When? Well, I found my answer in the form of a (totally unprepared for, what-is-happening) pregnancy. By the following year, I was a single mom living in Manhattan and trying to make life work like it used to because I’m stubborn. But I soon realized my former Manhattan life was no longer meant to be, so I cut my losses, packed up my baby and moved back home to Texas. It was an adjustment, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. My five-year-old son is happy and healthy. Life is just so much easier now and I can honestly say that I’m happy. For the first time in life, I feel grounded and I’m super secure in my role as his mother.

I wish that I’d known to slow down and to take more time for myself because, in just a few more years, I’d be a single mom. Honestly, in hindsight, I probably would have taken more naps, too!”

Ammara Yaqub, Creative Director, 37

“I had my first child when I was 28. I also had my dream job. I was a buyer at Louis Vuitton and loved every minute of it. At that time, I (mistakenly) thought that I had it all. But while I had given birth to this beautiful little girl, I was having a hard time understanding and embracing motherhood. I had put on a lot of weight during my pregnancy and was struggling to lose it. I went back to work to find someone had been hired to fulfill most of my responsibilities, which left me feeling redundant and almost guilty about having a child in the first place.

I tried to keep up the façade of managing it all through what I now realize was a very traumatic time. I was probably struggling with postpartum depression, but I had no idea what that was and didn’t know to ask anyone for help. I wish I had reached out for support. It would have made a huge difference.

If I could tell my 28-year-old self anything, I would tell her that having it all is an illusion. Life is a balancing act and striking that balance (which for me means something different every day) is a constant struggle. Many people consider having children to be their biggest accomplishment, but even though I love my kids more than life itself, I never felt that way. I would tell my 28-year-old self that it’s okay to have her own goals, and to make her happiness a priority without feeling selfish, guilty or apologetic. I would tell her to not waste her time worrying about how others perceive her, to not let the opinions of ancillary/irrelevant people hold her back.

I would most importantly give her the down and dirty about giving birth. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I was surprised by how much of a toll it took on my body and mind. The physical recovery took months (after what felt like a never-ending pregnancy). I struggled with breast feeding to the point that I would sit in my room and cry, and I had a tough time relating to a newborn. I would tell myself that this too shall pass.”

Nicole Chapoteau, fashion director, late 30s

“When I turned 28, I was months away from getting married, finding a place for me and my future husband to live, and realizing I was officially becoming a real adult. Like, WHOA! We never lived together, we were old school (although we were high school sweethearts), and the thought of not living with my friends for the first time since I left for college gave me major anxiety and FOMO. But I was so excited to stop having sleepovers with my boyfriend.

If I could tell myself anything, I’d say, ‘Be more adventurous. Don’t take everything that seriously. You are still in your twenties, so it’s okay to fuck up. There is time to get back on the horse.’ I wish I realized that, aside from paying bills, being an adult is actually fun.”

Liz Markus, artist, 49

“28 was the year I started grad school in Philadelphia. For the first time, I had my own studio. It was filled with light and was on a beautiful campus with trees everywhere. I had the time and space to make art and that’s all I was supposed to do. Unfortunately I was distracted by a breakup. I may have ben 28, but emotionally I was probably more around 15. I was absolutely devastated. I wish I had cared less about the boy and more about this amazing creative opportunity I was having.

If I could tell my 28-year-old self anything, I wouldn’t tell her what was in store for her for the next decade or two. It took that long to get through tons of emotional growth and too many day jobs. But now I’m back to that wonderful place of having an amazing studio where I use all of my time free to make art. I’d tell her to take herself more seriously as an artist, the way the boys naturally do. And to put her work out into the world sooner and with more intention than I did.  I’d tell her that it was okay to show the developing work, that the world would be kind.”

Sheila McElroy, historic preservationist, 59

“At 28 I was getting my Masters of Science in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, and I was married and living in New York. I felt grounded and centered in my work/study that I excelled at and loved. I enjoyed my projects, was challenged by my peers and I got to run around Philadelphia looking at cool buildings and neighborhoods. This was always my element: exploring, discovering and sharing what I uncovered. I had found my purpose.

