“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E. E. Cummings
I have never imagined how my 40s would be like.
Back in my 20s, I used to think being 40 is old. Am I old? I may have a slower metabolism and a few white hairs and a wrinkle or two now, but I am still as vital and full of life as I was in my 20s—only calmer, wiser, and stronger, supposedly and hopefully.
As we grow older, we become more patient, more giving, more loving, and most importantly, bolder. We stop worrying so much about what everyone thinks, and we start speaking our minds more often—even the introverts like myself.
This is exactly why I decided to write a bunch of tips to my younger self that will hopefully help someone.
1. Health is priceless.
Make sure to take care of your physical and mental health because your body and mind will thank you later—first things first. I used to eat junk like there’s no tomorrow and drink like I don’t even have a liver. I wish I had discovered healthy food early on. I wish I hadn’t thought it was lame to drink responsibly and moderately. You will find an urge to serve later on in life, and you need a strong body to be able to do that.
Don’t underestimate the power of exercising either. The muscle mass starts decreasing at a certain age, so go ahead and weight lift all you want. Our metabolism needs cardio, so invest in a bike and enjoy cycling. I also wish I hadn’t smoked to fit in and look cool. For my mental health, I wish I had learned about boundaries, people-pleasing, and the art of saying no. I wish I had read these powerful words from Anthony Hopkins and applied them back then.
2. Save for rainy days.
I was so dumb when it came to finances, and I refused to be advised on the matter. YOLO and FOMO were my mottoes and consequently, YAB (you are broke) became my situation. I used to spend more than I had earned, and I borrowed money unnecessarily. I also lent some money to “friends” I don’t see anymore.
Use your 20s to build, save, and invest. Your future self will thank you for this, especially in case of emergencies. However, always give for charity because it will come back tenfold when you least expect it—and in different ways.
3. Spend consciously.
Being fashionable and following trends is so overrated. I was a fashionista, a shopaholic, and a hoarder; I regret every minute of it. Spend money on making memories, not on buying stuff. Travel and discover the world. Bring gifts to your loved ones and spend enjoyable moments with them. This is the true treasure because just like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Anyway, with three credit cards and a car loan, I lost all my 20s trying to pay back the debt. Those friends who love you when you are spending right and left will soon disappear when you are no longer “generous.”
4. Pick your friends wisely.
This brings us to the most important part of everyone’s life: friendships. Choose your friends carefully and wisely because at the end of the day quality matters way more than quantity. We become like the five people we most spend time with. We exchange energies. This is so real. I had so many acquaintances, more than I can count, and when I was admitted to the hospital, nobody was there.
I stayed in a hospital bed for over a month with only my mother by my side. The people who suck the time, money, and energy out of you are just a liability. Set your priorities right and love your family (including the real friends you call family) more than anyone and anything in the world. They are here to stay.
5. Wait for the one.
Whatever you do, do not settle. You will meet many people in your 20s, and you will think this is it. You will change, and believing that you might never find your soul mate later in life will push you to make some really bad decisions.
I am glad I waited because a lot of people ended up stuck in horrible marriages with a lot of responsibilities just because they were in a hurry to settle. However, I wish I had not been into toxic relationships and allowed abuse, manipulation, and disrespect in the name of love.
6. Do not postpone doing what you love.
When I graduated college, I wanted to pursue my master’s degree, but I said to myself I will take a year off, find a job, save some money, and go back to college. Years later, I haven’t achieved what I really wanted yet. Life has a weird way of throwing stuff your way as you grow older. You end up dodging disasters and jumping over obstacles that you forget that time runs fast.
7. Your job is a big part of your life.
Choose your major wisely and don’t listen to anyone when you are making this life decision. Our jobs constitute over 50 percent of our lives, and if we end up doing something we do not like, we will be miserable 50 percent of the time.
I believe that we succeed when we do something that we love—no matter what it is. This famous saying is so true:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
8. Success is the result of daily habits.
I started establishing better habits in my 30s, but I wish I had started in my 20s. I’ve always loved reading, for instance, but I didn’t read much in my 20s because I was so busy wasting my time. There are so many books I want to read that one lifetime won’t be enough; I lost an entire decade. Wake up early and don’t oversleep. All the bad habits that we take lightly at times might stick for life.
9. The soul is real.
Last but not least, take your spiritual life seriously. Throughout my 20s, I used to think I was just a body that would eventually vanish. I was a cynic, and I didn’t believe that I am more than flesh. I went to church because I have always believed in the Almighty, but I cannot say I was spiritual. Later, I found out on my path to spirituality, mindfulness, and consciousness that I have a soul and that there is a lot more to see with insight than with sight.
I discovered that there is no joy like the one we receive when paying it forward and that what goes around comes around. This revelation is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Don’t wait too long to become who you are supposed to be.
Looking back, I don’t even know the 20-year-old me I see in photos. At the end of the day, I wish I had been less angry, more understanding, and a lot more patient. I wish I had understood the concept of letting things flow, not being careless and lazy, just letting things be. I was hot-blooded, in a hurry, and unwise. My only true regret, though, is that I wish I had listened to the people who were trying to tell me what I am writing about today.
Remember that life is precious and time is priceless. Be wise because what you do today will affect you and others tomorrow. What would you tell your younger self?