Hey there! Happy birthday!
Congrats for finally turning 21! You’re in your fourth and final year in university now, getting ready to gear up for your final semester before entering the workforce. Isn’t it such a big milestone to turn 21? You finally get to call yourself an adult! You’ll be able to drink legally anywhere in the world.
Anyway, you surely danced yourself into 21 with grace, didn’t you? You just came back from Bali a few days ago with your best pals. There, you climbed the first mountain in your life, the Mount Batur. And today, your best friends celebrated your birthday in the university dorm. It was a perfect birthday.
I bet you’re excited about turning 21, yet scared of the future at the same time. I know, I’ve been there. That is why I’m writing a letter to you, to tell you 30 things that I learned over the past 9 years.
1. You loved university life and you thought those 4 years were the best years of your life. You couldn’t imagine how life would be when you enter the boring adulthood. I want you to remember this saying: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” YOU will be a butterfly and your life after university will be so exciting that you don’t want to return to school anymore.
2. As you live overseas without family, friends are your greatest comfort. You hung out with them almost every day in university and will continue hanging out with them every weekend when you start work. You become too dependent on them and you dread the thoughts of being left alone. One day, you will realise that you have the power to be independent and feel totally comfortable being alone. That’s when you begin to soar.
3. You’ll do badly in job interviews in your early 20s. Sometimes, you meet nasty interviewers. Sometimes, you get paralyzed during interviews. Other times, you say the wrong thing and never hear back from them. But you learn not to let it deter you from changing jobs until you find the job that you like. Just so you know, I still do badly in job interviews, and it’s ok not to be perfect.
4. Remember how you were so eager for the 2nd year uni to start because you couldn’t wait to study hard? And that year turned out to be your best year in terms of grades? That’s how you should approach life, my friend. Be excited, be happy and be grateful.
5. Your best friends will move overseas, one by one. You’ll be sad for few months but you learn that good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there. You’ll move on.
6. Brace yourself, you will meet all types of people in your life and workplace. Some people will treat you so well, they become your lifelong friends. Some people turn out to be jerks with masks. Some push you to the limit and turn you into a monster. Yet, there are special people who will change your life forever. Regardless whether they’re bad or good people, you’ll realise that they come into your life to teach you valuable lessons.
7. Finding your passion is a tough task. As a millennial, you want to live a fulfilled life. You’ll have a hard time finding out what you want to do with life, but Steve Jobs’ quote will point you to the right direction, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it.” Trust me, you will find it.
8. You are full of dreams and you know it. Sometimes you get too excited and you tell your friends about it. Unfortunately, many people doubt your dreams will come true. Some even laugh at them. Don’t let it affect you, my dear. You can’t control what they say and think, but you can control your own reaction and attitude. You’ll learn that other people’s opinions don’t matter. What matters is that you believe in your own dreams.
9. I hate to say this, but some of your dreams won’t come true. I won’t tell you which one so that you don’t get discouraged. I know you will be you, and you will keep dreaming new dreams and chasing them.
10. Over time, you’ll finally realise: things that give meaning to your life are different from things that give meaning to other people’s life. From that moment onwards, you stop being afraid of being judged for choosing uncommon paths.
11. Remember how you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? The good news is, you’ll dive into entrepreneurship, you’ll start a few projects, you’ll have a physical store, you’ll put all your heart into them. The bad news is, they will fail. And it’s okay. Because failure is not the opposite of success, failure is a part of success.
12. One day, you will be dismissed from your job. You’ll be too embarrassed to tell anyone, you’ll wish you could just bury the fact and move on. But you learn to get up. Eventually, you learn how to make yourself a valuable employee.
13. You may not know it yet, but you’re going to do so many amazing things that you’ve never thought of before! Like run marathons, travel alone to India, hike Mount Kinabalu (though you won’t make it to the summit), start a travel blog, and take up jobs from industries entirely different from engineering.
14. You will gain weight. After ballooning to 54kg (10kg more than your current weight), you will go on a diet. And it will change your life.
15. I know how much you love milk tea and soft drinks, but trust me, give up on them!
16. Start saving as soon as you receive your first paycheck. Do not invest in individual stocks because you don’t understand any of those financial terms and you never care about stocks anyway. Instead, invest in index, and do it monthly by using DCA (Dollar-Cost-Averaging) technique.
17. You’ll love being in the twenties so much that you dread the big 3-0. You’ll make super-ambitious goals every single year, and you’ll keep reminding yourself how much time you have left as a twenty-something. These actions will make you depressed. But I guess it’s part of being a twenty-something. You have to go through it, in order to survive it. There’s no other way out of it. And you’ll do fine when you finally turn 30, really.
18. You’ll treasure your birthday so much. You’ll try to make them special every year by treating yourself. You even intentionally travel solo on your birthdays, so that you can reflect on life and make goals for the upcoming year.
19. Don’t worry about finding that special someone. He will come into your life one day. I won’t tell you when. All I can tell you is, keep believing that you will find him.
20. After you find love, I want you to know that you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. Love is very much like a plant. In order for it to blossom, you need to water it every single day.
21. The most important thing in life is being happy. By being happy, you’ll attract all the positive things into your life, and you’ll bring happiness to people around you as well. Bad situations aren’t excuses not to be happy. In fact, you should be happy first before you can get out of bad situations. Read Andrew Matthew’s books.
22. Don’t be afraid to shed a tear, for it isn’t a sign of weakness. When you cry for something, it just shows that it is an important thing for you.
23. I wish you know sooner that morning is your most productive time of the day!
24. This will probably one of the hardest lessons I need to teach you. Not everyone will like you. Especially when you put your opinions out there on the cyberspace, you’re bound to gain some haters. Always remember this: for every hate comment out there, there are probably tens or hundreds of silent nods too. And if nobody hates you, you’re doing something wrong. Remember, you don’t need everyone to like you.
25. Listen to your heart. It knows everything. Here’s another powerful quote from Steve Jobs:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
26. When you feel like the world is going against you, remember: this too will pass. Do not ever lose hope and courage. Have faith that good times are on the way. When you feel unfulfilled, have the courage to get out of your comfort zone and quit living on autopilot.
27. You may think that your life will be all planned-out when you turn 30. I’m sorry to say that it won’t be. The truth is, life would be so boring if you plan it in advance. Your interests are going to change over time. In fact, your dreams will evolve over time. Thus, lesson #28 below.
28. Do not stop dreaming. Keep visualising where you want to be.
29. Live your life by this motto: Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all (Helen Keller).
30. I truly love quotes. So, I’ll end this with one of my favourite quotes.
This is your life. Do what you want and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.
Stop over-analysing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your heart, mind and arms to new things and people, we are united in our differences.
Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them.
Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them.
Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them, so go out and start creating.
Life is short, live your dream and wear your passion.