When I was a teenager, I thought that by the time I was 25 I’d have my whole life figured out.
I thought I’d be married and starting to have children, and have my dream job earning tons of money. I thought I’d be buying a huge house with a big garden and a dog and a cat, and going on lots of amazing holidays.
A girl can dream, right?
I’m almost 24, single, and have no idea what I’m going to do with my life!
In our defence though, COVID-19 has basically put our lives on hold for a year, which means we can subtract a year from our age to fit in with the normal standards of everyone else.
Amazingly, some people actually appear to have this dream life already. They have it all figured out (or at least that’s what it looks like from the outside), and well done to them for getting this far so soon.
But if you’re not one of the lucky ones, don’t worry—you, me, and more or less everyone else is in the same position, wondering what the hell we are going to do with our lives. And you know what? That is completely fine.
There are no rules, written or unwritten, that say you must have everything figured out by any age. We all have completely different paths to our futures and that is okay. We need to live by our own rules and make our happiness a priority.
Growing up, teachers would talk about the importance of learning and education, but not enough focus was put on maintaining our mental health and, in particular, our happiness and sanity. Not everything in life has to be productive and for the sole purpose of getting us further ahead. Sometimes it is just about being in the moment, appreciating what we do have, and living a fulfilling life.
I have a friend I used to work with who I’d always go to for advice on problems I was facing, big or small. Every piece of advice he gave me related back to this idea:
“If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive.”
It never really occurred to me what this meant until recently. Everyone has different ideas of what peace means to them and what makes them happy. But I had spent my life focusing on what would make other people happy, on what I thought I had to do to be “normal,” and what everyone had told me to do to live a fulfilling life.
It finally dawned on me that to live a good life, I had to define what makes me happy and consider what maintaining my peace looks like.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
1. If your job makes you miserable—quit!
Life is too short to stay in a job that isn’t good for your mental health and your peace. Of course money is a huge factor in life, and you need to be able to provide for yourself (and your family, if relevant), but ask yourself what you’ll gain long-term by working yourself into the ground at a job that you don’t enjoy. Money isn’t everything.
2. Normalise cutting off toxic family and friends, or anyone who makes you feel like crap.
Just because someone is related to you, or has been a friend for a long time, doesn’t mean they have to stay in your life forever. As we get older, sometimes we outgrow friendships or relationships that no longer fit into our lives. If someone doesn’t add to your life or if you don’t gain anything beneficial from that relationship, know that it’s okay to walk away, especially if them being in your life negatively impacts your happiness.
3. Life isn’t all about being in a relationship; embrace your singleness.
Being single in your 20s (or at any age) can be great! This is a time to find yourself and discover what you like and dislike. It’s about finding adventure. Go travelling if you want. Start a new job. Move cities. Start up a new hobby. The best time to really find yourself is when you are alone and you have no ties to anyone or anywhere. Enjoy yourself and take this moment to learn about yourself and figure out who you really are and not who you have been conditioned to be through the education system or by always trying to fit in.
4. You don’t have to have your sh*t together—you have the rest of your life for that.
You can’t expect to have it all figured out yet. It’s completely normal to be unsure which career you want to pursue, or where you want to live, but this time exists so you can spend it trying to figure that out. So what if you’ve been a teacher for three years and decided that you now hate it. So what if you still live with your parents to save money. So what if you don’t have a partner or kids. You have plenty of time to work out what direction you want your life to go in; there is no rush and no one path that you have to take.
Your life isn’t over—it’s just beginning!
5. Let go of regrets.
If you take anything away from reading this article, let it be this: don’t hold on to regrets in your life. Everything that you have done, every decision you have made, and every situation you have gotten yourself through up until this very day has made you the person you are now. And that person is pretty damn amazing!
Keep going. You’ve made it this far and have the rest of your life to enjoy and to make mistakes. No one has it all figured out in their 20s, or even after that. Remember, looks can be deceiving.