Iliyana's Story: 6 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Twenty-Something

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You know, I thought I’d have my life figured out by now.

The truth is… I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

This is not the story of a girl who has found her purpose. Not yet. 

This is the story of a girl who, like you, like many others, is still looking. This is my journey to self-discovery; to creating a life that feels good. 

The first step of the journey was choosing to study in the Netherlands. If you ever have the opportunity to live abroad, GO. Being on your own in an entirely new environment; facing a culture that’s totally different than yours will change you for the better. It is not always sunshine and roses, but it’s worth the try. 

Ever since, all my decisions are based on this simple theory: if it’s too comfortable, it doesn’t help you grow. I believe that in your 20s you have to be active, to be brave and courageous, and go for the unknown. Once you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll learn all the lessons you need to find your happiness. 

I’m still learning. 

Here’re the most important things I’ve learned so far. 


1)  Learn to love yourself

You are who you are. I’ll always put this lesson above all others. Learning to love yourself is perhaps the most challenging thing you’ll have to do. It doesn’t happen easy. We’re all flawed, and that’s human nature. There is the societal constraint that keeps you locked into the frame of who you are supposed to be. There is also the pressure that comes from within. You need to accept your flaws, and to have the courage to stand out from the crowd. 


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2)  Go for the choices that scare you

I’m just about to graduate from my university. I’ve got a big decision to make—do I want to go back to Bulgaria and live comfortably, or should I stay abroad and go through all the experiences of the expat life? Honestly, at one moment I was wavering to giving up and just going home. Then I said to myself: Hey, girl, is it really what you want? Is it really what you NEED? As a twenty-something, I need to keep learning.


3)  Be open to new experiences

Don’t be close-minded. Ever. I’ve learned to say ‘yes’ to things I’ve never tried before, and this has made my life so much more interesting. I lived in Madrid for six months; modeled in professional photoshoots; participated in gay pride. New experiences broaden your horizons and help you see your life from a different perspective. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to be happy.


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4)  Nothing lasts forever

Here’s a confession. I used to be a HUGE drama queen. I’m still an overthinker, but I’ve learned to let things happen. If it is meant to be, it will be. If it is not, there’s nothing you can do. In the last four years, I’ve had to accept the end of many relationships, the death of many wishes. When life gets tough, it is important to remember that this is just a period. Something better is always around the corner. So, less drama, more purpose. 


5)  Stay focused on the positive

Positive thinking is a key to happiness. If you keep fixating on the negative parts of your life, you’ll never see the good ones. There are many ways to overcome your negative thoughts such as mediation, writing down things you’re grateful for, reading inspirational quotes and poems. The most important, however, is being aware and present at the moment. Whenever your mind floats back to the negativity, you should be there to make an effort and bring it back to all that’s .


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6)  Realize that you are living… now

I’m twenty-three, and sometimes, I feel like I’m not living. 

I am. You are. Life is happening right now. The choice of whether to participate actively in it is yours. Don’t postpone building your empire for another day. Go for the big dreams. Dream ‘em; chase ‘em until they come true. 

It is okay if you don’t have your life figured out yet. That’s the beauty of your 20s. You get to discover yourself; you get to explore the world, and eventually find your place in it. 


Keep going. Keep learning.


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Meet Iliyana Dadarova

Hey, you. I’m twenty-three years old single gal on the verge of creating a new chapter in her life. So far, I have lived in three countries—my homeland Bulgaria, Spain and currently, the Netherlands where I’m doing a graduation internship in Digital marketing. And I’m super excited for whatever’s coming next. 

I started my blog Happy Twenty-Something a few months ago, to help me stay in control of my life. And help you stay in control of yours. I’m trying to create a bright, positive, happy virtual space where people like you and me, people in their early 20s can find some motivation to fight their own battles, while reading about mine.

So, come visit and share your personal life advice on any topic that keeps you up at night. The early 20s are quite a hard period—and I want you to see that yes, building a fabulous life for yourself is terrifying and difficult but pursuing your purpose is worth the effort. And everything is possible with a positive mindset, proper self-care and doing the best you’re capable of.

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