I thought this day would never come, but I am six days away from turning 30. I would have to change both the digits of my age in all the pre-filled internet forms.
A twenty-something me was working for software and finance giants, partying with friends, upset with family, trying to hold onto people that I should have let go, roaming around the world on my own, falling in love knowing that the relationship wouldn’t go anywhere and feeling shattered when the obvious happened, cooking in restaurants, almost leaving for Italy to attend a culinary course, stranded at South American borders, and saying things that should have been kept private; I was unsure of what I wanted.
Also Read: Why should you let your life flow – Lessons inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Though I still do a lot of those things, I, at least, have the right reasons now. Roman philosopher Seneca truly said, “The most important knowledge is that which guides the way you lead your life.”
Goals are only rewards along your journey. Mario pops out the super mushroom and fire flower and becomes Super Mario; we also become better with time at what we do. He gets a princess at the end of his quest; our quest leads us to death.
Every day, the smallest of the things that we do make up who we are and what we would become. And that is all we got.
As writer and blogger Paul Jun said in this article, “The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning towards the goal which is important.”
Also Read: Finding the Meaning of Life
Here are the life lessons I learned in my 20’s. Or my list of the things that matter.
1. Accept and Let Go
I took a long time to accept that my ex-boyfriend was unsure about our relationship. If I had faced this reality, as my friends told me, and had moved on, I would have saved some time.
You need to acknowledge things even when they are not explicitly said to your face. Not everyone would do you that favor. And then, let go — don’t fight. Even bending back in yoga becomes easy when you stop fighting to keep your body upright. A Chilean friend of mine once said, “El que estés tranquila es solo un proceso metal” — that you are peaceful is the most important.
2. Laugh and Make People Laugh
Whenever someone joked about me, I laughed — turning the frowns into smiles. Not losing the humor about yourself and making people laugh goes a long way. As Robert Frost said, ”If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
3. Running Behind Other’s Goals Would Leave You Nowhere
Many of my friends gave GRE and GMAT during the last year of University while looking for jobs. I wondered if accepting the job offer I got during campus placement was the smartest thing to do. It was. I never wanted to do an MBA or an MS or a Ph.D., and I am glad that peer pressure could not push me far enough. Many friends did an MBA for reasons they can’t recall. Many colleagues had done an MBA and were doing the same work and earning similar.
Not a lot of people know what they are doing — don’t make their goals yours due to peer pressure. Set Your Own Clear Goals – and succeed.
4. Find Your Calling
I now know what I want to do. But I had to fight with everyone who loves and cares for me, save up, stay up nights, resign, get laid-off, move countries, teach English, and work two jobs at the same time. I rode enough roller coasters to say that a career change is (sometimes) worth it. And twenties is the best time to figure out what you want to do or to start over. Maria Popova, a famous blogger, said, “Intricate work and life in an inextricable fusion.” Breathe your work, bleed it.
5. Be Confident. Believe in Your Dreams. Work Hard
The way I want to grow this blog is my vision. Many friends have already told me I would fail. Meryl Streep was once told that she was too ugly to act in a movie. Your vision is only yours. As cliched as it sounds, believing in your dreams is the first step towards achieving them. And then stay the course, work hard, fight for your dreams. Whenever I tried the easy way — I finished before the finish line. Albert Einstein said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.”
6. You Can’t Hide Behind Fate
In India, during wars between two kingdoms, women jumped in wells to escape rape by the other king and his soldiers — that is fate. I really want to do this but I can’t — that is not fate. I don’t own a restaurant because my family talked me into not opening one. Unlucky, right? No. It means that I never wanted to do open a restaurant, not yet.
Arunima Sinha, a woman with an amputated leg, climbed Mount Everest. If you are not doing something right now, you were not planning to do it ever.
Also Read: Achieve goals with these 12 principles to success.
7. Work Intelligently
You need to make your work reach the right people intelligently. I not only have to write brilliant articles, but I need to make sure people read them.
8. You Can Go Easy on Money
I did not have a husband, children, car loan, or financially dependent parents. I could afford to earn less (or nothing) to pursue my passions, travel, live in another country, learn foreign languages, and more. You have the least responsibilities in your twenties. (Also read: how not to care (or care less) about these 13 other things.)
9. Family Is Important
Way more than you think. Parents love you the most. They are not always right, don’t express correctly, and cross the space boundaries, way too often. But staying angry at them does not help.
Either you could stay up nights recalling the emotional blackmail your mother unleashed at you to get you to do something or you can let it go. For when it comes to family, there is no right or wrong. They slowly start coming along.
(Of course I’m being able to say all this after researching into understanding our emotions.)
10. Build Long-Lasting Relationships
Making a lot of friends and going crazy kept me going sometimes. On a rainy day, my robust support system is my hot cup of tea. It carries me when I cannot walk.
Also Read: A scientific and practical guide to building meaningful relationships to live happily.
11. Eat Well
A replenished stomach solves half of my problems. When we are busy in our life, we easily ignore food. But isn’t it one of the necessities? Didn’t we start hunting and agriculture for food? Keep that in mind the next time you skip breakfast and crumble through your work.
