Are you lost in your 20s?
Confused? Worried about what career/life path to take? Trying to “adult” when you Don’t Bloody Feel Like it. And — yeah — Covid too.
The quarter-life struggle is real. In your teens you have a leave pass to be hormonal and angsty; you’re expected to detest your parents and rail against rules and anything establishment.
But in your 20s you’re supposed to Grow Into Yourself. Get your career on track, lay down a serious relationship, buy a dog, save for a house, start putting money away for a retirement you can’t even envisage.
Generally start turning into your parents. Which just makes you want to scream Oh F*ck. (Don’t blame you, actually.)
But wait. There’s light up ahead. Here are some things you only (really) get to learn with hindsight.
20 Things You Can’t Know In Your 20s. If Only.
1. Youth is not just a state of mind.
I know, I’ve read all the memes too. Yes, you can maintain a youthful mind and a playful spirit throughout your life. But youth is way more than a state of mind. Trust me, you’ll never have skin like that again.
2. Tough times don’t last. Unless you let them.
You’ve heard the saying: “this too will pass”. It’s true: It’s the law of the Universe. Whatever crap you’re going through right now won’t last. But you have to be proactive about moving through it.
3. A first job is only a first job.
We often start out in the working world with great expectations — of the job and of ourselves. But first (serious) jobs can be huge disappointments because you realise you’re at the very bottom of the ladder with a whole lot of not-necessarily-competent people taking up all the other rungs. So do your best, learn all you can and move on. In 20 years’ time, you’ll barely remember it. And, even if you do, you’ll smile.
4. Who you are now doesn’t have to define your life.
Actually, it almost never does. You can reinvent yourself again and again. It’s quite thrilling, actually.
5. A cheeseburger habit won’t work for you past 30.
It probably never did but the day will come when you can’t get away with it. Be prepared.
6. Nor will a lack of exercise.
7. You don’t have to cling to your childhood dream.
An astronaut? Really? What you dream of in your youth often has no relevance to who you grow up to be. More than that, clinging to it may stop you from seeing what you’re really meant to do. Stay open.
8. All roads lead to somewhere or other.
If you feel off track in your work or life, there’s no need to panic. All roads are taking you somewhere. Later on, when the paths finally merge, you’ll understand what the hell you’ve been doing.
9. Being rich and famous does not equal being happy.
If you don’t believe me, study the lives of rich people. They’re just people too. But having enough money is (way) easier than not having money. If you ever get to the place where you have lots, you should share it.
10. Time heals heartbreak — but you have to help it.
The law of human averages suggests your heart will be broken. And when it happens, you’re allowed to be sad. You need to be. But don’t let yourself wallow for too long: Getting back out into the world is part of your healing.
11. Talent is over-rated.
Talent may take you down you the wrong path for your life. It may keep you on that path for too long. It may trick you into thinking you don’t have to work hard or keep showing up. It may make you think you’re better than others with less ability. Enjoy your talent — but don’t be blinded by it.
12. Consistency is the bomb.
It’s the most unsexy, under-rated secret of success. In your job, your art, your relationships, your friendships, your health habits, your work ethic, your knowledge, your interests, your values. Being consistent will take you a very long way.
13. People will let you down.
People are complex and unpredictable. Not everyone turns out to be who you hoped they would be. Let them go.
14. But great people come in surprise packages.
They do. At any age and stage. Let them in.
15. Your critics don’t write your epitaph.
People who judge you don’t matter at all. They won’t write your epitaph. The people who matter most in the end, will. Give your best energy to them.
16. Trying to find your passion is a waste of time.
Just like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, passion “hunts” often end in disappointment. Instead dive fully into life and let your passion/s find you — over and over again.
17. Life doesn’t become easier — but knowing how to deal with it does.
Okay, this is not strictly true. Fresh challenges will rear up throughout your life. But if you’ve banked some good coping and self-care strategies, you’ll get through them. Partly because you know you can.
You can’t control everything.
Uncertainty is written into the human contract. Lots of it. Learning to live alongside it will serve you well.
18. Everyone is running a tough race.
Not just you. Even the coolest people on Tik Tok have struggles. Remember that before you cast judgment. Actually, don’t cast judgment at all. There are myriad ways to “do” life. Focus on what you’re doing with yours.
19. It’s never too late to try new things. Except when it is.
One day you’ll wake up and shake your head and wonder where all that time went. Then you’ll ask “did I make the most of it?” And, with your whole heart, you’ll want the answer to be yes. Do what you can now to get to yes.
20. Youth is not wasted on the young.
When George Bernard Shaw said “youth is wasted on the young” he meant young people lack the perspective to take advantage of the benefits of their age and life stage. Yeah, nah. No disrespect George, but you don’t need age and perspective to have fun. You just need to have it.
Thanks for reading! Join my email list here if you’re interested in practical psychology for everyday life.