It’s never been more obvious that with age comes wisdom…
In my twenties, I thought I had finally arrived at the way life was going to be, as if it were a destination. After all those years of study, I was now free to do what I wanted, live where I liked, eat what I fancied and make all my own life choices.
I felt like a huge failure when I made mistakes in my twenties; like I’d messed up my entire life. In my head, you had one chance to get it all right. You were given a blank sheet of paper to write your life story, had to tick off a series of boxes neatly in order, and it was bad news if you make an error of judgement that caused you to cross something out.
Thankfully, now I’m older, I can see life really isn’t like that. It’s a jumble, and you never have all the answers. These are some of the things I believed in my twenties that I wish I’d known weren’t true…
1. If people don’t like me, it’s the end of the world
I wasted so much energy second-guessing what people would think of me. I was constantly worrying about how I’d be judged. Now I realize that if you’re just yourself, the right people will stay in your life. The wrong ones will fall away – and that’s a good thing.
2. Doing well at school and university is a passport to success
Yes, it’s important to study hard and get a solid foundation of education, but it doesn’t pave a smooth road ahead. Graduating isn’t the end of the road – it’s actually the very beginning.
3. There’s an order to the way life is lived
I thought I’d graduate, fall in love, get married and possibly have a family – all in that order. That was until I checked off a few points, hit a hurdle and found out life is a jumble, and I have to find my own route.
4. My friends will always be the same age as me
When I was growing up, it was common to dodge adult relatives at family gatherings and avoid neighbors in the street. In my twenties, I was often in a bubble where my friends were all the same age as me. And then, suddenly, I realized I can have friends who are much older than me; people with stacks of life experience who will help me see a different side to the world.
5. I will never have to worry about my weight
I used to eat what I wanted, and wore skirts that had fit me since I was in my early teens. My body shape simply didn’t change. But nothing lasts forever – including shimmying into a size 6.
6. Moving will solve all my problems
I thought big international moves would be a fresh start; an exciting new challenge that would change everything. And sure, they are those things, but what stayed the same was me. If you’re not happy in one place, you’re not necessarily going to fix that by flashing your passport.
7. Hangovers aren’t that bad
In my twenties I didn’t get hangovers. Then I’d wake up and feel a bit foggy for an hour. Then they crept into being all-day affairs. And well after my twenties, they only get worse.
8. My parents will always be the same
My parents – like yours – have always been there; they’ve been telling me what to do since I was little. When I started living in my own place, there were more fun things to do than going to see them, so it slipped to the bottom of my list of priorities. But as I got older, I realized they won’t always be there, they won’t always be the same, and I shouldn’t take them for granted.
9. Eating is just a necessity
I never thought I’d have any interest in cooking. I certainly didn’t think I’d own shelves of cookbooks and a spice rack, and actually look forward to baking.
10. The loud kids are always the popular ones
The loud people always seem to be the ones winning the popularity contest. Then I came to see this is purely because they hog the spotlight, and learned to embrace, rather than hide, my inner introvert.
11. I’ll always be healthy
I sailed through my twenties with nothing bigger to fret about than what I’d drink on a Friday night. But one day I realized doing a little bit of exercise – for my health as well as my body – is something my even-older self would thank me for.
12. I’ll definitely get married
Most people do it, so I presumed I’d do it too. I also presumed that if I said ‘I do’, it would be forever. You might decide you’re perfectly happy being single. Or, like me, you might get married, it could be a disaster and you’ll end up being divorced before you hit 30.
13. I must own a property
You graduate, start work, save up and then buy a house… right? Because that’s what people do… correct? Sometimes yes, but you may find you’re perfectly happy not getting tied down, keeping your freedom and renting places across the world.
14. I’ll never be happy just being me
I presumed I’d always feel the way I felt in my twenties: unconfident and unhappy. But the very best thing about getting older is you begin to stop caring what others think of you – and the less you care about what other people think, the happier you’ll become in your own skin.
Image via favim.com.
Comment: If you could give your 20 year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?