A Message to My Early 20s Self on Work, Dreams, and Life

It seems like it is just yesterday when I was that 21-year-old newly-grad ready to take on what the world has to offer. I remember so well how “ready” I was to jump into the corporate world—an unstoppable, wayward working girl in Makati City trying to pursue her dream of seeing her bylines on print and prove that she can make it as a writer.

Eight years down the road, here I am, a 29-year-old, still-a-tad-wayward working girl who lives and pays the bills through weaving words—but with a perspective that is so far from what I have back then.

Months before graduation, I was offered a job in a newspaper company. I was excited knowing I no longer have to think of looking for a job and I will finally be able to earn a living. However, somewhere in those years as I was working from 9-5, I faced toxicity, pressure, and burnout that took a toll on my mental and physical health, something that I tried to overcome alone. But I knew I should not just give up and pause on working. There was no gap year for me as I was not born with a silver spoon. I mean, my parents were not obliging us to work our asses off for the family, but as a daughter, I knew that it was time to give back. I knew what my parents have gone through to send us to college and I should not waste time.

So I applied to another company, and while I enjoyed working to bits, I saw the same old workplace sh*t. Some might have said I was throwing opportunities and potentials. I was ungrateful, even. But I knew, deep down into my core, I was no longer happy.

It was just two years ago, six years after graduation, that I was able to break free from the rat race that is the corporate world.

If I were to advise my younger self—that early 20s, go-getter girl, I’d like to leave her with this message:

Dear, welcome to young adulthood. I know, by finally being able to go outside the walls of your university, you are now free to chase and go after the things you want.

But once you are out there, what you experienced in college is just a speck of what is it like living and surviving the working life. You think you have it all figure out? Think again. Sure, you’ve had “experiences” in your college years. Your resume may be impressive but I tell you, it will all seem like you are back to square one once you step into the workplace.

You have full of anxieties and intimidations you just keep to yourself. You think so low about your capabilities yet you fight back on your insecurities by being strong, hardworking, and faithful, and I admire you for that.
I tell you, my 21-year-old self, to rest if needed. Please take your time. Do not rush. Do not mind what other people think of you and what they dictate on who and what you should become and accomplish at a certain age.

Know that it is totally fine to not achieve certain things at age 25. Who cares if you still hop from one job to another because you have not found the right working environment for you? Why bother when people pin you down because you believe in your dreams than taking the path your parents or your siblings took? You do not need to be a physician, an engineer, an accountant, or a lawyer just to prove that you have achieved something in life that is worthy to be admired and boast of during reunions. We are not in competition. You can be an artist, you can travel the world, you can sing and dance and write poetry and be whoever you want to be. No one has the right to dictate who you should be.

We are different in many ways, including our own pace in this world. Just because they think they found their place that easy and early does not mean you are not on the right path. It does not mean you are not taking life seriously. It is normal to work at your own time, on your own terms. It is okay not to conform to what the others are doing. If you do this, you will lose yourself in the process.

Yes, you have the responsibility to pay your bills and somehow provide for your family. You have dreams to achieve. You have to work hard to earn, pay bills, have a car, go to places, and more. But if these mean risking your sanity and health, believe me, even if you try to drag yourself to wake up each day and grind, you are bound to shut down anytime soon.

Know that while you may have all the money and energy in the world, having the time for yourself is more important. I highly encourage you to invest time in yourself. Your mental health and your overall well-being will thank you in the long run.

We are in a time when the world is sending us a message: that how ever you plan your future to be, it is still not in the palm of your hands. You can, however, build yourself to be ready for that future, no matter what the circumstances you are in.

If you want to achieve more in life, and do more things for the people you love, you take care of yourself first. Make yourself a priority. Because as soon as you start listening to yourself, you will find how easy it is to embrace and adapt to whatever comes your way.

Gelyka Dumaraos

Gel is a writer and wanderer from the Philippines. She maintains this blog, Musings and Pathways, as a platform for her thoughts on love and life and stories of places and people she meets while on the road. Aside from writing and being a freelance media consultant, she is recently into baking and cooking. Gel lives with her fiance in a humble, work-in-progress abode in the beautiful province of Rizal. Email her at gelykaruthdumaraos@gmail.com.

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