The Gifts of the 20's

The 9th of June 2017 is the day that we find out who will be our prime minister, and regardless of your political inclinations, that’s exciting (Make sure you vote!). But even more exciting, it is the day I turn the big 3-to-the-0. Sheeeet, where has the time gone!

I have to say, I have loved my 20’s – it’s the decade I ditched gelling my hair down to my face, wearing block colours (well sort of) and started working on the most important relationship of all – me. I’ve come across so many blogs describing how daunting it is to turn 30 as well as how to best navigate your way through this new decade of life. So, in true “bandwagon fashion”, I thought I’d jump on board and jot down a list of the gifts the 20’s have given me. If you’re in your 20’s, hopefully it will inspire you. If you’re past your 30’s, you’re probably thinking “get over it, you little baby”. Yeah, I get it. Let me my have my moment please.

Nobody is really paying attention

We like to think that people are really tuned in to every single thing we do – from what we put out on social media, to how we walk into a room full of strangers. This is a phenomenon called the “spotlight effect” in which we tend to overestimate how much attention people pay to what we do than they really are. Believe it or not, we are not the centre of people’s focus, even those who we are addressing directly are still thinking about a million and one things - so that little fall on your face moment you had in the middle of rush hour is already yesterday’s news (unless someone petty has created a meme of you tripping up and it’s already had thousands of retweets and will forever haunt you – then change your identity and move to Mexico).

Knowing that people are not as fixated on your every move is liberating, it means both the highlights and downfalls of life are transient. Whether you’re hesitating about putting out a blog or a new song you’ve written, it really does not matter that much. People will love it. People will hate it. But life goes on.

The circle around you are your life lines

We hear this one all the time – the people you surround yourself with are either going to build you or break you. Luckily, this was drilled into me at a very young age. My parents would constantly remind me to pick my friends wisely and give each name they hear a mini “CRB check.” You might want to hang out with the cool/trendy/hip friend, or equally, the nerdy/quirky/introverted friend, both are just as awesome. But one thing I know is that using the term “friend” takes on more importance as you get older. The questions I ask now are different to when I was in my early 20’s.

For example, I ask - does this person elevate me? By elevate, I don’t mean do they literally transcend you into another paradigm, but rather do these friends make you want to be a better person in the world? If not, revaluate your circle.

How do they respond when you are not the usual life and soul of the party? Personally, I think a marker of a true friend is someone who puts on a helmet and rides through the bumpy valley with you. Someone who rolls up their sleeves and say’s “what’s a bit of mud” (I’ve got tons of analogies so I’ll just leave it here). Unfortunately, it is in the times of adversity that friends truly show up. I’m grateful that my 20’s have highlighted my circle of cheerleaders and boat sailors (high-five for another cheesy analogy).

There is no such thing as the right time

In your early 20’s it is so easy to think that you can leave your goals, passions and dreams till the “right time” – which we somehow think is this thing that comes dressed up in a shiny suit and knocks on your door one day saying “Hi, I’m right time”. Just me then…?

You will reach the end of your 20’s and find there is very little difference between starting a new venture at 21 versus 30. The lessons are the same. You are not somehow immune from fear, failure or embarrassment. Sure you might have a few more years of life experience to help you make better decisions, but the truth is, NEW is always scary. Scary at 20 and scary at 50. Unless your life goal is to practice the art of waiting, get started booboo.

Perfection only comes in jars

The only thing in life that is literally perfect is a jar of Nutella or peanut butter or both (maybe not at the same time... although I am due a snack any minute now and partial to experimentation). Your 20’s will teach you that perfect is really just a philosophical ideal and you will end up draining yourself trying to maintain “perfect”. Your weight will fluctuate at times like the weather, your skin will play havoc when you have an important date or photoshoot (damn you hormones) and you will make mistakes. You will hate all of these things but you will also come to accept that these things will always be the case. Then again, there is always Nutella to help soothe these life frustrations.

People’s opinions are as useful as that extra button

Every coat, shirt, blazer or cardigan I’ve ever bought has come with that extra little button sewn on the inside “just in case” you drop one whilst dancing intensely. I have never personally used one, but there will come a day where my loyal coat buttons will fail me and I reach into my stack of button back-ups.

This is how I view the opinions of others. They will keep piling up and hypothetically sewing onto your life. I’m not advocating that you ignore all opinions here, what I’m saying is that not every opinion is useful, and just like the back-up of buttons, you will learn when it is important to use them and from whom. Not all opinions are bad. But not all are useful. My 20’s have definitely taught me that people will judge you regardless of what you do. Whether you write a book or sit on the couch reading one – you will be judged. But just like that extra button on the inside of your coat right now, you’ve already forgotten it exists.

The project of YOU is never ending

To be totally honest, I thought by the end of my 20’s I’d have life all figured out. But I’m probably using Google Search more now than ever before (for research purposes, obviously…*deletes search history of how to sew on a button*). When you are in your early 20’s or even teens, you think you’ll know what to do later in life, but all of us are still learning. A great example of this comes from my resilience research. One thing I always tell people about resilience is that you can equip yourself with all of the tools to better deal with stress, pressure and adversity, but the lesson doesn’t end just because you have a guidance manual. It is a life long journey and each peak will only add to your existing tool box.

You are allowed to edit, delete, crop and completely 360 degree rotate things around in your life. I heard a quote a few years ago which has only now started to really resonate with me and that is: “the places where you have the biggest challenges in your life become the places where you have the most to give”. The 20’s have taught me that vulnerability and imperfection is what makes a person beautiful, and using that as a life force has certainly propelled me to better things. It will make you uncomfortable and it may mean shedding off dead weight/skin, but you are allowed to keep working on yourself -after all, you are an unfinished masterpiece.

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