There have been an awful lot of articles circulating lately about being in your 20s. From being successful in your 20s, to relationships in your 20s, to mistakes that you make in your 20s, these articles keep trying to uncover how you “should” live in your 20s.
I’m all for advice articles (after all, I’ve read all of these), but a recent article on EliteDaily put me on edge, and it, I think, is a brilliant example of why some people in their twenties lack a certain sense of responsibility and/or maturity.
So, let’s take a look at the “5 ‘Mistakes’ That You Should Never Apologize for In Your 20s“.
1. “Don’t be sorry for falling in love with everything and everyone you meet”
Wait. I thought that this fickle stage was just for high school? It appears, however, that it can carry over into your 20s as well. I understand the author’s initial premise – you WILL try new things, and grow out of other things. You’ll meet new people, and as part of the natural progression of relationships, some people will fall out of the picture. That’s normal, but all of this will also happen when you’re 30, 40 and 50.
Let’s look at the phrase “falling in love with everything”. If you’re falling in love with every new hobby that you try or, quite literally, “everything”, then you’re going to be overwhelmed. A mile wide and an inch deep. I’ll admit right now that I’m an overachiever, but I believe that in order to be successful, you need to focus your energy on something that you are interested in or care about. Focus. Quality not quantity.
(If you don’t know what that thing is, then maybe you should do Buzzfeed quiz to decide on your goals? Actually, just kidding. Please talk to your college advisor, your best friend, journal to yourself, or go live in the woods Thoreau-style.)
I’m tempted to not even start on the idea that you shouldn’t be sorry for “falling in love with… everyone you meet”. The author says that “while this love may be fleeting, you should never regret nor feel bad about it”. Reality check: you are going to feel bad about lost love. You are going to regret doing certain things (for example: breakups, lost friendships, STDs. I could go on). It’s natural, since life is a learning process. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
2. “Don’t be sorry for being selfish and putting yourself first”
As soon as I read that, I had to read it again. Did you just say that? I agree that giving yourself time to recoup and/or relax is a good thing, and I really hope that this is what the author meant by this heading. It’s healthy, and necessary (even God commands us to sometimes “be still”). But saying that being selfish is a good thing, and urging those in their 20s to “do exactly what you want while you can”?
Reality check #1: you are not going to be able to do this without “money and work (and) other obligations”.
Reality check #2: you cannot do exactly what you want (all the time). When did it become a cultural expectation that those in their 20s would do nothing and be irresponsible? In our 20s, we have a lot of time and energy that can (and dare I say “should”?) be used for things like pursuing a passion/art, a job or career goal, and giving back to others. Yes. Giving to others. If we’re going to be a generation that takes and takes and takes, then of course our parents and grandparents will consider us lazy and irresponsible. Please, fellow 20-somethings. You can do things that you want to do (within reason), but you can’t subsist off of selfish choices, and your crap-i-should-get-off-the-couch-and-have-a-career 30s won’t benefit from your selfish 20s.
3. “Don’t be sorry for leaving your good friends and family to chase your ambition”
Okay, this, I actually agree with, although I would posit that the internet has made it possible to stay in touch with those loved ones while you pursue your career. Your ambition doesn’t have to drive a wedge in between you and your family, although I understand that in some cases, that’s unavoidable. Pursuing goals, as the author indicates here, is a good thing. (Too bad that wasn’t clear in #2.)
4. “Don’t be sorry for moving a million different times to a million different cities.”
I totally agree (surprise!). In case you haven’t noticed my own tumbleweed-gene, it exists and it is thriving, thank-you-very-much.
5. “Don’t be sorry for wanting more, ever!”
Actually, you should probably be sorry for wanting to get a first-rate job and skip college or education altogether…
No, but in all seriousness, while wanting more provides motivation for us, there are a few distinctions that should probably be drawn.
Wanting more from yourself = A+ (this shows that you are hardworking, and you expect your success to come from you, but don’t drain yourself so much that you get burnt out, although in saying that, I risk having my mom comment that I’m the pot calling the kettle black)
Wanting more from others = (dependent, but do look at yourself in the mirror first)
Wanting more from others + #2 = F (success and selfishness don’t actually work well together in the real world. People are more willing to listen to you if they know that you’re willing to do the same for them. Funny how that works, huh?)
If our generation expects to “never be satisfied”, then we’ll never have enough. We’ll never stop striving for more, but don’t you think you’re missing something? How about we take a bit more time, and stop pushing ruthlessly at the doorway of “success”? There are sights along the way, I promise, and taking time to actually enjoy life is really important. Because if we’re never going to be satisfied in our 20s, then this won’t stop in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. If we’ll never be satisfied, then you. will. die. unsatisfied. And what do you gain from it then?
Let’s talk about gratitude for a second. I believe, quite strongly, that dissatisfaction and gratitude are opposites. Strong opposites. If “happiness”, as the author of this piece states, is the goal, then perhaps a mindset of happiness is more valuable than getting frustrated by constantly pushing towards whatever we want that will supposedly make us happy.
I don’t have a strong conclusion for this post. Seeing this mindset among my peers, though, makes me incredibly sad, since I was raised with and have found out that a strong work ethic is rewarding, and even fun. I just wish that in our culture, our 20s were about slowing down, finding and pursuing our dreams and holding ourselves to the highest standards. Not making mistakes that we ‘shouldn’t have to apologize for’ and holding ourselves to the standards of selfishness and ingratitude.
p.s. for further reading, I recommend this article: The Secret to Succeeding in Your Twenties, from Nellie Magazine. It’s excellent, and I adore it to pieces.