You’ve deadened yourself to the weekday. You charge through the week with your head down, your earbuds in and your music turned on full volume. You live for the weekend, but it comes and goes…and then you do it again. You don’t know which bar or even which city, but you know what you’ll be doing for each weekend for the rest of the decade.
Or, maybe, you aren’t one to blaze through your life. Maybe, you look up at the horizon but you don’t move at all because you’re terrified by the immensity of it. Your weekends are dedicated to Netflix and avoiding people. You sit and watch and turn gray.
Whether you blaze or tiptoe through life, it all matters, especially in your twenties. People say that this decade holds some of the best years of your life. Maybe that’s true for you, maybe it isn’t. But your twenties are critical because they hold consequences for the remaining 50+ years of your life.
You can’t change where (or if) you went to college or who you dated, and you can’t erase any crazy mistakes or hurtful memories. But you can learn from them. You can turn them into building blocks on which you’ll continue to frame the rest of your life.
Your younger years, especially your twenties, should be spent outside of your comfort zone. Try being vegan. Move to the big city. Take that cross-country road trip. Finish law school. Drop out of college if it doesn’t suit your ambitions after all. Say ‘I do’ to the person you love. Do everything that scares you.
I get as excited about coffee in the morning as I do about my next vacation, but I know that not everyone is an enthusiast about life. Not everybody needs to do something drastic like move across the country three times in three years or have their law degree by 22. People like that are outliers. We don’t need to become an overachiever or the next Einstein, but our twenties should be spent outside of our comfort zone.
Despite our first-world problems of having to wait ten minutes for an Uber or the inconvenience of the Starbucks barista making our non-fat latte with whole milk, our generation is the most privileged group the modern world has ever seen. We’re more mobile, better educated, and we have more opportunities than our parents or grandparents did. It’s up to us to make the most of it.
Fortunately, many people are exploring this new world, but, as the adage goes, “with much power comes much responsibility.” We should remember that our twenties are not just about us. It is so easy to get carried away on the excitement of building your career and a life that is completely your own. If you have loved ones back home, don’t let your newer relationships completely replace them. I’ve learned that family is the glue that often holds your foundation together, so don’t become unmoored when you move away.
In this world of instant gratification, it is easy to forget about others and focus only on ourselves in the present. It’s far too easy to forget about the future and not plan ahead. However, just like you should remember those who matter most, you should also think about your future. Your decisions don’t affect just you.
That probably doesn’t sound right. After all, right now, it’s probably just you. It’s just your cell-phone bill, your rent, and your bank account. But that our decisions affect exponentially more than just our finances. One of my favorite poems by John Donne eloquently expresses this truth:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less…”
No decision is solitary just as no man is an island. The modern narrative is wrong to promote a ‘no strings attached’ lifestyle. Such a thing doesn’t exist. Every decision has repercussions and they affect people around you. They affect your immediate family, your friend group, your co-workers, and even your future family.
Go forth and explore, travel, change jobs, quit school, start school, take risks, start a business, get married. But take calculated risks, think ahead, and make wise investments of your time and talent. Make a list of things you want to do, and then charge full-speed ahead.