Despite the dreaded questions at your family’s Thanksgiving table, your 20s aren’t for finding your career, marrying a spouse, and settling into a subdivision.
Your 20s are for finding yourself, marrying your values, and settling your soul. Scratch Aunt Edna’s questions—these are the ones you should really be asking yourself.
1. Do not ask: “What should I do?” Instead, try: “Who am I?”
Unfortunately, within the first two minutes of meeting someone, whether it’s because you’re covered in tattoos or at the grocery store on a Tuesday morning, people will ask you, “What do you do?”
You are a person, not a piece of machinery. Although the average person spends over 40 hours of their week at a job, it is still simply a part of their day. A segment of time that is willingly traded for currency so that we can invest back into our lives.
Twentysomethings need to hear that we are not simply a gear in a larger machine. We are people, completely separate from our careers. We are powerful, intellectual, loving beings who control our own decisions.
If I’m being honest, I think a self-discovery class in high school would have been far more productive than sixth period career orientation.
2. Do not ask: “Who am I going to be with?” Rather, ask: “What type of people should I surround myself with?”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is no one person waiting to jump out from behind a tree, or sitting in a coffee shop counting down the seconds to the perfect moment to bump into you.
There are, however, billions of souls with varying emotional maturities—growing, stretching, shattering. They are all expanding at different rates, and if you’re open to romance, your only job is to find one that deeply enhances your life. Know that your life must already exist in order to enhance it. Create a life that includes standards, experiences, personal rules, and expectations for relationships. If you do not have a clear grasp on who you are, you will continue to be let down by the people you allow into your life.
3. Do not ask: “Am I successful?” But, instead: “What are my strengths?”
Wasn’t it Einstein who said: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”? Your young adult years are when you’re expected to make dumb mistakes. Now is when you’re supposed to ambitiously agree to an unpaid internship that lasts your entire summer. Why? To learn that you value your personal time, or maybe even that you love that type of work.
Give yourself the freedom to acknowledge your emotions. Take careful inventory. Maybe you aren’t supposed to take over your father’s business. Maybe you’re way better at math than you told yourself you were. Maybe networking is your jam. Figure it out. Create an internal resume, full of things you thoroughly enjoy doing.
4. Do not ask: “What are my goals?” Instead, consider: “What do I value?”
Goals can be daunting. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want for dinner, much less where I want to be in 10 years (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Even the people who have a foolproof plan are soon going to figure out that this “life thing” doesn’t always work like that.
Use that new bullet journal to make a list of what you value. Is it quality time? Money? Sunshine? Laughter? What do you hold on to with the tightest grip? What do you most often prioritize? What is at the core of your logic in debates or discussions? Again, exploratory freedom is the key here. Your answers may not always be pleasant, but you can gain valuable insight by spending some time getting to know yourself.
5. Do not ask: “Where should I settle down?” Instead, ask: “What environments do I thrive in?”
Do you remember dreading Fridays almost as much as Mondays, because on Fridays, Patsy in human resources always blared awful celebration music? How about that one time during a team-building activity when you led your team to victory in the rope-knot challenge? What is it about your previous environments that stand out as memorable? Which scenarios made watching paint dry seem like a superior alternative?
These things do matter, but whether you’re in a townhouse or a high rise doesn’t. Consider your location as the background of your life’s picture. Your budget and tastes will change with time, so don’t waste any of your youthful energy trying to predict which tier of real estate you’ll be able to afford. Now is the time for you to paint the forefront so beautifully that no one even remembers the background.
If you take the time to be present with yourself and figure out who you are, your life decisions might just become a lot easier—they’ll rest well with your soul. Once you a have sense of who you are and what you’re destined for, you can be certain that the best really is yet to come, whether or not you know what it looks like.
Author: Larrissa Garvin
Image: Natalie Rhea Riggs / Unsplash
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron