SPECIAL TO THE TIMES KUWAIT
Mainstream media has dubbed it ‘the defining decade’, we are often led to believe that our 20s are the most significant time period of our lives, when most of our critical decisions are made, where our paths are being forged and when we will systematically determine the entire trajectory of our lives. That is a lot of pressure to put on a 10-year period in which half of it is spent getting an education, figuring out what you actually want to do in your life and then working towards achieving these goals — assuming you figured them out in the first place.
Why does this happen, then? Well, unfortunately, I do not have an answer to that question. However, this October, I am turning 29 and this will be the last year in my life in which I can identify as a 20-something year-old, and I have been having these stirrings in the back of my mind about everything I have been through and what it all means so far.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this habit of reflecting on my life, my choices and my dreams on my birthday. As an adult, it makes sense, but as a child… you can only imagine how fun my birthday parties used to be.
So, in the spirit of self-discovery and growth, I decided to jot down some of the key things I learned during this alleged defining decade in the hopes that they might help anyone throughout any transitory phase in their life.
A key mantra I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life (and more specifically, for the rest of this article) is to hold on to the lessons and to let go of the regrets. Now, what are these lessons? (We can save the regrets for a future article when I’m feeling less upbeat)
Success is not binary: Are your friends getting promoted? When your older siblings were your age, did they already have kids? Why are you still single? Why do you not have any kids?
I am sure these are questions you found yourself asking throughout your journey especially because human beings are comparative creatures by nature. We believe in following patterns that are deemed socially and culturally acceptable and if any of our behaviours or accomplishments fall outside of these patterns, we tend to question our self-worth and whether our accomplishments actually matter in the larger scheme of things.
I may not be the first person to point this out to you, but trust me, success is not a ‘one size fits all’. Moreover, it is important to not link success to the following:
- Career growth
- Marriage and children
- Materialistic gains
While all of the above are wonderful accomplishments to aspire towards, there is a much broader definition for success that we often tend to overlook because we are too fixated on pre-existing and outdated notions of the concept.
To me, a successful person is an individual who unabashedly lives their life on their own terms, uses their skills and abilities to do good in this world, leads a purpose-driven life and last, but not least, treats people with kindness.
Choose yourself, always: Do not waste your 20s, or any period of your life for that matter, servicing someone else’s dreams while your own hopes and ambitions take a backseat. Most of us may not be able to pursue our dreams as early as we would like, and if you need to take some time to save money, raise funding or gain expertise before pursuing your true passion, that is perfectly understandable.
However, I want to caution you against feeling trapped in a job, or a relationship or in any type of situation where your needs and desires are not being fulfilled.
As harsh as this may sound, your situation, whatever it may be, will not change unless you decide to make a change. That may involve leaving a stable but dead-end job, walking away from a relationship that is safe but no longer serving you or abandoning a specific goal in order to pursue something more realistic and plausible. There is no shame in walking away and starting over no matter how old you are, and while the consequences of doing that may feel detrimental, you will thank yourself later. I know I certainly did.
Understand the true consequences of your decisions: When we are young, it is difficult to truly contemplate the impact that our decisions are going to have in our lives on a long-term basis. That is something I am still figuring out for myself. However, I am also able to reflect on some of the decisions I made when I was 19 and understand why I did what I did at the time.
Nonetheless, I also want you to look outside of yourself for a moment and consider the impact of your decisions on those around you who may be affected. I do urge you to choose yourself, always, however in doing so, do not underestimate the emotional impact this may have on other people. In other words, practice empathy and try to do the least damage possible with the decisions you make.
Your circle is sacred, do not allow wanderers or users inside: Ask yourself this, in a crisis, who would be your first call? In fact, I would like for you to list three people (other than family) that you would be able to call in a situation where you need dire help. Now, ask yourself another question, is there someone in your inner circle that you absolutely would not call? If so, why is that? And why are they in your inner circle to begin with?
I want you to differentiate between real friends, (i.e. people you would call in a crisis) acquaintances (i.e. decent people in your life who you may occasionally speak to or spend time with), wanderers (i.e. by-passers in your life who have no interest in connecting with you emotionally or leaving a positive impact) and users (i.e. those who come into your life to manipulate you into giving them what they want, leaving you with nothing behind except a resounding feeling of shame, regret and self-loathing).
Real friends are valued, acquaintances may be welcomed, wanderers should be avoided and users must be rejected.
Forgive and move on: Never let hate, resentment and anger eat away at you from the inside. The sad truth about life is that you will get hurt, repeatedly. Closure is often a pipe dream that is romanticized by pop culture.
You may be tempted to pick up the phone, send that text or storm into somebody’s office to let out what’s frustrating you. Instead, I urge you to focus on constructive solutions and outlets that address your tension without projecting more negativity and anger into our world.
For me, writing this piece to you is my way of getting the closure I needed from this wondrous, whimsical and wacky period of my life. Take from it what you need, dispose of it what does not apply and recycle it for more than what it is worth.
Nourah Al-Oseimi is a Kuwaiti writer who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing journalist to The Times Kuwait