All that I seem to be hearing from older generations around me is “just relax and have fun man, what’s the big hurry” or “your 20’s should just be about travelling and getting drunk with your friends”. Now, I’m as much of a fan of travel and relaxing as anyone. But to me, my 20’s is the decade where I lay the foundation for my life.
The most defining decisions of your life
All major life choices and defining moments that have an effect on your career, love life and social life happen before the age of 35. WHAT! Now I don’t say this to place enormous mounting anxiety and urgency within you, but it adds a little bit of an uncomfortable importance on the decade. I view my decade of decisions as a time where I can try anything and everything and see if I like it. I can try a new internship or drop everything and decide to study chemical engineering. This is also my last chance to change anything that I don’t like about myself, such as my core personality traits or my steadfast beliefs or ideologies as my mind develops that last little bit for adulthood. That sounds incredibly exciting to me.
Travel and relax
I have heard so often “now is the time to travel before you have any responsibilities”. I view 20-somethings as the people who have the most important responsibilities of everyone. The people in their 20’s are the people whose daily choices and routines have a very critical and concrete effect on how the rest of their lives will ultimately be mapped out. Yes, we may not have families yet or we may be students preparing for a career. But if your preparation is a botched job, then it takes a lot more effort to tear down everything you’ve already built and start again. I am all for having fun and letting lose in my 20’s, but if that means I am sacrificing my precious moments of development and exploring my planning, then I’d rather not. I do believe that travelling, seeing and meeting other people from around the world can change who you are as a person and shape your views and beliefs, which is why you benefit the most out of travelling in this preparation decade.
30 is not the new 20
I have been patted on the head so many times and told “don’t worry, you still have another 10 years, you only really need to get serious when you’re 30”. But what is the result of that? A bunch of 29 year olds who suddenly have a panic and grab the closest person they happen to be sleeping with and settle down because their Facebook feed is littered with engagement posts. Can you imagine trying to cram what should have been a decade of preparation and planning into 5 years of hurried convenient decisions? When I begin my 30’s I hope to begin enjoying and building upon the foundation that I’ve worked hard on laying down in my 20’s.
What do I plan on doing?
I have 3 things that I am mindful of as I walk through these crucial years.
- Investing in who I might want to be next
Luckily I am one of those people who have no definite path or career in mind. I have given myself the privilege to curiously and freely explore my interests and talents. Therefore I aim to try out different things that will add value to who I am or who I may one day want to be. My mind-set is if it doesn’t add value then it’s not worth my time.
- Fiercely huddling with other 20-somethings limits myself, try to explore more “weak-ties” outside my inner circle.
So many opportunities are opened by weak-ties, the friend of a friend who happens to land you that dream job. By sticking fiercely to the people who I knew in school and never venturing out of my comfort zone really limited me to a whole scope of things. Building more weak-ties with people who weren’t my age enabled me to gain a broader spectrum of views and knowledge as well as expose me to some great opportunities.
- You can pick your family, and that time is now
The truth of the matter is, now is the time where you choose your life partner and in doing so you chose your family. I have decided to be as intentional with my love life as I am with my career. No more “I’m just having fun, besides it’s not like I’m going to marry him”. No, maybe I won’t marry him, but I may marry the next one. I have stopped wasting my time on all these guys who are nowhere near the spectrum of what I would want in a life partner. I have decided to date with the goal of marriage in mind, because the best time that I can work on my marriage, is before I have one. I don’t want to suddenly grab the person who is in my life at the time and marry him because I didn’t want to be the last 30-something in my friend group who wasn’t married. I want to choose my partner and work toward the goal of marriage together. When we do take that step, it will be exactly that, a step and not a sprint.
You’re 20’s do count in a similar way that the first 5 years of a child’s development counts. Yes, I will have fun and travel and what not. But I will make sure that everything I do is done with the intention of benefiting my future self.
How about you? What defines your 20’s?