Nothing will ruin your 20’s more than thinking you should have your life together already. ~ some dude on Twitter
As simple as it sounds, it really got stuck in my head because it made me realize something very profound. I read this tweet at a time when I was 23 and was hitting one wall after another with all the things that I’ve tried. I dropped out of Med school when I was 20 because the idea of becoming a doctor wasn’t fulfilling or stimulating enough. I would start a project and not finish it, I’d get an office job and quit after 3 weeks because I hated it.
But the worst thing is that I felt a huge time pressure. I didn’t pay attention to the part that I was gaining experience, learning new things and eliminating the amount of choice of who the future me might be. I was only paying attention to the ticking time and with each day, month, year that passed by not knowing what I should focus on, I was getting more and more anxious. I started believing that I failed in life — because of course I’m now 23 and I was no-where near success (whatever that word means this week).
It’s a millennial-specific problem, but where does it come from?
I decided to share this experience because I’ve talked to many people my age and I realized that I’m not alone in this. Some young people get seriously depressed thinking they failed in life in their early 20s, especially after they graduate from University and realize that school didn’t prepare them for the hard reality of the 21st century. They think that they’ve wasted 4, 5, 6 years of their life studying something they don’t want to do and that it’s too late to fix it now.
Before the internet, you could compare yourself only to the people around you or maybe few celebrities on TV. Today you’re constantly fed by social media that everyone is doing better than you. Your friends’ vacation pictures, the YouTuber that you’re following and all these random people with 10,000+ followers who are living their dreams, or so it might seem.
Of course, you’ll also find the few talented people who have figured it out early on. The 7-year-old kid playing Beethoven’s symphony, the 11-year-old girl with sick football moves, the young artist who makes music or the undergraduate developer who can hack together amazing apps.
And then there’s the 30-under-30 list of people who made it this year. I think I always secretly wished to be featured on that list but I had no clue, what my business would be about.
It makes you think — Everyone is so young and successful. What have I done?!
It feels as if success and fame became two interchangeable words. We are being influenced to think that success comes first and then we start thinking about what area we should be successful in. And think fast because all that needs to happen before you’re 30 so you can enjoy that success.
The formula should be reversed. I believe we need to spend enough time understanding ourselves, our passions and talents. Some people know that before going to University, but for most of us, it could take years to figure this out. For me certainly.
The environment makes you so focused on the part that life happens only before your 30s and everything after that is just you getting retired because you have a family now and all you can do is talking about your mortgage and your summer vacation.
We read about Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos but it always sounds like these guys just found themselves walking in a certain direction and circumstances just lead them to think about that $1 trillion dollar idea that’s gonna change the world. “It’s easy to connect the dots looking backwards” Steve Jobs said, but no-one taught us how to deal with that sh*tty feeling when you’re trying to connect them looking forward without succeeding.
Not knowing sucks! Spending time and money on a University and then realizing a few years later that it wasn’t the right choice sucks!
We want everything now
All these push notifications and fast deliveries and companies that are competing over who’s gonna spoil their customer more. You want to order food and in less than an hour, you’ll have a proper lamb kofta and rice with a chilli sauce and extra bread delivered to your doorstep, makes me sick and hungry, too. We’re just not used to waiting for things anymore. We want everything to happen now, including our future.
So how do we deal with it?
When I read that tweet, something just clicked and I realized that there’s still time for me to figure out what I want to do. I’m almost 27 now and I’m still not entirely sure what I want to be successful in, but what I’m sure about is, that my attitude has changed.
I stopped looking at these experiences as something that’s slowing me down. It might sound funny for some of you but the idea that working somewhere for 2 years to gain experience used to scare me. “I can spend 2 years gaining experience in the area of my focus” I used to tell everyone, but I had no idea what that is or how I should find it. I used to think 2 years is such a loooong time. It’s not!
Funny enough. Take a look at the average age of StartUp founders who reached the top:
Anything you learn is useful
Anything new that you learn is saved in the back of your mind, in your subconscious. You would be surprised how many times a day you might be using that seemingly irrelevant information from your history class in an indirect way without you even knowing.
I don’t want to give career advice here, because like I said, I might use one myself. But now I’m aware, that if I live until my 70s inshallah, then I’m just getting started bruh!
All I want to say is, that once I realized that I don’t need to have everything figured out in my 20s, it took so much pressure off me and it made me do things that I never would have done before. I’m working at a corporate now, I started volunteering as a business mentor for teenagers with cool business ideas, some weekends I’d go teach math to primary/secondary school kids, I spend more time with my family and friends, I try to learn how to play the guitar and I live life. I know that there’s plenty of time for me to reach out my goals. Now I know that I have the time to try new things, learn new stuff, travel and meet new people, experiment and try ideas and keep figuring out who I am and what is my niche along the way. I stopped worrying about getting featured in the 30 under 30 list, instead, I started living life like the 1 billion+ young people in the world so I know I’ve lived my life to the fullest when I’m 47!
I stopped worrying about getting featured in the 30 under 30 list, instead, I started living life like the 1 billion+ young people in the world so I know I’ve lived my life to the fullest when I’m 47!