Twenty-seven is a scary number. It’s that awkward stage when you’re not yet 30, but you’re still hanging on to the youth of your early 20s. It’s also that age when you’re trying to get yourself together. You either sink or swim.
While most of us dream of living life, there are sadly, a handful of icons who died far too young from the dark forces that consumed them whether it’s drug overdoses or freak accidents. While such unfortunate events are unintentional, The 27 Club is a one way trip without a return ticket. Joining the club is the last thing I ever want to do.
Though the siren call of living like Jim Morrison is a knock away, the flip side is that you can find stability and success. Or perhaps a renewed creative energy that leads you to produce your best work. While everyone of us finds directions either at this age, a little earlier or later, I feel that our journey is uniquely different from each other and that’s OK.
Standing in front of the crossroads isn’t easy, but being at 27, you don’t feel it until you are there. While my 28th birthday is a week away, I don’t ever want you to feel scared about the prospects of turning 27 because the fear of joining the Club is real.
Here are the top 27 things I’ve learned at 27:
- Your definition of/road to success does NOT equal the same as everyone’s level of success – your best friend can be a senior level manager while you can be freelancing at a creative job. While you wish that you had a stable desk job (myself included), it’s OK to NOT have a corporate gig as you are meant to take on a different journey. Comparing yourself is so easy, but think about the many times that the same people whose jobs you envy would KILL to be interviewing their favorite celebrities!
- Failure builds skills – my dad sent me a sermon by Pastor Rick Warren the other day and never did I think that this part was handy to hear! You don’t have to be a Christian to listen to it, but the message about failure was one that felt like it was calling out to me. If there was one major lesson that change my relationship on my perception of failure, this one stood out. 😉
- BE CONTENT with the circumstances you’re at – this one is so hard because 99.9% of the time, I am the type who likes to believe that the grass is greener on the other side. I can’t tell you HOW many times I want to escape Singapore and roam around in the States as I prefer to have more options to travel compared to being stuck in an island. With the second wave hitting Singapore, I literally have 0 choice, but to accept that I have to deal with another lockdown birthday. But, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to celebrate it with friends and family as I find that being protected within my own home makes me feel safe. This is something I have yet to fully overcome, yet I’m still doing the best I can to appreciate my circumstances little by little.
- Invest in a therapist – seeking help was something I didn’t think I needed during lockdown, but Better Help did a lot to help me channel my negative emotions in a more positive way. While it’s so easy to be lost, my therapist did a lot to help me see that I can change my mindset into being more open and learn to how to handle conflict better. I feel that this has helped me to see that I can be more open to breaking away from negative patterns.
- Color is a MOOD – one of my good friends inspired me to pick up on wearing more color and it truly works!! I cannot tell you how many times a night or day went better than I thought. If you are the kind who is color shy, take your time to dive into brights. Stick to what your mood is craving for as other people can tell when you’re feeling yourself.
- You become more budget-conscious than before – saving up never really became much of a priority for me until one of my good friends introduced me to a system, where she made an Excel chart about how much she spent. That spreadsheet seemed like a lotta work, but it did a lot to help me build a better relationship with my money. Not only did I reduce the amount of times I went online shopping, it also brought me to only spend on beauty products when there’s a sale. Ditto with reducing the amount of times I went out as I realized that my money vanished faster after a meal outside. However, I believe that you also deserve to treat yourself, too! 😉
- Toxic ≠ normal! – breaking up with toxic habits or relationships is hard, but it’s empowering. While trying to date during a pandemic creates feelings of desperation, I had to admit that I did cave into a bad pattern of falling for toxic men (whom I met through Hinge and from a fam friend) as I was trying to get myself to not be single any longer. While I wanted to rush into a relationship, I realized that I had to stop myself and reassess any red flags I missed. The moment I saw them, I realized that I was self sabotaging. From there, I felt that it was time to speak my feelings, then cut these men out. What I didn’t know about myself was that for so long, I romanticized toxic relationships because of how it was normalized in pop culture and TBH, I don’t think that’s something to venerate. Thankfully, I never got serious with any of these guys and I’m proud of myself for breaking the pattern of being attracted to toxic men. Being addicted to pain isn’t worth the suffering.
