Five ways how NOT to ruin your 20sBinjal Shah
A girl’s 20s are so disconcertingly different in India and in the west.
A girl entering into her 20s is taking her first delicate steps into the real world. In the wild-wild west, her job title might as well be ‘Professional dabbler’. She may use trial and error, do-and-decipher, dump-and-start-over to find her calling. Even as grown-up-woes loom large, she can stay immature, stay foolish, keep experimenting, and keep failing until she can take them on. She’s allowed to prioritise her career over everything else – even if she keeps her day job at McDonald’s so she can sing at bars at night, live in four cities a year until she is an accomplished, independent individual.
But being 20 and wanting a career here, especially in India, is a whole separate ball game. Most girls have to start talking up to their folks since they turn 18, that they have ‘plans,’ you know. A passive aggressive nod follows – which basically entails that even though you will get to chase your dreams, you will never be allowed just to worry about your job. The 20s decade has a sense of finality to it. The clock that starts ticking for women in their late 30s elsewhere – probably goes berserk when they enter their mid-20s here. Our protagonist is expected to lay the foundation of all arenas of her life – like her career, starting a family, having children, and if she has the girth left for it, pursuing her hobbies – before she hits 25. If she manages to have a good gig going by then, ‘they’ might let her keep it. But if she’s had a failed business and a couple of jobs she hated, ‘they’ would think she isn’t cut out for having a career, and feel she needs a stranger family with a rich son to be rescued. (Don’t even ask who ‘they’ is. Truth is, no one really knows who ‘they’ is – no one has seen ‘they’. But ‘they’ happen to be everyone’s sole source of validation.)
Or that’s what she thinks. Times may have changed, but a woman ends up searing in these supposed pressures and perils of being a 20-something here, because she takes them on herself. Here’s five unconventional pieces of advice for Indian women in their 20s make sure that it is indeed your life’s best decade:
Take a hammer to that ticking clock of deadlines:
Start by freeing yourself from any time-bound deadlines – especially based on someone else’s idea of how you should be living your life. As an Indian woman belonging to a traditional family – you may have made the mistake of letting them pick out an opportune ‘age’ for you, to marry and settle down, rather than an opportune ‘situation’. Same goes for starting a family and becoming a grandchildren manufacturing unit. You may then feel compelled to adhere to this timeline despite where you are on your career path. As a result – either you take unreasonable pressure in achieving certain career goals, or you simply never try, thinking your ‘time’ is near. Or worse – you abandon your smooth-sailing boat, The Career Currents, to be the captain of The Marriage Marine – since you aren’t prepared to command both. Sometimes, this pressure to conform to conventions might be in your own head, and you may be freer than you thought. Give yourself a break.
Consistent CVs are overrated:
I believe that the most high-energy time of your life is your 20s. Imagine the sparks that would fly if you unite this energy with a gig that you actually enjoy – this is the only holy matrimony I am chasing in my 20s. On the contrary, if you greet this heightened adrenaline with a job your heart is just not into, your energy could fizzle out until you reach what I feel is the most dangerous state of inertia – where you start getting comfortable with your life’s mediocrity. Boredom is to your brain what rust is to a machine – a cancer. When you’re 20, don’t be afraid to put your happiness first. Life is too short to live for making your CV look consistent. The only thing you should be worried about bringing consistency to – is perhaps the levels of thrill that every day brings to you.
Try not to overplan:
Over-planning is oversimplifying – not to mention futile. Surely you believe your destiny has more in store for the most exciting decade of your life, than you can foresee at this point, right? The world is rife with opportunities directed at women in their 20s – who are arguably in their best form. All this has gotta coerce your mind into meandering a little – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t let it. As long as you can justify the alterations in your ‘master-plan’ to yourself, and you can sustain financially through the iffy period, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take risks. Moreover, detours from your original path could lead to stunning explorations, and even if these don’t turn into your ultimate destinations, they will definitely make your journey much more interesting.
Don’t sweat the big failures
Allow yourself to not be the most focussed person in all the land, and experiment until you find your calling. It is a decade when your instincts are heightened, and your desires to follow them are just as strong. You will be exposed to more parts of the world, than you have ever been or ever will be. Don’t be afraid to seize the moment, take your chances, and even start over if your gut says so. It is true that failures are lessons in disguise – learning what you definitely don’t want, and what doesn’t work for you. Thus, take them in your stride and keep learning
…And definitely celebrate the smallest wins!
“With no family to feed and no dependents counting on you, your 20s are without a doubt the years to take a leap and pursue your passion,” says Jessie Goldenberg, who abandoned a promising media career shortly after college to start her own business, the successful American mobile fashion boutique Nomad. There’s no reason why these risks shouldn’t be on your list – for you will never know what it is to succeed, if you don’t even try. And in the process, make the biggest darn deal of your littlest triumphs – your first pay cheque, your first promotion, the first sale of your product perhaps, your first positive client feedback, your first scooter maybe … Should I explain why? Convince yourself that good things are happening; be delusional; be in denial. Any excuse to party, right? Seriously though, the secret to happiness is simply believing that you’re happy.