There were a few promises I made on the eve of my late 20s as I looked down the barrel at what life would be like when I turned 30. A few of my semi-empty promises included moisturising my face regularly (still waiting for that to happen), eat a healthy balanced diet containing 3 fruit and 5 vege (again, still waiting for that to happen), don’t be afraid to openly discuss your age on the blog (managed to succeed in this one!) and remember to fall in love with yourself on a daily basis.
However, the one promise I did plan on fulfilling when I turned 30 was to not look back and pine over mistakes that had been made throughout my 20s. Some would dub them as silly, slightly irresponsible and eye-widening mistakes but as for myself, I look back upon them as if they were adventures I had/wanted to undertake. Or, my favourite phrase in the entire world and that being, “stepping stones to something greater”. These little mistakes, adventures or stepping stones have ultimately led me down a path of becoming the woman and person I am today. It’s truly been a somewhat amazing experience thus far and taking an outer-experience glance at myself, I can see exactly how much my life has changed from every stage of my 20’s.
Ranging from the early years of exploring relationships, my own relationship with myself and entering the online world of blogging to some rather interesting concepts of the roaring mid 20s and now, my next chapter and that being my early 30s. Least to say, if this post were to land in the hand of a 20-something year old (or anyone in this case) that currently felt as if they were stuck in life and didn’t have any idea as to what or who they want to be, than here’s a few things I wish someone would’ve told me.
Everything is Going To Be Okay, Promise.
While I may not know exactly what it feels like to be a millennial these days, I do know what it feels like to spend a majority of my 20s worrying about the future and other peoples’ ideologies. Particularly when it came to what I should be doing with my life, the job I should have and Bachelor’s Degree I should graduate University with.
Family members gave me the option of becoming a lawyer, doctor or psychologist because teaching had already been taken by my cousin and not once, was I asked what it was that I wanted to do with my life. While it’s incredibly tempting to follow in the footsteps of those before you and be persuaded into becoming someone else’s ideal image of a human being; it’s also more interesting, slightly nerving and intimidating to stand up for yourself. Not to mention, making a formal announcement that you don’t want to nor do you plan on being someone else’s image. But rather, be yourself.
I can speak from experience as I had a similar moment like that. I would’ve been in my early to mid 20s when announcing I didn’t want to become a psychologist because I was already a professional at understanding mind games and reviewing the person’s psyche. To the point I had grown bored and disinterested. I didn’t want to become a doctor as they never really get to understand who a person is and as for becoming a lawyer, that would be later down the track and when I was ready. Instead, I wanted to embrace life and discover what it was that I wanted to become as a fully fledged adult.
At the age of 26 when graduating from University with a Bachelor Degree in Nursing Science, I came to a conclusion. Worrying less about others’ thoughts, embracing all experiences rather than continuously looking for the silver lining and knowing everything was going to be alright should’ve been my theme. More importantly, I should have trusted myself explicitly.
Trust Your Gibbs Gut.
Speaking of trust, trusting your Gibbs gut is the most essential thing you can do for yourself. Prime example, if you or a friend are dating someone and you’ve got this niggling feeling in the pit of your stomach that something isn’t quite right… listen to your Gibbs gut! Trust me, if there’s a thought of merely having this person linger around because you/them feel as if you can change them… I’m actively suggesting you to walk away. There is nothing worse in my opinion when at the end of the day, you/they discover the time spent on this relationship has been a waste of time and energy on someone who doesn’t deserve the attention and focus. Instead, focus on surrounding yourself with positive influences in people who a like-minded and have similar expectations when it comes to relationships.
One thing I loved about my mid and late 20s was being able to get behind the wheel of my car with a weekender bag packed and skip off to Brisbane for a weekend of fun, flirting and hidden discoveries. I would often leave my responsibilities behind and the only thing I’d be dreaming about is spending time with friends, discovering the newest flavours of town and wandering the relics of GOMA and any Brisbane Art Gallery.
When I wasn’t surrounding myself with artefacts of life prior to my birth (you can read about my selfie with a dinosaur here) instead of listening a University pharmacology lecture, I spent my weekends out on the town and dancing into the wee hours of the morning. All before crawling into bed when the sun had been established in the sky for quite a while and slithering myself out of bed for some homemade cooking (here) or the art of bonsai (here). Now that I’ve entered my 30s, my endless hours on the dancefloor have now been replaced with cuddling my toddler on the couch, envisioning candlelit dinners with my husband as we binge watch CSI or House M.D and my ideal fantasy of sleeping in until 7.30am is luxuriously sinful. So, enjoy sleeping in while you can!
