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  • Kiana

A To-do List for Those in 20s Who Have a Lot of Worries

Marriage, childbirth, career advancement, asset formation, and, in some cases, pursuing higher education. People tell us to do whatever we want with the slogan, “While you are young.”

The to-do list for those in their twenties is too many. Don't you get a little short of breath?

Taking the big decision of international marriage as an opportunity, I needed to review my life plan, so I thought about it. Then, I figured it out. In the same way that we have the freedom to “marry” or “not marry,” we should have a little more freedom to “do now” or “do later.”


“I'm exhausted every day. How do working moms and dads in the world live?”

“I can't cook not only breakfast but also dinner. I can't come home while the supermarket’s still open.”

“I can't clean my room or do laundry on weekdays. I feel sorry for myself.”

I heard these voices from many people. Most of the topics that come up when I talk to my friends in any community are work, family, and reconciliation with self-fulfillment.

“Even though there’s an age when I want to get married, that age approaches in the blink of an eye. And then I realized that I had to find a partner first.”

“Having a partner has boosted my self-esteem, but I'm worried whether my partner will really marry me.”

“I want to get married and have a baby, but the timing is difficult because there’s a risk that promotion will be delayed.”

“Like my mother, I want to take time for my children as a full-time housewife. However, due to the rising prices and taxes, I can't take it easy, so I have to work.”

“I want to go to graduate school, change jobs, and do things for my own happiness, but I'm worried that if I do that, I'll miss the marriageable age and the childbearing age.”

“It’s unreasonable that it becomes difficult to change jobs until the age of 30. I can't afford that much even though I'm forced to work so much every day.”

“Despite the price and tax hikes, my salary hasn't increased, and I'm running at a very limited cash flow. Furthermore, it's a hell of a story that you have to build assets in addition to your pension for your old age.”

I can sympathize with each one.

This may be true for many people of our generation.

“Why do we have so much to do? Where do we have the time?”

24 hours a day is not enough.

Talking to a lot of my friends these days, there's something that everyone can relate to.

“It's nice to live in an era of 100 years, but I want twice as much time in my 20s.”

What this means is that the range of things to do in your 20s is incomparably greater than in other ages. That's why time in your 20s is more precious than 40 years of old age.

That's right. Because it's still a big deal to decide the direction in your 20s and walk the rest of the time.

In Japan, it is said that transitioning from one industry or career to another is difficult unless done in the 20s. You need to have money when you register to buy a ring or have a wedding. However, the world expects these to happen in their 20s as well. For some reason, in Japan, it is desirable to have a child as soon as you get married, so you have to prepare the money and environment to be able to raise a child before you get married. Once you start raising children, it seems natural that you won't be able to spend time on yourself, so many people think that they should go to graduate school before childbirth or before marriage.

What do we do with this idea?

I am lucky enough to get married, change jobs, and clear two of the above “to-do lists for people in their 20s.” However, just because I have cleared it does not mean I am completely satisfied with my life and do not need anything anymore. (Though both are happy events.)

Rather, my brain is overflowing with what I want.

I think I want a child with my partner especially because I will get married. I choose a challenging career because I have a family, and I can see stability. And I'm seriously thinking about advancing my career in that direction, and for the first time, I wanted to earn more money.

Like my friends, I am troubled by the difference between what I want and what I actually have, and new desires that appear one after another. A recent coaching session and a conversation with my father may have given me the silver bullet.

I imagined a message from old me to myself now, which I tried in coaching.

In my case, I said, “The chances that come your way are out of your abilities,” and “Life is longer than you think and full of choices.”

In a way, I think that is what I would like it to be.

With that in mind, I thought about the future.

Thinking about the second half of life in this way, life may seem surprisingly long.

After the coaching, I remembered my father, who had just retired, saying, “Now may be the happiest and freest time of my life”. The sense of accomplishment after working for decades and the sense of freedom that comes from working.

Such a father says like a habit, “What should I do from now on?”

“Are you still going to do something? Are you going to work?” I asked.

“Because I have at least 20 more years to live, maybe 40 years, that's a long time. I can't do the same thing every day to pass the time. And I don't know how long I'll be healthy. So, if you want to enjoy life in a healthy way, you may not have much time, and you may not even be available.” He answered naturally.

Even my 60-year-old father is still trying to achieve something, and I thought the “to-do list” would never end. I know that each generation has a “to-do list,” but when there is a blank period, that is, a “margin” like this, humans review themselves and create a new list.

“Then maybe I shouldn't try to clear the 'to-do list for people in their 20s' that's just being pressured by society? Maybe it is better to create a margin and edit the list regularly in the first place?”

I started thinking this way.

What would be good if you dared to create a blank space in your 20s when you are active?

You can afford to notice the opportunities that come your way and be ready to jump into them. Or you can calmly choose not to jump in.

By taking a leave of absence, I was able to create a "blank space" in my twenties. It left a blank space in my mind. With that blank space in my heart, I was able to ask myself, “Is this the path I really want to take?” And finally, I gave the answer that I want to go on a different path. In other words, I changed jobs and jumped into a different path.

On the other hand, when it came to going to graduate school, I had the chance to jump in, but I didn't choose that path. I am not going to choose it now because I want to challenge it when I have grown a little more. It is not “I won't do it anymore,” it is "I won't do it now." In other words, I leave the possibility of “doing it later.”

The first thing to do is to take your time and look at the list. With my own eyes. With your own values. Even if you do not create a margin of time, if you can somehow create a space in your heart to face yourself, look at it and edit the list. It took me half a year to edit because I was undergoing treatment for depression, but maybe two hours might be enough for some people. The amount of mental space needed varies from person to person. Once you've created a preliminary version of a list that feels right, try one first.

Start with something you can easily do yourself. If it were me, it would be easier to save money without being influenced by people around me. If you start saving and think, “I won't be able to reach my goals unless my income increases,” I'll think about changing jobs. Or use your savings to buy something luxurious. If you think "I don't really need that much money," then try to get the things that make you happy in ways other than money. Like this.

In other words, the lists interact with each other and should change as your experience increases. Not everyone should achieve it at the same time.

In this way, you need to edit your own “to-do list in your 20s” and put your own order on it. We are not that handy, so we cannot do it all at once. We all know from the old days that “if you run after two hares, you will catch neither.”

Also, if you clear one, you might be lucky enough to have another list ticked by chance. Perhaps halfway through, you may realize that this list may not be suitable for your happiness and delete it. Editing work is necessary on a regular basis.

The freedom to decide what to “do vs not do” has spread as a standard for reviewing the “to-do list of life,” such as marriage, childbirth, changing jobs, etc., but I would like to add one more standard to the editing work.

“Do now vs later.”

It sounds like it came from a sloppy human being. Everyone is going to find out that I am the type of person who does not finish my homework until the last minute.

Thanks to advances in science, humans are living longer, and life expectancy is steadily increasing. Even if you do not do everything now, if you look at the whole life, there should be plenty of time. So move it from the “to-do list in your 20s” to the “to-do list in your 30s” and do it when you feel you have more space.

The world will continue to give us the same list from time to time, but we can take advantage of living in an age when life is long enough to choose to “do it later.”

Written by Kiana

Translated by Rio Ishida

Edited by Emiru Okada

Graphics by Claudia MacPhail


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