Last week I entered into my late twenties, (by my reckoning, this boundary is marked by the year 25) which is rather a scary thought for someone who still struggles with the fact they are now a tax paying, student debt ridden *adult*.
I spent most of my actual Birthday at work, not because I really had to, but more because It's something which I quite enjoy. I'm good at being lazy it seems, but not so great at being idle (different beasts by my reckoning).
After work Des took us both out for a rather spectacular meal at Skosh, a new-ish restaurant here in York. If you want to see any documentary evidence of our rather fabulous meal, I suggest you head on over to my Instagram (shameless plug).
I started writing this post on the evening of my actual Birthday, however I never managed to complete it due to various events. I also feel it has improved with a period of reflection, as I read a lot of these "27 things I have learned" style posts and find a fair few of them quite trite. Hopefully that is something I have managed to avoid here...
Moving into year 27 has encouraged me to reflect on the past few years of my life. A piece of analysis which I actually think is pretty common for anyone coming to a watershed moment.
It would be a complete lie to pretend that everything has been plain sailing throughout my early twenties - often far from it actually! However I also can not deny that I have had some amazing experiences and generally tried to successfully live my life according to a realistic set of moral principles. (The following seems to be pretty reasonable to me; do no harm to others and actively seek to be nice to all.)
Alongside a general feeling that I'm slowly and finally starting to grow into myself, I guess I also feel like I am in a position to reflect on various learnings from the past half decade. I'm usually fairly cynical of blog posts which are written on an advisory basis, especially when they come from my own head.... I'm fairly certain that I'm as clueless as the next person.
I do hope the points below are taken in that spirit - they are observations based on one person's unique experience, mine in this case, rather than objective truths.
Your early twenties are uncomfortable, emotionally and financially
In terms of finances, I have wholeheartedly adopted a personal fiscal policy of only buying things I can afford - without using credit. This has kept me out of debt, even when I was on an extremely tight income. It has also encouraged me to only buy things I need, rather than want.
I imagine most people of my age graduated in a similar position, into a less than ideal job market with stagnant wages and insecure casual labour as the predominant options. Making things work financially has been stressful on multiple occasions, even when I have been strict with myself as above.
My financially and emotionally uncomfortable period was especially acute in the period following university, where I felt extremely directionless and quite worried about the fact I lacked direction.
This is where the next observation comes in:
There is no destination
I still feel pretty adrift on the sea of life, however I guess I'm now slightly closer to coming to terms with the fact that there is no set direction - there is nothing you SHOULD do.
This fits on with my general life philosophy I guess - do what you want to do unless you are actively harming others. (Obviously we could spend days debating the finer points and conflicts this actually brings up, I feel though that this is not the time or place.)
People are always going to expect you to take certain paths, however their opinion is nothing compared with your own when it comes to your life. Follow what makes you happy, not other people who don't have to live with the choices.
Success feels hard
This point was actually inspired by the following article on Becoming Minimalist, and in particular the line, "maybe success feels more like challenge, than accomplishment."
The other day I allowed myself a *very rare* positive thought about how much I have achieved in the past year in terms of Bright Ethics and my other ventures. The thing is, whilst I can appreciate things have gone very well, it still all feels very hard.
There is a quote bandied about a lot in start up circles - "you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable." Whilst I find some of these motivational quotes pretty trite and some downright untrue, I do feel that there is something in the sentiment here.
Being uncomfortable keeps you hungry for more and stops you becoming complacent. The act of trying something is perhaps success in itself, regardless of the outcome.
It's also very hard to be objective about success. Almost everyone I meet massively underplays their achievements, either because they are modest or just can't damn recognise them as things to be proud of.
Your priorities change with age
Bethan aged 20 cared deeply about a couple of quite simple things - her studies, whether the key text she wanted would be available in the library, her (ex) boyfriend, her university pals, going on nights out with said pals, going to the gym and whether or not she would make a civilisation that would last the ages on Civ 4.
Bethan aged 26 cares about quite a lot of different things - her partner and very old/blind cat, her friends, her work in all of its varied forms, local politics, getting the Guild of Entrepreneurs off the ground, the gym, undermining the gym by having a decent bottle of wine in the house for any given Friday evening and whether or not she will make a civilisation that will last the ages on Civ 5 (yup, I upgraded).
Whilst the list exercise above is slightly reductive, I think its a fair observation that the things you want/ have to spend your time on change throughout every stage of life.
I have also found myself valuing my time a lot more, which has resulted in my choosing to spend it only on things I actively want to do. Alongside being more efficient, this has also made me a lot happier, as my policy of not doing things I don't want to do has massively cut down the the time I spend on things that make me resentful. I still do the dishes though... some things you can't escape!
Everything worth doing takes time
Time again! Can you see the common thread here....
Anyone who knows me well will confirm that I am innately a very impatient person, a trait which often leads to a lot of dissatisfaction. Running a business though has taught me the value of perseverance and the lesson of patience.
It has taken me almost three years to fully launch Bright Ethics, but those three years have been absolutely critical as part of the process. Without this time, I wouldn't have been able to have as many conversations which fed into the development, I wouldn't have been able to meet as many people or try as many strategies. In short - time spent well is never time wasted.
Overnight success in business is very rarely overnight - it's just painted that way by clever PR firms after the fact to make the business/person seem extra special. Trust me, in 99% of cases they worked their arses off for it.
Trust your gut, with exceptions
Overall the whole going with your gut thing works quite well - in my case anyway.
However there have been occasions where my gut has said "YES!" but my head has gone "wait, let's take a second to think about this."
I have ignored this on a couple of occasions in the past, only to be faced with quite a big, fact based, objection once the initial emotional response has worn off.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that whilst emotions fade, rational and objective thoughts generally hold up.