In just two short weeks I’ll be saying goodbye to my twenties and hello to a new decade. As I approach that slightly intimidating milestone I’ve found that I’m reflecting more than usual on the past 10 years of my life. They have been marked by both success and setbacks, love and loss, joy and heartbreak, laughter and tears. But in the midst of it all, what has shaped these years the most has been the experiences I’ve had and the choices I’ve made. Though life looks much different at year thirty than I thought it would, I am thankful for where I am. And more than ever before, I am learning the importance of focusing on the abundance, not the lack. So, here are 10 things that I am thankful to have done in my twenties, that I would encourage any twenty something to do before they turn thirty.
1. Travel The World
Most of us don’t think of traveling the world as a top ten priority but as I look back, I have to acknowledge that it is one of the most formative things I have done. I’ve definitely not traveled as much as some but I have done it enough for it to be life-changing and perspective building. So why travel when you’re young? Because it makes you encounter compassion, it shapes your world view, it helps you see beyond yourself and it reminds you that life is an adventure.
2. Live Across Seas
It’s one thing to travel the world, it’s another to live in another part of the world. I can honestly say that choosing to live across seas, even if just for one semester was one of the best choices I ever made. Living in another culture forces you to step outside of your comfort zone, get uncomfortable, do life differently and grow in ways that no other experience can help you to grow in.
3. Discover Your Passions And Invest In Them
I am reminded here of one of my favorite lyrics by Marcus Mumford, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life”. I think that is more true than most of us often realize. Everyone has their passion, whether it be a career, a hobby and/or a relationship. It is important to discover what our passions are and invest in them. What gets you fired up? What drives you? What makes you feel fully alive? Whatever that is for you, invest in it, because it is your passions that will direct your life.
4. Volunteer Your Time
When we’re young and healthy and don’t have a family of our own yet, one of the biggest temptations is to be selfish with both our money and our time. It’s easy to focus on achieving a name for ourselves, doing what feels good now and living for ourselves. But if we look to scripture we are reminded again and again of the value of service to others and living for more than our own personal gain (Matthew 20:26-27). In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul reminds us that single-hood is an amazing opportunity to focus on our walk with God and part of that is service to others. Volunteering your time to an organization or ministry that inspires you is a good way to get your focus off of yourself and invest in the lives of others.
5. Fall In Love
I realize this isn’t something we necessarily have control over but at the same time, I think we do have a say in love to a certain extent. I think too often we allow our love lives to be dictated by fear, insecurity and/or false perceptions of real life romance. And because of that, many young people, myself included, spend too many years with walls up when it comes to relationships and love. But as C.S. Lewis reminds us so beautifully,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one…lock it safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in the casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love at all is to be vulnerable.”
I can resonate with that quote more than I care to admit. And one of the best things I ever did for myself was eventually let my walls down and allow myself to love and be loved by a man. I can say now with more assurance than ever that “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
6. Learn to Live Vulnerably
Beyond just learning to love vulnerably, I think we all need to learn to live vulnerably. The past couple of years have been a huge lesson in learning the power of living vulnerably. I think this looks different for everyone but ultimately it comes down to having the courage to be who God made you to be; strengths, weakness and all. Brene Brown sums it up best when she says “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
7. Get Out of Debt
I often feel like our culture doesn’t treat debt as seriously as we should. People grow accustomed to just living their whole lives in debt. But scripture advices us to “owe no many anything except to love him” (Romans 13:8). I got serious about this a couple of years ago and can now say that there is no better feeling than entering a new decade in financial freedom and being able to pursue my dreams without the burden of debt hanging over my head. Getting serious about debt is one of the best things you can do for your life and your future.
8. Pursue Your Dream Job
Theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote that “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need” One of the best things we can do in this life is find our “vocation” in these terms and pursue it passionately. The options are endless, invest in your career.
9. Get In Shape
Our bodies are the vehicle through which we experience this life, why not have a healthy one? Your twenties are the time of your life when you are laying the ground work for the rest of your life. Why not find something that is good for your body, that you love to do and make a regular routine of it? Whether it be running, hiking, volleyball, yoga, crossfit or even just walking. I’ve been fairly active my whole life as a runner/outdoor enthusiast, but have more recently discovered yoga and it is literally changing my life in more ways than one. Make the effort to discover the joy that comes through living a physically healthy and whole lifestyle.
10. Make The Most Of Today
And finally, my encouragement both to myself and anyone reading this is to not get bogged down by past regrets or even future dreams, but to be faithful in today. It’s good to learn from our past and never stop dreaming big for our future but today is what matters most and often the hardest lesson is simply being faithful in today. I will be the first to say that I stink at this, but slowly God is giving me the grace to grow in this area and to make the most of everyday I’ve been given. Succeeding in this one area will set the framework for the rest of our lives.
LIfe is beautiful. It is full. And even though it isn’t always easy, pain-free or marked by success, it is a daily opportunity to grow, to give, to love, to explore, to serve and to fully live. My prayer for anyone reading this is that you would make the most of this one life you’ve been given. Here’s to another decade!