On Thursday (20th June), I will turn 29 and it’s beginning to dawn on me that this will be the last birthday of my 20’s! (Oh my!) Next year, I will turn 30 and a whole new chapter will begin. Over the past month, I’ve been reflecting on the things I wish I knew in my early 20’s.
Here are some of the gems I’ve been lucky enough to acquire during this time in my life:
You don’t have to have everything all figured out – So many 20-somethings put unnecessary pressure on themselves when it comes to their life and career choices (myself included). In my opinion, institutions such as universities and colleges don’t make things any easier. By the end of a 3 or 4 year course, you are expected to know what you want to do for the next 40 years, which is incredibly unrealistic. My advice to 20 somethings out there would be to seek out experiences that allow you to connect with yourself and with others. If university is part of that journey, then so be it. If it’s not, it really isn’t the end of the world. Focus on finding your purpose and don’t be too hard on yourself. Be happy, surround yourself with people who make you smile and don’t entertain anything or anyone that makes you feel like you’re worthless.
You are responsible for your own happiness – Never put your happiness in the hands of another person – it’s a definite recipe for instant disappointment. Be at one with yourself and your own development. One thing I wish I had, especially in my early 20’s, was a strong sense of identity. In order to be at peace with who you truly are, you need to live your best life. Don’t be the kind of person who says ‘ I can only do this if…’ or ‘If only I had’. Don’t limit yourself. If you want to move somewhere, do it! If you want to learn a new skill, do it.
Change is a part of life – In life, there’s what may be defined as ‘good’ change and ‘why the hell is this happening to me?’ change. Change is a part of life so don’t take it personally. Life is full of ups and downs, no matter how old you are, but remember no situation is permanent. Things will get better. Last year, I faced what was probably my biggest encounter with change in my 20’s. Everything happened consecutively and there were many moments where I felt like I was under some kind of spiritual attack. There’s a lesson in every trial. As hard as this is to fathom, think about what certain challenging periods in your life are trying to teach you. Sometimes, changes will knock us down before they bring us back up again, and that’s OK. Keep your head up and know that this will pass.
Stop making timelines! – I’ve become so anti-timelines in recent years to the point where I’ve even taken myself by surprise! As far as 20 year old me was concerned, I wanted to be married by 25 with a house and at least two kids by the age I am now (28). What’s bizarre about being a subscriber of the timeline club, is the certainty with which we plan our lives, it’s almost like we are planning an essay, everything has it’s order. I came across a quote online that said ‘the plan is not to plan‘ and I’ve honestly never heard a truer word spoken. Yes, in some aspects of life, it is important to plan but planning every single moment of your life down to a t will drive you crazy. Don’t trust in your own timings because things happen when they are meant to happen. Relax!
Relationships aren’t meant to cause you pain – This goes for all relationships but I’m going to focus on romantic ones specifically. I spent most of my 20’s in relationships that did not serve or honour me. The last relationship I was in lasted almost three years and it was quite a toxic one. I wish I had the strength and self worth that was needed in order to end things a lot sooner. To all 20-somethings reading this post, there is no correlation between love and pain. Relationships, whether it’s a friendship or partnership of any kind do not suck. If you find yourself having to try too hard the majority of the time, then that relationship probably just isn’t for you.
Trust your gut – If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Trusting your gut seems so simple yet it’s something a lot of 20 year old’s struggle with. I always went against my gut and most times, was completely oblivious to its existence but I soon found that when you do, you only have yourself to blame when things go pear shaped. Try not to give in to external pressures. Just because someone has told you to do something, it doesn’t mean it’s right choice for you. A lot of advice that is given to young people especially is mostly unsolicited. Keep an open mind because there will be moments where your 20’s are a great time to figure out what you do want and what you don’t want. I’m not saying don’t listen to anyone who tries to help you – all I am saying is that you just need to be able to take whatever counsel you need and let the rest go.
Stop worrying – Anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders among millennials are on the rise and as someone who has dealt with anxiety in the past, worry is the main catalyst. It’s so easy to worry about what you are going to be, do or wear a few years from now but the truth is you aren’t adding anything to the situation or your life by doing so. A wise man once said ‘Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere’. If there’s anything that is making you worry a lot more than you should, distance yourself from it by focusing on something else. I never realized how much of a worrier I was until I went to therapy. Something I do whenever I find myself slipping is question my concerns: if they aren’t relevant and if it’s not something I can take action on in the present moment, then I just let it go.
Self care is everything – Self-care didn’t become a phenomenon until recently and it’s probably because a lot of us have probably been conditioned to believe that looking out for yourself is selfish. It isn’t. Self-care isn’t even about waiting until you feel stressed or are experiencing burnout before you take care of yourself. If you don’t love yourself, practising self-care will always feel like a struggle. I would advise anyone in their 20’s to do the things that bring you peace. Find one thing that just takes your mind off the stresses of the day and do lots of it.
Don’t stay in a job you’re unhappy with – If you find yourself changing careers in your 20’s, do not feel like you have failed. Finding the right career path takes time: you may decide that a typical office job just isn’t for you or you may have come to the realization that you don’t want a job that’s related to what you studied at university. These.things.happen. It is perfectly normal to be in and out of careers in your 20’s. When I changed careers last year, I felt so ashamed. I had programmed my mind to believe that my career was in education while the whole time I was in the field, I hated it. It just wasn’t for me.
Do what makes you happy. You will spend most of your life working so make sure you do what you love. Also, if you do find yourself transitioning between careers, you do not have to tell the world. Make moves in silence because for every person who wants to applaud your guts, there’s a person who wants to make you feel bad because you haven’t found your way in life. So, keep your head down, find your path and make moves in silence!
Be confident – This is something that I’m constantly trying to master as I approach the end of my 20’s but confidence is such an important trait to have in your 20’s. We are all born with it but unfortunately, some of us lose it later in our childhoods and adult life due to a variety of reasons. To anyone who has lost their confidence, I hope and pray that you start to get it back. Confidence ties in with self-care. Once you do things that make you feel good, your overall perception of yourself will improve.
I hope you’ve found these lessons useful and that you’ve enjoyed reading this post.
20 somethings, what is something you wish you knew about life in your 20’s?
30 somethings, if you could give one piece of advice to someone in their 20’s, what would it be?
As always, I love to hear from you all, so feel free to leave a comment below.