When I was a little girl I always assumed that your twenties was the time where things come together. Every book, film and television show seemed to make it so. You get your own nice apartment, get a job and all of a sudden your life was made.
Getting a job is super hard, the current job market doesn’t really require you to do anything you actually learnt at university. If you happen to be lucky to have a job, you will not always have a nice apartment. You will get a shoe box that you will likely have to share with someone. Most importantly, your life is not made, in your twenties, you are constantly cash-strapped and sometimes it can be struggle between eating, rent or moving back in with your parents.
On my 21st birthday I drank a lot of alcohol and was still able to stand and function the next day to many people’s surprise. I thought that was the most amazing night of my life and I didn’t think much else could beat the fun, love, laughter and just plain amazingness of that night… I was wrong.
I recently had a birthday, as I now creep closer to the last years of my twenties I found that the perceptions of my 10, 15 and 20 year old self were grossly misrepresented. So while I reflected on my life as one does every birthday, there are some lessons that have dawned on me.
If I could talk to my 21 year old self, here is what I would say.
Friendships will end, let them: I love my friends and I love making connections but I found out too late that some friendships are meant to run their course. Don’t force friendship and don’t chase ghosts in friendships. It is better to have three great friends than 30 lukewarm ones. If you are the one always initiating conversation perhaps it is time to walk away. It is okay if people don’t like you, that’s life.
You have a lot of time, make some mistakes: stop worrying what people might think and think about how you feel. You have so much time to figure out who you are and what you want to do and be. Don’t waste your time trying to please people when you could be having fun and achieving your goals. Take some risks.
Have goals, but don’t be chained down by them: give your life focus and work toward something. Just remember that not all your goals are meant to be achieved all at once. It is okay to change your mind about your goals. Life rarely works out the way we plan, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not president of a fortune 500 company yet.
Everyone is making it up, even your parents. There is no fast and hard rule for life, the people who seem to have it sorted are faking. No one really knows what they are doing with this living thing, so don’t stress. Take it one day at a time and see how you get on. If you win yay, if you lose, get up and try again.
See the world because there is no better time than the present. Travel as much as you can and take all the opportunities that come your way. You can never understand yourself than when you have explored spaces beyond your own. Travel, travel, travel.
Don’t date jerks or try to change people: there is no point being in a bad relationship. No one ever tells you it is okay to be single, but it is. In the end you have to be able to live with this person and who you are with them. Don’t settle because everyone wants you to. You can never change people, only people can do that.
It is okay to not want to party: just because you’re young doesn’t mean you are a party machine. Nice quiet nights in can be good and is often more rewarding than nights of binge drinking. What is the point of showing up at work the next day and feeling like the world is exploding in your head?
It is okay to question yourself, do it often. Every decision you make will feel like the wrong one. Job choices, cities, relationships, you will always feel someone else is doing it better. It is okay to have doubts, just don’t live in them. Question yourself and resolve it after all if you make a mistake you learn from it.
Each year gets better. You will have more fun the older you get because you understand yourself better. Don’t worry about getting older because you will get better with age if you embrace it. The only person that is worried about how old you are is you.
Stop wishing for more, it’s never enough. The more you want the more you wish there was more to have. No matter what, there will never be enough if you keep wishing for more. Be happy with what you have.
Do what you’re good at. There is no point suffering through a bad job. Never work to live, live to live and let your work be part of that life. Be passionate and always believe in what you are doing.
Have fun. Always play in your twenties and make sure you try to play your whole life, it keeps you alive and young at heart always. The more fun you allow yourself the happier you will be.
Finally, eat cupcakes: because every now again, you will need an injection of happiness. Growing up is hard and the sugar sometimes helps get through the bad days.