Trust Me, Relationships Shouldn’t Be This Difficult!
This piece of wisdom applies to all kinds of relationships in a person’s life. If you find yourself in a really difficult situation with a friend or partner and are either fighting or not talking for lengths of times, it’s time to sit down and re-evaluate this relationship. Several times throughout my 20s, I re-evaluated my relationships with people and always asked myself if it (the relationship) was worthy remaining in and being a partner/friend. All the while asking the most important question of all: ‘will it result in happiness or me questioning this person on a daily basis?’
More times than I care to count, I realised I would never be satisfied nor fulfilled in these particular relationships. This lead to me walking away without a backwards glance because I often knew this was best decision for both of us. Not to mention, I was probably the bravest one out of both parties to acknowledge how we were both feeling and majority of the time I was correct. By walking away and moving on with life, I learnt a valuable lesson and that is: if you’re the person putting 150% into the relationship and are getting nothing in return, than it’s time to call in quits and be the stronger person to walk away. While it’ll hurt for a duration of time and you’ll be questioning yourself daily as to whether or not it was the smartest decision, I can honestly say that you’ve done the right thing.
If you aren’t convinced 100% and are second guessing yourself than return to ‘Trust your Gibbs Gut‘ and read it a few more times.
Timelines Aren’t Worth The Hype.
A family member of mine lives explicitly by timelines and has always been a stickler for it since the age of 16. Me on the other hand, my philosophy on life would often freak them out. I tried following in similar shoes but discovered timelines aren’t for me as I found it a waste of time, energy and it also didn’t allow for much room to explore and change thoughts/perceptions. Now in my 30s, I’ve learnt timelines are certainly not worth the hype, additional stress upon your already crowded shoulders aor the damaging impact it can have upon someone’s mental health.
As a wiser and more mature version of myself, if I could only give any 20-something year old a single piece of advice… I would have to say: life isn’t and shouldn’t be lived by a highly structured and rigid timeline. Life is supposed to be filled with countless learning opportunities, mistakes and self-made discoveries. As these moments will help you become a more wiser person and someone who isn’t afraid to step outside the norm, view life in a completely different perspective while learning to embrace mistakes.
[Side Note: if you are experiencing mental health issues, I highly encourage you to seek help from a professional. Or, there are options of talking to someone on the end of a phone. Just know, it’s okay to talk about why you are feeling the way you are and no one will judge you!]
Budgets & Sticking To Them.
At 25, I shared a 3 bedroom townhouse in a suburb 20 minutes from Brisbane’s CBD with two other housemates and my rent was $200 more than I could afford to pay. Being a full-time university with endless weeks of clinical placement and assessments, I managed to squeeze in a part-time job on the side. Goodbye sleep! Instead, I used the education gained over the years of watching my Mum (Lois) sit down at the kitchen table and with a cup of coffee and a calculator, start tallying up the cost of the fortnightly expenses.
My major expenses were power, water, rent, travel costs and food. I would put whatever money I had left over in a rainy day bank account that had a high fixed interest rate, courtesy of my stock-market fixated brother. After a few months of scrimping and saving, I would’ve accumulated enough to be able to afford a reasonable lifestyle or, I would opt to put it back into the rainy day account and gain more interest. Depending on the market at the time and predicability it had as both my brother and I watched and played with stocks.
This wealth of knowledge and power allowed me to attend most parties that were held out and about and interact with an upper socialite entourage. However, most parties were held at friend’s or their parents’ homes as a majority of my friends still lived at home and were college students like myself. As for my travel expenditures and how I was able to attend gatherings, I’d schedule these for days I went to University. I made sure they were within easy walking distance from my central hub (Roma Street Station or the Cultural Centre) and had free-entry for the public or students. I would also travel when public transport was free or had a reduced ticket price for students (this was pre-Covid of course).
Ultimately by sticking to my budget and not splurging on stuff, I knew what I could and couldn’t afford.
Learning to Spend Time With Yourself.
