If You’re In Your Twenties, Work Your Ass Off

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night
But ah, my foes and oh my friends
It gives a lovely light.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1918

For those of us in our 20s, this is an amazing time. Right now, we are gung-ho no-sleep Redbull-fuelled monsters. In ten year’s time, life will sweep things into our path — spouses, families, crises, births, deaths, cats, arthritis. Right now, this decade is like a long, clean stretch of highway — the one time we truly get to put the pedal to the metal and roar on.

It’s the best time to work your ass off.

Wait, what? You ask. Traditionally, the advice goes something like: “you’re young, you should enjoy life, forget everything else.” I’ve heard many of my friends argue that now is the time when we should party. That the rest of life is for work.

Right, let’s apply some thought here. Assume that you are a party person (I’m not, so if my logic is wrong here, correct me).

Firstly, the average human lives for 70 years. Are you twenty now? Good: that’s another fifty years to go, during which it only gets harder to crunch onwards. You will get tired more often. You will need more sleep. And what nobody tells you is the enjoying yourself often gets very, very expensive.

Now consider the act of partying. Forget the lame grinding that most people do in Colombo — assume that you really party, and I’m talking a proper drug-fuelled rave here. It doesn’t take any special skills to party.

Yes. It doesn’t. All you need is money and alcohol. Hot dress? Money. Sexy hairdo? Money. The ability to jump in and dance away without a care in the world? That’s alcohol. Unless you’re into 14-year-old girls pretending to be twenty (Disque, we’re looking at you), age is irrelevant to a good party. Ever seen that one grandma grinding away into the night? Cash and booze, baby, cash and booze. That’s what they do to you.

So, apply some simple logic: spend your twenties working as hard as you can, and you’ll be able to afford more cash and booze when you hit your thirties. And your forties. And your fifties. Do it right and you end up with enough to be really, really happy all throughout your life. With luck you might even score that yacht and the drug-fuelled rave with the naked supermodels.

Look, all you have to do is sink a few years to enjoy a few decades. Would you like an example? Hugh Hefner, self-made millionaire and the Playboy with a capital P. He didn’t become the publisher of Playboy overnight. He wasn’t born with twin supermodels on his lap. In the prime of his life, he worked his ass off, and after a while … well, let’s just say he no longer needs to work to get ass.

Ignore all that bullshit that tells you to spend your twenties swinging from party to party and discovering yourself. No, really, fuck that. Life isn’t a bed of roses. Unless you’re on some really good LSD, those unicorns and rainbows aren’t going to last you a lifetime. And unless you’re lucky enough to have been born to rich parents, reality is going to set in sooner or later, and you’re going to have to earn your place in this world. I’m not talking about buying your own high heels — I’m talking paying rent. Doing your own laundry. Waking up in the morning to realise that your parents are dead and you have no money in the bank account.

Here’s a scary thought: if you don’t work now, do you know what’s going to happen to you later? You’re going to be thirty, convinced that you’re underpaid, in debt because of a lease on that Honda Vezel, living with your parents, with no real achievements in life other than buying a hundred thousand bucks worth of shoes and knowing people who’ve done stuff. All those parties — and the people you met at those parties — are nothing more than memories and a large hole in your bank account. If you’re a girl, your parents may have gotten you married off to someone rich and semi-famous in a few circles. If you’re a guy, you’re fucked. The world will move on. Life will forget you. Pretty soon you’ll be like those war veterans swapping stories at the bar, dropping names. Ah, you know so-and-so? My cousin went to school with him. Big deal: you’ve not fought a war, your stories aren’t that special, and everybody else has moved on.

And all those people who ‘didn’t get out much’? They’ll be at home with their feet up on a mahogany table sipping martinis and wondering where to dine tonight. They’ll have the car, the house, the good-looking spouse. And they’ll be happy.

So let’s not be that failure. You have an expiry date, and it’s 2016 already. Goddamit, let’s work.