My 20s have been amazing to me and though it took some getting used to, I think I realized more and more what they’re supposed to be in our lives. Each decade brings its own rewards, riches, goals, accomplishments and expectations along with it. I spent a great deal of time asking myself not what I didn’t know, but how I knew my truths were true; on a constant hunt for evidence, I couldn’t just sit with the uncertainties and be content with who I was, despite the unknowns around me.
I see now that my 20’s and anyone’s really, are not for the things we think.
We were taught in high school that you would be done university or college and should have a job, some sort of family or in general, have things figured out by an unspecified date but at some point between 19 and 28.
Though no one ever tells us what things are, we try to fill in the gaps and assume it’s a job that pays well, some sort of functional relationship and while many of us won’t admit it, we want the things our parents wanted, but wearing hipster glasses, new shoes and driving a relatively new car.
My twenties were the time I thought I knew everything and sought to live as though those things were true. I didn’t always live from a place of curious discovery, but from a place where I sought to prove that all I knew was the real truth.
The irony I’m learning now is that my truth is true but only for me; It might resonate with some but it’s still only true for me.
Now I realize that the only real thing I know, is what I’m made of and how the things around me have shaped me into someone who can take what life sends my way, with some chutzpah and turn it around with a flourish (and definitely a few f-bombs along the way).
I’ve been looking around me and I’m struck with the odd comfort that I really don’t know anything about people as close as family. I know much about them, but there are some things I will never know and that it’s a good thing that I haven’t a clue about those things because t’s exhausting trying to know everything.
To know nothing at all and then realize that you have this massive life ahead of you to formulate hypothesis after hypothesis and test them, where you find they’re either true or not but the fun part is in the testing. This train of thought had me wondering what our 20’s are really for and it helped me come up with a few ideas of what that might be.
What are your 20’s for?
1.) Not having the answers.
As far as virtues go, we’re taught that patience is the greatest, but I’m wondering whether or not the one we need to cultivate in future generations is vulnerability and being okay with not knowing. We often do what we think is “right” because we’re taught that it will lead to the outcome we want and the truth is that it almost never does and the moment we learn that is when we really start coming to life because in that absence of answers we understand how many more are available to us. How does that work? Well, if we had all the answers, think about how limiting that would make life for all of us. Gone would be the joy of genuine surprise that we hadn’t thought of how wonderful an outcome would be because we already had a set of answers in front of us.
2.) Being messy in love and having your heart broken.
There’s wisdom in the shattering if you allow yourself the gift of listening to the sound of that glass breaking because in it contains the song that you’ll dance to when putting it back together. There is so much wisdom in the sadness that accompanies loss. Whenever I hear of someone younger having their heart broken I feel so excited for them and for what’s next in love in their lives. I remind myself of this constantly: if it felt that good with someone who clearly wasn’t meant to be with you, how incredible is it going to feel when you’re with someone who’s there for the long haul with you?
3.) Worrying about what other people think of you.
The sooner you get it out of your system the better because after a while it starts affecting things that hinder your growth in your job, your love life, in friendships and with your “big picture” goals. Instead of judging the 20-something’s taking selfie after selfie, think back to that time where it was reasonable to be that interested in yourself while also being petrified of what others thought. When it comes to making bigger ‘moves’ later, you’re going to need thicker skin which comes from walking through the fires of worrying about what other people think of you because once you do that you realize that their opinions don’t really matter that much at all.
4.) Pursuing “crazy” dreams.
At no other time in our lives will we have the same opportunity to move about the world with so few financial obligations and general obligations to ourselves and others. The more years we’re given, it follows that whether or not we desire them, more responsibility finds us. My niece is the perfect example of this: I didn’t have any choice in her being born or being brought to this Earth but the moment she arrived, my sense of responsibility expanded to include her in it. I’m forever grateful that it did and I can still take advantage of many opportunities, but I often think about the impact of my actions on wider circles of people more than the small handful I knew before. I know that with time, those circles are only going to increase in number so why not take advantage of what I’ve got left of that and pursue a few more while I’ve got the ability?
