3 things that I’ve learned in my 20's… So far
2016 has been an interesting year for me. I’m approaching my mid-twenties in the next couple of months and a lot has changed since I graduated college at the adolescent age of 21. I wouldn’t say I’m the Gandhi of self-help advice but what I’m about to tell you is some pretty useful shit.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone moves at a different pace.
One regret that I have after graduating college was that I never really got to enjoy my summer post-graduation. I came out of school thinking that I needed to find a job ASAP and that if I didn’t secure a full time job, I was considered “worthless” or inferior next to the rest of my peers. I spent countless days and weeks applying to over 100 companies only to get a callback from 2 places. I visited a handful of temp and recruiting agencies, handing over my resume to people that didn’t even bother looking at it. I put so much pressure on myself to secure a job that I ended up settling for an opportunity I didn’t even like. And for what? For bragging rights to say, “I MADE IT! I’M A REAL PERSON NOW!”
But little did I know, I should’ve just taken advantage of the last bits of freedom I had without being held down to a full-time job. Just because I was confused about what I wanted out of the real world didn’t mean I was a failure or had no future. I was so caught up in what everyone else was doing that it led me to believe I wasn’t doing enough to be successful like them. I failed to realize that everyone has different walks of life, everyone moves at a different pace, and that it’s OK to not have everything figured out right away.
Looking back, I wish I actually celebrated my milestone accomplishments like graduating from a kick-ass university with honors, seizing the opportunity to travel abroad with my cousins, or honestly just enjoy being a lost 21-year old. I’d do anything to have a lazy summer not worrying about paying bills or how I’m going to survive the next 9 hours at work with a crazy hangover.
2. If you’re feeling some type of way, address it.
One thing that I find most people have the hardest time doing is opening up about their feelings. Communication is key for any successful relationship. Whether it’s the relationship you have with your boss at work, your significant other, or your close friends — clear and open communication is a necessity for a healthy bond between both parties.
Growing up in an Asian family, we never really spoke about our feelings or emotions. If something bothered us, we would pretend it never happened. If I was upset at my brother, I’d hold my feelings in or brush it under the carpet. Since there was never a clean line of communication in my family, I grew up with a passive-aggressive mentality.
It was only recently I realized that owning this kind of attitude was not OK. I was reflecting on what went wrong in my failed relationships and pointed out some of our flaws and areas I needed to work on. I learned that in my past relationships, I never spoke up. I never told my boyfriends, “It’s not OK to treat me this way!” or “It’s not OK to talk to me like this!” I always complied to their demands or let them treat me poorly because I wanted to make them happy.
But over time, I learned that I wasn’t happy doing whatever they asked of me even when I disagreed. It didn’t make me a better person. I realized that it wasn’t their fault they treated me like crap — it was because I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say, “Hey time-out! We need to talk about how we’re treating each other, maybe we could be more mindful of our tone of voice.” They were so oblivious to how they were treating me and I bottled up my feelings to the point where our relationship just became so toxic. In hindsight, had I been more upfront about the way I felt then maybe we could’ve resolved our issues.
It’s important to remember that people aren’t mind-readers. They don’t have a magic crystal ball to look inside your head and read your thoughts. Having a passive-aggressive attitude doesn’t help any issue that you may encounter or any relationship you engage in. If you feel some type of way — good OR bad — then address it. Being 100% open and honest with the other person is the first step in moving forward in any situation.
# 3. Always. Do. You.
This is probably the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned in my 20’s thus far.
When I was in college, I studied to become a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). I had no idea what I wanted to do while I was in school, so my parents told me about their friend’s daughter that was studying speech therapy. They said it was a promising and prestigious field to be in. My parents always expressed how they wanted one of their kids to become a doctor so I thought, “Hey, why not? These guys make a decent, stable salary. I’m gonna do this!”
I always thought that my parents knew what was best for me — that I could always rely on them for life advice, that my parents knew what they were talking about since they’re older and had much more experience. But obviously that was just my naive and immature way of thinking as an 18 year old in college.
Had I known 4 years later that I’d be in Media and Marketing, I would’ve definitely changed my career focus. I don’t blame my parents for pushing me to study that profession. They’ve always wanted the best for me and I’m forever grateful for how much they sacrificed for my brother and I. If anything, I blame myself for not being wise enough to know what my options were.
I should’ve known that just because other people were pursuing this field didn’t mean that I had to follow in the same footsteps. I should’ve known that I didn’t have to fall into the hype or follow the stereotype of being another Asian doctor. I should’ve been more honest with myself about why I was pursuing SLP when I wasn’t even passionate about it.
My key takeaway is this: You were born an original so don’t die a copy.
Do something meaningful in your life because you want to. Do something that years from now, your kids and grandkids will be proud of. Do things that make YOU happy. Do things that you’re passionate and curious about. Remember that you always have a choice. You always have an option. Don’t mold yourself into something you’re not, especially if you know this isn’t who you want to be. Be honest with yourself. Be absolutely unapologetic for the way you choose to live your life. Don’t settle for mediocracy or simply because “it’ll just do.” Don’t fall into the preconceived notion that you have to do things just because other people are doing it.
You are your own person for a reason. Own it. Embrace it. Love it. And above all, just do you.