Different from the teenage year, the early 20’s offer us a glimpse into “real life”.
Before you know it, you are in the middle of this chaos juggling a job, few failed relationships and wishing that your life comes with a manual. We are never ready for our 20’s, it is the time when we are away from the protective umbrella of our loved ones and being shoved around in the university of life.
We fail constantly but with every failure we learn more about ourselves than we ever did before. Turning 30 later this year and having been knocked around quite a bit during the last decade, I want to recap what I learnt during my 20’s.
Lesson #1: Our Parents Are Not Always Correct
Jack Donaghy, the fictional executive in 30 Rock played by Alec Baldwin said, “the first generation works their fingers to the bone. Second generation goes to college and innovates new ideas. The third generation goes snowboarding and takes improv classes.”
Although meant to be hilarious and be about the American immigrant culture, it really illustrates the different outlook of every generation from the previous ones.
In our helpless infancy and early childhood, we take our parents as guidance and shudder at the thought of existing without them. In our teens, we start rebelling against them because they get in our way of what we think is right. However, in our 20’s out in the harsh world, we return back to our parents looking for approval for every action we take, whether it is a career or a relationship choice.
However, one thing we must keep in mind is this: while our parents want the best for us, they grew up in different times and have different mindsets. Their definition of success usually means having a secure job for the rest of your life, and this definition may be completely different from my own definition of success.
Although you must respect your parent’s opinions, always keep in mind that they might be speaking from a time where just holding onto a job meant everything.
If your aims and aspirations do not agree with them all the time, it is important for you not to feel any guilt, but instead believe in yourself and try your best.
Always remember, as JK Rowling said, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents“. Your parents probably did the best they thought they could. If you are in your end 20’s and you are still blaming your parents for your poor career progress or your sinking relationships, you have to stop that. You have to be matured enough to make yourself responsible for your own state, otherwise you will be forever stuck in the vicious cycle of self pity and finger pointing.
Lesson #2 Your Early 20’s Romance Will Probably Not Last
Remember the second semester or second year of university where everyone around you started pairing up? Although I was never in a relationship during my entire undergrad years thanks to an inappropriate sense of humour, most of the other relationships never lasted beyond the university.
People get together in university for various reasons. You are far away from home and your parents, you need emotional and moral support and mostly because everyone else is hooking up.
Graduation and employment changes people. People gain confidence slowly in their own abilities and perhaps the need for support. It also opens the mind through exposure and re-organises the person’s priorities in what they are looking for in a relationship. Most of the time this change affects friendships and relationships. You lose your college sweetheart along with some friends because they do not seem to be the same person anymore.
Somehow relationships are like jobs. Similar to jobs, you need a few bad relationships to learn what you do not like. If the relationships do not work out, there is no reason to give up and fear that your life is over. What you have gained by the failures is valuable insight into yourself.
Lesson #3 You Have To Ignore The Noise And Look Deep Inside
Perhaps 97.7% of people around us are clueless about themselves and blindly following others. Instead of taking time off to figure things out on our own, we are immersed in this sea of noise and confusion.
Self reflection is the best way to figure out what we really want and what would really make us happy in the future. This is almost impossible to do while constantly checking out Facebook updates or coming up with silly hasthags for Instagram.
At the end of the day, if we practised enough self discipline to figure ourselves out and we stopped doing things out of social acceptance, not only will our lives be more fulfilling, but we would be true to ourselves.
Lesson #4 Facebook And Instagram Will Make You Unhappy
Do you know what Facebook and Instagram really are? It is the collective happy moments of the people you have as friends cherry-picked for your viewing. Unless you are Kim Kardashian with a massive following of adulating fans, these are going to make you unhappy most of the time.
Imagine this scenario. You are having a crappy day at work with your manager making you stay late to redo the presentation because of image size, and you open up your Facebook to see a friend of yours hiking in the Inca Ruins of Peru and another at a Wine Tasting event in Napa Valley. Most people including me do not have the mental constitution of a zen monk and will feel absolutely horrible after this. My solution, log off from the social media platforms unless you have something to share.
Lesson #5 You Have To Do Things That Make You Happy
Firstly, you need to be true to yourself and then keep doing things which make you really happy. By this I do not mean happy according to social approval like the ridiculous #100happydays, which I think is really about convincing other people that you are happy rather than being yourself.
Binge watching “House of Cards” on Netflix while lying down with crumbs of food makes me happy. I do it so that once I am happy, I perform better in other aspects of life. Similarly writing answers and blogs with inappropriate jokes also make me happy. If you can ignore social acceptance, then only you can move on.
Lesson #6 Your Body Is Getting Worse, Take Care Of It
My metabolism is very different from what it was when I was 20 year old. Losing weight takes forever. If I do not take care of my weight now, I will probably not have any willpower or time in my 30’s to lose it. Work gets harder and responsibilities keep piling up. So if you can, do not let your weight pile up.
One thing I crave more than ever is sleep.
Instead of staying the night out with people you do not like just because you are lonely, stay in for a change and get some good sleep. Sleep will get precious and scarce as you age. Treasure sleep and treasure the feeling of getting up refreshed ready for another day.
Lesson #7 There Is No Room For Sentiments, It Is All Cost vs Benefit
Finally, you will soon realize that you would have to deal with the protection of home and the unconditional love of family members, especially when you start working. This is how cruel the world really is. Apart from the fact that you will have new respect for your parents, you will soon realise that there is no room for second chances or sentiments in this world.
If you are valuable and are producing more than you cost, you will be kept. Once you turn into a liability, you will be dropped in an instant. Thus while negotiating and getting what you want, do not appeal to the person’s sentiment but rather show what benefit they can get from you instead.