The hardest thing about going through a pandemic in your 20s is exactly that — you’re in your 20s.
You’re at an age where your ‘real’ life hasn’t really started yet. You’re just starting your career, maybe not quite sure of what you want to do. Or you want to travel, and you don’t have hopes of settling down. Maybe you want to date without commitment or hang off the edge of a Greenpeace ship if that’s what you’re vibing tomorrow.
You want to live your life while it’s just yours because your ‘life life’, the one that your future partner and your children might know you for, hasn’t kicked in yet. You want to experiment, see the world — or not, that’s the point — you just want to do whatever you want to do.
But you can’t. Not this year. The world has come to a halt. Your chances of meeting new people have dwindled, you can forget your travel plans. Hell, you can forget all of your plans.
The hardest part about being in your 20s during this crisis is that these are the years during which you thought you’d be building your future. Now is the time to experiment with different jobs, fail and start again, suffer heartbreak, and define your priorities.
Who knows when things will get back to normal? Will next year be more of the same?
It’s frustrating, but maybe this is the ‘new normal.’ Or at least, maybe this is how we should see it just in case. Because if things go back to normal in the new year, then great; resume the status quo. But if they don’t, and you’ve just been waiting for this phase to pass, you’ll be the one who put your life on hold.
It might not seem like lemons, but you can still make lemonade
Let’s consider some of the main things that you may have wanted to get out of these years.
- Traveling would have allowed you to explore a new culture, maybe learn a new language, and learn to stand on your own two feet.
- Going out and dating would have increased your chances of meeting new people, making new friends, and maybe finding a partner.
- Experimenting with different jobs would have given you a better idea of what you might want to do, what you like, what you don’t like. It would also have been an opportunity to network and find connections that could help you further down the line.
Undoubtedly, it won’t be the same. It’s annoying, and it sucks. But, there are still ways to achieve these things in this ‘new normal.’ Here are a few ideas.
1. Find creative ways to bring joy to yourself and others
It’s worth clarifying at the outset that the most important thing during this time is not to lose your sense of self. This year has been tough on all of us, it has been exhausting, depleting, and it might be making you feel a little ‘ugh.’ But you can’t let it kill your ‘mojo’; hold on to your personality like a trademark!
One good way to do this is by finding creative ways to bring joy to your day and to share this with others. Not just because it’s a nice thing to do, but because being around people who are feeling happy, is in turn, more likely to keep your spirits up too. Nurture your surroundings because positivity has a cyclical effect.
For example, I particularly loved tuning in to the hilarious John Krasinki on ‘Some Good News.’ In his first episode, he tells the story of a man in Maine who purchased 100 lobsters to help out a lobsterman and then delivered a fully cooked lobster dinner to every neighbor on his street! Another thing that made me smile was a video of a young man playing piano on a balcony in Barcelona.
Sitting down to watch your favorite show every evening might not cut it. Why not get creative and take your pub quiz online, or organize a ‘come dine with me’ competition with your family or housemates? You could circulate your own version of ‘Some Good News’ and share funny videos with your friends, make home-decorations for people, or like the kind man in Maine, make dinner for your neighbors.
Here are a few more ideas if you can’t come up with your own. But I do encourage you to think outside the box and get creative.
2. Take an online course & network
Knowing what you want to do isn’t easy. Typically, you’d have the opportunity to dip your toes in a few jobs to see what you like and what you don’t like. But in such a turbulent work environment, this isn’t so easy. It’s become harder to even get hired, so you’re probably going to want to hold on to any opportunity you’re given.
How then are you supposed to figure out what you want? An online course is an excellent way to gain some insight into a field that might interest you. There are several online course providers, including Masterclass, Coursera, Udemy, and Emeritus, to name a few. You usually have access to a shared platform with the other participants, allowing you to ask questions and find out what other people are doing.
This is also a good time to network. Not only can it help you find a job, but it also increases your chances of finding a job that you actually like because speaking to people from the company or the industry you’re applying to can help you build a better understanding of what it is you’re signing up for. It’ll provide you with a clearer picture of the opportunities out there, and it’s a great way to keep your future options open too.
3. Learn a new language
Travel is restricted; I can’t sugar-coat this. I love to travel, and there’s no real way around this. You won’t get the same exposure or the life-experience you would have if you had visited a different country, but you can still learn a new language and learn about a different culture during this time.
There are many online language course providers for beginners, including Babbel, Duolingo, and FluentU. And, if you’re already familiar with a language and you’re keen to practice, I recommend signing up for an online meetup or a language exchange. These are usually for people with a relatively advanced level who want to practice speaking.
I prefer the one-on-one language exchanges best; you speak in one language for half the time and then switch so that both of you get to practice.
Plus, this is a great way to learn from people from other parts of the world, people with an interesting perspective that’s probably quite different from that of most people you typically socialize with. The whole reason I started my blog was because of a conversation I had with a super interesting guy from Quebec that I met on a language exchange. You never know what you might learn or who you could meet!
4. Start a new project
Honestly, more than anything, we all need something to be excited about. Starting a new project, whether it’s learning to do something new from scratch, writing a book, or starting a business, could be a great way to go.
This year, I decided to start my own thing; to become a freelance writer, and start a blog and a podcast with my sister. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future. I’ve spent my days being creative, networking with people in a completely new industry, and learning about a bunch of different things that I didn’t even know existed.
Embarking on a project with someone else has made the whole experience more exciting and rewarding; I love collaborating and ideating together. But going at it alone can be just as exciting. And if you want to collaborate with someone but don’t have someone to do it with, find someone! There are tonnes of people out there looking for an exciting new project to get involved with.
5. Start journaling
This might seem like a strange addition to the list. But, there are two main reasons why I recommend that you start journaling this year:
- It’s a stressful time for everyone, and journaling is a great way to express gratitude, which has been consistently associated with greater levels of happiness and decreased anxiety.
I first learned about the power of journaling from an interview with Tim Ferriss, in which he recommends using ‘The Five Minute Journal.’ I’ve been writing in it every morning and every night and found that it’s a great way to adopt a positive mindset.
- Journaling can provide a valuable tool that you can turn back to when faced with future hardship.
This year has given us all the opportunity to learn to overcome challenging situations. In a way, we’ve had to learn to self-soothe. We all have different feelings, and we each have our own coping-mechanisms. The things that work for me might not work for you.
You might not even be aware of it, but you’ve probably developed some coping-mechanisms this year already. Maybe you began to exercise or meditate in the morning because it helps to boost your mood. Maybe you began to bake every Friday night because you needed something to look forward to or realized that talking to someone helps.
Whatever strategies you developed that work for you, write these down. Create a bank of information for your future-self in case you ever need a reminder of the tools that have helped you in the past.
It’s frustrating — your 20s just aren’t what you had hoped. But they don’t have to be worse than you had hoped. Make of them what you can, and hope that we’re coming to the end of the tunnel.
In the meantime, here’s a summary of 5 things you can try to help you enjoy the ride –
- Find creative ways to bring joy to yourself and others
- Take an online course & network
- Learn a new language
- Start a new project — can be a side-hustle
- Start journaling