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  • Kylie van Gelder

What a 20-year-old can teach a 40-year-old

Updated: May 31, 2021

It doesn't always have to be the other way around.

This was me, parasailing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico when I was 20-years-old. It was the first time I had done anything like this, where I literally put my life in the hands of others, and we didn't even speak the same language.

It was simply amazing! What a serene experience. I was full of butterflies and questionable judgement, but when I was up high, sailing in the sky, over the water, this wave of calm washed over me. It was as if I was all alone and the sky was this tranquil space of peace and serenity.

When I looked to my right, I could see others up high, taking it all in in the distance. To my left I looked down on the resort we were at, the beach and all the people below who felt so far away. In this moment, I had no cares, no worries and no fear.

Now at 42, I look back on this person with feelings of admiration and inspiration.

Often, as we age, there is this tendency to want to teach the younger generation about life. While there are valid reasons for this – stop caring what others think, save some money, follow your dreams, but be flexible, or you can do anything if you just step out of your own way (there may be a few messages to my self in here) – there is often little said in reverse, from the 20-year-old to the 40-year-old.

Recently, I had this eye-opening coaching session with Andrea Owen on her podcast Make Some Noise (you can listen here). During our call, I told her about my struggle with making decisions and that I often overthink things.

She asked if there was a point in my life when I didn't do this and I immediately thought back to my 20-year-old self. She was carefree and adventurous. Andrea referred to her as having delusional confidence. I love this!

Sure she had a suitcase full of challenges (heck, I still do), but she didn't let them stop her from experiencing life. She was fulfilling her dream of travelling.

Andrea's suggestion was to reconnect with her. After all, she's still a part of me and my memories are there, even if they feel like a life time ago.

So off I went to reconnect with my 20-year-old self. I journaled and meditated on repeat, and I did another coaching session with a friend to help reconnect my two selves.

Here's what I learned from my 20-year-old self when we reconnected:

  • Never stop taking risks.

  • Once you start to feel like you have "big" responsibilities, your life will fly by twice as fast. See your responsibilities as a part of who you are now, rather than a part of life's challenges.

  • We all have problems. Without them, you have nothing. See your problems as a way to learn something new.

  • Live in the moment, but always look back at how far you've come.

  • Find new ways to be adventurous.

  • Don't pressure yourself to make a decision. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. BUT if something you want to do scares the shit out of you, DO IT! You'll be so happy you did.

  • Let go and enjoy life.

In the end, I think as the older one in the room, we want to share our knowledge in order to say "This is what I would have done differently" or "Don't make the same mistakes I did." What we forget is that we can learn from the 20-year-old in the room. If we listen well, we can start doing things differently for ourselves now, in our 40's, by taking more risks, letting go and being adventurous. Who knows, maybe when we turn 50 we can look at our life and say "I'm doing what I want to do and I love my life."

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