Life Lessons from My 20s

by Nika Campbell

A few days ago, I celebrated by 30th birthday #30andfabulous. I am excitedly looking forward to the next phase in my life, today I want to share 10 life lessons I learned in my 20s. These are things I now know at 30 that I didn’t fully understand at 20. Enjoy!

1. Be Fearless. Being fearless doesn’t mean that you don’t feel fear. It means that you do the things you want to do despite the fear. During my 20s, I faced decisions and life changes that sometimes made me afraid: putting my life on hold to attend graduate school, moving 3,000 mile across country to a new city; and choosing and starting the first job of my career. Yet life taught me to “do it afraid.” In terms of my emotional and spiritual growth, the best lessons came from stepping out on faith despite my fears.

2. Invest the time and energy in getting to know and love yourself. Get to know your quirks, your likes and dislikes, your needs and your passions. Find out what you need from others and from yourself. Embrace and fall in love with the beautifully flawed person you are. Remember, the privilege of a lifetime is to be yourself.

3. Buy experiences, not possessions. My favorite memories from my 20s come from a number of marvelous experiences: studying abroad in London, trying frog legs in Paris (it tastes like chicken); exploring Oak Bluffs during a girls’ trip to Martha’s Vineyard; and cruising the Bahamas, among many others. Those memories and experiences are dear to me. They gave me valuable insights about life, introduced me to some of the most interesting people I have ever met and have enriched my life. Interestingly, no material possession that I’ve ever bought have done those things for me.

4. Avoid comparison. With everyone seemingly living the “perfect life” per their social media accounts, it’s easy to compare your life to others. Don’t. Concentrate on living YOUR best life and walking YOUR unique path and resist the urge to compare. While it’s o.k. to draw inspiration from others, comparison only steal your joy.

5.Allow Yourself to Feel the Full Range of Your Emotions. I wholeheartedly believe in choosing happiness when you can. Yet like joy, we also feel sadness. It’s a part of life and our feelings either come to teach us an important lesson or are completely normal responses to life circumstances. Although some feelings are easier to deal with than others, your feelings make you human. This quote sums it up perfectly:

“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.” —Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

6. When life knocks you down, get back up again. One of my favorite Bible verses is “the race is not for the swift, but for those who persevere to the end.” Matt. 24-13. Circumstances in life will test your resilience and perseverance, if we are not careful, we can mistake a short-term defeat or obstacle as the barrier of a lifetime. It usually isn’t. You have the rest of your life ahead of you and one chapter doesn’t make the entire book. Get back up and continue to write your story. The heights of great men and women are reached by those who chose to persevere in the face of obstacles. Plus, I’ve learned that you really do emerge stronger after defeats and failures.

7. Pursue quality relationships. It’s pointless to pursue or spend time with people who treat you poorly. Overtime you will come to accept that treatment as normal or you will start to see yourself as unworthy of love and respect. Know that you are valuable and loveable, and only allow people in your life who affirm those truths.

8. Forgive. I gave myself a huge gift in my 20s by deciding to forgive. Choosing forgiveness gave me the space and time to release bitterness, resentments and past hurts. It didn’t mean that I accepted shabby treatment from those who hurt me nor did it mean I didn’t feel anger at being wronged. Yet I didn’t begin to heal from those hurts until I released my resentments.

9. Spend quality time with the people you love. While you’re busy pursuing your goals and dreams, make space in your schedule to spend quality time with the people you love. Cherish the people who you love and who love you, these relationships truly make life more meaningful.

10. Embrace vulnerability. This is a difficult one for me and something I’m still learning to do, because putting yourself out there can be emotionally risky. Opening your heart and your life to others engenders deeper connection and intimacy, and it improves the quality of your relationships. It’s powerful to truly live authentically and to show others your flaws and imperfections. Choose wisely when sharing openly, as Brene Brown said in her poignant Ted Talk, “people must earn the right to hear your story.”

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Born and raised in Jamaica, Nika is an island girl at heart. She enjoys art, music, fashion and discussing a variety of topics. Nika is passionate about helping people be their best selves and she is committed to social justice issues. Nika is the creator of two blogs, Faces of Black Fashion and Irie Chic Style.

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