5 Setbacks You’ll Encounter In Your 20s (And How To Get Over Them)

1. You pay the price for chasing dreams, even if you don’t get to live them.

You’re one barter trade away from selling your soul to the devil, if it means you’ll be hired by that fashion name that elicits the “oohs” and “ahhs” when mentioned. Instead, you’re above clouds, on 777s, serving inflight meals, collecting headsets. You want to be a soldier — a custodian of the ideals you believe in — but you’ve enlisted yourself in the rat race, climbing greasy rungs of the corporate ladder, dying for the bling. “Be hungry, be ruthless,” your boss invokes. You want to enroll for law school, but you know your grades and eloquence will never put you through. You adore the craft, but talents are everywhere, struggling for their big break, so you hop onto the bandwagon of taking that degree that lands you a secure job.

The first cut is the deepest, spewing our beautiful, little dreams into stardust; watching it shatter onto the ground; and fall irreversibly apart. You’d say, “What am I to do now?” “I’ve lost my sole purpose in life.” “Adios. Perhaps next lifetime.” and indeed, it takes a very long time before we actually move on, or until we finally find something capable of replacing what we have conceded, or relinquished.

Your stoked ambition wasn’t something sought and found; it’s something you’ve stumbled upon.

Finding or creating a purpose in a career of lesser choice is comparable to harvesting bananas out of thin air. If you manage to do so, you could eat the bananas, make a business out of it, or otherwise, end up dragging your ass to work, giving motivational rah-rahs to the bathroom mirror every morning, selling your values and passion for the money. In the long run, this spills over to other aspects of your life, eroding whatever remaining self-belief that is left.

Keep listening to your heart, allow your purpose to lead the way, and you’ll never need to work another day. The achievements and success also will come more effortlessly — and if personal satisfaction isn’t quite paying for the lifestyle you want, the winds will eventually steer you towards the right course. Doctors, lawyers, and astronauts are important, noble professions; but there are other things that we live for.

2. Your most painful relationships are often the ones that hide the brightest linings.

Stop thinking that love will make you lose an aorta, a ventricle, or a part of your heart. Stop believing that being in a relationship is a necessity. Stop blaming the ex or the sex — regardless of whose fault it is — hate ruins you more than anything else ever could.

Also, the love you deserve is more than raunchy nights in the bedroom, weekly new numbers, and serial brunch dates over repetitive egg bennys and roasted Brazilian coffee. If love were so freely and readily, given and received, can we still call it love? We are not gods, neither are we brochures on the streets. In terms of worth, you’re more than just the bright-eyed boy, the nice pair of boobs, or a combination of glorified parts of the human anatomy assigned with value. You’re more substantial than that.

A relationship is more than just a sum of all the rights — right chemistry, right timing, right wallet-size, etc. Changes are inevitable. It’s something that takes faith, patience, and work, to withstand the test of time. If you’re happily-unhappily attached, that’s great. If you’re on Operation Solo for a while now, and driving an SLK 350 or Wrangler Rubicon, chances are, you’ve become as self-sustainable as a Japanese Marimo moss ball, where a relationship comes as optional, and love, a bonus, in your shiny, well-kept terrarium.

Lessons on love are never meant to break wills or wings, spurring us to cremate our entire childhood collection of Hans Christian Andersen in a fiery finale. These are moments in life that are meant to be kept dear to the heart, rob us away of our breaths, and constantly hint us, what’s possible.

3. Mom and Dad don’t always know best, but they’ve done nothing short of the best they could.

There are times when we upset our folks to the point of tears on special days, late-night arguments blown out of proportions that leave you running away, vowing never to come back, and soft, yet important words that are spared from its utterance. I’ll take a little guilt off you: in the first place, they may not be the ideal or best parents, especially if they’re playing the role for the first time in their lives. They’ve dealt with your bed-wetting episodes, helped you strap that colorful backpack on, kissing you goodbye before you gingerly climb up the school bus, and seen past the dawn of your teenage uprising. That must be seriously heck of a load for anyone to deal with, you little tyrant. Perhaps, they may have short-changed you, not showering you with enough love, time and attention.

We have been taught to respect one’s own parents; that Mom and Dad know best. But they’re only human, and they’re always, still learning. They’re not always right, not always there. They’re not immune from mistakes. They’re not infallible.

Transcend this by accepting them as imperfect beings, just like yourself. Learn to love them, and understand what they’re going through. And hopefully, return the sweet gesture by taking care of them when you’re too over-aged to be nappy-wrapped and parental guided.

4. Getting punched for the love club

If you haven’t already realized, not everyone worships you, or thinks you’re a sweetheart. There will always be friends you can’t please, primal displays of nails and fangs, and the occasional inevitability of our lives being ensnared by melodrama and politics, bigger than five hundred episodes of Taiwanese TV drama, or good old Game of Thrones.

Remarkably, our harshest critics and nemeses can be our greatest teachers. Whether opinions sprouted are valid is quite beside the point; everyone has a different reality of the world and themselves. Take it with a pinch of salt, and keep the sword in the scabbard. It is often barely worth seeking justice or vengeance here, much less, get down and dirty. Lesson learnt: you do not need to stick ‘em with the pointy end, because #hatersgonhate.

5. You’re less than perfect.

Are you the one with more than five thousand Facebook friends? Or you’re laid-back and reserved like that, with only one point five kindred souls who think you’re incredibly awesome? Are you unique in your own way that your teachers feel you will go far in life someday, despite Cs and Ds? Are you the one who bears a secret crush on that popular guy or girl, nobody notices? Are you too shy, too inexpressive, too awkward, or too cantankerous, never the smartest, or the favorite one among the lot?

In certain ways, we always feel inadequate, never good enough for something, or somebody; there is always something to reach for, someone to be, another step to climb, another mile to chase, falling short of our jobs, partners, friends, family, and even of ourselves.

There is a place that we are familiar with; a faded vignette of a bridge where we stand, with hair in our faces, staring at the distant, bright lights, wondering if this is the bridge that connects us to a better place. Whether June will be good to us, or July decides to change its mind, none of that matters, as long as we stay present to every moment, and listen to the song inside our hearts, we will triumph — we shall always be good enough. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Hillary Boles

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Johan Ng

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