- Make peace with your traumas – this one was difficult, especially for me as I tend to hold grudges. I was so angry at the events and the people who triggered it. After a few talks with my therapist to overcome this issue, I had to accept that there was nothing I could do about it even though the event happened in the past. What I learned about myself was that I am the type who desires to control the events around me and wishing that certain things never happened to me. Rather than being angry at the event and the person who caused it, I’ve learned to be grateful for these things as it brought me to see that certain people aren’t meant to be my friends and to see(k) what I don’t want in a friendship.
- Forgiveness is for YOU! – my therapist said this point blank: “forgiveness is for you, not for them”. For a long time, I used to think that forgiveness was for someone else even though I was not in the mood to forgive the person who wronged me. I may look like the kind to forgive and forget, but once someone crosses the line, that’s it. When I heard that, it was time to unlearn that mentality as holding the grudge was more toxic than the pain itself. Though it’s awesome to reach out and forgive (for closure’s sake as well), you don’t have to restart your relationship/friendship with someone who really hurt you and that’s OK as you’re better off leaving those toxic people and negative memories behind. If you choose to take this next step after making peace, please don’t feel bad for unfollowing them on social media or deleting their number. It’s not really keeping the “peace” if you still follow them on social media and are still triggered by them.
- Not all apologies are equal – what you want in an apology is not the same as someone else’s and that was something that I struggled to accept as I value FULL ownership and accountability. Some people may not have the words to apologize, but express it differently through actions. However, there are some people out there who only apologize because they got caught. (*cough* *cough*) The worst type of apologists are those who half ass their apology by blaming someone else for exposing the truth about them to you. No matter what someone else said or what offense was done, not everyone wants to admit/apologize for their mistakes and that’s honestly on them. When their answers disappoint you, bear in mind that you have already won the battle by sharing your truth. There’s honestly no need to get pettier when you don’t hear what you want in an apology.
- BE fearless with speaking up – sharing your truth and how you feel is so dang scary, especially when you fear creating more drama. You may sacrifice the “peace”, but what you win is the confidence to speak your feelings. Being fully transparent about your feelings (even when it hurts someone else) is intimidating, but when I spoke my truth, I felt like a weight was off my shoulders. It truly worked! If this is a situation where you don’t agree with your friend, don’t be afraid to share your truth and speak from a loving place. If you want to end something, please don’t be afraid to share why you want to end it. But, be constructive. While there are some who are open to criticism and your truth, there will be others who respond in ways you don’t expect. If you feel that there are people who invalidate your truth, it’s a rude awakening. But, don’t take their responses personally.
- Find a cause (or two) you actually relate to and continue to advocate for it (or them) – which cause(s) do you want to devote your time to? There’s a bunch out here in the world that you can advocate for and I feel that it’s more authentic when you speak up for the ones you actually relate to most. While social media is the best medium to share what you’re passionate about, I dislike the fact that there’s a certain aspect in social justice culture to make public figures advocate for *every* cause and accuse them for being silent when they don’t do that. Truth is, not everyone is obliged to speak up on every cause as some of them aren’t familiar with a topic that’s suddenly trending or aren’t comfortable being too political on IG. There’s a whole bunch of non-political causes that are equally effective, too. I firmly believe that you have the power to carve a safe space for yourself and others when you speak up about the causes that mean the most to you. If other people don’t agree with your approach, fuck ’em! After all, you are more than welcome to use your time to discover what cause you want to support and share that.
- It’s OK to have days when you don’t wanna dress up – more than anything, lockdown got me to feel that it’s OK to have days when I just wanna be makeup-free or lounge around in sweats whenever I get my period. Dressing down is dope, but I still love to get dolled up and feel cute!
- Stop giving excuses to your worst traits and actually *work* on it – it’s honestly so easy to get distracted in other things to the point where you forget to fix your own issues. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but no one else goes harder on you than yourself when others call you out or when you know it yourself. If you think that your own issues cannot be fixed, try to be more receptive about seeing positive solutions. You are not God. Your friends and family are the last people who will ever judge you for your worst traits. If you can overcome it, that’s amazing!! Keep it up!