My biggest problem was that at this time, I became very ill and didn’t realize it. I was exhausted within hours of waking and fainted often; I couldn’t eat much yet was feeling bloated and awkward. I truly suffered through my first year at grad school because I didn’t tell anyone. One day, I passed out in Grand Central because my heart rate was so low, and was raced to the hospital. The doctors eventually diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and through treatment I regained my health. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself. I was ill — not weak, not ineffectual, not a wimp. No one expected or wanted me to hide how I was feeling. It was totally self-induced.

I wish I’d known that joy and happiness are not the same. Joy stays with you even through the really shitty times because it’s true and steady. After 30 years I still have the vision to see the potential in a building or neighborhood. It’s a kind of faith. Happiness is what you feel in a moment. It’s ephemeral. Knowing the difference would have made the bumpy ride a little bit easier. I think I would have been less harsh and judgmental of my own work. I wish I could tell myself to lighten up and do the best you can and let it go.”

Susan Morris, first grade teacher, 42

“Ah, 28, what an age! After growing up the youngest of five daughters, I finally felt like I was a full-fledged grown-up. I finally fit in. This was a great joy to me. At 28, I had also fallen in love with the man who I would marry and build my future family with. Looking back, 28 was a very joyful time. That being said, I was always in a massive rush to get on to the next thing. I was in a race with myself and everyone I knew, even if they didn’t know it. I was in a rush to get engaged, married, own a home, the list goes on. This problem was exhausting.

I wish I had realized what an amazing time that was in my life. I wish I had known that with age and time my family would change. I wish I had slowed down. I wish I would have allowed myself to enjoy each step just a little bit more.

If I could go back and impart some wisdom to my 28-year-old self, I think I would say, ‘Slow down, live in the moment, and don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Since I can’t go back, I guess I will just tell myself that now, as some advice always rings true.”

Illustrations by Melanie Lambrick; follow her on Instagram @melanielambrick.

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  • Lauren

    “Being 28 feels like sitting at the incongruous intersection of younger people thinking I’m old and older people thinking I’m young.” She done done it again.

  • Charlie

    “I wish I had realized what an amazing time that was in my life. I wish I had known that with age and time my family would change. I wish I had slowed down. I wish I would have allowed myself to enjoy each step just a little bit more.”

    I’m 26 and although I learned a lot in all those years in university etc. I did not learn how to enjoy life. I learned to rush, achieve goals, tick a thing off from the to-do list and go on to the next. I did not learn to really, fully enjoy life and moments. Or better said, I lost the ability to because I did in the past. Some say it comes with age (losing that ability to fully embrace life in a particular moment) but I don’t believe that is completely true. Surely, our lives become more complicated and there is much more pressure once you grow older. But I know many who still, despite all that, can enjoy life to the max at times. It really aches to write this. But I’m aware of it – now I need to somehow change it. MR is a big part of this awareness (and awareness of many other things in my life!). This article is one of those reminders. Other people’s reflections can also be a mirror for me. So thank you!

    On another note – Melanie Lambrick your work is absolutely stunning!

    • Eliza

      Oh god I relate to this so much. I’m in this frantic, exhausted, overwhelmed, worn down, 26-yr-old boat with you. It’s sometimes hard to feel that life will ever be any different.

      • cbBKNY

        Was exactly, precisely where you are a while ago *:)* I’d tell my 28 year old self: learn everything and use that so you are in prime position when you hit an age where they will call you ‘experienced’ instead of ‘young’ – whatever those two words mean 🙂

    • Chloe

      It’s funny because I was reading this thinking “oh my gosh, I feel so unmotivated compared to these women, I enjoy life too much and don’t get enough done.” I have a good job, but not a career moving upwards, I live alone with two cats, and I just got dumped after my longest relationship in 3 years….it lasted 5 months. And he dumped me over text. I feel like such a failure compared to all of these women. And I know that her advice is to slow down & enjoy life more, but what if I’m enjoying it too much? What if I’m moving so slow that I’m not moving anywhere at all?

