This post was written by an external contributor. Sascha Gill talks us through the importance of pushing yourself during your twenties…
Ah, your twenties. Often touted as the best decade of your life; but in 2017 and for the modern student, it can feel like a terrifying time. There’s so much uncertainty, and yet so much pressure to be certain on everything. But I’m here to tell you it’s OK to be unsure. Here’s why…
Get good A-levels, go to university, graduate with a 2:1/First and then get a good job. Secure that first step up the career ladder as soon as you are thrown out into the big wide world.
This is what everyone expects of you, right? What if I told you there were other options?
You could get a part-time job and undertake internships or work experience while you figure out what it is you really want to do. You could get a Masters, and if you fall in love with your subject perhaps even go on to do a PhD. You could take a year out to travel before you’re tied down to work for the next 40-50 years. You could even start your own business.
While none of these ideas are especially groundbreaking to us, it seems that all of them except further study are completely glossed over by the older generations. Don’t be tricked into thinking there’s only one right path to follow; take risks and explore your options fully before committing.
Life is only getting longer
The above point is so important when you consider that our life expectancy is growing (and with it our retirement age). Medical breakthroughs are enabling us to live longer, healthier lives – which means we have more opportunities to explore and take risks while we’re in our twenties.
The majority of our parents were happily married by their mid-twenties; now, the average age of marriage in the UK is 32. And as stated above, the retirement age is set to rise to 67 by 2028. Put simply, you don’t want to be stuck doing a job you hate just for the sake of paying the bills. Don’t waste these precious few years we have to be inquisitive about our future and figure out your true calling in life.
It takes time to figure things out
My university careers service gave me little help when I told them I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It was only when my personal tutor told me to take a year out after university and apply for graduate schemes that I actually realised not everything needs to be figured out right away.
Just as not everything needs to be figured out immediately, taking a few risks in your twenties isn’t necessarily going to negatively affect the rest of your life; in fact, it could change the course of your life for the better. Use this opportunity to be experimental and figure out what you want.
Do the things you’ve always wanted to do
I’m writing this article on a train on the way to Birmingham to meet up with my two best friends from university. I was supposed to be moving to Birmingham this weekend to start a graduate job in a law firm that would have lasted for at least the next three years.
Instead, I rejected the offer and got a part-time retail job. This allows me to pursue freelance writing and learn Spanish in my free time – two things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also accepted my place on the International Citizen Service, and will leave for a volunteering placement abroad for three months next year. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do.
Most people reading this will probably think I’m crazy, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. There’s nothing to say you can’t pursue the things you really want.
It’s important to take a break
The endless amount of pressure on new graduates to figure out exactly what they want to do and pursue it relentlessly has led to increasingly unhealthy and unhappy young people. With such a level of pressure, on top of increasing student debt and ever more worrying job and housing markets, is it any wonder then that one in four students suffer from mental health problems?
Your twenties are supposed to be about enjoying life, new-found freedom and a sense of adulthood, plus getting out and discovering new things about the world (and yourself) while you still can. There’s no shame in needing a break from the mounting pressures of 21st century life and using the opportunity to recharge and truly consider what you want from life.
Careers, further education and student loans will always be there
There’s no-one-size-fits-all approach to the path you should take after graduation. There is also no set timeline to when you should be reaching the milestones set by society for your life.
Further education is always going to be there. That graduate career you’ve always been dreaming of is always going to be there. No matter how much we don’t like to admit it, your student loan is always going to be there. The opportunity to travel, pursue things you’ve always wanted to do or even start your own business may not.
In your 20s, you have relatively few responsibilities – no mortgage, no children, no career demands. Go out and seize the day.
As Mark Zuckerberg said: “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
If you’re still worried, watch spoken word artist and motivational speaker Sophia Thakur on taking risks in your twenties – now is the time.