“Youth is wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw
A time when we’re free to explore opportunities, try out new things, spread our wings and – best of all –a time when it’s okay for us to mess up once in a while.
Mother Nature gifts the typical 20-something with effortless beauty and abundant energy, and is a lot more forgiving towards them. Whether it’s pulling an all-nighter before a final, binge drinking sprees at frat parties, or scarfing down a greasy pizza with soda – they can get away with it all and still end up looking pretty good.
What I miss the most about being in my 20s is the refreshing sense of freedom that came from knowing that the world was my oyster and that there were infinite possibilities available to me. These thoughts were fueled by the mild naiveté that still lingered from my teenage and childhood days.
Now that I’m well into my 30s, I now know that your 20s are a lot more than just fun and games. They are crucial years in your life during which you set the trajectory for all key areas of your life. All the choices that you make will dictate the fate of your career, relationships, and your health later on in life.
It can be a stressful, confusing and ever-changing transition period when you usually experience a lot of your firsts – first serious relationships/marriage, first jobs, first home, first kids. It’s a stage when you’re trying figure out who you are as an adult and your place and purpose within the grand scheme of things.
Yet, despite all these challenges, I was still not happy to leave my 20s. Turning 30 was tough because I was raised to believe that upon reaching this age, you should be settled down with a happy family, a white picket fence, and a hefty bank account balance. Of course, my reality did not reflect this picture. I was still processing, learning and exploring.
I was also told that the “party” was over once you hit 30. After that, everything goes downhill and you enter the thick of adulting, which includes paying off your mortgage and student debt, changing diapers, raising kids, and many other responsibilities that curtail the freedom you once relished.
I unapologetically refuse to buy into a dreary prophecy of what life after 30 should look like. I believe that each decade of our life serves a purpose in our soul’s evolution, and your life takes on a different dimension at each stage. We should respect that and be fully immersed in each and every experience.
Unfortunately, we live in a youth-obsessed society that glamorizes the lifestyle of the young and the rich (think Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber). They leave out other age groups, not realizing that mature people can still feel young at heart and have dreams of accomplishing so much more in their life.
The truth is that our spirits and hearts never age. We have the capacity to have fun and be light-hearted, no matter how old we are. In fact, I’ve heard from older folks in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond that life will only get better, provided you live sensibly and have the courage to follow your heart’s desires.
I recently watched an interview with legendary actress, Betty White, who, at age 93, still had a youthful sparkle in her eye, while coyly admitting that she continues to hold on to her hope that her life-long crush, Robert Redford, would ask her out on a date! (How cute is that?)
I’ve compiled a list, based on my conversations with older people and my own experiences, that dispels the myth that your 20s are the best years of your life. This list is not meant to degrade 20-somethings, but to uplift those who have passed this age group. Who knows… it might even give 20-year-olds relief, knowing that they have things to look forward to later on in their lives.
Bear in mind that these benefits are based on the assumption that we will continue to be invested in our personal growth and maintain a high sense of accountability and self-awareness. With an open mind and a willingness to learn from our mistakes, we’ll be able to reap the rewards that come from maturity.
- You can now have an extended youth: There’s a prominent, modern day trend of people choosing to have an extended youth. Many individuals, who are well into their 30s, and even their 40s, are consciously delaying marriage and kids, and all the responsibilities that come with it. They have the freedom and financial resources to enjoy the single life, where they can date, travel, change careers and socialize to their heart’s content. Also, people can still look young and enjoy good health because of the availability of beauty products, procedures and treatments, and the trend to stay fit and eat healthy.
- You are wiser and possess the know-how to create a life you really love: During your 20s, you had plenty of opportunities to engage in trial and error. You followed a learning curve in both your personal and professional life, during which you realized what does and doesn’t work for you. Even though you may have got burnt in the process, you were able to increase your life skills and EQ – both valuable assets for creating an inner and outer world that’s in harmony with your personal truth and values. With enhanced self-knowledge, you’re capable of designing a life that fulfills you on a deep level.
- You don’t take crap from anyone anymore: When we are in our teens and 20s, fitting in with the “cool crowd” and cliques seem vitally important. We are vulnerable to rejection and deathly afraid of being left out. For this reason, we may have found it difficult to speak our mind, put our foot down and lay boundaries whenever we were disrespected or hurt by others. As you get older, you develop thicker skin and you prioritize taking care of your interests and wellbeing, instead of trying to please those who don’t appreciate you. If someone crosses the line, you’ll have no problem letting them know.
- You are more comfortable in your skin: This is probably my favorite one because it’s the most liberating. If you’ve been cultivating your character and self-esteem, you’ll find that by the time you leave your 20s, you’ll have a clear sense of who are and what you stand for, and be willing to express it to the world. You’ll have no problem walking out of your home make-up free and in your sweat pants while visiting the neighborhood grocery store. You won’t feel compelled to wear the trendiest fashion; instead, you prefer to wear clothes that are comfortable and that flatter your body – because you know that you’re so much more than just your physical appearance. You learn to love YOU, warts and all.
- You learn how to create more balance in your life: Most people in their 20s tend to engage in erratic lifestyle patterns, such as eating unhealthily, unstable sleeping schedules and stressful work schedules. As you get your older, not only will your body not allow you to abuse it anymore, but you’ll be more willing to slow down and make more sensible lifestyle choices. You’re willing to create balance in your life by: eating that kale salad, lifting weights a couple of times a week, and creating a time and space that allows you to rest and relax in your spare time.
- You can afford a lot more things: We’re all heard that famous stereotype about the broke college kid, scraping by to make ends meet. Even after entering the workforce in your 20s, you may be busy trying to pay off student debt or a mortgage, or have other financial commitments tying you down. But as you start earning and saving more, eventually, you’ll find that you have enough cash to spend on those things and experiences you’ve always wanted. Posh hotels, nicer clothes, better quality linens, and even the non-materialistic stuff, such as having the means to support a cause that’s important to you.
So those of you who are dreading getting older – think again, because you have a lot more to look forward to. The most important thing is that we remember to live in the present moment and make the best of the here and now, no matter how old we are. After all, all the treasures are ultimately found along the journey and not the destination.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What did/do you love most about being in your 20s? If you’ve passed it, how is it different from where you are now?
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