5 Lessons I've Learned as a Single 20-Something
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” These words from Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken‘ were part of my readings in high school, but little did I know the profound impact they would have in my life and how they’d sum up my core thoughts as a single 20-something adult. Sometimes, I don’t really feel like admitting that I am now officially in my late 20s and single by choice. But ultimately, I have no regrets. Here’s what I’ve learned, and how I changed for the better, while following along on my path:
1. Expand your inner-circle
Until a couple of months ago, I was happy living in my own space with a decent job, active professional lifestyle, and a monotonous personal life. Though people would consider me an extrovert professionally, I’m quite an introvert in my personal life. But these days, I’ve learned how important it is grow my friendships. I have taken up the initiative to slowly explore new horizons. By taking paint nights, going to the gym and hiking, I’ve made a lot of new friends who share my interests. I’ve also found that more girls’ nights out keep me more engaged than staying in my own comfort-laden cocoon.
2. Mellow down
It’s hard to imagine that once upon a time, I was so hot-headed and short-tempered. Now, I feel I have mellowed down my emotions and care a little less about things that don’t mean the end of the world. As I’ve matured, I’ve gotten more empathetic, too. That’s helped me to not sweat the small stuff and learn to relax.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
I don’t try hard to impress people and I still feel confident about who I am. But Facebook continuously drowns me in pictures of friends enjoying their marital bliss, some sending their first kid to school or having their second kid, and I’ve started to second-guess myself. While my friends from undergrad were getting married, I was stubborn about getting my first masters degree. While my contemporaries who had finished their masters were getting married, I felt I wanted to do my second masters degree and get a step closer towards my career aspirations.
I am still proud of the choices that I have made in my life, though some haven’t yielded the expected results. But, I would strongly say, do things that bring you happiness. Even though you might feel the pinch in the short term, it will pay off in the long run. So, stop comparing your life with others. Keep the naysayers at bay, and this applies to anyone who tries to demoralize you or poke at your individuality and aspirations. Having goals in your life is not a sin, but something you should feel proud of.
4. Pursue your long-lost passions
I’ve had a penchant for writing since childhood, but somewhere down the line I conveniently forgot about it and didn’t know that I still had it in me. I have rediscovered my lost love and I feel it’s a great vehicle to convey, share, and express my feelings and thoughts. I have a better idea of what I want to do with my life and the qualities that I would like to see in my better half as a result of rediscovering this passion.
5. Stop expecting to be “happy” ALL of the time
We all have excuses and we’re all very busy, but work is just a part of life. Work was designed so you can earn and lead a comfortable life, but nowadays we run behind our job and fail to enjoy the small things. I always used to think that there would be a time to just enjoy everything, but that is a powerful misconception. There won’t be a set time in your life where all you feel is happiness. When I was an undergrad student studying hard, I kept saying I would enjoy grad life.
Fast forward, and grad life was even tougher and I was bogged down with assignments, internships, homesickness, and the trials and tribulations of finding a job. When I found one, it was a vicious cycle of projects, deadlines, remembering to pay bills on time, groceries, and shopping for necessities. I stopped short of thinking that getting married would be the holy grail of happiness. One can never silo life that way. If you are happy, any relationship that you are part of will reflect that happiness.
Happiness needs to be part of everyday thinking and the seed needs to be sown in you. No one else is going to do that for you.
Going by her pen name Srichander, the author—an Asian Gen Y—describes herself as an ordinary person who is on a quest to find out the true meaning of happiness. She loves to share her insights on happiness, living in the moment, strategies on personal growth, entrepreneurship and women’s issues. You can read her latest musings here or follow her on Facebook.