As I turned 30 last week, it seemed like the good time to look back on the past decade.
If my twenties were a cake, grab the following ingredients and heat your oven to 180°C/fan 160°C:
- One graduation
- 6 part time jobs
- 1 CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- 5 full time jobs
- 5 years in Hong Kong
- 7 months of travelling
- 9 addresses
- 19 countries (why yes, I am a classic Sagittarius.)
- 2 long term relationships
- A few handfuls of amazing new friends
- A few more handfuls of not so amazing Tinder dates
- Hundreds of blog posts
- Thousands of photos
- A very generous sprinkling of laughter, new food, days at the beach, reading by the pool, devouring delicious food with friends, hikes, days exploring new places, candles burnt, films and series watched, and books read.
Our twenties are a time when we are given so much freedom after almost a lifetime of studying.
After graduating with a degree in Sociology, I always knew that I wanted a job that helped those less fortunate, but I had no idea how or in which career.
I also wanted to take it easy after the aforementioned years of studying. I didn’t want to jump into a career straight away and chose to save up to travel and see the world instead.
Annoyingly, I feel that our twenties convey two very different and contrasting messages:
‘LIVE IT UP BUT FIGURE IT OUT.’
It’s a time for you to discover things about yourself that may save you lots of unhappiness down the road: the types of places you like to live in; what you’re good at and enjoy professionally; and what’s most important to your happiness.
Unless you’re set on a career path that takes years in the making (like a doctor or lawyer, for example), I’m a firm believer that we should try to work out what truly makes us happy. The best bet against future regret is experimenting while you’re young and the stakes are low. It’s much easier to switch jobs when you’re young and not reliant on a large salary to pay a mortgage or support a family (if you choose to do these things; they aren’t essential to everyone’s’ happiness).
Unfortunately, what I found was that I’d worked where I wanted to live (Hong Kong) but it couldn’t offer me enjoyment professionally despite months of searching for non-teaching jobs out there. I’ve chosen to find something that I enjoy professionally over where I’d ideally live. Having said that, I do enjoy living in London; to me, it feels like the closest thing to Hong Kong in England and I have lots of friends here. Just missing the neon signs, tropical climate and beaches. What’s most important to my happiness is being able to spend time with my friends and family, doing a job that I enjoy that makes a positive difference to the world by helping those in need, being able to explore new places and eating lots of good food. Living in a hot country is also up there but you can’t always have it all.
I’m a firm believer that at the end of our lives, we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things that we did do. Even if you try something and it doesn’t work out as you hoped, you can move forward in life with that knowledge instead of a nagging thought in the back of your head asking, “What if…?”
‘What if’ is my arch nemesis.
The contradictory message is that we should have figured things out by the end of our twenties and I’m here to tell you that I haven’t and it’s OK.
Have I made the most of my twenties? In one sense, I’d say so! I’ve lived abroad for half of it, spent a lot more time with my relatives, did a fair bit of travelling, had lots of new experiences, made new friends for life and tried a few different careers so I’m pretty happy.
Am I in my dream career? I’m not 100% sure what my dream career is yet but hopefully I’m getting there… I love what I do but COVID has really slowed down my career progression, so I feel a bit stagnant at the moment.
Have I bought my own home? HAHAHAHA, no. But if you asked me if I’d have rather saved the money that I spent on 7 months of travelling towards paying off my mortgage and having my own place, the answer would still be no. I didn’t even think that I’d be living in England again until 3 years ago so I think it’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s timeline and priorities will be different.
Do I have a husband and child? No but my boyfriend is basically a child so it’s a bit of a 2 for 1 deal.
Most importantly, am I happy? Mostly yes. I am incredibly grateful to have so many brilliant people in my life, a safe and warm home and a job that I enjoy. Although it isn’t exactly where I imagined I’d be at 30, I guess that’s the beauty of life and having the luxury of being able to try new things.
You should have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you.
Now it wouldn’t be a proper blog post send off to my twenties without a bunch of good old photo collages so here some of my faves over the past decade in roughly chronological order!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your twenties and what your highlights and lowlights have been!