What I Learned In My Early 20s That Made My Late 20s So Much Better


I turned 29 recently. I must say that my late twenties were the best part of being a 20-something. My early and mid-twenties were a blur, for the lack of a better word. It’s embarrassing to say this, but I had let a dangerously low self-esteem cripple me. I took a rather passive role in my life, my sense of reality was grounded in my own mind and I needed to get out of my head.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized that I had a choice to continue to be stuck or do something with my life. But when I made the decision to take the driver’s seat, so to speak, it still wasn’t a decision I made consciously. It was a chain of events that kicked off from mindlessly trawling the internet.

A tweet led to a link that led to a millennial website and by the time I knew it, I was reading pieces on the internet about living that resonated with me. People were sharing their experiences, as well as comforting and teaching others with their words. I began to see why the warped ideas I had about everything that matters weren’t working in the first place. This just fueled my desire to know more and this has caused me to read a lot of books on self-help and consume articles on philosophy and positive psychology. In doing this, I have discovered a lot about myself and the world, and that’s what I’d like to share in this piece.

I discovered that no one is particularly unique in their experience(s) – struggles, quirks and all. This can be simultaneously shocking and liberating. If nothing, I have learned that we all basically want the same things in life – to love and be loved, to belong and feel connected to something bigger than ourselves- and it’s only in the finer points that things get convoluted. I must add that it’s such a relief to find out that I am not the only directionally challenged person in the world; all those years of feeling stupid. *wipes eyebrow*

I came to understand what happiness really is — or at least what it isn’t. I stopped looking for it in places where they didn’t exist – in shiny new things, soul sucking forms of entertainment and past times. I learned that happiness is something you choose, and depending on external things for it will only set you up for an unfulfilled life. It’s something only you can give yourself and work at. It’s a choice that is made every day, and not a constant state of bliss. It can even be found in the little things and daily routine if you pay attention.

I discovered and learned about the beauty of having a routine. That it isn’t synonymous to leading a boring life, and as matter fact it’s the one of the ways to have a productive life. It’s an important feat of success. Doing the same thing every day will amount to the result you are seeking.

I used to be someone who aspired to be pretentiously stoic. Yes, I know how that sounds, but I somehow got it in my head that it was cool to not give a damn. Being an INFJ and a type 4 on the Enneagram, I had absolutely no success with that. I feel too much. I am never the one to let a snide remark or comment go. I learned (and I’m still learning) the importance of emotions and vulnerability.

One book I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the importance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable is Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transform the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I learned not to avoid my emotions or try to suppress them because, like lights on a dashboard, they were informing me of something I needed to pay attention to, and not letting it guide me was wreaking havoc to my emotional life. Being emotionally unavailable didn’t make me cool it just made me a hot mess. Emotions don’t kill, but repressing them might do the job.

I discovered personality typing, and my favorites are: The Enneagram and Myer-Briggs Personality Type Indicator because they perfectly describe who I am. And more importantly, they have provided me with the insight to direct my life. I no longer believe I am broken, “wired wrongly” or anything like that.

I wouldn’t say I am an expert in love matters, but I was glad I got a lot of misconception out of the way. Love, as portrayed in movies and romance movies are lies from the pit of hell (most of it at least). I learnt that falling in love and staying in love are two different things; the former is easy and is usually the only part that is portrayed in our pop media culture while the latter is where the hard work is done. I found out that love can shed light on the parts of yourself (good or bad) that you didn’t know existed and what I did with that knowledge is up to me. Relationships like happiness, is something I should work at and it deserves commitment and effort to keep it alive. Love won’t heal me or save me and romantic love isn’t the only kind of love out there. I learned that loved is about appreciating the people in my life for who they are. They aren’t supposed to validate me. It’s mostly about being grateful and appreciative for having them as long as I can.

I learned the importance of self care and how the lack of it was at most times the reason behind some of my poor decisions. Skipping breakfast could put me in a bad mood and on the edge. It was a bad feeling. Now I meditate on a daily basis, consume mostly healthy foods, drink enough water and this has drastically improved my mood and consequently my life.

I discovered my interests and hobbies. I realized I didn’t hate reading; I just hadn’t found what interests me. And when I found the books and topics that appealed to me, I couldn’t stop. I discovered I am a lover of nonfiction mostly because I prize “enlightenment” over “entertainment”. Although I maintain a level of skepticism, I form my opinions and values with the help of books, I have been able to change the way I think. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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