I am currently 24, going on about 65 and I have come to realize over and over again that this life can get quite tricky. Many a time I am thrown a curve ball that I just don’t know how to deal with and sometimes I even have mini internal panic attacks as I struggle to decide on what to do next.
See, I grew up a very academically oriented person, so while I could easily solve a math quiz and memorize significant historical dates for tests & exams, I eventually came to understand – the hard way – that life is not one big test and there is no comprehensive memo waiting for you in the teacher’s drawer, we are not marked out of 100%, we don’t get to re-write (#yolo) and we are not ranked against each other at the end of the term.
Unlike academics, life is essentially just hit and miss for the most part. So while I had my academic game on lock, I am still learning the tricks of the trade in this life game and I’d like to share with you some of the findings I have come across over my almost quarter century of being alive.
Hardships: It doesn’t get any easier.
See, life was a lot simpler when I was younger, in the sense that for certain decisions it was either A, B or C ( i.e “do I pick my nose now, or later… hmm maybe I should cry for milk now – btw where is my toy car? That Tommy kid probably took em, I knew I couldn’t trust him – arghh I think I sense a bowl movement approaching.. good thing I’m wearing a new diaper”). Whereas now, I need to think about where to work, what to study, who to be, who to be with, why to be.. and on top of this I still need to cook for myself on a daily basis (this isn’t what I signed up for :/) . And because the options are limitless, even when you eventually make a choice, you still experience #fomo (fear of missing out) because you can always be doing something else, somewhere else.
Growing up all I had to do was call my Mum when I had an issue and then close my eyes and wait for it to magically sort itself out. But, now I have to apply my mind and think about how to solve these issues on my own and not depend on anyone else to bail me out of trouble.
So if anyone told you it gets easier the older you get, then they done lied to you fam.
Friends: Don’t take them for granted.
I’ve gone through numerous phases in my life when it comes to the many relationships I’ve had. Growing up, I was all about my friends, to the extent that I would sacrifice who I was for who they wanted me to be, or rather who I thought they wanted me to be (peer pressure is deep yo). So, after realizing this, I went through a withdrawal phase where I took a significant amount of time out to understand who I was and who I wanted to be in life and I will admit that during this phase I neglected many of the friends I had at the time.
As I emerged from the deep, dark abyss of silence, self-awareness and inner understanding I came to value the importance, relevance and power of relationships – both platonic and otherwise. The truth is that no man is an island and no matter who you are or what you do, you need other people in your life – because they build you up, pick you up and a lot of the times keep you up. I firmly believe that you will only have a handful of real, long-lasting friendships throughout your life – so when you do find those people – keep them close! And don’t let them go.
Finances: Money isn’t everything
Yeah, this was definitely a reality check for me. Growing up I thought that all I needed was money and then everything would be fine. “When I make that cheddar, everything will be better” :D.
Yeah no, it doesn’t really work like that. I honestly feel like if I woke up to a $ 1 billion today, I would still face many of the existential issues I have been facing all this time – I mean yes, I’ll have all this money – so I’ll be able to buy what want – go where I want – do what I want – but the following questions will still plague me:
- What am I actually doing with my life?
- What value am I adding to the world?
Now that I am of age, all degreed up with my prestigious qualifications and have a good understanding of how life and the economy works, I know for a fact that money alone will not make me happy. I’m here to work on something significant, to offer value and to make an impact. So while I know that money is certainly necessary – I feel that I am slightly higher up on Maslow’s pyramid, where meaning and purpose concern me more than how much money I have in the bank.
Relationships: Don’t let the good ones go.
I mentioned earlier that I took a lot of my relationships for granted, this was both friends and partners/potential partners. I just never prioritized love/emotions/relationships over work/academics or just life in general really, because a large part of me strongly believed that relationships and people were a commodity, to a certain extent. Definitely one of the bigger mistakes I have made in my life.
Finding someone who understands you, puts up with your nonsense, truly appreciates you, is intellectually stimulating and makes you happy is really not easy at all. I used to think that statistically at least, there are bound to be many people that are ‘perfect’ for me (I mean, there are 7 billion of us…), so if I was to miss out on a certain relationship I would just bump into someone else eventually. But, trust me – it’s not easy at all – so when you do come across someone that ticks all these boxes, hold on, hold on tight and don’t take them for granted.
Also, stop being fooled by all these deceiving romantic movies. This love/relationship stuff is hard af (“af” = “as f*ck”). You need to understand that It won’t be perfect, you may not live happily ever after, there may even be days you want to scream at the top of your lungs, punch a wall or even consider the idea of serving 25 to life (“Yes officer, I slipped with the knife in my hand and it landed on her chest…repeatedly”). But while it’s not easy to find or keep such people in your life, it’s definitely, definitely worth it – so don’t let the good ones go.
Knowledge: Never stop learning.
Coming from a very small country with limited opportunities and a pretty stagnant economy, one of the lifelines that helped me get out and explore the rest of the world was, naturally, the holy grail of most third world nations: Education.
And while I am not the biggest supporter of the conventional education system, because it is about a century old and was designed for a completely different time – there is still no doubting the usefulness and importance of going through this system – as boring, robotic and mundane as it may seem at times.
But it doesn’t stop there – because while you will leave the classroom eventually – you should never put down the books, you should never stop asking questions, seeking answers and applying your mind. Unfortunately, this is a trap that many of us fall into because once we enter the working world we are so easily overwhelmed by the tug and pull of everyday life, never taking the time to explore unknown mental territories or learn anything new. Which is somewhat understandable, but just remember that once you stop expanding your knowledge base, you risk living the rest of their life trying to play catch-up.