I’ll be honest, I read a lot of articles on Buzzfeed, Thought Catalog, and other sites about what I should be doing with my 20s. While the amount of articles I've been reading has seen a significant decrease since I quit working a desk job and started traveling, it isn’t to say that I don’t still read them. The internet is a black hole, so a little surfing of Facebook often times finds me distracted from stalking people by reading what they post on the interweb. While all this is fine and well, some of the “advice,” given on these sites is a steaming pile of crap. I’m not gonna lie, I loved Buzzfeed’s video of top 10 trips 20 somethings need to take, but I’ve also read other articles on said website (if you’ve read Buzzfeed, this makes since).
While I’m not saying I know exactly what everyone should do with their life (nor even what I am/should do with mine) I'd like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last 6 years of my 20s.
Figure out who YOU are: This could easily be put at the bottom of the list as an all encompassing, feel good way to bring it all together, but it is too important to leave until the end. While the following tips may help in the discovery of oneself, you are the only person who can figure out you. This comes all too easy to some. For those who find it a struggle, you need to make it a priority. The world isn’t waiting on you, and neither are all the humbling situations that remind you that “you,” is still a relative term.
Let go of the past: This is tough one for me. I ‘m a person who overanalyzes most things, and while I’d like to think I can forgive pretty easy, I guess I have a problem with forgetting. This, of course, is a two-way street. That trouble with forgetting also hinders the ability for forgiving and forgetting mistakes I’ve made in the past. Life is too short to let people, places, or past experiences have power over you. People hurt people, that’s the nature of life. While some do it willingly and purposely, others do it on accident. If you are reading this and have a pulse, you've hurt someone. With that being said, you are the only person who can forgive others, forgive yourself, and actually let go. Figure out what you need to do, and do it, because the older you get, the excuse of past hurt for current actions become less and less accepted.
Gain some perspective: If you are in your 20s and you haven’t left your community, that’s OK…it needs to change though. Not everyone is going to quite their job to travel for months (years!) and live out of a backpack in nasty ass dorms and guest houses. While this is my personal choice, that doesn’t mean it is the only way. There are some (semi) valid excuses for not going abroad, but there is no excuse to justify forgoing learning about the lives of people outside of your community. We live in a diverse world with multiple cultures to live in and learn from. Ignorance isn’t bliss; at this point in life you are the only one to blame for knowing only the world you were born in to.
Define what you believe in: I have faith. While my faith is far from the church I grew up in, I’ve spent the better half of my twenties living in a manner that helps me cement my beliefs and values, which, of course, are staples in who I am. While not everyone is going to believe in a deity, everyone should have faith in something. Be it God, your friends, or your family, faith and belief define you as a person.
Learn to laugh at yourself: There are times in life when you need to be serious, but there are also times in life you need to be comfortable being the butt of jokes. I know full well I can be a defensive person, but being on the road has forced me to willfully accept being laughed at…a lot. It is easy to regress to a state of defense when we feel uncomfortable, but this does not, in fact, help anyone. Get laughed at. Make a joke of your faults. Use these situations to help you become more comfortable with the lesser parts of your personality.
Fall in love: I feel like our generation has succumbed to this idea of being with someone, while not actually being with someone. You date, sorta, and spend time together, but have no title. You see each other most nights, you get jealous if other people hit up your not boo, boo on social media, yet you can’t commit. Fuck that, for reals. Fall in love with someone. Fall in love hard. Sure it may not be the person you end up with, and it may hurt like hell when it ends, but it is better than this wishy washy, non-committal crap.
Learn to be comfortable alone: While being in love is fun (or in one of those fake relationships), learning to live solo is a good thing. It can seem like everyone is constantly with friends, or in solid relationships, but this isn’t true…and even if it is, that doesn’t mean you should be too. If you can’t spend time with just yourself in a room, why should someone else be able to?
Do something life affirming RELIGIOUSLY: Yep, you read it right. Do that es on the daily. This doesn’t have to be monumental, just something that reminds you that you are young, alive, and free to engage the world how you choose. Be it breaking your schedule once a day or going cliff diving, a simple action acknowledging the infinite possibilities of a numbered existence needs to be incorporated into your day, everyday. A few of my favorites: riding bikes at night, going someplace new ALONE, having a random conversation, dropping my number to someone even if I don’t expect them to call.
Be grateful: There is something good in your life, always. On top of that, somewhere, at some point, someone put you ahead of their own well being to make sure you didn’t die. This is a blessing. Having a roof over your head, food on your table, and some sort of prospect for the future (even if it’s a slim one); these are blessings. Don’t take this for granted. Once you start showing some gratitude for what you already have, you’ll be surprised at what other novelties start coming your way.
Stop giving a PH fuck: People spend a lot of time worrying about what others think. When I say people I mean me. Or more so, meant me. I’ve been a worrier for years, and while I’m decent at doing what I want (26, do what I want!), it hasn’t always been the case. Life is too short to go through the motions, and wayyyy too short to not tell the people in your life how you feel about them. Pursue your dreams, drop the L bomb to the people who you feel it for, and metaphorically empty the recycle bin of those not willing to stand behind you when you make the jump.
Make healthy choices: Everybody has the ability to be relatively healthy. One person may be a marathoner and the other has trouble walk-running a mile, but that doesn’t mean walk-runner should stop. Being healthy is a privilege, not a right. We need to exercise, that is a given, but health, my friends, isn’t all about being active. When I say make healthy choices, I mean stop drinking and smoking. I mean get some solid sleep. I mean stop eating all that shitty food. What I mean is, we are humans, we all have vices. There ain’t nothing wrong with occasionally, moderately imbibing in things that aren’t the best for our bodies, but that holds true only if YOU’VE PUT IN THE GROUNDWORK TO DESERVE IT. The things we do to our body today WILL in fact, help or hurt us tomorrow. I saw a friend from where I grew up post a status along the lines of, “giving myself the best b-day gift of all; getting in shape to run a 5-k.” While running may not be this dudes cup of tea, he acknowledge that getting healthy is the best gift he can give himself. That, my friends, is inspiring.
Live with intention: Anyone who grew up Jesuit is probably cringing at this, but the truth is they got some things right. Whatever you are doing, do it to your best ability. If you are waking up just to half-ass work, school, or your relationships, why are you waking up at all?
Be happy: It has been said many times but I’ll reiterate it; happiness isn’t a destination, it is a mentality. Sometimes life sucks, shitty things happen, and then you stub your toe. This scenario happens all too often, but it doesn’t mean you need to be miserable. Once you decide to be happy, it is hard not to be. You are going to have off days, ups and downs, and your smooth footing, at points, will start to resemble the Rockies, but like my Dad’s old records used to state, “ Mamma always told me, there’d be days like.” That’s life. Do what it takes to be happy. Do it for yourself, and if that isn’t good enough, do it for the people who love you, the people who have sacrificed for you, or even just the people you come in contact with everyday. We may not all grow up to be Gandhi, but our happiness will absolutely facilitate positive effects on our immediate community.
Photo courtesy of author, edited with Instagram