I’ve said it before. My twenties represented a decade of high drama.
I saw it all. I lived it all.
Or at least I think I did.
And though I may want to relive some of it again, I’m glad it’s all in the past.
Do you know what else I’m glad about? That I came out of it alive!
It looks like there’s still more left for me to do on this earth.
So as I look ahead, it also makes sense to look back and see what I learnt along the way. It’s important to reflect on whether I stopped to smell the roses, whether I stood up and spoke my truth or whether I kicked back and enjoyed the ride.
In these reflections, I realise that there are eight huge things I learnt during those crazy years.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. How to fail
Failure sucks. It really does.
It has a way of gnawing at your self-esteem and self-confidence such that you are left bare and to top it all of - you feel stupid.
I have certainly experienced it. And in my twenties, it came to me in many forms. Be it when it came to matters to do with school, matters to do with friends, matters of the heart and just matters of life in general.
Every time failure visited, it resulted in buckets of tears and me berating myself for days on end.
And then it finally hit me - after lots of advice from friends and family. It finally hit me that failure needs to be met with some form of acceptance. This means learning from it then moving on more intelligently each time.
2. How to look into the mirror
Like every teenager alive, I had insecurities. They always seemed to show up every time I looked into the mirror.
And somehow, I carried those insecurities well into my twenties. Even at times when most people thought I didn’t have any.
My self-esteem wasn’t the highest when I stumbled into the pageant world. Nor was it high when I continued on as a model.
I was still insecure.
But eventually, I learnt how to look into the mirror in a new way. I didn’t have to entertain my insecurities any longer. I just had to learn to love what I saw in the mirror. Regardless of other people’s opinions.
Looking into the mirror here is also meant figuratively. I had to learn how to examine myself psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. I absolutely believe I know myself way better now than I did at twenty.
3. How to be present
It’s normal to care about the future and what comes next. But it gets troublesome when you do it so much that it affects your present.
In my twenties, I was constantly worrying about what was coming next. I was constantly looking for the next big thing.
And while I did not manage to let go of the overwhelming feeling, I somehow figured out how to live in the moment.
I figured out how to actively interact with whatever situation that came to pass -whether good or bad. I figured out how to take in the present and treat it for what it was – a passing phase uniquely concocted to push me towards the person I needed to be.
Now- I have to be clear. Living in the moment does not mean not making plans. It just means being able to appreciate the present moment as it happens. It means being able to acknowledge that you are a living breathing being in this wondrous place we call the Earth.
4. How to lead
Just a few weeks into University, I was lucky enough to be introduced to the youth organization called AIESEC.
With AIESEC, I was able to do a lot of things. From travelling to the ends of the Earth, to meeting some fantastic young people, to building and working on some interesting projects – but the best thing it allowed me to do was to lead.
At the tender age of 24, I was entrusted to lead the Kenyan chapter. This meant being at the helm of a national organisation with over 10 University chapters and over 500 members. It also meant leading national teams made up of some of the brightest young minds I’ve ever met.
It was daunting!
But I survived.
I left the organisation still standing (thankfully) and I came out a new person. Everything I learnt in those two life-changing years will no doubt stay with me for the rest of my life.
5. How to follow my dreams
If there was a time in my life that I needed to follow my dreams, it had to be my twenties. You know the drift - less responsibilities, limitless opportunities, crazy energy – the works.
And I actually did follow them. I aggressively followed any dream that was there for the taking.
But I have to say one thing: I was lucky - very lucky. Being in AIESEC made some of those dreams much bigger and definitely much easier to pursue. And having an open-minded mum and a family like mine certainly didn’t hurt either.
I learnt how to not take no for an answer when it came to something that I really felt needed to be in my life’s path. I also learnt how to create plans and set goals for where I wanted to be. Of course I’m still not perfect at any of this but I’m glad it all began in my twenties.
6. How to be/have a true friend
I will begin this by saying that I am not the best at handling friendships. I usually struggle at being able to stay in constant communication with my friends. But my twenties came in and gave me some advanced lessons.
By advanced lessons, I mean, circumstances came and tested my friendships and some of them came out strong.
In times when there was almost no reason to hold on, some of my closest friends still did and I consider myself lucky to have them in my life.
By holding on, they showed me exactly how to do the same and by doing this, they made it clear in my mind that what we had were and still are true friendships - those of the rare kind.
7. How to say "thank you"
As much as you might think saying “thank you” is easy enough, I’ll tell you that it’s not.
Back in my mid-twenties, I was oblivious of my terrible “thank you”-saying manners until a mentor of mine pulled me aside and explicitly told me that I was not very good at showing appreciation.
Of course, I was taken aback. His words sounded like harsh criticism.
I mean, who can’t say thank you anyway?!
Well, as it turned out - me.
I was more into feeling like I deserved everything good that happened to me, than I was at being thankful. That’s just how my mentor said it. It “cut real deep” but ever since then, I have been very conscious about how and when I say “thank you”.
So if you ever catch me being less than thankful, please remind me of this right here.
8. How to love and be loved
Let’s be clear from the get-go – I believe in love and I truly believe it makes the world go round. I know it screams of cliché but I mean it.
Anyway- when it comes to matters of the heart, I bet many people learn most of their defining lessons during their twenties.
I’m one of those people.
I played the role of girlfriend quite a lot during my twenties. I was always in a relationship. And if I wasn’t in one, I was on the fast track towards the next one.
I know – I was a bit on the extreme end of the relationship-y spectrum.
But I guess it was all meant to be so that I could learn more about myself and most importantly, leant how to love and be loved.
It’s easy to say you love someone and quite something else to mean it.
It is easy to say you are loved and quite something else to believe it.
But all those relationships that my mum could hardly keep up with gave me the lessons I needed. I learnt that when it came to love, I first had to love myself, then mean it as I gave it, then believe it as I received it.
So yeah - those were the huge things I learnt in my twenties.
What did you/are you learning from yours? Please share in the comments section below.