I’m not gonna lie, the 20s are fun. I mean there are a lot of exciting firsts like finishing your degree, getting your first job, starting to become financially independent and you generally have so much energy. Somehow you manage to go out four out of five nights during the week and are still able to function just fine the next day.
And yes while I’ve seen my energy levels go down over time and the perfect Friday night has turned into an order-in-takeaway on the couch while watching a cheesy romcom, I have also noticed that I’ve never been happier in my life than right now.
So I started wondering why that is; especially now that I’m turning 30. It has always been a fast approaching nightmare in my head ever since I hit “rock bottom” at about 25, feeling that my life was basically over now that I could no longer say that I was in my mid-20s.
I used to stress so much about my age in the lead up to my mid-late 20s. But it’s only now that I’m realising that I wasn’t really stressing about my age as much as I was stressing about a perceived lack of progress or purpose in my life. As fun as my 20s were, they were also full of self-doubt, confusion, worry and anxiety about my future and in general totally wrong priorities of what to expect from life and from me in it.
So what has changed for me now that I’m hitting the big 30?
1. Choosing priorities
I can still hear the voice of my parents in my head saying “one day you’ll understand.” And of course, I’m not saying that I’ve got it all figured out but I do feel I’ve learnt a lot of important lessons in the past decade that helped me understand myself better and also choose what’s important for me and what’s not.
A book that helps with this is “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” with some very interesting methods on how to choose what you care about vs. what you’re better off to let go.
I used to worry about everything all the time, always being paranoid about things that could potentially go wrong in the future before they even happened. I learnt how to let go of this for most part and also how to focus on what I can control vs. what I can’t.
So no matter what events or circumstances hit me that I have no control over, I always try my best to control how I react and deal with it. Once I realised how powerful this method really is everything changed for me.
I’m generally much more relaxed and don’t take life too seriously because not only do I have faith in myself but I also trust that things will work out, one way or the other and I’ll be ok no matter what because I get to choose how to deal with it.
2. Practicing self love
Talking about wrong priorities, the preoccupation with self-image and how I was supposed to look was definitely one of them. I mean how could we not, especially as women, in the age of Instagram models haunting us 24/7?
I used to be hyper-critical of how I looked, never satisfied and always trying to be someone I’m not. I’m not saying that I regret going to the gym or living a healthy lifestyle but I was doing it for all the wrong reasons and therefore never felt great about myself.
But I’ve come to realise that comparing myself to others would never make me happy and that, instead, I had to look inwards to focus on me, which completely changed my expectations, too. Self-love is definitely an ongoing practice but one that I got to master a lot more over time.
3. Finding purpose
I was personally very lost in my 20s and I think a lot of other people are too. I had no idea what to do with myself after I finished uni, let alone did I ever imagine that I could build a successful career and sustainable life for myself.
Then I accidentally stumbled into advertising. At first, I was fully blown away that I was paid to come up with ideas (I mean, how cool is that?). But I was left feeling that something was missing. What was I contributing to the world? What would my legacy be? How could I make a difference, leave my mark?
Well, long story short, I have not yet figured it out but I recognised that a) it’s ok not to know and b) life is a journey in which most people don’t just have one purpose but plenty of purposes throughout their life.
So I changed my perception of how to define “purpose”, which for me is all about creating meaningful connections and experiences in everything and every moment of every day. It doesn’t only make me a better and happier person but also helps with the journey of self discovery.
Sometimes people just try too hard, and I used to all the time, which can be very counterproductive and add unnecessary stress. All the best things often happen when we least expect them anyway.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t put in the hard work into understanding ourselves better and how we fit into this universe but with a little less pressure and a stronger focus on the every day, I personally feel more grounded than ever and am confident that I’ll find more “purposes” as a byproduct of that practice.
As I say goodbye to my 20s and hello to my 30s, I’ve never been so excited about what that next decade holds for me. Cheers to my 25 year old self who would have cried at this occasion but who simply didn’t know any better. I am very glad I now understand that age is mostly mind over matter and that with the right mindset and attitude anything is possible.