5.) Being single.
There are so many opportunities that will arise to test you, challenge you, reward you and guide you. Most of the time, when we’re in relationships we need to operate selflessly and think of others instead of just ourselves. This is the time you should be self-interested because if you don’t know who you are, what you have to offer the world later is going to be an incomplete version of your best self; Be selfish.While we’re growing so much, experiencing a great deal and staring down all the opportunities that youth presents for our careers, etc., so take those internships, go on those trips abroad for many months at a time, move somewhere you’ve never been, spend hours learning a new hobby, travel the world and do things that don’t require you to be tied to one place in particular. It has nothing to do with sleeping your way around town but the pleasure at knowing that all of your time is just that: yours.
6.) Learning about your alcohol tolerance and taking pictures you regret.
This is much easier to recover from when you’re younger, than it is when you’re older and social media is clearly here to stay. True, not everyone will post pictures they take of you, but if you’re tagged in one or two, it’s much easier to recover from it when you have fewer ‘rules’ to play by and when there are fewer people of ‘importance’ connected to you on Facebook.
7.) Facebook stalking instead of communicating face-to-face.
It becomes less and less possible to say that you respect people in your life and instead of talking to them about everyday things or genuinely scary ones, make conclusions about them based on their Facebook updates. The older you get, the more demanding communication is going to be and half-assing it is only going to cut it for so long because life will require you to get to know your emotions and yourself and be able to speak about them. Whether on the job or in friendships or relationships, people will ask you to “step up” your communication and it’s more acceptable to miss that mark more than a few times when you’re younger. Don’t rush to learn about communication out of fear, but know that age shouldn’t stop you from engaging in certain activities but your ability to communicate your feelings, expectations, desires and needs will only make your life easier as you get older.
8.) Believing that other people are perfect and without many flaws.
I remember the period of my life where I drifted through daydreams of how others were going to be what met my needs (and it’s something I’m still learning to apply in theory). There’s a bliss in being that ignorant because the sense of how much other people might need from you is daunting at best. Moreover, if we think others must be perfect, we begin to believe that we should be too.
9.) Reaching for giant goals and falling short on more than a few occasions.
It has nothing to do with getting awards for just showing up for the game and everything to do with the fact that the younger you are when you learn certain lessons about success, the lower the chances are that you’ll ever make those same mistakes again. You’re going to make so many mistakes and learn so many things that the person you are today will be completely different from who you’ll be in a year; All of that is made possible by reaching and coming to certain realizations along the way.
10.) Making financial mistakes.
I’m not advocating for making a mess of your finances or seeing things like bankruptcy as a financial exit-strategy, as many do. I advocate for making financial mistakes now though, with the utmost conviction that it’s easier to rack up $5000 of credit card debt (because there are lending limitations for students) and learn money lessons very quickly afterwards: interest rates, savings accounts, how much you should technically be saving with your income level, RRSP’s, how to maximize tax deductions and the difference between credit ratings and credit reports (and why they matter for different reasons). True, I could’ve read about the right way to do things or had them taught to me early on, but learning about them after making mistakes with money, I can say that they will never happen again because I refuse to let them. That I’m on the cusp of 30, saying that without a several-hundred-thousand-dollar mortgage, a car, financial responsibilities like children or elderly relatives who need my financial solvency, rather than in my 50’s saying that, is a real blessing.
Maturity is not something you earn by gaining knowledge from a book, but something you learn by having your heart broken, facing disappointments and all the negatives that would serve to keep you apart from your heart’s desires; it is here you discover too, that despite the fact that age catches up to us all, maturity is a gift that when you find it, is worth appreciating in others. This is the real gift of your 20’s.
Some have said that youth is wasted on the young, but I think that if you’re so wrapped up in your youth that you don’t realize what you have in it, you’re probably doing something right with it.
That is the point of it, after all.
So remember every once in a while to sit back, reflect and take in the view so you know how good we really have it here and now.