No, not two-minute instant noodles. Cooking is one of the most important and underestimated skills that has supported me throughout the years. I cooked when I was sick or abroad or at my parent’s to give them a break or for my friend if she was late for a meeting. Why not cook when you can eat healthier, tastier, and cheaper?
Also Read: 23 Small and Good Habits that help me create the life I deserve
I possibly can’t emphasize this enough. My South America flight tickets might have cost me the rent for many months, but I am glad that I did not rather spend that money on expensive dresses or parties or lip glosses. I still do not think twice before booking tickets as I know they would be worth the expense. Travel made me compassionate, kept me grounded, took me out of my comfort zone way too many times, and exposed me to things that I hadn’t even imagined. It made me who I am. Don’t let your twenties slip away without traveling.
Suggested Read: Why do I live like a nomad.
14. Buy What You Need
I have never used some of my most expensive clothes. There are no such emergencies when you can’t buy clothes, and if there are, I am sure nobody would care what you are wearing. So, hold your horses. Live a compact life, which is easy to pack into a suitcase as and when needed.
15. Work Out
One day I could wake up and hike that active volcano my crazy Canadian friend wanted to. Don’t party away your twenties to realize the importance of health when you almost faint climbing four staircases.
Also Read: Dharamshala yoga guide – Along with the real meaning of yoga
16. Find Your Therapy
Writing helps me to express and vent out. Venting out, often, helps. Find your stress busters.
Helpful Read: An Open Letter to our chaotic minds.
17. Solve Basics First
My laptop was hung, and instead of completely fixing it, I spent hours trying to work on it. I pulled-off almost half my hair. Formatting the computer and then working helped me breathe. Replace laptop with whatever. Save time and peace of mind.
Continuous self-improvement is nothing but putting the right things first.
18. Keep the Basic Routine Sane
If you sleep well, you work better with a good mood. If you get up on time, you can work for more hours. If you don’t visit the dentist, you might end up stuck at the border refugee center with bleeding gums and an aching tooth. Get the basics right. Read my guide on how to make a daily schedule for yourself [that works].
19. Set Goals For Every day
I have accepted that I am not Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot is. Not trying to do everything lets you do so much more.
20. Stay Updated
I have been in my world, way too long and way too often. Nothing good came out of my obliviousness. A breakup or a nagging boss does not justify ignorance. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Arundhati Roy’s fictional characters are integrated with the political movements of India. When you are more connected to the world, you are better prepared.
21. Fall in Love
Love is an emotional roller coaster; you are the highest and the lowest as you scream out your tonsils. It is not everything. But there is nothing like it.
Also Read: My scientific guide on why do we need a life partner and practical one on how to find one.
22. Love Hurts
Only a breakup could make me stay hungry for two days straight. Be prepared to get broken a few times, and nothing can prepare you. But with every heartbreak, you come closer to yourself. Enjoy.
23. Drag Yourself Out of Bed
The days I stayed in bed, not wanting to go to work, wouldn’t come back. You might have a hundred reasons to stay in bed, and maybe none to get out of it, but drag yourself out. Moving on with day to day activities, shower, work out, food, work, music, phone calls, watching your favorite sitcoms, makes you feel better.
Must Read: Josh Waitzkin inspired-lessons to master the learning process.
24. Say Sorry
Quickly. It resolves everything easily. Apologizing didn’t make me less of a woman, instead it made me bigger. I wish I had owned up to my shortcomings more often. Don’t blame your partner or friends or family. It might be easier for the short-term but not for the long run. Imagine copying an assignment and getting marks. But you have to give the finals, right?
25. Be Polite
With everyone. Live your day as if no one is looking. Then you don’t have to worry about anything popping up unannounced.
26. Look Good
Looking good has eased my way into people’s hearts, almost always. First and all other impressions are important irrespective of what people have been telling you. Sorry, the world is unfair.
27. Learn to be Alone
You would need it more times than you can imagine. There were times when I — one with a thriving social life — sent fifteen WhatsApp messages to meet people, but I still ended alone. I manage it much better now, but I had to learn.
Also Read: How my first solo trip showed me my weaknesses.
28. Make Sacrifices
I live a minimal life with necessary clothes and shoes and other essential items. My friends Netflix endlessly at the end of the day, while I open up my kindle or search for a movie based on a book to understand how the novelist built the strong characters. I realize what I am giving up for my dreams, and the sacrifices make it much more worthwhile.
29. You are Responsible for Your Happiness
Don’t oblige others to judge and fix your mood. Be easy on yourself and them during those short-term emotional swings.
It solves almost everything. As Anne Lamott said in her Ted talk, “Almost everything starts working when we unplug it for a few minutes, even Us.”
The changes do not seem obvious, and I didn’t feel myself changing. But when I look back, I see a different younger me — the one aware but unsure of what matters. I have stormed out of my twenties, almost, realizing how much isn’t a problem.
Could you relate to the life lessons I learned in my 20’s? What did you go through in your twenties?
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