Beneath the glittering rain-forest blanketing the Grand Canyon in outback New South Wales, on an otherwise average, overcast Saturday morning, I remembered something I wrote 6 years ago.
It was 20 January 2011.
I was 27 years old and had decided to quit my job as a corporate lawyer to travel the world by myself.
I was nervous, scared of being harshly judged as irresponsible and unambitious by my peers; and yet overwhelmingly relieved that I had finally done something to tackle the bone-deep discontent that I felt — working around the clock in the service of no higher cause than money and status.
Despite the fear of being judged to be less, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that what drove me to take a break from my career was a desire to realise my potential, not a desire to dilute it.
On that day, I was looking out at this view:
…with my laptop on my bent knees, typing to preserve the mantra going through my head: Honour Thy Twenties.
6 years on — almost 4 years into my thirties —a successful senior corporate career under my belt, a new husband and on the other side of a second sabbatical that foregrounds entrepreneurial, creative and philosophical ventures:
My views are reinforced by my experiences.
I’m compelled to write yet another letter to my friends who have supported me throughout the past decade.
Honour Thy Thirties
To my darling friends
I was wrong.
Last time, when we were in our 20s — when we were in our PRIME — I declared to you unequivocally that those were the times of our lives.
No-one told me the truth:
That things would get even better with time.
Time to reflect on our choices, our relationships, our strengths, our limits, our values, our health and our lives:
And the lives of those we affect — because of our state.
Our state of mind, heart, body, spirit — whether we are vibrating with fear or hope — we’ve now had the time, to learn that what we cultivate inside is what we unleash onto others. And we know that our state will help us realise — or deny — our enduring and unstoppable potential.
Of course, we’ve realised some of that exquisite potential in years gone by — we weren’t wasteful. With achievements as lofty as creating a human(s), moving continents, marrying the love of our lives (in this lifetime); or as modest as ascending to the dizzying heights of senior leadership in our chosen fields (for now) or embarking on the honourable and dangerous folly of entrepreneurship. We’ve covered that.
That’s why it’s better. Because we’ve seen things, and we’ve done things, and (certainly not me but) you may have even become someone.
But it’s harder too.
Because we’ve seen things, and we’ve done things — we know how hard it is to become the person our kids (or any kids) can be proud of.
We know how quickly and harshly history and society can judge a whole generation, as it hands us the burden of responsibility for its stewardship. It’s our generation that the ones being born only now will blame for short-sighted decisions we can’t even fathom yet.
The weight of all that, on our collective shoulders — is it any wonder some of us double down on the dream, the house, the job, the pay, the perfect family; as if to say: hey, it’s okay —we’re a safe pair hands.
But … are we really, though?
Because I was wrong before on not one — but two counts.
Because no-one told me that at 30 we would still have in spades:
Yes, we may have obligations — but we still also have minds. And for so long as we can think for ourselves, we are free.
We’re so far off being even half-way up the hill yet, we may as well have just started. And yet we’ve seen things, and we’ve done things — and by now some of us have even seen someone we cherish die on our watch — and nonetheless we have a veritable lifetime of relationships yet to forge, mountains yet to climb, boundless energy yet to squander and critical choices yet to make.
And in the radiant wake of all this untapped freedom, youth and opportunity, is all we really want to be from now until our eternal sleep… a safe pair of hands?
What ever happened to our dreams of being a strong, a brave, a passionate and inspiring pair of hands? Surely they haven’t been crushed under the weight of our image, our mortgage, our school fees — the tactical and transient matters of life? When we’re lying on our death beds, in hopefully too many decades yet to come, are we really going to wish we’d lived a safe and inoffensive life?
You have to understand this: our most vibrant years are yet come.
And as we continue to grow, learn and relish the unexpected treasures of life, remember one thing:
The unexpected treasures of life are all that matters.
So be the one that makes them. Not the one that hoards them.
Hoard not our memories punctuated with laughter, joy, inspiration, passion, deep contentment and gratitude, but be relentless in creating them day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute — year-on-year. That’s the one thing we can’t ease up on. Being the people that creates those unexpected treasures of life for others. To be the source of others’ joy. To be the source of hope, not fear. And to be generous with our love, it’s the only thing we leave behind.
What I didn’t know then, but what I know for a fact now, is that Our Good Old Days of The Future have yet to be revealed to us. May THESE DAYS be just a wonderful taster of the delights yet to come.
And may I always be by your side, to watch you continuously flourish, until our final sunsets.
Love Kat x
Honour Thy Twenties
To my darling friends
I am telling you: These are the times of our lives. We have youth, potential, opportunity, friends, freedom, cheap international flights and cocktails with our names on it.
We are young, intelligent, healthy, compelling 20-somethings bursting with energy, excitement and drive. We have our knees, our minds and our personal space. We are unmarried, childless and have no REAL obligations to anyone other than ourselves (and our employers, but of course, that too is a choice).
Nothing is tying us down except our fears. Fear of losing security, status, money. Fear of losing our advantage over the next guy. Fear of losing the approval of friends/family. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Well how about this — Fear of BURNING the BEST years of our lives, to make someone else’s expectations for us come true at the expense of our own.
We have the most Freedom now than we will ever have in our lives. Why? Because we are old enough to be financially secure and professionally experienced, but young enough to be able to party (or hike) wherever the hell we like in the world without being That Old-Guy. We can re-enter the workforce after a hiatus, still enviably young and employable. We are in our prime. And we deserve to take some time to recover after working like dogs for the better part of our 20s.
We will never be this young again. That scares me. We will never be this Free AND this Young EVER again.
So my wish for you is to make the most of this youth, this freedom, this year, this day, this moment. For it may pass and all you will have left of your glorious 20s are memories of marked up documents, office dinners, the same old groundhog day of corporate slavery, distressed Facebook updates (you know who you are) and a weariness beyond your years.
What is success? Working for the man and living for the weekends? Wasting your 20s under fluorescent lights surrounded by meaningless documents and ruthless corporate animals bursting with self-importance? Making a shitload of money and having no time to spend it? Indulging the kind of fake, toxic people that gravitate towards corporate types in the hope that if you’re nice enough to them, they might change? Not for me, man. Life’s too short for that.
My New Year’s Resolution is to Honour Thy Twenties.
For me, this means to pursue that which makes one happy — and to eschew that which makes one distressed (and here I note that one man’s trash is another’s treasure — our diversity of opinion is like elegant stardust decorating the sweeping vastness of our similarities, dear friends).
I look forward to us exchanging stories of these vibrant years in some decades to come — when we finally do settle down and choose to rise the ranks of whatever noble role we pursue in due course. And at that time we shall toast our Youth, our Freedom, our Friends and THESE DAYS — the Good Old Days of our Future.
A toast to you — whatever you do this year.
Love Kat x