As of last Friday, I've been alive for 27 years now. I've entered that phase of life where I've begun to realize that the years are just mercilessly racing by. It feels like just last night I was having the time of my life and then somehow I slipped into a coma and woke up years later. As much as I would like to mourn these lost years, I can't deny the fact that this decade has been the defining period of my life.
We start off this decade in high-school, then we move on to college and eventually get a job. Some of us also manage to tie the knot by the end. At every step of the way, our world view is challenged. I look back at myself from 5 years ago, and I can barely recognize the person and his thought process. I'm not sure whether any other decade of life will offer such a unique vantage point for self-reflection. By the time I reach 35 I will have forgotten how it felt like to be a teenager. So, before these memories fade away, I would like to document 2 important lessons I've learned over the years.
The first lesson I learned was empathy. This came quite late in life for me. You think you care about people when you are 18, but all you really care about is yourself. At least, that's how it was for me. I never really bothered to understand the point of view of people outside my age group. It took me a couple of years of working a 9-5 job with forty year olds to realize, maybe my parents weren't crazy after all. While I don't always agree with them, at least now I understand their thought process. I would even go as far as to say under similar circumstances, I, too, would've made some of the same life choices as my parents. Empathy is such a great tool. Once you master it, you begin to see people as a resource rather than a constraint.
The second life lesson is about how to love with your head, not only with our heart. Again, when you are 18, you are basically a chemical cocktail of dopamine and adrenaline. Your heart is driven by infatuations and irrational desires. A casual smile from the opposite sex is enough to trigger hours of obsessive day-dreams. The greater the barrier dividing you and your love interest, the more rush you get out of pursuing that relationship. Fast-forward to my mid-20s and love started to become more of a logical affair. I constantly find myself evaluating personality traits, career interests, family ties etc. Sure this makes it harder to find a partner than blindly following the dopamine trail. But it seems like the "grown-up" thing to do.
I'm sure there are lots of other things that have changed without me even noticing. So far, everything seems to have changed for the better. I guess that itself is a lesson worth remembering going forward.