Your Roaring 20s
When Is It okay to be selfish

“A birth-date is a reminder to celebrate the life as well as to update the life.”


Last week was my 29th birthday.  Man how time flies.

Every birthday I’m lucky enough to have I use as a time for self-reflection.   Super light topics such as: am I where I think I should be?  Where am I going?  Where do I want to go?

As I turn 29 and celebrate my last birthday as a “20 something” I find myself reflecting more than ever.  Later than expected, it hit me that I am officially closing out my 20s.  This is it.  I will never again have the luxury of youth as an excuse for my actions.  No longer are “I’m only 24, I’ve got time” or “I’m a 20 something I don’t need to have anything figured out.” acceptable.

And that’s okay.

Related: They Key to Getting what You Want

Everyone approaches their 20s a bit differently.  Some take it seriously and focus on their career or starting a family, while others use their age to justify doing whatever they want.   Some follow a traditional path while others only path is to” find themselves”.

I’ll give you one guess which one I did…

Regardless of the approach, there is no doubt in my mind, your 20s shape who you become more than any other decade.

I once read:

“Your 20s are your selfish years. Old enough to make the right decision and young enough to make the wrong ones.  Be selfish with your time- travel, explore, fall in and out of love, be ridiculous and silly, stupid, and wild.  Be 20 something.”

Related: This Must be the Place

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been selfish over the past 9 years. I’ll also be the first to tell you, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.   I spent most of my 20s unashamedly putting myself first. I’ve gone months without seeing my family because something across the world caught my eye.  I’ve left friends and potential loves to go on a journey of self-discovery which few really understood.    The more I fed my selfishness, the larger my desire to do as much as I could seemed to grow.  Hearing about something wasn’t enough. I had to go and see.  It didn’t matter what I was leaving behind.

If I’m being honest, being selfish in my 20s was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I’ve seen more of the world at 29 than most see by 99.  I’ve lived what feels like 6 separate lives already- each of which had its own goals, dreams, friends, and heartbreaks, and lessons learned.  I’ve made more weird memories with even weirder people, than anyone who didn’t live through it, would ever believe.

None of that would have happened if I didn’t have the courage to be selfish.

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It’s really easy in life to live how everyone else tells you to.  To end up on autopilot doing what the world expects you to do.  The real challenge in life, and where you find true freedom, is to take a stand, ask yourself what you want, and then go after it.  Some may call that selfish, but to me, it’s living your life.

Each of us needs a time in our lives where we are not only okay with being selfish but we embrace it.  Where we lay claim to who we are and who we want to be.  Learning to operate as we please helps us to foster flexibility which stimulates growth and our own personal development.   Those who skip over their selfish phase miss this opportunity for personal growth.

Related: Tips for a Good Life

I always believed you “get what you settle for” and the older I get the more I find that phrase to be true.  As we age, we are supposed to know ourselves better.  We’re supposed to know what makes us happy and sad.  What excites us and what terrifies us.  We’re supposed to know what we chase so we go after it.  But some of us never learn those things because we didn’t take the time to be selfish- to explore the world and our own hearts.

Related: On Free Spirits

There was a time, when I was 23, when the idea of leaving my 20s and entering my 30s terrified me.   I thought people in their 30s were old and boring.  I knew so many people who had turned 30 and ‘gotten boring’, but looking back, the truth was those people were boring at 22.  Their age was never the issue, it was their outlook and how they approached life.

I don’t believe you have to travel to find yourself (but it does help) nor do I think you have be a selfish self-absorbed asshole in order to figure out what you want.  But I do think all of us need a time in our lives where we put ourselves first in order to figure out what it is we want out of life.  If it’s the big house and prestigious job, sweet.  If it’s owning a bar in Bali, cool.  If it’s becoming the world’s best video game player, awesome.  But you only figure out what it is you want when you’ve put yourself first for a time.

If I can give one piece of advice as I leave my 20s it would be:

It’s okay to be selfish.  It’s okay to put yourself first.  It’s okay to go after what you want even if others don’t understand.

When I was in my early 20s, I had a giant list of things I wanted to do.  Fear and the anxiety of missing something motivated me to do as many of them as I could, regardless of how difficult or crazy it seemed.   Over the past decade, I’m happy to say I’ve crossed a lot of things off my bucket list.  The other day a coworker asked me if I was scared to turn 30 next year.  I looked her in the eye and replied as honestly as I could, “no, I’m really not”.

I was surprised how quickly the answer came and how truthful it was.  I’m not scared to turn 30 because I lived the hell out of my 20s.  I’m not scared to turn the page on my selfish years because I lived them as well as I could and figured out who I am and what I chase.  I’m not scared to enter the phase of my life where I will be giving more than I take because I know it’s my turn.

Instead of going into the next chapter of my life with dread thinking about on all the things I haven’t done, I enter it knowing what I want while also being able to look back on countless memories I cherish.

In the end, if you do your selfish years right they will give you perspective and peace of mind and I can’t think of a better birthday present.

Stay Gold.

About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

3 responses to “Roaring 20s: Why It’s Okay to be selfish

  1. I wish I had read this in my 20’s, though I was so emotionally scarred that I probably would have disregarded it because I was so bent on finding security. Now I am 60 and I tell our kids over and over, “Do stuff NOW!” You don’t know what life will bring. Life brought me a lot of wonderful things, but it also brought me an incurable, debilitating disease, so now I can’t go out and see the world. I haven’t given up; I send my mind where my body can’t go. Actually going would be better, though!

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