- Sober ≠ boring! – I used to think that life was boring without getting drunk pre-COVID and post-lockdown. But, I don’t think I can function on one too many hangovers if I frequently drink too much every weekend. Though I’ve always been curious to try different kinds of booze out of sheer fun, my body can’t tolerate a mixture of strong cocktails/spirits. Kicking back a glass of wine is cool and so is having a single shot of grape soju when you’re doing FaceTime calls once in a blue moon. But 80% of the time, I am actually sober save for the days when I feel like having a drink. A happy balance is needed for sure, but I’m starting to enjoy a cup of tea at night or in the afternoon just to have a health boost. There were a bunch of nights when I didn’t drink and that’s just as fun, too! Please remember that you CAN be a fun person without substances, too.
- BE open to changing jobs – I think that sticking to one career path is going to become obsolete at this point as more and more people are starting to cross over into different gigs. While the prospects may seem scary, I actually enjoy doing new things that are so different from my usual writing gig. I find that while I’m stronger in one area more than the other, throwing myself into new challenges is something I actually crave for as I want to learn, test myself and then, improve. I’m a full believer in taking risks as I feel that life will be too boring when you’re always acting in fear or being too overly cautious! What’s great about changing jobs is that you can count on a colleague or two who will be there to help you. You never know what rewards you’ll bring once you get out of the safety net! If you are someone who wants to change your job and industry, please know that you CAN apply to what you’ve learned from your current job and share your knowledge. The risk is scary, but trust the process. I promise you that it will really pay off.
- Your life doesn’t have to be eventful all the time – as someone who is used to having the thrill of a rollercoaster life, I love to ride on the highs and lows of the events that take place as memories are built on a combo of emotions and events. Being the Gemini that I am, there is no middle ground in life as I chase after the chaos. However, that cycle can do a number on you. When quieter moments in my life happened, I thought that my life was boring, but it wasn’t. You don’t always need events to fuel your life and that’s OK. More than anything, I feel that you’re better off basking in moments of quietness as events can exhaust you sometimes.
- Crying ≠ weakness – showing how you feel is STRONG. People tell me not to cry, but I find that so invalidating as I am old enough to bare my soul. I was conditioned not to cry as it was perceived as weakness. Whenever I cry, it helps me to release a lot of hidden emotions and to be more connected to it. Your tears are valid as you can cry when you’re happy, appreciated or show gratitude at how far you’ve grown in life. Crying doesn’t have to be reserved for grief. If there’s a bad day or a horrible anxious thought, I cry as well. Please don’t feel embarrassed when you cry as you’re just as human as me.
- It’s OK to grow up – your 20s are a stage when you’re constantly trapped between your newfound freedom of discovering your true self and having to be the person your parents wanted you to be. Like Hannah Montana, I had to hide one part of myself to conform to what was expected of me, yet show another side of myself where I didn’t have to censor my true colors. Growing up in a Chinese Indonesian household, it’s expected for girls to be wholesome (i.e. don’t dress sexy and party), go to church, date guys of the same cultural background and get married before turning 30. Rather than conform to what was expected of me, I “rebelled” the moment I set foot in LA. While having a “rebellious” stage was fun, I’ve learned to embrace my own differences rather than to apologize for it. The five years of freedom in America taught me to wear my own identity with pride. Upon returning home, I did not anticipate that my previous issues with the restrictions were unresolved. Though there were days when I caved in, I still fought for myself against the conventions that were being rammed on my throat. I can’t tell you how many times I sobbed in secrecy over the fact that I lost my will to express myself at times. While growing up is looked down, I feel that writing my feelings out for Vice against body shaming and archaic beauty standards helped me to be at peace with it. If you are struggling to be at peace with yourself, please know that you aren’t alone with discovering yourself. You are old enough to keep your subscription or unsubscribe to what you are taught.
- Your values don’t have to agree with your friends and that’s OK! – having differences shouldn’t divide your friendship as it actually makes you two into completely unique beings. If you feel that your friends have to have the same values as you, that’s not healthy. Seek to understand from curiosity, not judgment. But if you find that you and your friend have grown apart from how divergent your values are, it’s OK. They deserve to have the room to grow up as they’re human, too. I find that it’s not worth trying to maintain friendships with people whose values are deeply incompatible with yours as you feel that you are obliged into trying to make it work when you don’t need to.