In my early and mid 20s, it was really tempting to surround myself with friends and other people from all different types of background. However it wasn’t really until my late 20s, I discovered the benefit of spending time with yourself and realising it’s not something to be taken granted of. Instead, there is something rather simplistic about buying popcorn, a movie ticket for one and watching a movie without being interrupted by someone asking a question. Or, experimenting with various culinary skills and creating a romantic dinner as a way to treating yo’self after a difficult day/week. Plus, there is something whole heartedly amazing about not having someone eye-ing you from across the room as you gorge yourself on the newest episode of The Bachelor or any other drama show that isn’t cool nor hip.
Seriously, Take Care of Your Physical Self.
This is a really important reminder and I cannot help but say it anyway. Like you, I’d groan loudly when being reminded by someone much older than myself that I would be only given one body and therefore, I should take care of it. I was also under the assumption of being young, I had been dealt the cards of pure health and would be able to gain some lee-way when it came to any form of medical check-ups. Er no, 20-something Eliza, that would be incorrect!
I should know better as I’ve had several skin cancers removed prior to my 20s and therefore, should’ve been more diligent at booking a bi-annual skin check with a dermatologist or someone who specialises in skin cancer. I have since learnt from my mistakes and get checked nearly every 3-6 months or when I think something appears suspicious as it’s always better to be on the safe side. Also, getting your teeth assessed and cleaned twice a year is equally as important; particularly when your diet consists of energy or soft drinks around exam times and lastly, following a healthy and balanced diet is the best thing you can do. As well as lowering or skipping those energy/soft drinks altogether because water’s very important for your body (FYI: Did you know your body is made up of 80% of water?) and kidneys as well.
This one is important in particular for anyone who identifies as being a woman or pronouns relating to she/her. Ladies, do NOT skip having a yearly physical, an STI/STD test performed when leaving/entering any relationship (this goes for guys as well) or a pap-smear! All of these assessments, while it may be a little mundane to strip off from the waist down and be uncomfortable for a few minutes, those few moments have the potential to save your life!
Also, start educating yourself on how to perform a breast, nipple and chest wall check. I like to do mine once a week and every month, I really hone in on 3 key factors that can change a woman’s breast and that being: PMS, period and post-period. By focusing on these areas, I’m able to tell if there are any slight changes physically and be able to tell someone about these concerns of mine. In particular when performing your self-assessment, look for any signs of abnormalities like your nipple/s having inverted, leaking fluids (excluding mamas’ who are breastfeeding/lactating), a lump or an invisible lump in some cases or one breast has become a whole cup size bigger than the other to name a few.
Breast cancer isn’t merely for ‘older ladies or men’. That’s a fallacy, trust me. If you don’t know how to check your breasts, here’s a link to CoppaaFeel.org’s ‘Boob Check Basic’ and follow along while checking your breasts.
Know When to Accept It’s Never Going to Be Perfect.
There were plenty of times in my 20s that I’d find myself wishing I had something I thought to be missing. Whether it was mysteriously waking one morning to find $10,000 in my bank account from an anonymous donor, the ability to board a plane and jet to any location in the world or becoming a professional blogger. I learnt life is nothing short of being perfect 100% of the time. Instead we have to work incredibly hard for that 10 grand in our bank account, plan our destinations around work/family/life commitments and well, I never did become a professional blogger.
It’s incredibly tempting to believe every image we see on social media has not been altered or blurred out to pure perfection in someone’s painfully and perfectly-pleasing aesthetic, we need to remember that everyone has a secret or two behind closed doors. As well as enough shit that would send a psychologist seeking their own help.
By being part of a highly stressed society with more issues than Vogue, you need to learn to be happy with what you have and where you are in present time. More importantly, acknowledge why you think you need to change to be able to fit in and ask if it’s society and its peer-pressure like philosophy causing you to feel like this. While it may not be you who needs to change in all concepts, but rather in the influences around you that need to be changed, modified and enlightened to bring a certain realness.
It’s also important to remember all the things you desire and wish to bring into your inner circle that should lead to happiness and won’t completely overwhelm you at the same time. Essentially, you need to live life to the fullest while remembering that not everything you set about doing with please those around you or bring you happiness initially. It takes a brave person to walk away from everything they’ve known and done in the past to start fresh, new and be able to focus clearly. Trust me, I’ve been there and done it several times in my 20s.
My final piece of advice is to stop looking for the silver lining because from experience, you’ll never be able to see it when blinded by a cloudy reality and no intention to leaving any situation when you need too. Instead, when you cease to recognise the need of trying to find true and utter perfection and embrace the natural flaws to nearly every circumstance, the silver lining will be as vibrant and magical as ever and you’ll be able to see it only then.