Part 1 (The Early 20’s)
A few days ago I turned 30. I cannot even believe it. Where did the time go? If you want to know how old 30 is, look at all these other things that are turning 30 this year. In a recent TED talk Meg Jay, author of “The Defining Decade” stated that our 30’s are not our 20’s and that we all need to stop thinking our lives are an episode of GIRLS and get our lives together. I happen to like GIRLS and I think that even if we have it together in one area, very rarely do we it all have together in every area at the same time. Even know, I feel like I’m always working on some area of my life or adjusting to a new change. However, in my early 20’s, I did think I had to “have it all together” and the anxiety over having it all, made me rush into the milestones of adulthood.
In hindsight, my 20’s were all about the growing pains of becoming an independent individual. Most of us leave our teen years carrying a lot of baggage, and the expectations of our well intentioned parents. At some point it’s hard to distinguish between what we want for ourselves and what others want for us. After high school, we are thrust into adulthood after choosing a college and then pressured to choose a major that will allegedly determine what we do with rest of our life. After college we have to at least pretend to have our life together. Because no one wants to end up the poster child for one of those articles that talks about how Millennials all suck and are never going to do anything worthwhile with their lives except build an impressive stock of Instagram photos.
There are lots of things to navigate in your 20’s and I could have used a survival guide. Here’s a few truth’s that I learned after surviving this roaring and turbulent decade that might help you get through these times.
1) You Will Make Mistakes- Even the best of you will mess up and that is a beautiful thing as this is the only way you will grow as a person. This is how you will know that certain things are not acceptable to you and most importantly after thriving and surviving your mistakes you will know that you can wither any storm that comes your way.
2) Your Life May Not Go According to Plan- Accept that the things you want now will change and that even if you achieve the perfect job, relationship, life, you may find that it’s not as great as you thought it would be and that its time to move on to other things. The sooner you let go of “the plan” the sooner you can figure out who you really are and where you want to go next.
4) You Will Need a Support System- Believe me that YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT OUT ALIVE without a support system. Friendships are challenging, because your friends know all your issues and frankly they are probably tired of hearing about them and your inability to deal with them. That's normal but it doesn't mean they don't love and appreciate you. Friendships evolve and go through different phases that is just life, get used to it, it will be good practice for your late 20’s when all of your friends meet their “soulmates”, have babies/dog babies , move away for graduate school or a fabulous job. But true friends will always find a way to stay in your life.
5) Deal with your Issues Now ( Ignore this at your Own Peril)- I read this quote in Thought Catalog about your 20’s that rang very true: “In your twenties, if you have any amount of complexity in your childhood, or any trauma that you haven’t dealt with, it comes out. “Every awkward Sally Draper moment in which you realized your parents were human and every unresolved instance of lost innocence comes crashing down on you. Just remember that being confused about all that is normal and having unresolved issues is too. It’s important you recognize whatever “your” issues are and you start working on them now. At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and it took me very long to not feel ashamed about that and to start finding ways to manage the feelings that overcame me rather than try to pretend they didn’t exist.
6) Enjoy Your Body- Enjoy your body in your early 20’s, because sometime after age 25 you will notice a decline. Getting drunk won’t seem as fun when your hangovers last 48 hours. I will never forget the first under eye wrinkle I saw at the age of 27 under the fluorescent lighting at Forever 21. Please do enjoy and also take care of your body now. (Also can someone tell me at what age it becomes unacceptable to even walk into Forever 21? My friends and I can’t seem to come to an agreement on this issue.)
7) Keep Your Financial House in Order- One day you are just a kid and all of a sudden you’re in college and there’s these things called FAFSA and they are asking you to decide what kind of loans to take out. Meanwhile, depending on how you were raised you don’t even know your social security number. This is the time to start educating yourself on these issues, it is also a good time to learn how to make a budget and stick to it. After graduation the car my dad had purchased for me broke down suddenly and I learned very quickly that with my credit score I didn’t really qualify for a loan that didn’t come with a very high interest rate. I hope you make better decisions than I did. Look at sites like mint.com and learnvest.com that help you make a budget and teach you about personal finance issues like how to build a good credit score.
8) A Word on Romance- Yikes, I could write a book on all the things I did wrong in this department. From infidelity, to chasing the wrong boys, to holding on to the ones I didn’t like for my own selfish needs- I pretty much covered a lot of territory in a short amount of time. It’s hard to capture any “advice” because we all learn and evolve differently on these matters. Here’s what I can tell you, when we are young we fail to consider that the things we thought we wanted are not the things we need to feel content. We are too young to know that things that at first were non-issues can become deal breakers. Worse, we don’t realize when we are in relationships that don’t suit us and we ignore that inner voice that tells us that something is not right. I don’t consider any of the things I did mistakes, but rather that it took guts to let go of people who weren’t right for me so that we could both seek a better match. Every person that touches our life leaves us with a lesson. Maybe we don't see that lesson at first but eventually we see the gift they left us with.
Don’t feel pressured to figure it all out in your 20’s because life doesn’t end after 29. Embrace the turbulent and transformative nature of your 20’s. Sometimes we want to things to look a certain way or work out in a way that makes life less messy, this way we don't have to keep searching and we don't have to deal with the inner turmoil lurking inside us. Allow yourself to feel the pangs of the uncertain; these feelings let you know that you’re alive. Those feelings of uncertainty never fade and if they do it means you are being too safe and that is no way for any of us to live.