“Your twenties are your selfish years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time and all the aspects of you…”
Which decade isn’t “your selfish years”?!?!? Think about little people (and by little people I do mean small children) for just a moment. After the initial, wholly delightful ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ that render us helpless puddles of love forevermore, our children quickly learn the most significant words in their vocabulary: ‘NO,’ and ‘MINE.’ These continue to resound for the rest of their, and our, natural lives. Sometimes we fight against the urge to chant our personal mantra, because, after all, we do learn some manners along the way. But mostly, the ‘no’ and ‘mine’ song-and-dance is a lifelong refrain. We never tire of it, though, ironically, we abhor it in others. (even, or especially in, our own children)
So, when I came across this pseudo-sage advice this morning, I grew reflective. My twenties. Did I immerse myself in every single thing possible?
Let’s see. First, there was college. A selfish immersion if ever there was one. LOVED every minute of its selfish pursuit of friendship, laughter, inebriation, knowledge and degree status. Marriage. It gets sticky here. I likely married for selfish reasons – I wanted a husband. I wanted someone to promise to love me ‘til death do us part.’ But after nearly twenty-nine years, I am a confident witness to this: in marriage, ‘selfish’ doesn’t work. Career. Someone other than me has always been ‘in charge’ in my work world. A principal. A department head. A calendar. A test. Being selfish in the world of work will eventually put us in the unemployment line. Children. Already covered. In-laws. Hmmmmm. Friendships. Another head-scratching moment – because, frankly, when I’m only in a relationship for what I might get out of it, the end result is, well, lonely.
Selfishness is our mother tongue. We speak it, shout it, whisper it, think it – fluently. So the advice to take your ‘twenties’ and be ‘selfish’ is rather like saying ‘breathe air.’ The advice sounds good though, doesn’t it? Take time for you. Explore the depths and heights – for yourself. NO one matters as much as you do. You deserve it (whatever IT is). Egad.
In my twenties, I certainly ‘immersed myself’ – the pursuit of knowledge (never mind about wisdom – I didn’t know about that then), marriage, the teaching profession, children. I even had an island vacation, became a homeowner, bought furniture, planted gardens and canned vegetables! But in my twenties I experienced another immersion. Obedience to baptism. Oneness in death and life – with Christ. He continually teaches (His Word is alive and new each day) that the meaningful life is the one poured out for others. My time, and ‘every aspect of me’ belongs, ultimately, to Him. Selfish never works. We might love it in ourselves, but we hate it in everyone else. You know it’s true. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)
By all means, life life fully – gain knowledge, invest in relationships, work, play, laugh, cry, explore. Immerse yourselves. Not in yourselves, but in others. It works. In every decade.