I recently came upon an article that showcased the dos and don’ts in our twenties. As a thirty-year-old woman, I figured I could try to evaluate if I had successfully lived my twenties as per the article’s suggestions or if I had failed and had a chance to redeem myself.
As I progressively read the article, I noticed that the guidance was quite one-sided. The article had one main message; encouraging those in their twenties to work hard, to reach the top, to be the best, to achieve their dreams at the expense of missing out on all other facets of life. Although the article enumerated some great dos and don’ts to follow, like prioritizing family, it also suggested others that I frowned upon. Some of these recommendations included not to take a vacation, as it would be a waste of time, or not to enter into a serious relationship, as it would be a liability. The article explained that the twenties are meant for excessive work, and basically to build the path to conquer the world because all else would be considered failure.
I personally found that approach rather extreme, and very different from my perception of life. However, it made me realize that if it weren’t for all my activities, I would have probably been more ahead in my career than I am now. And so it got me contemplating the following: should we spend our early adulthood mainly seeking for success or should we live life with the YOLO (you only live once) attitude?
Work and Discipline
I have to agree that working hard is surely the main contributing factor for success. I am sure that if we look around us, we can pick a few friends who have climbed up the ranks quickly, who have realized and grown their businesses rapidly, or who have built an awesome reputation for whatever they are good at. Most of the time, we notice that behind their success lies admirable discipline and focus, ample hours of work, and a drive that many aspire to. As a friend of mine said, people in China work seven days a week, while the rest of us work five; why are we shocked that they are growing faster than all of us? And yes, luck may be a contributing factor, but sacrifice is also a primary one. These successful individuals may have sacrificed a hefty salary, a better social life, time with family, a vacation, a nice apartment, all to to reach their desired status.
Is this, however, really the best approach to living life? Should work and success take precedence over the rest? Furthermore, do people in their twenties actually know what they want?
Do We Really Know What We Want in Our Twenties?
The article suggested that the twenties are destined for us to work towards our final goal. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I don’t believe that we really know what it is we want yet. Twenties are a period of exploration, of self-discovery. If I look at my personal route, I changed careers (and not just jobs) three times and only after exploring all these various options do I now know better what it is I want to explore in life. Then again, I am still exploring what it is I want to explore, which brings me to my next point: it is not about an outcome, but about the trajectory.
Trajectory vs. Outcome
Setting a final goal creates a certain focus to drive our efforts towards, but is life really about the outcome, the status, the six-digit salary, the reputation and the grand finale? Let’s face it; the grand finale is generally death, so do we really want to spend our entire life focusing on one thing (work)? For some, the final goal may be their sole objective in life, but that would only make the rest of their path a sad reality to an even sadder ending.
I once came across a simple quote that read, “Life fascinates me,” and fascinates me it does. From travels to festivals, cultural events and top-notch eateries, we have access to a great variety of options that indeed can distract us from work but will teach us nonetheless about life. Additionally, and most importantly, the importance of being with people, family, building tight friendships, travelling, creating wonderful adventures, falling in love, end up being the best memories we carry with us as we grow older… so why waste the twenties taking life too seriously?
Can working hard and living life freely function together harmoniously or are they mutually exclusive? Many people I have asked answered that this was certainly possible and defined it as a balance of life. However, the concept of balance of life contradicts the notion of prioritizing work and therefore I trust that there exists certain exclusivity between these two ways of living. Basically, a fine balance is possible, but it will come at the expense of less success or less fun depending which route you take.
To conclude, I seriously do not think that my opinion is necessarily the right one. The question about living your life to the fullest vs. only working hard is quite relative. Every individual has his or her driving factors. For some, it may be success, power and influence, while for others it may be love, family, experience, or simply that fine balance. There is not one way for everyone, but there is the right way for each and every individual. And so on that note, it doesn’t matter what you decide as long as you follow what it is that makes you happy.