I’ve Felt Lost Throughout My 20s — Here’s What I’m Doing at 27 to Change That
There’s no one way to live your 20s.
My 20s were marred with irreversible mistakes, unforgivable failures, and unnecessary pursuits.
But among all the blunders I made, the biggest ones were my career choices. Having no ambitions or big dreams after school, I followed the pre-ordained path of pursuing engineering. Following which, still on the same downtrodden path, I went for a master’s degree in business and marketing.
Although I’m not proud of the years I wasted in these fruitless endeavors, I’ve learned a lot more from them than I thought I would.
It’s these mistakes, failures, and pursuits that ultimately gave me the courage to take a leap and tread “a road less traveled.”
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference .” — Robert Frost
Don’t Specialize. Instead, Diversify in Your 20s.
“Be like water, my friend,” said Bruce Lee. “Be shapeless, formless, like water.”
Bruce Lee mastered martial arts and single-handedly transformed the very face of action in Hollywood. And so, quite naturally, it’s hard not to wonder how he achieved such great feats in his short life.
The answer is simple: he never confined himself into little boxes of specialization. Instead, he
- Invented a martial arts style that combines the philosophies of many combat disciplines.
- Did everything from acting to directing, from writing to philosophizing.
- Paved a solid bridge between the East and the West.
Would Bruce Lee still be considered the master of his art(s) if he had remained folded into one field? Would he ever break into Hollywood if it wasn’t for his impressive martial arts skills? Conversely, would he be considered a martial arts legend, if he had never displayed his forte on the big screen? Absolutely not!
Likewise, if it wasn’t for my ever-changing career choices, would I even be writing this piece today?
At 25, I was full of regret because I believed that if only I had focused on one well-defined career path in my early 20s, I would be a lot more successful. At 27 today, though, things are starting to change. I don’t regret drifting between career paths anymore for it’s the same paths that have given me a better perspective of what I want and what I don’t. Now, through diversification, I’m on a journey to “be shapeless, formless, like water.”
Here’s how you too can “be like water, my friend”:
#1. Always Have a Beginner’s Mindset
To the curious eyes of a child, the world is a place of endless possibilities and discoveries. But the more we grow up, the more we try to convince ourselves — and more so, others — that we know it all. We fill our “cups” with useless facts and preconceived ideas that serve as nothing but hindrances to learning.
In other words, as the old Zen adage goes: “You can’t fill a cup that is already full.”
When I first started writing full-time, I knew that I knew nothing. And so, my formative years were dedicated to learning all that I could to improve. However, upon losing my childlike awe after a while, I lost that urgency to learn anew. As a result, my progress dwindled.
Perhaps, this explains why the wisest man in Athens, Socrates, once confessed:
“I know that I know nothing.”
Such is the paradox of “knowing.” You can either believe that you know it all, but know nothing at all. Or, you can accept that you know nothing, but know a lot.
The choice is yours.
#2. Dive Into The Unknown
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,” said H.P. Lovecraft, “and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
My early career decisions weren’t ruled by reason, but by the fear of the unknown. I feared financial security — or lack thereof — so I made career choices that I was told would guarantee success.
However, the more I pursued these career choices, the more I realized that nothing is absolute. No job, career path, or education qualification comes with bulletproof financial stability; especially during current times.
Since uncertainty is the only certainty, there’s only one way you can conquer this fear of the unknown: stop seeking antidotes to fear. Instead, accept it. Because when you accept that ‘not knowing’ is the highest wisdom, and you realize that:
“Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED. Boldly, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.”
― Mandy Hale
#3. Take No One’s Word for It (Nullius In Verba)
In my early twenties, I was a living-walking Garyveekipedia. I spent hours binging on self-help advice videos made by “successful” entrepreneurs and influencers.
But the more I binged, the more I learned that advice varies from person to person. Each person’s advice was nothing but a summation of their personal experiences. Due to this, what worked for someone else may never work for me. And what worked for me may never work for someone else.
For instance, some writers swear that writing every single day is the only way one can have a successful writing career. Meanwhile, there are others who emphasize quality more than quantity. Some writers burn the night oil and find their voice in the tranquility of the night. On the other hand, there are many who enjoy a goodnight’s sleep before their bouts of early morning productivity.
To each their own.
Since advice is so contradictory, there’s no such thing as ideal advice. So instead of seeking the perfect piece of advice, why not find your own truth? The best thing about being in your 20s is that it’s okay for you to fail. So even if — like me — you end up making the wrong decisions, you will eventually find your feet.
In turn, you’ll learn to be your own judge and find your own path to your own definition of success.
Put simply, as William Shakespeare once quoted:
“To thine own self be true.”
Final Thought: It’s Never Too Late to Turn Your Life Around
Each year, more and more of my friends are getting married. Having kids. Buying homes and cars. Taking leaps into the world of adulting.
Often, looking at them, I find myself in a liminal space where I can’t help but audit my own achievements. My failures. My measure of “How far have I made it?”
Every time I do that, I have to remind myself that my journey and timeline are relatively different and all that I seek will come to me in due time. Till then, it’s alright if I take all the wrong decisions in the world and fail as long as I’m willing to learn from them.
My life doesn’t end at 30 and neither does yours. So even if you’re feeling lost at 27, 28, 29, or even 30, don’t feel pressured to turn that around. Instead,
- Embrace that feeling of uncertainty.
- Always be willing to learn more.
- Follow your gut.
- Grow beyond your specialization.