I have reached the big three-0 and there’s no crisis. No panic. No fear. I love it and I wanted to share some advice that I would give to my 20-year-old self.
I am 30. Yes, I have reached the big three-o and ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be excited about it. But I am! There’s no crisis. No fear. No panic.
I am grateful to have reached this age. The following may sound a bit gloomy but we don’t know how long our journey on this earth is. Only God knows. Old age isn’t a given. And with keeping that in mind, I am grateful for every year that I am given.
On top of that, I am enjoying this age! I know so much more now than I knew when I was 20. The things I know now shape my being, the way I use my days, and the way I view life.
So when I saw someone else do an ‘Advice I would give my 20 year old self’. I knew that creating a similar blog post would be a fun way to mark my thirtieth birthday. It is quite a vulnerable thing to do but I hope that by sharing this, you could learn these things sooner than I did! So without further ado, what advice would I give my 20 year old self?
I know I know, this is such a cliche right? But it is so important. When I was 20 I very much tried to fit into this mould that I felt fit in with people my own age or with people that I’d seen on tv. I was keen on classical music, liked reading and baking, and very often didn’t really want to go out ‘clubbing’.
I didn’t tap into those hobbies as much as I could have because they weren’t ‘cool’ or encouraged. I went clubbing even though I often didn’t feel like it because I had this fear of missing out, was encouraged to do so, or didn’t want to be lonely.
I know now that everyone is different and those differences are to be embraced. We each have our unique characters, gifts (1 Peter 10, Romans 12:4-8), and interests. And the older you get, the more you discover what those are.
Real friends will like you for who you are and occasionally encourage you to do better. It’s much more valuable to have a few close friends than many distant friends.
It’s OK to Open Up About Your Emotions (Even the Negative Ones)
This one very much compliments my previous point. When I was younger, it wasn’t unusual for me to be called naive. I was very sensitive and could worry about little things for days. Things that were said or mistakes that were made.
Over time, because of situations I had been in and things people had said, I started to feel like it was better for me to ‘harden’ up. (FYI, sometimes it’s much more helpful to tell a person that you understand their feelings or that it must be hard for them rather than telling them that they need to look at the positive side or that they’ll get over it. But there’s a whole other post that I could write about this! I found this article on listening to other people’s problems very interesting and helpful.)
On the one hand this ‘hardening up’ was good because it helped me to worry less about little things. It also helped me to take things less personal. Sometimes a person is just having a bad day or have their own struggles and it intentionally or unintentionally comes forward in their communication to you.
I like to call it ‘spilling their poison’. I read a book once called ‘The Mastery of Love’. Since I am a Christian now I disagree with the majority of what’s mentioned in that book but this specific concept stuck with me.
The concept is that when people experience negative things (say their boss had a go at them, they don’t feel very well, or their car broke down) a consequence of these experiences is that ‘poison enters them’. They feel negative emotions because of it ( for example anger, frustration, weariness) or their physical state is affected by it (for example tiredness or tenseness).
And our tendency is consciously or unconsciously to ‘release’ that, to ‘spill our poison’. In the hope to feel better after. So we start reacting to other people or events differently than we usually would have done. We get annoyed quicker or sometimes we even get nasty.
Keeping this concept in mind has helped me tremendously to be careful not to ‘spill my poison’ myself and to take things less personal when I am on the receiving end.
Of course we must not forget that our sinful nature really is underneath all of this but this concept can help to look at certain social situations differently.
On the other hand, the ‘hardening up’ eventually caused me to become more and more of a closed book. I didn’t notice it back then but looking back now, I do.
I started to feel that sharing my feelings (if they weren’t positive or just very serious) was burdensome to people. So I started to share less and less. I mainly stuck to the positive or light things. Something that I think may have led to certain friendships not growing as much as they could have and me dealing with certain things on my own while I didn’t need to.
It is so important to talk about your emotions and thoughts. It will help immensely to pray about them and to talk about them with your friends and family. It helps you to process them and to get to know yourself better.
Real friends will be there for you and will take the time to listen to you. They (as well as family members) may be able to give you good advice or show you a different point of view.
Real Love is Not What You Think It is (It’s better!)
This one has been a biiig one folks. When I look back now at my perception of love and relationships (marriage) when I was 20, I see how incredibly wrong I was. And this wrong perception or image was fed by things that I saw around me, on television, or on Youtube (Instagram didn’t exist yet and I think that was a blessing!).
First off, your spouse is going to (and should) be your best friend and marriage (if you’re with the right person) is so much fun!
During your courtship and engagement, you get to take the time to really focus on getting to know one another emotionally.
You get the opportunity to explore questions such as:
What does the other one think about subjects that really matter to you?
What is this person like around his or her friends and family (and do you like him/her this way)?
Can you enjoy time together, communicate well, and work as a team?
The person you decide to spend your life with is going to be there at your best and at your worst moments. Together you may experience losses, financial and health troubles, raise kids, and of course also your happiest and best moments.
When you marry, you make a commitment in front of God to spend your life together ‘until death do us part’. So you want to choose carefully and prayerfully.
As I said earlier, during our three years of being married I’ve noticed that marriage is so much fun. Nathan is my best friend and my love grows for him day by day.
He knows my past, secrets, and regrets. The fact that he wanted to marry me and loves me so well despite those makes me feel so safe with him. We face our challenges and blessings in life as a team and I so enjoy seeing him evolve and grow. And I know that he’ll always encourage me to honour God and to grow too.
Even if you’re not a Christian and don’t want to get married, please make sure to only start a relationship with someone who you can also call your best friend. Someone who knows the ugly parts of you and feel you can fully trust. Someone who has the same moral codes and aims as you.
Secondly, since becoming a Christian, I’ve come to believe just how sacred sex is and that it should take place within the confines of marriage alone. It’s something incredibly intimate and always has consequences (emotionally and/or physically).
The world has this perception that you should know each other physically first and that you’ll get to know each other emotionally somewhere along the way. But keeping yourself for your spouse and keeping sex for until after you’re married is very special. Even when you become a Christian later in life.
If you aren’t a Christian and don’t want to abstain from sex until marriage, I hope you’ll still see sex as the intimate and special thing it is. And that you’ll remember that it’s not to be taken lightly. It will always have consequences.
There you have it, the advice that I would give to my younger self. Of course there is so much more that I’ve learnt over the last decade.
I’ve learnt that I don’t always have to finish tasks or projects in one go (like that time when I was still putting my new student room together at 3 AM).
I’ve also learnt to let go of my perfectionism. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can only do your best within the timeframe you have. Although I do still like to adhere to the saying quality over quantity when I can.
And last but not least, I’ve learnt to be more kind to myself. Sometimes plans or goals have to be adjusted because you’re not up for it (overwhelmed, tired, unwell) or things go different than expected and that’s OK.
I hope that the advice given will be helpful to you and I am of course extremely curious: what is your main advice that you would give your 20 year old self?
P.S. Want to find read my latest personal update? Then make sure to head here.