- It’s never too late to find a NEW community – the idea of forever is not healthiest standard you should set for yourself as you’re constantly changing. If you found a squad that’s perfect for you, that’s awesome! But if you have not had any luck with finding a squad, you can either make one or find another one. No squad is perfect, but trying to make a community vibe with you isn’t going to work as it’s always them vs. you. But if you find that a certain community is not working for you, don’t stay because you fear not being able to keep up with your friends. Although there is nothing wrong with having different values and personalities, it’s not OK to try to force yourself to work with them when the vibe isn’t there.
- You get your shit together – depending on who, I think that this will be different for everyone. But for myself, I’ve strangely found more stability at 27 than I did at any other age.
- You take decision-making more seriously than you did before – what’s different about 27 is that you prioritize responsibility. That helped me to think about what was more important or anticipate what risk was worth taking. At 21, all I acted on was impulses. The journey to adulting is tough, but you can have a happy medium by having 85% adult and 15% inner child inside you. The biggest thing about decision-making is that I’ve learned to think long term than to stick to short term thinking.
- The connections you make are not for nothing – personally and professionally, but there’s a reason why you meet certain people! God surely works in mysterious ways by linking you up with a friend whom you never knew you needed. I firmly believe that who you have in your life now is based on fate as there is no coincidence when God makes plans! Strangely, the best bonds are with those who are the least like you on the outside.
- Loving your body should be inside out – I’m glad that I’m being genetically engineered to have a small waist, hourglass figure and small bones, but I actually struggle with learning to accept how my body is engineered on the inside. On social media, plant-based diets are constantly being plugged and that’s cool. I pushed myself to go fully vegan at one point as I was so scared of eating meat, eggs and dairy thanks to my food allergy tests and documentaries. (I still am scared of going near dairy due to my lactose intolerance!) While there is nothing wrong with going vegan, my body isn’t compatible with following the diet to a tee as I got anemic and it took me two weeks to recover from a cold a few years ago. Little did I know that my blood type had a LOT to do with my energy as I was meant to consume high protein and get energy off of it. (I’m a blood type O, btw!) Since the pandemic, I’ve learned to accept that my body is wired to consume a protein-rich diet that also requires some meat and fish. Though I still enjoy my vegan/vegetarian meals, it doesn’t have to be obligated for me to maintain it and not everyone has the body that is wired to eat a plant-rich meal. No diet should ever be standardized by social media as we have unique digestive systems that are wired differently.
- You are at peace with your past self – who you were a long time ago from your teens to early 20s definitely felt awkward and that’s normal. For a long time, I didn’t like who I was then because I wasn’t the most popular kid nor did I have any friends besides 1 best friend. While I was still discovering myself from college to my mid 20s, I felt like it was so easy for me to dismiss who I was in my teens. The same pattern happened again when I thought that my early 20s were non-sensical during my mid 20s. Now that I’m 27, I’ve learned to accept that while I cannot change who I was then, I’ve learned to embrace all the phases I went through.
- BE your own ideal – who society wants you to be and what your parents want you to be aren’t always the healthiest ways of achieving self worth. Having to change yourself to be who someone else wants you to be isn’t the right standard for yourself as it’s not worth it. I’ve had other people try to change me for themselves, but I could never ever do that because I knew that I could never be that person for them. While other people’s standards are not bad, your standards need to be made for YOU. Seeking what I want for myself has never felt more empowering. Other people may say that our standards are too high, but please know that they don’t understand *why* we built our own standards. When it comes to what I want for myself or in a partner, I just like to approach it in a realistic way as I find that having to follow someone else’s idea or what society wants for me is setting me up to stay in the hamster wheel of failure. That’s why it’s best to date yourself as you have the room to set up your standard because no one else’s ideal is equal to *your* ideal. If you are still single, please note that you may not fit into someone else’s ideal and that’s OK. It takes the right person to meet your ideal, but I promise you that the wait will be worth it.