      • Hi! I struggle with bits of this too sometimes. I’m trying to accept that good enough is good enough. If you can live a life you enjoy and save for the future, then that should be good enough for most people. We can’t all be upper management or making six figures. And that’s hard when you compare yourself to your peers (like I do), but we all have different gifts that manifest themselves in various ways throughout our lives. Don’t ever say you’re enjoying life too much!!

    • Dafne Pimentel

      I’m 26 too! In my city (Niterói – RJ, Brazil), even the “fun” activities like partying and dating have become achievements. It’s like a race to be happyer, richer and sexyer than everybody else all the time. There is very little anjoyment, just a bunch of 20 somethings trying to succeed while simultaniously feeling like they failed in some level.

  • cryptdang

    I have never heard that saying, “no one loves to write, only to have written,” but I really like it. I think I will make that my motto as I struggle through grad school.

  • Hannah Warner

    a lot of these jobs/experiences are only available to upper class people, it’d be cool to hear from more blue collar people about advice for a 28 year old.

    • Adrianna

      I grew up blue collar. (My mother is a housekeeper. My father was either unemployed or in construction) I’m also 28, so I dunno what kind of words of wisdom I could share…

      • Hannah Warner

        I grew up blue collar family that eventually became a white collar family, and I feel like my 27th year was very alienating (esp. with all these success and marriage narratives). I don’t have the means or connections to achieve my “dream job” or feel like I’m on a “career path”. I’m just taking whatever I can get and trying to survive.
        I can’t imagine 28 will be any different.

        • Adrianna

          I’m still at a point where I don’t feel like I have a career. I currently have a day job that pays for my basic bills, but it’s hardly a job where I can dedicate my energy towards a greater goal. I never interned because I couldn’t afford to, but in some ways that set me back. I went from struggling to find a new job because I didn’t have any experience, to struggling to start a new career because I have too much experience.

          My peers’ marriages and childbirths still feel weird even though I’ve been in a committed, 5.5 year relationship. I *just* moved out of my 8.5 year sublet and in with my boyfriend, and it honestly didn’t really feel like a big deal. It probably would have if we had a wedding ceremony beforehand. I don’t feel bad that we’re in a smaller 2-bedroom apartment in NYC while childhood friends are living in a large houses in the suburbs, because they could just as easily envy the fact that I live in NYC and been to more countries. We recently got a cat that needed to be rehomed, and I felt a little juvenile that we were getting a cat while the previous cat owners were married and had newborn.

          As you can probably relate to, I used to have a lot of anxiety about money. I’ve learned that it’s worth to spend the money and go to a new location for three days, even just to break up the monotony of my daily life. I never traveled anywhere until 2015, and my road trip through California was simultaneously eye-opening and emotionally overwhelming.

          One thing I have really embraced and feel fulfilled by the last couple of years is acquiring knowledge through podcasts and library books/dvds.

          • Hannah Warner

            Don’t even get me started on internships. I worked through school (high school and college) and then after I graduated I figured I could finally do an internship somewhere cool bc I was just working and didn’t have school, and couldn’t get one because it wasn’t going towards school credit.
            I’ve given up on saving money, and agree that experiences are worth the splurge. It’s hard having advice articles from perspectives of people achieving their dreams/goals, because I think there’s a lot of unspoken privilege in that. Not everyone gets to choose their career. Like you were saying though, success has a lot to do with perspective, I just need more of a spin.
            Podcasts definitely, I haven’t been to a library in years, maybe I’ll seek one out in honor of my upcoming 28th bday. I really appreciate the solidarity, thanks for posting 🙂

          • Suzan

            Hi Adrianna, the first two paragraphs very much align with my work and relationship situation. It’s all good, but (especially work) not very titillating. I have no advice or otherwise wise words, but just wanting to let you know that I feel you. And that your comment was comforting to me.

        • I feel that so many people advocating “do what you love” or “you can achieve anything you want” need to come here and read your comment.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thanks for this suggestion! Noted

  • Adrianna

    I’m 28, and I’ve felt decidedly 30 this past year. I never feel 25 anymore. It’s the first time I feel like I’m in a significantly different age group than college students. I got sick of living in Manhattan after ten years of thinking that I would never want to leave the East Village. I moved to Park Slope, where I am surrounded by children instead of bars. Coincidently, I was never really interested in children, or bars….

