So I, like a lot of the internet (where is she at? like a million plus views?), read this article recently about 23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged at 23 from a girl who I wouldn't necessarily say I would be opposed to being friends with. In fact, I'm quite sure we would be friends or at the very least Facebook friends if I met her in real life. We'd be friends who disagree on things and hopefully we would have good, challenging, intellectually stirring conversation over things like the fact that I disagree with a lot that she posted about in her list of 23 things. And you know what? That's okay because disagreements happen. That's life! But I'm not here to dog on her, that's for sure and truly not my intention at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm here to have a chat with her.
So I even took some time to read a few different responses to see if I was alone in my thoughts because of how many people loved her post. Obviously something happened because now you are here and reading about a post I read and how I didn't agree with a list and how I'm about to tell you my own list. So what happened was that I decided that since it's the internet and since this is my blog that I could throw my thoughts out there too. Why not join the party?! It's not even like the idea of a list of things to do before a certain age or things to stop doing is new. They've been circling my Facebook newsfeed for quite a while and I would be lying if I didn't really enjoy some of them. There is just something about them that is to the point and inspiring. I'm just hoping that I can tackle the "to the point" part. That'll be a big enough of a hurdle for me as it is.
Back to this chat that I'm having.
My main thoughts for you, my new friend Vanessa, would probably start off with asking if you have any regrets after writing that blog? Like, I'm still trying to decide how much of it was sarcasm and how much of it was things that you hold very dear to you as important. Now it's all out there for your viewers to decipher for themselves and I'm sure you feel somewhat vulnerable being in the public's eye like that. Or maybe you don't, I'm not sure because we've just met. Maybe we can talk this one out over a tea or something when I go back to the Asia side of the world because I'm a lot like you. I have been living overseas in Southeast Asia this past year and plan to head back there again. Apart from being quite the adventurer, I also enjoy sarcasm and wit, both of which you are fluent in. So we are hitting it off in some areas really well but there are definitely things that differ between us. For example, I don't like Nutella or the show, GIRLS. I'm also not opposed to getting engaged at 23 nor do I think it's smart to "go out with two people at the same time just to see how longs before it blows up in your face". That just feels like the hellish realities of high school or junior high. Don't worry though, I don't think these are things worth tossing each other out over.
I have what feels like a million thoughts about us Millennials. Maybe you'd agree with some of them and maybe some points would cause us to get feisty and possibly spill our teas or whatever is between us in our hypothetical meet up over there in Asia. One of the biggest thoughts that I have is that we are all wanders for the most part. Your blog, WanderOnwards, and the fact that you have dubbed yourself as a "Professional Wanderer" make me think that you would agree.
If Pinterest could coin one main quote that we have all inevitably pinned, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" would probably be it. I would start there with that because c'mon, how many of us got that as a tattoo this year? I mean I personally didn't but I certainly thought about it! I think that a lot of our generation wanders and at times are seemingly aimless. If you doubt that just check how many of us have no clue what we want to do with our future or how many have switched their major once or even five times. We are not alone in our confusion and in our questionings, nor is it always negative. We need to figure our stuff out and a lot of that inevitably takes time, which because of the surmounting pressures we feel like we don't have any to spare. So what hope is there for us who wander?
Well, I propose that we need some things in our lives to root us down in some way. I think that will help, not just a little but a lot. Now, hear me loud and clear, I am not suggesting that this means settling down somewhere. To me, roots are not equivalent with your marriage or occupation status. I think it means that we need some anchors in our lives that keep us grounded while we are soaring through our roaring 20's and life for that matter, however that may look like for us. I have some suggestions as to how to find some clarity as to who you want to be, what you want to do and what inspires you in your early 20's. You know, since we are seeking out some clarity in those departments not just in our 20's but for the most part there since that's when we are expected to be pursing college and a degree and then a 9-5 job that turns into a career with benefits and options for our future.
You said in your blog that you think that "Millennials deserve the opportunity to develop ourselves, alone". I am half with you on this one and half not. I think that some of us need alone time and some of us don't. But at the end of the day we are all going to be molded by something. We are all going to be influenced by something that will shape us into who we will be. My suggestion is that we don't lose ourselves but that we walk the fine line of learning what it means to become. One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, hits the nail on the head when she says this in speaking of twenty-somethings, "There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don't lose yourself at happy hour, but don't lose yourself on the corporate ladder, either.”
And look, I'm just a mere 23-year-old myself so I don't claim to have this all figured out just yet. I, myself, am still becoming! My hope is that by sharing what has helped me some would be of benefit to you and maybe to others as well. I didn't go to college and I certainly don't have anything close to a 9-5 job but I have been plagued by the confusion about what I wanted to do or be. I find myself uncertain of the future at times and wondering if I'm doing the right thing. The game changer thought is that I don't fit into the group that wander and are lost. I'm not saying that you are in that group though, not my call to make nor is that really my point. But I think that it's just possible to find yourself going nowhere and at the same time not make any sort of progress.
Life can be a raging sea at times and although there is adventure out there, let's not throw out the anchors and compasses just yet. I think there is wisdom in keeping them aboard.
Keep reading for my list of 23 things...
So without further ado, I'll throw out 23 things that I think are worthwhile doing in your early 20's, whether you are single or married, that help root you down regardless of if you wander or not.
1. I agree, get a passport. But don't let it collect dust. Actually travel with it and see the world for how beautiful it really is. Taste new food. Meet new people. Like my dad always says to me, "Don't forget to look, listen and learn, Courtney". Plan a trip, preferably with close friends and save your money. You can do it! Chase the adventures abroad!
2. Read. Learn to love to read. Learn to read. Whichever applies to you, you should do. George R. R. Martin said it well when he said, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." Books are a whole different type of classroom and another type of adventure that life offers. Grab a classic novel and dig in. Relive the glory of a century ago through a good biography.
