I turn 30 on Monday and I don’t know why people around me are making such a big deal out of it. I was bound to turn 30 at some point. It feels great to be here; I finally have a vague idea why I was put on this earth, I have completed school (almost) and I have practiced journalism for nearly 10 years.
You know you are getting old when younger ones seek your advice, so I decided the best way to celebrate my last column in my 20s is by dispensing some advice here for my younger sisters and brothers.
You don’t have time. Quit wasting your youth on things, people and stuff that will not matter in five years. Procrastination is the thief of time. If you live your life postponing things, waiting for the perfect time to do it perfectly, you are in for a nasty surprise. Leverage on the power of now. Just do it!
Be comfortable with yourself. Friends and family are great, but over the years I have had to figure out life mostly by myself. You’ve got to be comfortable with solitude, to be okay being by yourself, with your thoughts and your God. In your fleeting youth, you must learn to enjoy your own company, to live with yourself, by yourself and for yourself.
Friends – good friends – are the anchor of life. For a long time, I thought I was a self-sufficient trooper who did not need others... until I learnt the joy of knowing that there are people out there who truly care for me and my well-being. That said, you don’t have to try too hard to impress people just to be part of the herd. Good friends are hard to come by, but when they show up, you will not have to bend over backwards to belong.
Run your race. Comparison is the thief of joy. There will always be someone smarter than you, younger than you, more talented than you are and so on. Part of growing up is witnessing your peers do better than you, and that is okay. Don’t waste your youth comparing your life to that of others; have your pace, use your key and learn to be happy for your friends when they succeed. Jealousy, my young friends, is a path you do not want to take.
Personal integrity, cliché as it may sound, will guarantee you a good night’s sleep. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Keep your word, without making too many promises. An old friend once told me that as a journalist, the only thing you have that nobody can take away from you is your integrity. This doesn’t just apply to journalism; even in life. If you say you will do something at 7am, you better do it no later than 7:01am. That way, people will trust you and give you responsibilities.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy. Exercise often, and try to enjoy the exercise. About drinking and partying, be moderate. Speaking as someone who has never imbibed alcohol, I can tell you for sure that there are fewer things more liberating that being in control of yourself, your actions, your time and of your Saturday mornings. Once in a while, instead of wasting an entire Saturday nursing a hangover, I encourage you to take a run instead; the clarity of mind you will achieve afterwards will be mind-blowing.
Build your small library in a corner of your house or your room and let that be your little treasure trove of great books by your favourite authors on your favourite topics; your small repository that you can retreat once in a while to consult when need be. You can afford to live this life without many things but you cannot afford to live a life of ignorance. Pick your reading interest, stick to it religiously and you will realise nothing beats the joy of knowing stuff, of figuring out the world and of learning how to think for yourself.
Love, elusive as it may be, is God’s greatest gift. Whether it is in the form of a mother and son, father and children or even between two people coming together as one, love should be nurtured, cultivated and protected at all costs. So if you are blessed enough to find that love in your youth, love hard and without fear, because everyone loves to be loved.
There you go, youngins; eight lessons drawn from 30 years of experience.
Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications; [email protected]