    • Monica M

      Also 28 here, and I feel this! I lived in the East Village in my late teens, and recently moved out of Silver Lake in LA. I’m staying with my parents before I move into a (quiet) Chicago neighborhood. I just don’t care anymore about living anywhere that is deemed cool or trendy. When I was younger, I definitely got a certain thrill out of saying “I live in XYZ” but as I’ve grown older and become more comfortable with myself, I’ve learned where I live has no correlation to who I am as a person.

      • Sarah

        literally same boat. Lived in big cities my entire life – and now just turned 29 and I’m like I don’t actually really care about living in a big city anymore…I want a BIG KITCHEN.

  • Jillian Colin

    Ah thank you for writing this! I’m constantly interested in the perspectives of those who’ve experienced more in life than I have. I’m about to be 24 (I know, it’s not 28, but still) and I feel like I am constantly swinging between being comfortable being uncomfortable (in terms of my life instability) and then just full on uncomfortable. I love what Leandra said about surrendering. That’s definitely something I try to do, or at least remind myself that what you put out is most of the time what you’re going to get back- so why not surrender to the process and enjoy? I love you guys + thanks for always being real as fuck about lyfe! xx

    • Adrianna

      I felt super uncomfortable at 24. I decided to switch careers, and I had major imposter syndrome. I struggled to find steady work. I avoided running into college friends because I didn’t want to talk about my lack of progress. I feel more confident at 28, but I have also learned that it’s okay to admit that not everything is going great.

      • Josephine

        Avoiding college friends… how this sums up a big part of my life right now.

  • Amanda Faerber

    I love this article. Just sent it to three lifelong friends as we will all turn 40 within the next 6 months. Reading this made me think about where I was at 28 and how different my life was … I love the differentiation made between joy and happiness. Why is that trying to be happy can be so stressful? Thinking about trying to find what gives you joy just seems so much more meaningful. Thanks, Haley, for this article.
    BTW: I would my told my 28 year old self to just quit smoking already and not wait the extra two years it actually took. Better though would be to go back and slap that first cigarette out of my dumb 18 year old hand.

  • Jac Young

    I’m 34. Let’s offer some advice other than enjoy having kids and husbands…..

    At 28, I’d tell myself to keep the workout routine. It’s doing wonders in my 30s. Still looking good naked.
    Maybe lay off the booze a bit. Sugar is bad for your hourglass figure. And for your wrinkles.
    Dress a little sluttier. You’ll never be quite as small even though you feel like a cow.
    Don’t worry about those stupid boys. If one aint acting right – drop his ass.
    Get you dream job! You deserve it, and the only thing standing in your way is insecurities and timidness.
    Don’t blow your whole paycheck on trendy clothing. Get the timeless pieces. They last through the changing years.
    Love your older lady friends! They have the best advice.
    No need to dye your hair so much. Keep it healthy so you can fry it when the grays come in more.
    Also, keep hanging out with younger people. They keep you young inside.
    Smile. And smile on the inside. It makes everything look better.
    Don’t pick at your face, it leaves scars.
    Wash that makeup off, and remember to moisturize.
    Don’t sleep all the time out of depression. Complete more of your goals.
    School is cool, take lots of elective courses.

    And having kids and a husband is not everything, so if it doesn’t happen at 34 don’t stress. Just keep doing you! Realize all of your dreams.

    • Sarah

      this was amazing. can you write the next article?

      • Jac Young

        Awe shucks. =)

    • Charlotte

      This is really good advice!!

      * Need to use that gym membership.

    • YES love this

    • SavHemmings

      Ugh – this so much! As a 28-year-old going through more transitions in this past year than the past ten, advocating for myself and the things I want for my life has been so tough. This advice is exactly what I needed to read.

    • Jillian Colin

      obsessed with this *pulls out notepad + pen*

    • Megan

      I really cannot thank you enough for this, I found myself scrolling quickly through this article looking for exactly the things you wrote about. Thanks for helping!

    • Gemma

      As 32 year old single woman, I really appreciate this comment. It’s not all about the husband and the kids at 28, or 32, or older! I’ve taken a screen shot of this and will read it every time I forget that I’m still young. Thank you 🙂

      • Jac Young

        Gemma, thanks for your kind words. I knew there were women out there like me, and that’s why I shared. Thank you for sharing too. And you got a long time to go before your are not young anymore. =) Much love.

    • Shey Aponte

      amazing. well said. this felt more real than a lot of the blurbs from the article.

    • Jacqueline

      Let’s be friends!

    • allie


      Best advice I got from the whole entire article was yours!

      SAVE SAVE SAVE!!!!!!!!!

    • Dafne Pimentel

      “Dress a little sluttier” is a very good advise for many women! I’ve been trying to do it, after so many years following my mother’s elegant fashion rules and than realizing it’s not so fun. I felt like I was hiding, and that feeling threatened the corageous image I had of myself. Covering myself up made me feel very vulnerable.

      • Jac Young

        Hi Dafne, I know what you are saying. I regret covering up so much out of inward insecurity and shame. That’s why I made sure to list that as advice to my younger self. I love looking sexy and beautiful. It’s silly to cover up. And I say that for my own self. It has very little to do with impressing men. And much more to do with the satisfaction of playing dress up the way I want to.

    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      Thank you! I’m 33, and I would have to say ditto to every last one!

    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      And I love, “Dress a little Sluttier!” I’ve met so many women who aren’t even comfortable enough in their own skin to wear red lispstick, always second guessing themselves, putting back the extra piece of jewelry, grabbing the cardigan etc, for fear of what? I am truly not even sure.

    • Su Zana

      Thank you! I was reading what was written above and it made me feel a bit down. At 28 they had husbands and kids. Im 33 and dont have any of that. And Im single. Thanks for reminding me that Im not alone and for great advice

    • Mary W

      Thanks for this! Reading this article gave me anxiety about not being married/having kids at this age, and your post is just what I needed.

    • Cait

      This was 100 times better advice than anything in that article. By the last woman’s advice I was thinking, “surely this one will still be single and figuring shit out…” but after reading it I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and immediately come to the comment section to see if anyone had the same opinion as I did- that every one of these had a husband or kids or were engaged or started there own company. Who the hell are these women and why didn’t the author make them more diverse? And alas! Your comment hit the nail on the head! So glad to see others replying as well that they had the same thoughts and are still single with no kids at 28. I turn 29 in exactly a month, and although I have an amazing career that I live and work my butt off for, I don’t make time for the romance department in my life bc I don’t know how to meet guys at this age. Where are they? I don’t want to sit at a bar, I don’t want to start going to church to meet a man, and I don’t want to resort to online dating so I am a little worried I missed the boat in the husband and kids part of my life so this makes me relax and feel so much better. In the south at my age people view me almost as being a leper bc I’m not at least engaged or pregnant haha but I’ve been focused on my career and screw what they think anyways! They aren’t the ones who hold the key to my happiness, quite the opposite! Thank you so much for this comment after that article… it was much needed!!!!

    • Daniel Szilagyi

      Awesome, love this

  • Lucy

    Just for a different perpective… I’m 28, living in London, working freelance and struggling trying to define a career in an industry that is not what it use to be and is dolling out smaller and smaller budgets for jobs. Although I live with my boyfriend (in a tiny 1 bedroom) we are not close to being engaged or children or thinking about it at all… we are trying to find work that stimulates us and opportunities and times to do that work, but it always gets over run by the need to do uninspired jobs for money. Careers haven’t been made yet, and buying toothpaste can seem like a luxury. But keep on keeping on, and go to the pub for a pint.

    • TinySoprano

      Yeah freelancing in dying industries! And paying bills in expensive cities! I feel you there. *fistbump*

      Someone once told me opera is lonely, and they were right, just not in the way I thought. You still have family and friends, but it’s incredibly isolating to see them hitting milestones like getting married and getting promoted and having babies while you’re… keeping it together doggy-paddle style, taking low-level jobs on the side to just keep going.

      I just feel lucky to have an awesome Yoda whose best advice to me ever was: cut yourself some slack, and learn see getting this far as the real achievement it is. Because it is. It takes so much grit to keep going when you feel like the world doesn’t see you as a proper adult.

