Your late teens and early twenties are some of the most testing years of your life. Decisions on further education, commencing career paths, where to live, who you want to be / who you want to be with, what setting to put your weekly wash on. You step out of college and just like that, shit gets real. How the hell are we supposed to know this stuff!? Attempting to be an adult, life plans, work. Stresssssssss.
Sitting here writing this at age 25, I’m self-assured, quietly confident and generally content with where I am in life. I feel a whole lot wiser as I look back on the past 7 years of my life. Not quite Gandalf the Grey BUT there sure are a few things I wish I could have told my former 18 year old self. And seeing as time travel hasn’t quite yet been perfected, I’ll share my lessons with you guys instead in the hope that I can shed a little light to anyone going through the early adulthood struggles.
Do what makes YOU happy
This is something I vouch for and has never led me astray. But I’ve seen countless amounts of peers make decisions based on other peoples influences, especially when it comes to choosing a career path. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who have brought me up with this mantra, so when it came to deciding what to study for my A-levels, university and ultimately my career path the only advice they gave me was to ‘do what makes you happy’. Because ultimately, you’re the person who has to do this day in day out for the rest of your life and generally what we enjoy doing is what we’re best at. Unfortunately not everyone has this outlook; many parents have their own plans for what career path or area of expertise they want their kids to be in. So for anyone with conflicting ideas, my advice would be to fight for it, believe in yourself, prove yourself and eradicate any doubts other people may have.
Know the bad relationships are also good relationships
I’ve had some train wreck relationships, mainly one. I now look back and laugh about how wrong this guy was for me – controlling, manipulative, emotionally unstable, a liar … the list goes on. All traits I wouldn’t go anywhere near today. But I only know this from learning the hard way, and even though at the time it felt like the worst thing ever, I learnt a whole lot about myself and the type of person I want to be with. This is the period of your life to learn those lessons. Date the wrong people, get your heart broken, learn how to bounce back and ultimately, discover how strong and independent you really are.
Be patient and follow your instincts, you’ll get there
The strive for instant success is an on-going challenge for millennials. We step out of college/university and just like that expect to be the next Steve Jobs. When I came out of university with an Art History degree under my belt, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do other than work in the ‘creative industry’. Everyone asked me if I was going to work in an art gallery, like it was that black & white. With so many career options it can be pretty overwhelming, and having only worked in clubs and bars I had no real first-hand experience in my desired career path.
After spending a few months partaking in tedious internships, I quickly discovered where I didn’t want to be. And after a year in PR agency life, I also decided that wasn’t for me. 6 months into my next job working for who I can only describe as ‘the devil’ I was ready to leave again. Feeling more confused, lost and deflated than ever and despite being advised to stick it out I decided to sack it all off and go travelling. A week after I returned, I had an interview for a role at Contiki, which felt pretty much perfect for me. 6 months on and I’m still here and the happiest I’ve ever been in my career.
Despite working in a fair few jobs that weren’t right for me at the time, they all gave me the skills and experience to help me bag the job of my dreams. So if you’re feeling deflated, don’t be too hard on yourself. Go with your gut, do what makes you happy, be patient and you’ll get there.
If in doubt, travel
Some people, mainly the older generations see travelling as a way of escaping real life. When my early twenties weren’t going to plan (as mentioned above) I suggested the idea of travelling to my parents. They were adamant that it wasn’t the right time for me to take a break in my career and insisted I ride it out or look for another job. Firstly, I would have told my former self to have stood my own ground and gone travelling when it felt right for me. And secondly, it’s ALWAYS a good time to travel. But I decided to listen to my parent’s advice and find a new job, which as seen above, didn’t work out too well for me. Second time round I decided that travel was absolutely the right idea. I travelled for 3 months by myself and it was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. I felt revived, my confidence increased and I had time to work on myself and where I wanted to be. I came back with a new lust for life and honestly believe I wouldn’t have gotten my current job if it wasn’t for my time travelling. For anyone who has the opportunity or time to travel, do it! Be spontaneous, take risks, meet new people, learn about yourself and go out of your comfort zone – after all, that’s what your early twenties are all about!
Learn to love yourself
I look back at pictures of myself age 18, 19, 20, 21 and think how great I looked. However at the time I was constantly comparing myself to other people, wanting to be a few pounds lighter, a little smaller here, a little longer hair, slightly more toned. STOP. You are who you are, so own it. I’ll never be stick skinny, I’m not a naturally slim person, that’s not me. I eat healthy, exercise regularly and am the best version of myself I can possibly be. And that in itself is enough. I’m sure I’ll look back on my 25 year old self and wish I looked that way in a few years’ time. So love yourself in the moment and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This is especially important today, with the likes of Instagram’s unrealistic expectations causing major self-esteem issues. Please note THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT REAL and beauty is far more then what meets the eye. At the end of the day looks fade, but personality, morals, a sense of humour – that’s where the good stuffs at.
Give zero shits about what other people think
In my late teens and throughout university I was forever conscious about what other people thought of me. Second guessing what I’d say, worrying how I came across and not being myself. Today the only people still in my life from that time are the ones I’ve chosen to be, the people who know the real me. And when I look back it feels a little silly worrying about people who are now so irrelevant to my life. So be yourself, don’t waste your time worrying about what other people may think. In the wise words of Dr. Seuss “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”