When you leave your parents’ home at the age of 18 — whether it is to go to university or enter the workforce — you’re presented with a world full of exciting opportunities and brand-new connections. And it’s hard as hell to know what to focus on in your 20s.
As your early-20s hormones are surging high, naturally, you find an increasing interest in love and sex. Soon, a kiss turns into a hook-up, a hook-up turns into dating, dating turns into a full-blown relationship. Before you know it, you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend attached at your hip.
At this age, you’re also overwhelmed by the pressure to do something for yourself. Getting a job, building a career, making ends meet, or even following your passion.
You want to have everything. A relationship, a career, a lot of money, a fun social life, and plenty of good sleep. But, unfortunately, your time is limited. You have to choose which one to focus on and which one to drop.
If you’re in your early-20s, struggling to focus, and are having a hard time deciding between your career and your relationship, here are some points for you to consider:
1. Both Your Career and Relationship Build You, but the Former is More Sustainable
Every experience in life, including both working and having relationships, will give you valuable opportunities to get to know yourself better and grow exponentially as an individual. However, you will never have as much control in relationships as you do in your career.
When you put time and effort into your work, you can be sure of its tangible outcomes and rewards that will benefit you and your standard of life. Plus, it helps you build your skills, your confidence, your resume, and these things are there for life. It’s stable and sustainable. It forms for you a foundation on which you can prepare yourself for life-changing events.
On the contrary, relationships are unpredictable. You can never be so sure what would happen next. If it can build you up, it can destroy you the same way, if not unannounced. And when this happens, you have some great lessons to learn, but there is no real legacy left from it — except for emotional damage.
2. Being Financially Independent Gives You Options
On the other hand, being dependent on a relationship that might not even last limits your choices.
Focusing on your career will allow you to be financially independent sooner or later, which is very important. Being financially independent does not only boost your confidence and reduce money-related stress, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and the freedom to do whatever suits you. Plus, it means being able to take care of yourselfand the people around you.
In reality, many people are trapped in bad relationships or marriages because they are financially reliant on their partners. Thus, they couldn’t afford to walk away and end the misery. Especially for housewives, after so many years of unemployment, their chance of getting back to the workforce is incredibly low. Even if they could, starting over is never easy.
3. Use Your Early 20s to Learn About Yourself and Explore Your Options
At this stage, you don’t yet know who you are and what you really want to do with your life.
That’s why you need to focus on yourself and open up to new opportunities to figure out what’s best for you rather than investing all your time and energy in a serious, long-term relationship too soon and ending up being defined by your relationship.
Although it’s true that relationships are rewarding and many people could make it work, generally, the emotional, and even physical and financial cost of maintaining the relationship and eventually breaking up is high. It has a trade-off on other aspects of your life, especially your independence and self-exploration.
You don’t want to resent your relationship or partner later because you have chosen them over your career, and now you are left with millions of what-ifs.
Essentially, if you’re not happy with who you are and the lifestyle you lead, your relationship, or any aspect of your life, will not work. However, if you let you come first, other things will fall into their place eventually.
4. You and Your Partner Will Change Dramatically in 5 Years Time
Your early 20s is the period of life in which you change the most.
Who you are at 19 or 20 and 26 or 27 are very likely to be two different persons as you make the transition from university into the working environment and expose yourself to the real world.
Your views, your outlooks, your goals will not be the same as they were and probably not as your partner’s. Thus, relationships formed in your early 20s are prone to failing as two people might want different things later and grow apart. Also, young people tend not to think about settling down any time soon, making it hard to navigate long-term relationships. Mostly, they just end one after another.
On the other hand, if you choose to focus on your career, after a few years into your mid and late 20s, you will become more independent and sure of who you are, what you want in life, and where you will be in 5 or 10 years. It would be a much better time to build a relationship. The relationship is also much more likely to be meaningful and long-lasting as two people are at the right time and place.
5. Your Early 20s is Essential for Establishing Yourself Professionally
Meanwhile, relationships could be formed at any time. Not to mention there might be higher long-term potential in your mid to late 20s or 30s.
While it’s never too late to love and have a relationship, it can be too late to start a career, or at least the older you are, the higher your entry barrier into your chosen career is since you have little to no professional background. You will also have to compete with highly-skilled and ambitious young people. Plus, explaining the gaps in your CV could be tricky.
However, if you focus in your 20s on prioritizing your career advancement, you will have much better prospects and more variety of choices later. Also, an early start is important in terms of building your network and expertise in your field.
All That Being Said
I don’t suggest going out of your way to avoid relationships in your early 20s or any age for that matter.
Good relationships are precious. They form one of the pillars that make a human flourish — besides meaningful work and physical fitness.
If you’re lucky enough to meet a special someone who will grow with you, push you forward, care for you, love you, by all means, you should make time for them. Even if the relationship doesn’t last, it will leave you with valuable lessons and heartwarming memories.
This list is simply a way of reasoning to help you make the right choices for yourself when you’re faced with two difficult options.
Whether you choose a career or relationships or even both, there is no right or wrong. It’s all up to you since you are the one who knows yourself and your life best. The best use of your 20s is to focus on yourself.