Your mid-twenties: The halftime report

'This fear of making mistakes makes us too idealistic. What real life teaches us though is different. We are bound to make mistakes.'

Your twenties is a warzone. A jungle. A 10-year ride of endless opportunities, infinite possibilities, and unlimited potential. I remember having one of those now-that-we’re-graduating-what’s-next talks with my college buddies, just days before my graduation. To say that we were running on a full tank of optimism, energy, and encouragement is an understatement. We were stoked – for what lies ahead and what we can become.

Around 5 years into this I’m-gonna-be-the-king-of-the-world ride, and boy, have my perceptions and expectations changed. I’m smacked right in the middle of my 20s, and so many things can-and-did happen. Things that put me on top of a pedestal on the biggest stage and things that left me bathing in my own dirt.

Everyone has his or her own 20s story, and no two are absolutely alike. However, in one way or another we find a few common experiences, some similar realizations. It’s hard wired into us. It’s part of the experience. There’s no going around them.

1. There are a million mes out there

This is probably the first bitter pill I swallowed right after graduation. School was built supposedly to prepare us for life after it. It was meant to teach us our choice of discipline, and form the personality to become well rounded individuals. For some reason, school also screwed us up – it made us think that the world is our stage and ours alone, and we play the main character. (Think: In school, how many times were you asked “Do you want to be the CEO of your own company, or a very successful businessman, or the best lawyer in your firm, or the premier surgeon of that hospital?”)

On my 1st day in the “real world” I found out that I was a nobody. All I had with me was a dream, a diploma, and a week’s worth of allowance. There are millions like me in the world, and if I wanted to achieve my ambitious goals, I had to make my mark, and make my mark early.

Obviously, not everyone gets to the top. But that should not stop you from at least trying. After all, you could be THAT one in a million who actually gets to see the view from the peak.

2. Make mistakes. Many mistakes.

This leads us to Bitter Pill Number 2. Again, school unintentionally messed up our mindset. For two decades we were taught right from wrong and good from bad. If we want to succeed, we have to have the highest grades, perfect attendance, spotless case defenses, etc. If we flunk our exams, miss some classes, or have our cases revised, we are doomed. There is simply no room for mistakes.

Or so we thought.

This fear of making mistakes makes us too idealistic. What real life teaches us though is different. We are bound to make mistakes, and these blunders are best made during our twenties – when we have almost nothing to lose. One, two, three, or even more career shifts in your 20s is fine. It is not a matter of staying put in one job just because it pays the bills.

Sometimes it takes bold moves – moves that dramatically change our lives – to reach those seemingly far dreams. Go ahead, change careers often. After all, right now, you most likely have no home mortgage, car loan, or insurance premiums to pay yet.

Simply put, be brave enough to take chances in your 20s. Start piling up those mistakes. And LEARN from them.

3. My Family, My Friend.

In our childhood, we saw our family, specifically our parents, as stalwarts of truth, rules, and punishment. Of course, we were thankful for the times they picked us up at our friends’ house at 1 am for school play practice. Of course, we were so grateful when they finished our Home Economics cross stitch project for us. And of course, our heart melted whenever they would give the last slice of sans rival even if it was their favorite.

But they also pounded us with harsh, painful words meant to teach us life lessons. In our teens, they hid the car keys because we went home at 3 am. They grounded us because our cellphone bill was off the charts. They turned our supposedly fun lunches into long, arduous sermons. Because of these experiences, we have come to see our parents as the ultimate symbol of authority.

But in our 20s we see them differently. We realize that they are ordinary people too, with ordinary people problems and ordinary people issues. We begin to appreciate more everything they have done for us, and we see their mistakes as proofs of their being just human. We start to relate to their issues more, and the more they listen to our problems with our boss, partner, or the guys over at the carwash, the more we see them as pals. Friends. And that is an awesome feeling.

4. Don’t settle with just your piggy bank

In fact, buy 10 piggy banks. The ones that take years to fill up. The ones that you can never take money out of, not unless you break them, so you are forced to save. That is not an exaggeration, because that is exactly the type of discipline it takes to save money in this day and age.

It can be very exciting to score a paycheck every month. You can finally run on those Jordans, tell time with that Gshock, monitor your progress on your Iphone 5s’ Nike App, and then order your well loved Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato afterwards. Then it’s off to Vikings for supper. Every day. Ah, the life. Sweet, yes, but expensive, yes as well.

Your 20s is the perfect time to start saving. You are probably still living with your parents, so you virtually have no cost of living to worry about. Start small, but keep it constant and increase your savings gradually. It does not matter if you make P7,000 a month, or P7,000 a week. What matters is that you develop the habit of setting aside a portion of your income for those rainy days. Soon enough you’ll discover that you have more than enough for that Venti drink.

5. You are not everyone’s cup of tea

And finally, barging into your 20s makes you discover that you will not be able to sweep everyone you meet off their feet. Your charm will rub some people the wrong way. Some workmates will not find your jokes funny.

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to please everyone. The people you interact with have different life experiences, and these will shape their personality. Some will definitely despise you, even if you did nothing wrong to them, in the same way that you will definitely despise some people – even if they did absolutely nothing wrong to you.

The trick is to find people whom you can genuinely be happy with. Surround yourself with people who share the same passion as yours. Never force yourself into everyone. The only people who deserve your friendship are the ones that offer you theirs, too.

In less than 5 years I will turn the big 3-0. I’m never the type who writes down life goals and timelines, but I do have an idea of what I want to be when I get to 30. My expectations may have changed from lofty to realistic, but that does not mean that I have set limitations for myself. Rather, it means that I am setting myself up for the next great ride – my 30s.

But, that is for another time. And I have half a decade more to get ready for that.

One Iced Caramel Macchiato please. Tall will do. –

Francis Bandong is a banker, feature writer, Coldplay fan, aspiring sports analyst, Cheetos monster, and basically, a curious, fun loving kid stuck inside a 5’10 frame.

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