Retrospective on Things I Wish People Told Me When I Entered My 20’s

I read this article just last summer; it was forwarded to me over the long string of chain mail emails, posts to Facebook and so on. Normally, I do not tend to place too much stock into chain mails, I tend to delete them right off. I can’t say even now why it was I kept this one, why I finally decided to read one of those chains mails, which I generally refer to as a waste of time…. All I know is, this one I read, and it actually hit a cord. The article is by Ryan O’Connell, first posted on June 18th 2012 to a website called Thought Catalog. The article is simply titled, “Things i wish people told me when i entered my 20s.” I am about to turn 23 within a matter of days; October 11th is just around the corner. And while I generally love October, less for my birthday and more for Halloween, this year I have been lack luster in my October spirits. Perhaps I felt that was coming when I read this originally, I really couldn’t tell you.

This is a link to the original posting of the article; I hope you’ll read it as its quite short. Perhaps you’ll be about to hit that age bracket yourself and this may just tell you something that the rest of us did not have to start with, and had to figure out the hard way.

What follows is my paraphrasing of the original as well as my personal reflection as I’ve experienced or observed in my friends’ experiences so far.

You are hardly likely to love properly the person you will spend the rest of your life with, you may meet them now, you may even date them, but life has a twisted way of telling you when you are and are not ready for certain situations. This can be quite painful to realize. You will more than likely be involved with several people during this part of your life, the majority of which will not be the right person for the rest of your life, however they may just be the right person for that part of your life, the right person for now. No one wants to admit at the start of a relationship where they are in their life path. It is more fun to imagine the possibilities of a new situation. Occasionally, it does feel good to love the wrong person. In the long run though, you cannot convince people to be something they are not.

Not all friends are friends for life. My mother used to say that people come into your life for three purposes: a reason, a season, or for life. Those that come for a reason are there either to teach you something, or for you to teach them something; you wont know this is the kind of purpose they have until the lesson has been learned and they are gone. Those that come for a season are there for just a while. These are the people who may enter your life that may be there for several years, but at some point events occur which separate the two of you. It may be sudden, or it may be so simple as that you no longer have anything in common and so drift apart. Those that come for life are the ones whom you create a bond with; they are part of your family that you choose and will never leave your side no matter how far you or they travel.

Taking care of yourself is the most difficult job of your 20s. You will struggle through friendships, relationships, school, work, and family and at the end of it all, the only thing guaranteed to still be there is you. You have to care for your body as well as your mind and your heart. This is not always easy to do when you are just beginning to explore the boundaries of yourself. You will burn the candle at both ends, enjoy the drag of your first hangover while at work or in an 8AM class, spend the whole weekend in bed eating Hot Pockets and watching late night thrillers to scare you senseless, and you will enjoy it.

It it possible to think you deserve everything because you are smart and went to a good college and at the same time wonder constantly “What the hell am I doing?!” To borrow the line from O’Connell, this contrast of self-loathing and hubris will be your major tension and affect most, if not all, of your decisions.

There will be days that being alone makes you feel more free than ever before, and days when it makes you feel as though you are the last person on earth. There is no telling which day it will be that effects you either way.

And while this is all quite depressing and disappointing perhaps, you have to remember it is this time in your life, more so than any time before and possibly after, that you really can do anything. As corny as that sounds, it is now that you can decide where you want to be, how you want to spend your life and actually take steps toward that goal. However, I add personally, that you can do this each day for the rest of your life, starting the day you accept it as truth. If you doubt it in any way, then you place your own roadblocks in the way of reaching your goal.

These are my additions to the list:

I wish someone had told me that leaving home sometimes means having to fight to get out. Not that you lose your family per say, just that sometimes its the parents that are not quite ready for the birdies to leave the nest. This can mean arguments, breaking rules and setting new rules. This means parents accepting that children are growing up and might not need them as much and this means children taking responsibility for themselves.

I wish someone had told me this would be a time of realization and exploration. I wish they had told me I would change the way I thought, and that might mean losing people who do not like the new me as much as the old me.

Most of all, I wish someone had told me to enjoy the process. I have always been the sort to get work out of the way first and enjoy the fun things second. I wish someone had said to me what I had to learn the hard way: “Its just college. Its not forever, and it does NOT define the rest of your life.” I think had I known that when all this began, then maybe I would have enjoyed the process more. And after all, it really is the journey that’s most important.

While I am sure that over the next few years there will be plenty more items I could add to this list, for now I leave it here, and who knows, maybe I will write another blog on this topic once I figure out what those items are.

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