Here are five things all 20-somethings should do before hitting their third decade:
Identify Your Passions
Passions can rarely be fully encompassed within a sole job description. As a young adult, I quickly realized that my #1 priority was supposed to be preparing myself for the “right” job. This elusive “perfect” job was supposed to be something compatible with my personality, demanding of my strengths, and compensating well. However, after 10 years on the job market, I can attest that I never found the “perfect” job, and none of my friends did either. Instead, I discovered that no job is “perfect”, and that it takes a lot more than a good job to be happy.
Your twenties is a time to explore and discover passions that fuel you flame. These epic encounters will leave one inspired and empowered, providing an almost levitation experience for its beholder. For me, these passions included: diamond-in-the-rough projects, exploring foreign places, perfecting agricultural productions, and providing economic solutions to social problems. Maybe you enjoy relinquishing the gift of knowledge, building something from nothing, or writing history with evolved policies. Embrace your passions and let their directive guide your path.
Here’s one that tends to trip up many millennials. One’s twenties is a time to establish themselves as independent adults, financing their own ventures, and create a family of their own. This act of independence involves severing the umbilical cord, and acting in a self-determining manner. Such action involves establishment of new boundaries--emotional, financial, and physical—between oneself and their family of origin. While such declarations may seem daunting, to a formerly dependent individual, taking flight from the paradoxical nest is a necessary prerequisite for sustainable success.
“A strenuous effort must be made to train young people to think for themselves and take independent charge of their lives.” – Anne Sullivan, instructor and companion of Helen Keller.
One’s twenties is a great time to establish one’s independence. For some, the process may be incremental, affording increasing independence and decreasing dependence with each natural passing of time. For others, one’s independence may be more sudden and startling, emancipation of one’s 18th birthday. Regardless of the pace in which one’s independence is established, one’s twenties are a time to embrace both the responsibility and opportunity adulthood presents. While such declarations may be scary (especially when risk averse Baby Boomer parents are ill-equipped in how to participate in such life transitions), they are essential for one to accomplish before he or she may realize sustainable success.
Fall in Love
“First, carve out a career. Then get married, buy a house, and have babies," was the "acceptable" life stage progression I was raised with.
However, graduating college in 2010, U.S. history’s “worst time to be a college grad”, left me few professional opportunities, and landed me right back in the same living and working situation I held previously. My career was in NO way “developed”. Many highly educated and equipped millennials find themselves struggling to simply land a post-grad position, much less rise up the ranks; consequently, important personal relationships are often sacrificed to the demands of mere career survival.
Don’t forego the chance on the love of your life simply because you graduating in the Great Recession has few professional opportunities to present. One’s significant other can be so much more than an attractive co-ed to keep up, or another “block” on the checklist of life; instead they can be your best friend, eternal cheerleader, and partner—bother personally and professionally. Falling in love before you reach your “potential” allows you to assess another’s intentions in a much more transparent way, ensuring sincerity in affections vs. self-centered gold-digger objectives. Don’t wait until you have all your ducks in a row to embrace romance, for you might miss the love of your life.
Embark on a Grand Adventure
One’s twenties (known by many as the “lean years”, characterized by Ramen noodles, seedy apartments, and student loan payments) are an amazing time to go on a grand adventure. And not just any adventure, but the adventure of a lifetime!
“Whoa, now!” you may be balking, “but what about all my super important, entry-level job, life stuff?”
Oh c’mon! What do you have going on? A seven figure mortgage, a high profiled executive position, four kids’ private school tuition-yeah, didn’t think so. While the lean years have their downsides (did I mention Ramen noodles?) they provide one with an amazing opportunity to live lean--leaner than you very possibly may ever be. Nothing (comparatively) is holding you back but yourself. Forgo an entry-level job at a company you don’t care that much about to call up your old frat buddies and open a business. Invest two G’s in a retro RV and work event staff while seeing America. Take a Peace Corp assignment in Southeast Asia. Sign-up for a summer of fighting wildfires in the Midwest. Find your own Walden’s Pond, wait tables and pen the great American novel. NOW is the time to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, for there may never be another time in your life when you’re blessed with such youthful energy and wonderment about the world around you, coupled with having nothing to lose.
Champion a Cause
In my early twenties, it seemed the only resource I ever had in abundance was energy. While money, fine wine, and promising opportunities always seemed to be in short supply, I ran my young adulthood on a tank of 4 hours of sleep and way to much exuberance.
Put your ever flowing energy to good use, and invest your time in championing a cause!
Raise some money. Organize a protest. Change legislation. Start a nonprofit. Identify a need you can get passionate about—electing a political candidate, providing swim lessons to at-risk teens, organizing social hour at an area retirement home—and go for it! Whatever your cause may be, do you part to drive its’ mission towards success. Such ventures allow you to discover new interests, meet new people, tackle new challenges, and realize new confidence. Additionally, these causes rarely require significant financial investments, and can pay dividends in personal fulfillment and other intangible benefits unique to such philanthropic work.
Don’t let your twenties be just another decade of “checking off the blocks”. Celebrate this unique period of young adulthood by embracing the lean years as an opportunity to explore our world and impact others in ways that you’ll relish for a lifetime. While your peers may be consumed with higher education, career development, blow-out weddings, and other anxiety-ridden major life events, don’t forget to prioritize these five essentials for ensuring your twenties truly are an opportunity to have the time of your life.
About Hannah Becker:
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