12 Microlessons from my first 36 hours as a 20 year old

Yesterday, I finally took off those pesky training wheels! Not only does that mean that I have unprecedented amounts of freedom, but also that I can also shed that “-teen” stuff! Yes, ladies and gentleman, aging has taken its toll on me once more. But this time, it was a milestone: twenty.

20’s more than 5×4 or 2×10. It’s more than a roaring decade full of flappers and Gatsby-esque fun. The twenties are the springboard into what we consider normal modern adult life and the (apparently substantially) less fun 30s. I may be new to the whole thing, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know a thing or two about the ‘ol pond.


These are some lessons I’ve already learned, will learn, or expect to learn as I continue as a neophyte passenger on Life Airlines, first class:

1) Nothing will really change

Classes will continue. Breakfasts will be had. Day-to-day life will mostly remain the same until another milestone. Sorry, old bean.

2) Everything will change

There goes your special card. Say adieu to the chance to play it off by saying “I’m eighteen or nineteen”. You now say “I’m twenty, I’m an adult! (Happy Birthday to the Ground 😉 )”. On the other hand, now comes the chance to have more credibility. Like magic, as a result of that new, higher age, people for some reason become more likely to trust your word and see you as more of an adult.

3) Playtime has just started

For those adults who think that being mature is being deadpan and serious end up turning into giant killjoys and in a horridly ironic twist of fate end up being beaten dead by a pan. Go figure. But all seriousness aside, from now on more than ever play becomes increasingly important for the sake of our sanity. Sake won’t fix everything, nor will Whiskey or any other kind of “adult” thing(s). Sometimes the best solution is a good hearty game of Hide and Seek or Cards Against Humanity.

4) Smiling and putting on a pleasant face even when inconvenient should start to become easier

If not, make it so. In college, at work, in life—there’s only so much mopey we can be before we begin to get that reputation for being Eeyore. And it gets even worse if we misreact to life’s gentle slaps in the face (sorry, did I say gentle?). More and more it will become a useful skill to hold emotions like a poker hand until the right moment to let them out. The curse of maturity.

5) Smiling and putting on a pleasant face when convenient should start to become harder.

Just because there’s a certain amount of responsibility with our emotions and comportments doesn’t mean that we have to constantly hide our emotions—good and bad. There will be things ahead that will knock us down. Constantly. The challenge for us is to start learning when and how to show those emotions so that we don’t showcase them.

6) Let wide-eyed wonder win

This is the “Don’t Get Jaded Clause” of our life’s contract. Excitability is one of the greatest weapons in our arsenal. We’re human! We’re constantly dreaming and planning and striving to fly ever higher. Our fellow passengers aboard Starship Earth are doing the same thing. And often, they create some pretty snazzy stuff. Other times, we take oranges and vanilla pudding , taste it, and have a flavor experience beyond even our imaginations (try it, trust me). Regardless, we owe it to ourselves to never lose sight of the small things—to never lose sight of the very things that make us squeal in delight and jump in our seats whilst clapping with a starry-eyed gaze at whatever it may be that so captivates our imagination.

7) Acknowledge that we’ve inherited the stereotypes of our age

Blogs, pumpkin spice everything, Twitter and Facebook, smartphones, Google, no guilt when downloading files, the Internet generation, video games, the screwed generation, the immature and lazy ones, the millenials (a word I had to add to my MS Word dictionary just now), and so on. This is what we’re associated with.  Whether or not we like it, we’ve got to live with it and moreover, work to maintain or overcome it for our individual situation.

8) Relish the found identity

Not that we’ve got it cemented yet. But to a greater or lesser extent, the colors for our flag have been chosen. Their placement decided and their symbolism determined. All that remains now is to stich it up. Our design is still malleable—and remains so for the rest of our lives. But the hard part is over. Our musical tastes, interests, culinary preferences, and who knows what else have for the most part and for better or for worse been decided by us. All that’s left now is to relish them (but if you’re feeling adventurous: mustard and sauerkraut are delicious on our self-identities as well).

9) It’s time to shed those needless hatreds

Thinking is fun! And a part of a complete breakfast.  Beyond Nickelback and Justin Beiber—it pays to put forth the effort to learn about political candidates and current events from those with whom you agree and disagree. Being able to empathize with a particular side—without attention to whether or not you personally agree with it is a key that can unlock many good doors, and lock many other bad ones. With that newfangled smartphone technologies we have the power to access the world—so download that Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Reuters, and other assorted news apps and begin to read. Watch the news along with Stewart and Colbert and learn about how the world works.

10)   There’s more to life than cat videos

And there’s more to the internet as well. Studies have shown that the more we consume the sadder we tend to get online. That, then, leaves us with one option among countless others: we create. For others or for ourselves. But we create. Whether its YouTube or WordPress or Tumblr for others, or learning a new language or skill for ourselves: it’s time to begin to become a contributing member of the internet’s global community beyond Facebook stalking and watching a “Cat Video so cute that your eyes roll back and your eyeballs slide out of your @nus.” (Cards Against Humanity, 3rd Expansion).

11)  Getting credit is nice, but not always needed

One of the main issues with some of the organizations I’m an officer of is that my fellow officers—some, not all—are obsessed with getting their name placed on work that benefits the organization as a whole. I get it. It’s a nice feeling to see one’s name in lights somewhere. But that kind of attitude towards service is not leadership any more than law enforcement taking bribes is public service. Whenever we do something for someone else—if we get credit for doing it then awesome! If we don’t then ok. There will be work we may have to do that won’t bear our name but will help our organization—whatever it is—grow.

12) Get in the habit of giving others credit

Part of fostering an environment that breeds ideas is to give credit where credit is due—and sometimes even if it’s not. Thanking others for helping us is culturally a difficult thing to do. Just like above, sometimes getting credit is nice. Just some food for thought.


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