The Defining Decade

Photo by Anne Nygård / Unsplash

I'm turning 30 tomorrow. The last ten years were the defining decade of my life. It had everything one could ask for, marked with success and failures, milestones and heartbreaks, uncertainty and gratitude, joy and maturity, values and lessons, solitude and friendships, self-awareness and self-compassion, and much more. This post is a reflection on the last decade of my life.

Success and Failures

I realized that success is not some far-fetched thing. I used to think of success in the future tense. Instead, success is what we define it to be in our terms. According to that, I've had my share of small successes, and I'm grateful for them. And little did I know that success is overrated and failure is underrated. I've had my fair share of failures too. My failures are the best things to have happened to me; each time I failed, I became a little better. I can't say the above sentence for success with as much confidence.

Uncertainty and Gratitude

The uncertainty of the 20s is a right of passage for everyone who goes through life. And those who have crossed it can attest that it is easier said than done. It is easy to imagine or see someone go through their 20s, but when it comes to us, it's incredibly challenging. At least, for me, it was. When you are 20, you are just a college kid getting out of the teenage and the world is a strange place.

You get exposed to many things and are trying to figure out what the hell you are doing wherever you are. A mix of excitement, anxiety and fear starts to form in your mind. And you try to fit into the crowd. If you look closely, a pattern emerges in everything. It has a name – Uncertainty. When you are in your twenties, there is uncertainty in everything - who you are, what you do, what you like, what is happening around you, and who is whom. Friends become acquaintances, and acquaintances become friends; you start disliking something you enjoyed all your life, and you suddenly develop an interest in something you never thought you would. It is overwhelming, and the worst part is all of these changes happen without you noticing it. One day you wake up and realize that your life is entirely different and your identity is put into question.

In retrospect, I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I still don't have many answers, but somewhere along these years, I have become a better version of myself. I barely know how I got here. A takeaway from this is to keep the intent to be a better person and embrace the chaos. It's a universal law that chaos tends to infinity (the second law of thermodynamics). So who are we to stop that? Understand that nobody has got their life figured out. Everybody learns as they go, and a "perfect life" is an illusion. Anybody with life experience will tell you this if you have a deep enough conversation with them. Anybody who tells you otherwise is probably lying or has embraced the imperfections. The best way to deal with it is to play the hand you are dealt and try to make the best out of what you have.

Solitude and Friendships

I'm fortunate to have a small bunch of good friends. Friendship is a complicated relationship, and there are layers to explore with each friend of yours. The older you become, you start seeing who sticks with you when it's tough to stick around. But nobody could be a better friend to you than yourself. If your friendship with yourself isn't good, the external friendships will not be good.

Values and Lessons

I started finding my own moral and emotional values in my twenties. Most of it comes from experience and failures. Life hits you hard repeatedly with the same lessons until you learn them. I'm no exception to this rule, and I learned some things the hard way. Finding one's values is a life-long process; our twenties are just a start. The lessons I learned will probably stay with me forever as they reinforce some core human values. Check out my post, where I reflect on the lessons I learned.

Self-awareness and self-compassion

Self-awareness and self-compassion are the backbones of everything I gained in my twenties and are the roots of self-improvement. Self-awareness is when you start understanding yourself more, take a peek into your thoughts and behaviors, and sometimes get shocked and/or surprised. Honestly, it wasn't all bells and whistles for me. When you try to improve yourself, sometimes the world or, perhaps even your own body seems harsh on you, penalizing you for your past actions, making it much more challenging. This is where Self-compassion comes into the picture.

When things seem complex and challenging, you must stand by yourself and pat yourself on the back. It's important to understand that it's human to make mistakes, and we should take the lessons from it and move on. It takes a lot of heart to be compassionate to yourself and others, and kindness is a superpower.

Final Thoughts

Some of these things seem ridiculous to me when I type, but I guess that's how life is. Sometimes I used to think I knew what I was doing, but in retrospect, I didn't. Looking into the past, I can't help but think, "You know nothing, dumbass!". This statement only becomes more accurate every day, and I'm okay with that. In the grand scheme of things, we only live out a tiny portion of time in this world. Let's make the best of it and be kind to one another.

Looking forward to the next decade. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Vivek Arvind

Vivek Arvind

Santa Clara, CA