I turned 30 this year. (Eeek!!) I will admit, it stressed me out! The age of 30 seemed like a threshold I was being forced across and wasn’t ready for. I cried, I sought comfort, I attempted to avoid it and denied its truth until it was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to stop it from happening. And then I denied it again.
I heard two things often as I looked towards the new, scary, adult chapter of my life. One, the consistent reminder that I was not the first person to panic at the thought of stepping in to the next decade and, two, that no person in history had successfully, legally, and officially stopped aging at 29 and lived to tell about it. The fountain of youth has eluded us.
Now that I am a few months in I have gotten comfortable looking lovingly at my 20s and seeing that some real, valuable things were done during that decade. Though I may not feel 30 most days (today I am a solid 25), I have found myself very grateful. I am grateful both for the overall accomplishments of my 20s and for the fact that some of these great things were done in my youth and will stay in my youth.
Here are 20 things I recommend doing between 20 and 29. Some, because you can get away with it and some because the future depends on it:
1. Study your a$$ off – I don’t care if you go straight to university at 18 and have an indisputable vision of your future or if you actively and independently access interesting information. The 20s are meant for discovery and the more you try and figure out the world around you, the more likely the deep passions and causes of your heart will be brought to life.
2. Read books that are recommended to you – Ideas are shared through pages and sages. I used to comb through my grandmothers bookshelf and pick out well-worn copies of unheard of titles. I discovered more beauty, life and artistry by picking up titles that were recommended to me – regardless of my initial interest or the style – then I would have sticking to my limited passions. Now, I can recommend a book or two.
3. Get a tattoo – Perhaps it isn’t for everyone, but tattoos are cool. Mine were inked at 18 and 20 and I carry them proudly. Long lasting body art is for the adventurous, expressive days of youth and will remind you of being youthful for (every) year to come.
4. Fill up a passport – Before it is too much trouble to travel because of kids or aches or cost or time, jump on the plane, train, automobile, yacht, schooner, kayak, pair of snowshoes or just use your feet and get yourself out of the house and out of the country. There is nothing like understanding the world because you have been there. There is nothing like realizing you don’t understand the world because you have been there.
5. Have dreadlocks – Let’s face it, there are not many 40-year-olds that can pull off the tangled locks, so, if you feel so inclined, do it.
6. Say, “Yes!” – Opportunities abound in the 20s and the saddest thing I see is youth wasting time trying to be grown up when they don’t have to be. A dream job, a trip, a date, an unexpected friendship . . . say yes because you can and because there will be time to make up for it if it doesn’t work out.
7. Subscribe to a newspaper or news-magazine – Be naive, but be informed. There are serious things happening all around us, but the innovative ideas come so often from the young. I would love to hear passionate 20-somethings talk about poverty, hunger, business and sustainability because they have the gull to believe things can change and are informed enough to make their recommendations.
8. Meditate – Just calm down.
9. Forgive your childhood – A lot can get stirred up as you walk away from a family home and life with siblings. Don’t worry, the mistakes, failures and insecurities of childhood do not have to define you. Let it go.
10. Study your lineage – The roots of your name, the life of your ancestors, the story of your parents have a place in today. Know their words, actions, deeds, good and bad qualities and see the parts in yourself you love that have been passed down from generation to generation. We are not islands and our generation exists because of the work and toil of the past. Get to know those that supported your life long before you were born.
11. Meet your parents – They may be different then you remember.
12. Go Expressionist -Whether it is with words, a brush, an instrument or somethings else, practice expressing yourself. The introspection and the process of learning to communicate will be good for you, your relationships and the future.
13. Identify the little foxes – We all go through it – our imaginations take a hold of us and before we know it we are tangled up in lies and assumptions that get ourselves and our loved ones into hard situations and conversations. Take time to learn how you work – what bothers you and how you respond. Then, shut down the sly little lies and fears that control your actions.
14. Fall in love – Okay, it might not work out. You might get your heart broken. But it is worth it. Knowing that part of you is alive is worth more than all the treasures of land and sea. Don’t be afraid to adventure in to this unknown territory.
15. Do scary things – It is true! The older you get, the more you avoid the adventurous, scary things that didn’t bother you before. Jump off something, swim somewhere scary, take that ride because you will always remember the wind in your hair, but you might never do it again!
16. Learn to learn – Whether it is because you love a subject, or are forced, learn what it means to really take information in, process it, turn it around inside of your own ideas and worldview and let it be a part of you. I am not talking memorization here, I am talking really learning something that will stick with you.
17. Take on other’s qualities – Take a look around you. Do the people you know inspire you? Why? Do they hold interesting conversations? How did they get there? Do they do something you want to be able to do in the future? What personal steps did they take to make that happen? Now is the time to set a vision for your adult life and implement the actions that will get you there.
18. Diligently pursue your dreams – “By the time you get permanent jobs and life takes over, they tend to take the back seat.” That quote is from my wise mother. The 20s is not a time to procrastinate the good things in life. Saying, “I will do it when I am retired” basically is saying, “I am not going to do it.” I hear on a weekly basis how someone wishes they had started some pursuit when they first had the desire to do it. Now is the time!
19. Learn to listen – This should be number one. Listening is hard sometimes and the young are known for turning a deaf ear to the wisdom around them. Don’t let this be you! Learn how to enjoy the words of another, to listen to them with acceptance and a heart to understand.
20. Have friends that are older than you – I love talking with grandparents. I love the stories of their lives, the sacrifices they made and the way the world has sped by while they toiled, innovated and experienced the highs and lows of history. Do not forsake the wisdom of your elders, but take their wisdom on like a mantle and walk boldly in to the future.
Maybe this is good wisdom for the 30s, 40s, 80s and 90s. Good habits start young, they say.