Wellbeing

The FAQ Guide To Figuring Out Your 20s

So, you’re well into your third decade of life and you’re neither famous, a chief executive, nor even quite sure you want these things anymore. Where to go from here?

The quarter-life crisis can be a thoroughly confusing experience. So, to save you breaking out the merlot and cream cheese for some chemically assisted soul-searching, here’s a “most-asked” guide to figuring it all out.

When am I going to become rich and famous?

Statistically speaking? Probably never.

Celebrity might be a nice dream when we’re kids – one that lingers with many of us as adults – but the odds of achieving fame are microscopic; barely one percent of one percent of the world’s population can be considered “famous.” The good news is, you’re not missing out on as much as you might think.

Society likes to sell fame to us as a kind of existential cure-all, an indelible marker of social and material success. But studies show that pursuing and achieving goals in the “fame, money and looks” department rarely improves happiness. In fact, it may even lead to a state of ill-being. Just ask Minecraft billionaire Markus Persson.

Happily, fame and riches are not a package deal, and the latter is a far more achievable scenario. Contrary to popular belief, only a tiny percentage of millionaires are famous; most are very private citizens who live low-key, low-cost lifestyles.

Should I give up the dream and find a “real” job?

No.

Sure, find a way to pay the bills, but keep chasing that thing that won’t let you sleep. Keep learning, keep creating, keep pushing yourself.

Then one day you might find yourself in a job that sometimes – maybe not all the time, but often enough – feels like you’d do it for free.

How the hell do I do my taxes?

It’s cool, we’ve got you covered. But, whatever you do, remember your MyGov password.

Should I focus on my career, or should I travel first?

No easy answer to this one, I’m afraid.

On one hand, getting your foot in the door while you’re young and willing to work hard can set you up for the next few decades – and accrue some serious annual leave. On the other hand, do you really want to take that life-changing trek through South America when you’re 65 and your drink of choice is Metamucil?

The answer may depend on why you want to travel. If it’s to hike trails and shred mountains, sooner might be better than later. If you want to really experience other cultures, maybe look at getting a job overseas.

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Shouldn’t I have met ‘the one’ by now?

Cool your jets, Ted Mosby. This is the decade for figuring out who you are. The right person could come along at any point in your life – in the meantime, take some time to be a little selfish and concentrate on yourself.

Wasting your twenties chasing after some hypothetical dreamboat is, at best, a pretty solid pitch for a sitcom.

What if I drift apart from friends?

Sure, there might be that one group from high school who still go on beach trips together, but most of us will feel the sting of a dying friendship at some point. And it sucks.

The good news is you’ll meet plenty of new people as you drift between workplaces, universities and bars. Losing friends is never fun, and making new ones can be a little scary, but it beats holding onto the past by a long way.

When will I know exactly what I want to do?

I won’t lie, it might take a long time. Discovering your calling takes a good degree of self-awareness, something that takes a frustratingly long time to arise in some people (me). You may also have to try a few things and fail spectacularly at them before you realise which ones you’d like to not suck at. That said, there are ways to get a general sense of direction.

As people will often tell you, you should start with what you love. But what if you love a lot of different things? What if you find yourself being pulled in opposing directions by various passions, and getting nowhere? My advice is to identify your ideal form of suffering.

That might sound odd, but success of any kind involves at least some form of suffering. Whether it’s a rigorous exercise regimen, slogging through textbooks or putting in long hours at the office, suffering is a part of life. So, a good question to ask yourself if you need to narrow the field might be, “What kind of suffering am I willing to embrace?”

But perhaps the most important thing is to make sure these decisions are for you. So many of us struggle to keep up with ridiculous standards and “life schedules” dictated by parents, society and social media. The thing is, these are arbitrary standards that don’t mean shit.

At the end of your life, you may have many regrets. But I bet you the entire value of my student loan that your deathbed farewell speech will not include the line “I just wish I’d been able to post my graduation photos on Facebook before that bitch Cindy.”


Joel Svensson is a Canberra-based writer originally from Melbourne. He’s written more latté-fuelled stories about first-world problems than he cares to admit, and can be found coping with misleading hashtags at @le0jay.