I posed a simple question to a bunch of people (and by bunch, I mean that I spread it out to be as diverse as possible culturally/socially), in the name of research.
“What is something from your Twenties that you wish you had done differently/better?”
Surprisingly, across different cultures and current social backgrounds, everyone seem to have a thematically similar answer.
NOT surprisingly, men (about 15 of them) had a thematically similar answer – they wish they had dated more in their twenties.
(Insert side-eye smiley)
As a summary, here is a list of top choices of what everyone should at least strive to do before they turn 30, based on summarized answers from the survey and personal experiences.
NOTE: Answers have been filtered to make them less specific/vulgar
1. Befriend someone completely different than you
Or date someone completely different than you. Whichever floats your boat, really. Chances are most of us live in this comfortable cocoon, where everyone has the same background, the same beliefs, the same culture and the same perspectives. The bad news is, this has a tendency to turn us into narrow-minded folks, makes us less empathetic towards others and frankly, is why we have so many hate crimes around the world.
Getting to know someone different from us will open our eyes to so much more than we have ever known, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, show us different and better ways to live our lives.
This seems like generic common advice, but you’ll be surprised how so many of us have not even ventured out even beyond our own hometowns. For a lot of people, traveling is a great driver for personal development. Looking at other places and people in different parts of the world will either make us grateful for the things we have, or motivated to want to do more. Traveling adds to wisdom, open-ness and also intellect.
That is also probably a reason why well-traveled men are so, so very sexy. #justsaying
3. Start taking care of your health
Someone from the survey said that he wished he had taken better care of his life during his younger days.
Chances are not many of us would be bothered to be mindful of looking after our wellbeing when we’re younger (exhibit A: I used to have boiled hotdogs for dinner almost every night of the week). By mid-thirties it would all start to surface – too much sugar, drinks, fast food and processed meats will now translate to badly-ageing skin, expanding waistlines, and deteriorating bodily functions. So take heed while you can.
4. Be in love, at least once
I’ll make this one short; you will never learn as much about yourself and your life more than you would through loving others, and all the processes of it, be it the infatuation, the connection to another person, and even getting your heart broken. All amazing, important lessons.
5. Try something physically extreme
The ‘twenties’ is called the ‘prime years’ for a reason! Maximize your youthful exuberance and the best years of your physical shape by trying out something physically demanding. Perhaps go for extreme hiking. Or maybe a few days’ worth of jungle trekking. And how about a diving expedition? Before the joint pains, knee aches and the plummet of physical strength begins, best enjoy the opportunity to try these things.
6. Achieve a dream
No, it doesn’t have to be as extravagant as traveling the world or as ambitious as becoming a millionaire. It could be any dream, even as simple as learning how to cook, going for piano lessons or finally going to see your favorite band play. Don’t put them off, because the older you get the more commitments you’ll have, therefore reducing your chances of ever getting around to achieve your dreams, whatever that may be.
7. Have a journal
Someday, you will wonder where the years had gone by when you were young and wild and free. So for those days, keep a journal to remind your older self later that in fact, you did have an eventful life with memorable milestones. If you can’t be disciplined enough to keep a daily journal, then have a weekly/monthly one, or if even that is not possible, keep your social calendars as a memento.
8. Learn to handle stress
Newsflash: The challenges get harder. Life is almost like a video game, designed to keep improving your life skills and quality of self. It is never too early to figure out what works best for you in terms of handling hard times. This is not as easy as it seems as people react differently to different things. It could be yoga, praying, binge-watching the Kardashians, a shrink, owning a pet monkey – your future self will thank you for establishing it early.
9. Be alone
And I can’t stress this enough. Through the people that are constantly in our lives and the responsibilities we have to take – mother, daughter, friend, spouse, Insta-celeb – it is easy to lose ourselves in height of these things. Being alone, whether for a period of time, a phase or even just a little while, allows for a space to re-center ourselves, immerse in our own thoughts, and re-calibrate. Don’t be thinking about other places you could be or other people you could be with.
If you can’t make yourself happy and feel enough on your own, no one can.
10. Do something for someone else
The twenties is a selfish period of time. Between trying to find ourselves, adjusting into adulthood and wanting to have lots of fun, contributing to others often ends up in the backburner. It is mostly about me-me-me and less about doing things for the sake of helping others with no personal gains. But devoting time for the benefit of others, either through charity, volunteer work or even helping someone with their life will help set us in the right headspace of becoming a citizen with value.
There is no point living if all you’re doing is exist, work and die.