      • Cait

        I love this!!

  • this is amazing content

  • 😭 emotions are FLOWING.

  • Amber

    Speaking from a Generation X point of view, 28 was just another year. We had the advantage of living with reckless abandon, every single day was a celebration of freedom. Not to mention, that “blue collar” wasn’t a hindrance nor a label, but a badge of honorable stability. Honestly, 28 today is a whole lot different versus the 28 of mine. I’m forty two. Old enough to know what works but never too old to change.

  • Rosie

    Having just turned 30, I think 28 is more pivotal, or at least was so for me. I felt like my life had finally kicked into gear; we bought a house, I ran a marathon, my career began to take off. Now 30 is just a big number with no big new life achievements. But I’m OK with that – I did enough at 28 to feel content with where I’m at still!
    Essentially 28 was a year of closing (finishing things, finishing projects) and 30 has been a year of starting things with no closing in sight. New beginnings! But frustrating, intangible.

    I think I’m still too close to 30 to give good advice, but I guess I would say, take some time to reflect on your achievements, and celebrate them. Give yourself a big pat on the back, take a big breath in and out, and relax a little.

  • JennyWren

    I actually really liked being 28. I felt like there were less defined expectations of me at that age; no-one was constantly assuming I was still at school and people weren’t yet being too obviously nosy about when I was going to have kids. I liked the sensation of being in between a lot of things. Being in my thirties has been harder because I’m supposed to be settling into my stride but I’m still not sure what that stride even is.

    • Suzan

      Yes! Now I read your comment, I realize that it absolutely encompasses how I felt at 28. Totally floating comfortably in-between.
      Not so (mentally and financially) comfortable anymore now I’m in my early thirties and with hardly any idea where I’m headed…

  • I really liked this article, even though I just turned 25. I’ve been feeling a bit bad because I’m not 100% sure of what I want to do career-wise (I like my job but I don’t know if it’s something I’d want to/could do forever). Most of my friends are a bit older than me and none of them have it completely figured out either, but I’m also getting to that point where some are settling down/having kids and that seems really foreign to me. After reading all these stories I feel better about not being 100% sure.

  • Julie Turkel

    Ammara, I am blown away by your honesty about motherhood and your words of encouragement – to have your own personal goals and not feel guilty about it. I am way older than 28 and have been balancing career and motherhood for almost 10 years , so I really relate. And Leandra, I loved what you wrote about control and SURRENDER. So well said and such great advice. Thank you for this post.

  • Miciah

    Im reading this thinking to myself, “at 23 I would tell myself…’ HAha… geez. My biggest problem right now is probably that I’m always trying to get to the next step.

  • Can we have some that don’t involve people who are super educated and have their dream jobs and relationships in the basket at 28? 🙄

    • Alexandra Queiroz

      Yes, please! I like the idea of the article but I was kind of underwhelmed by it.

  • TinySoprano

    As someone who turned 28 last week I needed this so bad. Thank you MR! <3

  • Ap4rna

    This made me cry, but feel joyful at the same time. I just turned 26 and am only starting to understand the tip of the iceberg that is being an adult, and being happy with who I am and where I am in life.

  • At 28 I moved to another country, took up studies for the second time (after having paid my way through the first uni by teaching languages + a grant and after having then freelanced for 2 years) and started living with my BF in a tiny, tiny vilage where accusations of “Gipsydom” were sometimes thrown in for good measure … I loved the university, I worked hard and went hiking as much as possible. I didn’t really worry about my decision to leave my home country and wasn’t homesick. I also didn’t becomea whole new person, walking on clouds and living a dream. It was as stressful as always, but the perks were better….

  • Sugar Bones

    I’m 33, and 28 was one of my hardest years to date. I felt so much pressure to DEFINE everything and hammer it down, and started having crippling anxiety for the first time in my life. I would advise my 28 year old self to be more open with my people (aka “utilize my resources” – I tend towards being more of a helper, and outwardly a goofy stoic when it comes to my own affairs), and to look less to alcohol and the internet to quiet my demons – that shit doesn’t work.

