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Back in 2010, when I was about to sit for SPM, I’d planned my future ahead of me.
Enter college by 18, find a boyfriend by 20, graduate at 23, get married by the time I am 24, and have my first child probably by the age of 26.
What a perfect life, I thought.
I got the college part right, a boyfriend by 20, and graduated at 23. So far, so good.
When I turned 24, the marriage life didn’t happen to me. I struggled to get a job, when my college friends were getting employed.
I only managed to get a part-time job at a local nursery. Soon after, I was recruited as an intern at a local company. I moved out of my parents’ place.
Now, at the age of 26, I am still struggling. I’m a full-time employee yet, I’m still struggling with life.
Friends are pursuing their master’s degree, getting a well-paid job, buying cars, getting house mortgages, going on holidays and vacations, settling down, having kids, and dating.
Everyone seems to have figured out their life and ways in this world. Everyone knows what they need to do.
Is there a manual on how to be an adult?
Listening to my struggles, Ben, a co-worker told me it’s normal to struggle.
“How else would you learn? It’s okay for you not to figure out everything at 26.”
But my parents got married younger than that!
“It was because the struggle that they faced was different. While you struggle on how to feed yourself, our parents used to struggle on how to feed the family when they don’t have as much as they do today.”
“They struggled having to quit their schools, just so that they can work in the paddy field to earn some money.”
“Sometimes they had to work odd jobs at a young age to find a few ringgits enough to feed the family for two weeks.”
He had a point. If you are struggling at a job at this age, it’s totally fine, because a rocky start eventually will smoothen the journey.
Everyone begins from the bottom.
Enrol in courses or seek experienced coworkers for help. Once you get the hang of it, everything will work out well.
If you’re struggling with your love life, it’s okay because sometimes priorities change.
Maybe you have less time to go on dates because you have to work overtime, or maybe your boss just transfered you 348km away from your lover.
So, a little struggle will strengthen your love, or maybe it won’t. But you’ll live and treasure him or her like you are going to lose them.
If you are struggling with buying cars or houses, it’s okay. Maybe you can start small.
A small car is better than no car. At this age, buying a luxurious car will only lead you towards more debts.
Avoid trying to upstage your friends. Just because they are getting mortgages, do you think you should do it too?
If your friends are always uploading their vacations on social media, be happy for them. Don’t sulk and be hard on yourself.
Instead, save up all the extra money you have, whenever you have it.
My parents didn’t have the chance to do all of those when they were young, having to feed us and give us the best they had.
Now, nearing retirement age, they have been going on vacations every holiday they could, without letting us tagging along.
If you’re struggling with your social life, it’s okay.
If you can’t meet your friends or hang out on Friday’s nights because you are constantly tired and you barely have enough for a social gathering, then it’s a part of adulthood.
If you are struggling with married life, seeing how your friend’s husband gifted her with new handbags and shoes, how your buddies’ wives gifted them PS4 and video games, it’s okay to feel down.
So what if you are still single at 26?
Jennifer Lopez didn’t get engaged to A-Rod almost immediately. They met in 2005, started dating in 2017 and finally got engaged in March 2019.
He was 42 and she was 49. Love can still happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
These struggles will not only build you up, but also equip you with experience.
You will get to learn things by watching others when they did it first. Then, you’ll know what to do and what not to do.
Jaja, a masters degree student in a local university, told me how starting her masters at the age of 35 had been a struggle for her, with her having kids and being a working mother too.
Back in the day, presentations were easy, no slideshows and fancy-schmancy powerpoints. She struggled each time they needed to present their tasks or assignments.
“Struggle is good,” she said, “They allow me to learn more.”
When I asked her about starting her master late, she answered, “It’s never too late to learn something new. If you have a will, there will always be a way.”
A lecturer of mine once told me, “Facing struggle is the best teacher one could ever have.”
At 26, not having anything is having everything.
You’re still single? Go and take your mom or dad on dates.
You’re still unemployed? Get a part-time job while sending out resumes.
You’re still thinking whether to pursue your masters? Take your time and ask around. People might have interesting stories for you.
This is the time for you to try everything and make mistakes. You’re entitled to them.
There’s no point in rushing things and missing out on the good things.
When you rush into marriage, getting mortgages, education and jobs, just so that you could feel a little bit better about yourself, you’ll forget those faces that have supported you for a long time.
So, those struggles, they are worth it, each and every one of them. Take it slow and learn from them.
One day, when you look back, you’ll realise all the efforts had not gone to waste — but were worth every single experience you have.
For more articles about adulthood, read The Four Qualities Every Well-Adjusted Adult Should Have and Being a Millenial: Stages of Adulting.