We often hear people say how they wish they could go back to their twenties and how twenties was this crazy, mad-fun time of their life.
While that's true, the twenties is not exactly an easy place to be at.
It's the first time you expose yourself to the real world. It's when you start paying your bills, move out of your parents' house, sleep on an empty stomach or maybe don't sleep at all. Everything you've been through up until now was your preparation for right now.
It's scary, it's exciting and it's a lot of other things.
We date, we move in with our partners, we dump someone we once loved, we get dumped when it's the last thing we expect. Our careers take precedence over our ageing parents and for the first time in life, we feel ourselves bound by social, financial and professional constraints.
I am a male in my twenties and it's nothing like I've heard people tell me. Yes, I've done some crazy fun things but almost all of them have come at a cost. For every beer I bought, there was a job I was unhappy with. For every cigarette I smoked, there was an argument with my father. For every movie I saw, there was a reality I was trying to escape.
If I was asked to live my twenties again, there are a few things I'd do differently. Being regular at the gym definitely tops the list.
But there are a few other things I wish I'd have done differently.
I wish I had traveled more, I wish I had taken more time to know myself. I wish I was more unavailable to people who needed me. I wish I hadn't submerged myself in someone else's problems. I wish I had paid more attention to mine.
If I did, I wouldn't have an identity crisis in my twenties. If I had pursued my hobby as my profession, I wouldn't need an escape from my job.
If I had asked for my space in the relationship, I wouldn't feel resentment.
If I didn't hold back from talking about my professional achievements, I would get the recognition I deserved. I wouldn't feel overworked.
But I did. I felt overworked, resentment and unhappy as a person because I never gave myself the space I deserved.
I feel sorry for the under-privileged before I feel empathetic. I've worked really hard to earn everything I have, I shouldn't have to feel sorry for that.
I've said "I'm fine" when I wasn't because I've always worried about someone else's response to my feelings. I shouldn't have.
I've felt guilty for someone else's problems. I've let guilt get the better of me on more occasions than one.
We could all do with a little less guilt. With a little more self-entitlement.
Growing up, I was imbibed with a lot of morals that I didn't choose for myself. My parents, much like every other set of parents, didn't want me to make the same mistakes they did and hence they guarded me with a set of values they developed over the years.
And it has taken years of conflict to understand that their morals don't apply on me. Neither does the guilt that comes with the want of being selfish.
I realized I'm selfish because I want my own set of morals that are applicable to me and not my parents/friends/significant half's idea of me.
One of the most important things life has taught me in my twenties is that it's totally okay, sometimes even necessary, to be selfish.
My parents, as much as they love me, have very little idea of who I am. Not having the same connection with my parents any more may be the worst thing I had to face in my twenties. It's my fault that I'm not who my parents think I am and that's because I'm selfish. Too selfish to give up things I want to do instead of becoming the person my parents would want me to become.
But is that really so bad?
The word "selfish" is thrown around like it's supposed to hurt. Being selfish in no way means being a jerk to people around you.
I'm not selfish because I want bad things to happen to other people. I'm selfish because I want good things to happen to me.
And that's all I'm going to care about for a while, because I've lived for others, have had them walk over me and even push me around long enough. And as others have started to get along with their lives, I find myself in a difficult place, a lonelier one, in life. I forgot to live for myself while trying to impress everyone I could.
The concept of living for myself never occurred to me until there were talks of a corporate job and marriage proposals. I realized I let my fears get in the way of my hobbies, my thoughts and my eventual growth as a person. I realized I should've done this a long time ago. Become selfish.
Unfortunately, as I look around, there are a lot of me at every nook and cranny of the world. Someone somewhere wants to switch careers but is unable to do so because parents won't allow. Another place, another time, someone wants to marry their boyfriend/girlfriend but they happen to be from a different caste/religion/gender. All these people are versions of me bound by their social/financial/professional constraints.
Much like me, I wish all these people had become selfish a long time ago.
Twenties is a fun time, they say. They're right. But it's more fun when you stop living for others, when you start to look at yourself in the same light as you see others. It's fun when at the end of the day, you can kick back with a beer and not have the fear of getting caught. It's fun when you don't have to worry about a failing relationship in the middle of the day. It's fun when you can be friends with an ex-lover because you chose to be selfish one day and ended that failing relationship.