3. Go for a run. Whether you like running or not. There's just something about not listening to the lies your legs are telling you and that are in your mind as you keep pushing farther than you thought was possible. Obviously, I'm not talking about not listening to real medical concerns. I just think that it's invaluable to learn how to persevere and to push past adversity. If you can, find a Color Run near you. Those are heck of a lot of fun too!
4. Do charity work in your home town. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help build a Habitat home. In that moment you may be physically giving them something but at the same time that moment is teaching you something that, if you let it, will stick with you for the rest of your life. Equally as impacting, if not more, find an opportunity to go serve overseas!
5. Listen to a stranger's story. Doesn't matter if it is the homeless man on the street, business professional in line behind you at a coffee shop, or even an elderly person at the bus stop. Just stop and ask. Be genuinely interested. Listen. There are amazing people in this world and hearing their stories helps to pull you out of the self-centeredness that our generation can get tied up in and reminds you that there is a bigger picture going on.
6. Find a cause to be passionate about. Care about something that is actually making this world a better place. Don't let the darkness that looms and suffocates the news stations get you down. Learn what Hope is and let it change your life.
7. Watch a sunrise or sunset. I mean actually watch it. Stop what you are doing and focus. Inhale, exhale. Realize just how small you are and just how breath taking God's creation really is. You are small but you matter!
8. Make a list of 1,000 things that you are grateful for. Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts was a catalyst in my life for a major shift. Things changed for me when I started to open my eyes to see the gifts that I had always taken for granted. We can miss our greatest blessings so easily if we aren't looking.
9. Stand in a friend's wedding. You can't actually make this one happen because they kind of have to ask you first. But be a good enough friend to deserve the honor of standing next to someone dear to you on their important day. On the topic of friends, find out the ones that you couldn't do without and if distance separates you, make it a priority to go see them. Save your pennies. Do whatever you have to do. When you find dear friends, don't let them go. Don't let passing time or distance keep you apart. Fly, drive, walk, crawl - whatever it takes to continue to be in each others' lives.
10. Learn to love yourself. "The fact that someone else loves you doesn't rescue you from the project of loving yourself." Sahaj Kohli brilliantly said. Fall in love with who you are. Learn what it means to be comfortable in your own skin. Become your biggest fan and not your biggest critic. Give this some time. Society has for years taught you otherwise. It'll take some patience to learn this but once you do it will make a world of a difference. While I'm at it, Tara Stiles once said, "Eat like you love yourself. Move like you love yourself. Speak like you love yourself. Act like you love yourself.” Respect your body now and it will thank you later. Plus, it's like they are expecting us to be adults now too. So here's to less pints of ice cream and more responsible decisions with what we eat and what we do. I'd suggest to drink more water and to eat more veggies. That's what I've learned so far.
11. Learn to drive a stick shift. This is a skill set that has benefited me all over the world. Get out there and learn to get past the stalling point.
12. Try something new. A new restaurant, a new hobby or even a new style of fashion or genre of music. Appreciate differences and continue to find new things that you like. Stay curious friends!
13. Find a way to express yourself. Do you draw? Paint? Write? Act? Sing? Play an instrument? You have a story to tell with your life. Dreams, passions and perspectives all within you that are unique to you. Is it bundled up inside of you or are you finding ways for it to spill out of you?
14. Learn a new language. There's something magical about being able to make friends with someone who doesn't speak your native language. Have fun with it! You'll never know when it might come in handy.
15. Find your "quiet spot". Whether it's a trail in your neighborhood park or a dock near a lake. Maybe it's a secluded seat in a coffee shop. Find somewhere where you can quiet yourself from all the tick-tock madness of this world and just be. Being, not necessarily doing. This is such a hard lesson to learn but a beneficial one for sure.
16. Give a meaningful gift to someone you love. If possible, use your words too. Maya Angelou once said that “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you love someone, don't give them reason to ever doubt it. Lavish them with your love and with your words too.
17. Do random acts of kindness. Pay for another table's bill at a restaurant or leave coupons in the aisle of a grocery store. There are a million ideas out there. Put a smile on someone's face. Remind yourself that you can make this world a better place, that you can make a difference too.
18. Find what makes you laugh and fill your life with that. Don't be too serious that you quench your own happiness. Laughter is medicine for the soul so fill up on that stuff and keep your life in good supply of it.
19. Be bold in the face of something that frightens you. “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.” Meg Cabot Do something big like bungee jumping or sky diving. Or maybe something like driving on the interstate or speaking in front of people. Just once prove to yourself that fear isn't crippling, that you can overcome!
20. Read about the life of Jesus in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He is arguably the most influential man in all of history. Read about how He treated people and how He lived His life. See how He lived with purpose and understanding. Be inspired by how someone drenched with purpose lived their life.
21. Learn about the power of forgiveness. Don't let your past be the shackles that hold you back. Don't poison yourself with bitterness. That junk is made to kill. Give it up. Forgive. That doesn't make what people have done okay but it gives you the freedom to move on from those hurtful moments. You deserve the moving on process. You don't have to be weighed down. You have a bright future!
22. Be easily inspired. We need motivation. Don't be shocked when it comes in unexpected forms.
23. Find out what makes you come alive. Frederick Buechner said that the place you are called to is "the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." What are you passionate about and where does the world need that? Don't know yet? Keep looking until you find it. Be relentless.
Here's to the journey and the worthwhile lessons that we will learn along the way...
So what do you think? Do you agree that the Millennials are often wanderers? Do you think there is a need for something that anchors them within? What do you think are some worthwhile things to do in your early 20's? What helps you root down and have a sense of purpose? I'd love to hear your (respectful whether you agree or disagree) comments below.