Nobody else can make things happen for you
Your twenties are some of the most important years of your life. Your younger years are clearly formative, but you’re never completely in charge of most decisions. You have parents, teachers, and school schedules to direct your course and tell you what to do. No, your twenties are special because they’re your first opportunity to truly be your own person and decide what kind of adult life you want to lead.
Over the past year, I’ve written a lot about how you have to be your own damn hero and do your own work, and it’s the same deal when it comes to building a life you love.
You have got to build it yourself.
How do you do that? You build it brick by brick — and hopefully, you begin early, like in your twenties.
Building your own life brick by brick means you are proactive and deliberateabout where you are going. I say this as someone who is now 36 and doing the work she should have done years ago, all because I didn’t know any better at the time.
Back then, I wasn’t building much of anything. I let life happen to me but never really took the reigns. Definitely among the worst mistakes of my life.
When you’re young, opportunities often knock on your door without much effort. I went to Trinidad when I was 17, and Holland when I was 18 — just because the opportunities were there for me. Somehow I thought I would keep traveling the world as I aged, but I had no idea how or why it would happen.
I just assumed things would work out that way.
Of course, they didn’t.
You can’t always go with the flow — especially when you’re young and you haven’t yet built up a life for yourself. You’ve got to take control and direct your own course. Which to be honest, is both simple and hard. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be to take that control back. If you wait until your mid-thirties, like me? Then you’ll have to tear down a whole lot of shit first. And finally build your life back up after a tremendous amount of effort just to get back to a solid foundation.
Again, brick by brick.
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
―David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Every day, we build our futures through the choices we make. If we want a positive life, it’s going to take one positive choice after another, repeated day after day. Throughout each day.
There’s a time and a place to go with the flow. But when it comes to the overall trajectory of your life? Going with the flow is a big mistake. Because you need to be the one who’s doing the building.
Not just watching and waiting for it all to happen.
Think of every aspect of your life as one brick. The more thought and deliberateness you put into different parts of the life you want to lead, the firmer your foundation will be.
Only you can decide what you want each day to be, and only you can decide which bricks will go into your building. Bricks like:
How will you take care of your body when life gets hectic? You’ll need to choose how much you’ll exercise, what kind of diet you’ll keep, along with what kind of self-care and image habits you’ll maintain.
Even when you’re done with school, you’ll still need to make an effort to learn as you age and keep your mind sharp. How will you accomplish this? What kinds of books will you read? Will you pursue additional education or mentorship to make sure you never stop learning? Likewise, how will you protect your mental health?
Your Social Life
Social needs vary greatly depending upon the individual, yet every human needs some type of human interaction. Will you get enough interaction through your family? Or will you need to seek out others to help ensure you’re not placing a void in your life?
Whether you call it passion, purpose, or meaning, etc., I agree with much of the work of Viktor Frankl and his theory that every individual needs that one thing to guide them and keep them getting up in the morning despite any challenge or adversity. How will you cultivate your passion and purpose? What are you passionate about — work, having a family, or both? Something else?
We all need to do things we’re responsible for completing, like work, errands, and a million other boring things most of us probably don’t feel like doing. But we also need to do the things that feel good and feed our souls. It’s different for all of us and for some it ties into a hobby but for others it goes back to vocation. Whatever it is, the hunger of our souls can ignored for so long.
Whoever first said “You get what you give,” really knew their stuff. Because it’s true. A person can go through their entire life never giving back to anything or anyone, but they will have never really lived and certainly never reached genuine adulthood. It’s good to take stock of your gifts and decide how you will give back to your community and the world around you even when you don’t have the monetary resources to give.
It’s easy to either forget about having fun, or make it too high of a priority. Fun is good. We should all aim to have fun and enjoy our lives, but to be ruled by fun and pleasure is a pitfall none of us need. Ideally, we’ll find fun building up the other aspects of our lives too. But we all need to do something solely for the fun of it from time to time.
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
― Fred Rogers
That’s the thing about successfully building your own life brick by brick. You have to know yourself first, so you can make good choices. And that’s probably why so many of us have faltered in our younger years and found ourselves far off-track as we’ve aged.
Life is not a spectator sport. It isn’t a sedentary activity — not if you intend to live a truly good one. If you’ve squandered any of your youth like me, you can start again if you’re willing to tear it all down and build it back up again.
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