  • JB

    At 28, I was newly married, rocking at my career and happy with my friendships. I was also dealing with insomnia and anxiety and restlessness and I couldn’t figure out why. Almost subconsciously, I began unloading and unpacking all of the useless things that didn’t serve me anymore:

    – Relationships that felt “one-way” or were more harmful than good (both family and friends)
    – Negative thoughts about my past decisions. “I should have stayed in that past job,” “what if I never moved back home from Los Angeles,” “I should have said ‘this’ or ‘that’ in a particular scenario.” I used to obsess about past actions and, once I started to overcome that habit, my life changed dramatically
    – I stopped taking care of myself in a way that was destructive. No more obsessive dieting, exercising too much, chasing perfection, etc.
    – Getting rid of all the damn clutter. Why did I keep all of that useless crap from when I was 14?!
    – Not being afraid to say NO

    This was not easy and it’s still an ongoing process, but these type of actions have been a great “recipe” for clearing out some head space and allowing myself room to grow. I find life is full of tireless trail-and-error before you can find what works for you. I’m 34 now and I feel like I’m just now starting to figure out who I really am. Maybe that process never truly ends?

  • Christine C

    This article makes it seem like by 28 you should be successful in your career and/or married or engage to someone you love. I am almost 28 and I can say the majority of people I know my age still don’t have it together career wise, are single, and are no where close to settling down with partners or children. And I feel like THAT is the norm and those are the people who would like relatable advice.

    Many of these women have interesting things to say, but also seem like they were given opportunities most women weren’t, or grew up in a successful and wealthy family. Would love to hear from successful women who at 28 were struggling, single and broke, but have now overcome. Those would be some boss bitches I would love to hear from!

    Just a thought though 🙂 always a fan!

    • Cait

      Exactly what I was wanting to see as well! Perfectly said!

  • Emily M

    I’m only 22 but I feel like everything in this article applies to me right now. Will it drag on for 6 more years?? I feel like there is so much pressure on certain ages to be a certain way and I never seem to be able to fulfill the expectations. I’m kind of hoping that I can get most of the uncertainty and insecurity out of the way now (I know, a very naive goal) so I can enjoy my mid & late twenties the way I’m “supposed” to. ‘Cause right now I’m broke and tired and very lost in terms of what I want to do with my life so I HAVE to think that it gets better from here!! 🙂

    • Emily O’Reilly

      I’m 22 as well and feel the same struggle…very broke and tired but still need to grind to achieve that dream job. I have this sense that if I grind now I can relax when everything starts to fall into place as I get older…who knows though.

  • Caddiewoodlawn

    As a wise old 33 year old, I feel entitled to share my advice here. Here’s my top 5:
    1. Invest. I don’t care how old you are, open a Roth IRA and put a few bucks into it whenever you can. The younger the better, in fact. Trust this internet stranger–you will not regret it.
    2. You look great! You really do. Don’t worry about it.
    3. Don’t pick your skin.
    4. Actively seek knowledge. Don’t stop learning just because you’re out of school, and try new things.
    5. Take a leap. It’s OK to take awhile to iron out the steps of your career, but try not to let fear dictate your decisions.

    • Dafne Pimentel

      Thank you!

  • Sarah Harlow

    Liz Markus!! Not having the self confidence compared to many men/boys I know in the art world is something I struggle with everyday day. I want to put my self out there once I’m completely satisfied with my work but many boys don’t criticize themselves the way my artists girlfriends do. Boys just shell the work out and bs their way through criticism. It’s good to hear the same issue from another woman but that she got through it!

  • Aydan

    I’m about to enter my 28th year in 2018. I don’t have a SO, I just left my old job after being harassed and bullied by a much older boss, but I’ve just landed a new “dream” job! My goal for my 28th year is to take all these grand learnings from the rapid change one goes through in their 20s and implement them in a way that allows me to be professionally and personally happy! I feel like that’s the takeaway here (so similar to Leandra talking about following her gut), if you can do what feels right, if you’re not sure how to make it right–ask for help, and no matter what trust yourself. You know what you want, need, etc. and only you can make it happen (of course with the help and guidance of others, but knowing how to ask for that help and guidance is another skill to learn)!

