I read once a post on Facebook that said: “Nothing will ruin your twenties more than thinking you should have your life together already”. I found this post so accurate. I used to be so unsatisfied about my own accomplishments, always seeking more and comparing myself to others that I thought were doing so much more than me. When other people believed I was doing fine, I tended to be skeptical. I would get quite depressed, until the day I realized that I was wasting my twenties.
Take stock and reflect. I mean you’re in your twenties! It’s the time to get away from all the stereotypes and reconcile with yourself. Typically, we have so many expectations, so many milestones we believe we should reach by the time we turn 30. In fact, those are just reflections of the society’s expectations. As my first article for this year, I thought that I should share with you 10 tips before you waste a decade of your life.
1. Always move forward. It’s okay to not let anything make you feel like shit. Don’t feel like you have to explain yourself. Be unapologetic, except when you know you have caused harm to someone else.
2. Know who you are. I usually say that the process of learning yourself is a journey. It’s not a destination. I’m not talking about any kind of knowledge. You need to know yourself racially, historically, culturally. You need to know not just how to be in peace with yourself, but also how to be in peace with your past. Knowing your history helps you define who you are and what you represent. Don’t ever let anyone else tell you who you are. You are the one to define your own path. It’s okay if you change your mind. That means you’re growing.
3. Be accountable for what you do and don’t take others’ validation too deeply to heart. This means you need to own every single action that you will do in this world. Either it’s a failure or a success. Acknowledge both your mistakes and your rights as equally important. Sometimes you’ll need to defend yourself. No one else will do it for you. Do it with confidence. And don’t expect people to validate your work. Don’t be shallow. Find validation in the ratio between how positively you impact yourself and others versus how you mess up and hurt others. Because you will hurt others. And others will hurt you. Be accountable for this. But only you can define if you’ll get stronger or weaker.
4. Learn to listen in order to learn more, to keep growing. By listening, I mean giving your undivided attention without thinking about how it relates to you, or what you are going to reply. Our teachers, elders often teach us how to be a leader, how to speak but often forget to teach us how to listen. We need to learn how to grow within the interactions we have with the people around us. Not focusing on your own self, but in seeing everyone as human beings, no matter who they are and where they come from. Learn to listen to others. And, just as important, learn to listen to yourself.
5. You will break down, often. You are going to have moments of unbearable pain. You are going to have moments of unbearable loneliness. You’ll get to the point that heartbreaks will be a physical pain that will burn your chest until calcination, that your eyes will dry out from crying too much, and your voice will recede slowly from yelling your pain. But you will grow from it. No pain is endless. It takes time to learn how to heal yourself. And healing sometimes still leaves scars. Because you never fully heal. But you can learn how to love your scars because one day they’ll remind you of where you were. You’ll also need to learn how to love being with yourself, because no one has the potential to love you like you can. I mean, who should appreciate your company better than yourself? In Haitian Creole they usually say: “you were born alone, you’ll die alone”. I hope this makes you understand how important it is to live with yourself.
6. This is probably the one that I prefer: “find a purpose”. Find something that makes you feel like the world makes sense, even if you can’t justify it intellectually to yourself or anyone else. Find something that gives you the strength to wake up every morning, that motivates your day, and makes you tired when it’s time to sleep. This can be: read a good book, having a soulful conversation, chasing your biggest dream or get intimate, why not? Find what works for you and be loyal to it.
7. The world is a mess. The world is sick. People will hate you just because you’re being yourself. You are not responsible for the actions of those who hated themselves so much that they hurt you. Live for the love, live for the good, live shamelessly.
8. Another Haitian Proverb is: “love the ones who love you”. Do not waste your time with somebody who doesn’t take your happiness as a priority. Don’t put up with lovers who don’t give you room to explore, to express, and above all – if a lover is only focused on using you as a vessel to reach their plateau – be out. Their happiness should be a priority to you but yours should matter as well.
9. Find people who are on the same path as you. Do not carry broken people who are not in the process of rebuilding themselves. They are likely to sap your strength, to drain you.
10. Going to college is an accomplishment. It does open doors and is, at some point, necessary. Don’t neglect your studies for a partying life. But don’t neglect your social life for studies, either. You need to find a balance, because college is nothing compared to what is waiting for you in life. It does not make you better than anyone else. It doesn’t make you essentially more intelligent. You never really make it “out” of the class you came from, and you never really make it “in” to the class you aspire to. What matters is your contribution to a better world.