A common misconception people have entering their 20s — is that they must have everything figured out by then. I’m entering my 20s and I know better than to overwork myself to the point where I don’t get to experience my life in the way I want to. We spend years in school, take up part-time jobs, in order to end up working a 9-5, or open up a mediocre small business that never takes off. I’m no pessimist, but it’s difficult to find success, much less strive for it when there’s so much left to experience and your main priority is to serve other people or care for them before yourself.
It’s true when older people say “it’s not too late to start”. And I mean this wholeheartedly because there’s still plenty of life left for me to live. Some people spend their whole lives walking on eggshells, driving on unpaved roads while others will charge full speed ahead, regardless of what’s in front of them. Your 20s are what build the foundation for your future, it potentially defines your personal as well as your professional life in comparison to any other decade. I’ve been writing down my goals for as long as I can remember. I do this because the mere act of writing down my ambitions, my dreams, it practically forces me to think about what I truly want. It’s a tangible record that I am able to refer to in the future. People change, take up new hobbies, switch careers, etc. By keeping this record, I can monitor how much I have changed and where my sense of “belonging and comfort” now resides.
“If there’s one thing you can [do] that will help more than anything else, it’s this: Live life on your own terms. Don’t do things because you think you ‘should’. Don’t do what other people tell you to do. Don’t do what society expects you to do. Don’t sit around waiting to start living your life. This life belongs to you and to nobody else. You will not get a chance to do it again. Live it on your terms.
Notably, scientists have said that when we refrain from living for others, it could make us more successful because essentially, we are learning from our own missteps. It motivates us to work harder on behalf of becoming better and reaching our full potential. This is more beneficial because with each mistake, we grow, rather than berating ourselves for them. It’s best to learn this skill now, while it’s early. This way, we are able to prioritize the people and experiences that actually mean something to us.
And in the end, we don’t have to talk ourselves out of doing things we want to do or force ourselves into doing things we don’t want to do. It seems that one of the main reasons people were unhappy with their 20s is because they were scared of becoming a disappointment, or becoming a failure. But failure shouldn’t be in a young adult’s mind. We mustn’t let fear win. “If you want to vacation in Europe, do it. If you want to talk to that hot girl/guy at the bar, do it. If you want to start your ow20sn business, do it (and do the research first). Getting to your 30s and having a string of regrets is going to haunt you,” and I think living with regrets is the scariest part of all.
On the days we feel like we are lacking something, the answer is not always to provide for others what you can’t provide for yourself. Often, the best thing you could do for when you’re feeling helpless, is to be selfish. I’m not saying to never help others. The point is to be good to yourself in order to be there for people in a healthy and fair way. By freeing yourself of these obligations, you’ll have to be selfish and stabilize your wants and needs before you take on the responsibility of working for someone else, being someone’s shoulder to cry on, etc.
People will either spend their days dwelling on the past, or looking forward to the future. For those who are stuck in the past, here’s a blunt reminder. Stop looking for things to regret, your life isn’t a series of failures nor are you a failure. The future is unforeseeable; you are young, it’s inevitable you’ll stumble upon a situation where you screw up. If you don’t want to live a life with regrets—live in your present. I promise it’s a lot more worth it.