  • Dafne Pimentel

    I’m 26, and as a young artist I LOVE Liz Makus’ words: “I’d tell her to take herself more seriously as an artist, the way the boys naturally do. And to put her work out into the world sooner and with more intention than I did. I’d tell her that it was okay to show the developing work, that the world would be kind.”
    I want these words on my wall, to guide me and to calm down my axiety <333

  • Marlene in Wisconsin

    Great fun to think on as I am now thirty years past 28. Wow. 28. Frontal lobe fully developed finally. In many ways I am the person I was then, but advice to my 28 yo self? Do not get distracted from your dreams. I was living in a huge loft in a major city, had a primitive computer, a camera & darkroom, cheap rent, & enough money for the Winter off before continuing the adventurous life I’d been leading to that point and hoped to write about. Next I know-love-baby, blah blah..No regrets whatsoever on the mate & the kids- but wish I’d managed to not give up so much I’d worked to have space to work in space up. Keep your “Room of one’s own” somewhere, & more importantly- some time to be in it. I liked the dressing sluttier statement too. You are so amazingly beautiful at this time of life. Know it. Love yourself. 80 only twenty four times.Swoosh!

  • Stephanie

    Things I would have told myself at 28:
    -you can learn something from everyone. Sometimes it’s what NOT to do, but it’s still valuable.
    That horrible boss that makes your day hell? Treat them as a study in what not to do. It will give you some distance and keep you from becoming them one day.
    -know what f*cks to give. At 28, I gave alllllll the f*cks and it was exhausting! Find your boundaries and stick to them. Responsibilities have a way of creeping into your plate unless you are vigilant about your limits.
    -be your own advocate. Statistically,women are more likely to downplay their skills or accomplishments. Know your worth and stand up for yourself (even if it’s terrifying.)
    -focus on moments of joy instead of searching for ‘happiness.’ No one is on cloud nine everyday all day and joy can be found in simple things and is much more sustainable.

  • blankontheinside

    I’m soon to be 33 and I identify with nothing in this article. I felt so fraught, ambivalent and unsure of myself at 28, and still do. I do know this… vulnerability is strength, capitalism is ugly, your ‘career’ (or lack thereof) does not define you, and for fuck sake wear sunscreen.

    “That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.”
    ― Joan Didion

  • Daniel Szilagyi

    I think it’s sort of funny that some of the comments are “we need this to be more diverse” even though this post considers women in different age ranges, job positions, ethnic and racial backgrounds ( I do agree that they all seem to be higher middle class though, but we could be wrong…since background isn’t given too much)

    I’m 31 and i’m in a relatively stable career, not married and my biggest worry is that i’m not doing enough, i don’t have my work published in big papers ( sure I worked on some high profile video games ) and worked for larger, international well known companies…I just feel like i’ve been stuck doing the same thing for the last 8 years and I’m not sure what else to do, should i start a business just so i can say i did? I’ve already worked on websites, apps, games and made my own printed/published comic book….i’m in the glut of not being super successful but also better than say a burger flipper.
    Sometimes I say that i should slow down too, but i get restless after a day or two and i feel the need to be busy ( i don’t even like sitting around too long unless I’m working)

  • I am 37 now. At 28, I moved to another continent, went to a pub – alone for an expat meet-up in the hope to make friends. At 28, I got into online shopping and fashion in a big way. At 28, I also lost my Dad- very suddenly and had to deal with his death without any social support system around me. I would tell my 28 year old self this too shall pass, you are stronger than you give yourself credit, you will make absolutely amazing friends from all over the world and that your love for fashion is not a passing phase, you are absolutely madcap crazy and that you will take this interest in fashion and turn it into an entrepreneurial venture. Most importantly, I would tell myself to let life happen to me and see where it takes me.

  • Kat

    The comments from all the ladies in this section are so amazing, I’m 27 and relocated to California from Chicago for work and have realized this is not my “Dream Job” and that it’s O.K not to have it all together even though right around the corner is 28. I’m still feeling like I’m on a journey.. If there is one thing I’ve learned this year is to “Surrender”.. I agree – sometimes you need to realize all is not in your control. Love. Love the comments. Amazing group of women.