People always talk about how your teenage years are the toughest because you’re figuring out who you are in relation to everyone else. I don’t know how my other fellow twenty-somethings feel, but DANG your twenties are SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT. Why? Because, not only are you are still figuring out who you are, but you’re simultaneously racing against this invisible clock that’s telling you time is almost up before you need to have your whole soul figured out. And what’s more is that you’ve got Instagram over here telling you that everyone else has their life figured out, so why don’t you? Or, the ever so famous: everyone else can afford 6+ luxury vacations each year, why can’t you? Because I’m broke and I have crazy student loans to pay, but thanks Instagram! (But really, how do people who are much younger than I am pull that off?!). Pressure, pressure, pressure.
I have two questions:
- Why does no one talk about how grueling your twenties can be?
- Why doesn’t anyone warn anyone about this?
If you’re reading this and you’re in your late teens/early twenties, this is your warning. Don’t say I never gave you anything. Anyway, onto the biggest lessons I have learned in my twenties (so far).
Lesson 1: “I am a [wo]man who recognizes grown-ups don’t really know shit, and they never really did…”– Logic, “Anziety”
Although the above is as nauseating as it sounds, I’ve come to realize that everyone is really just pretending to have their stuff together. What really solidified this for me was joining the workforce and working with adults twice my age who know a whole lotta nothing. Having the ability to see through people’s fluff is both a blessing and a curse, let me tell you. I feel like, when you reach between ages 24 and 26, you really take those childhood blinders off and can suddenly call bullshit on everything. You realize that what is really happening is that everyone is just trying to get by the best way they know how. Let’s be honest with ourselves: your confidence goes through the roof when learn that you’re not the only one who’s been confused the whole time.
I really don’t believe that there is one person walking on this planet who has it all figured out. Everyone has their struggles even if they don’t post them on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. It can be really hard to stay motivated and to not get discouraged by people around you who seem like they have it all, but comparison kills, my friend. The biggest thing I’ve learned here is to have tunnel vision: to keep my gaze forward, focus on me and my goals, and to only look around for inspiration, as needed.
Lesson 2: “You cannot control people with your behavior.” – Melina Renee
Oh man, was this a hard pill to swallow. If you’re always frustrated because you expect yourself from other people, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is the “I’ll stay at the office until 8pm so they will see how dedicated I am and give me a promotion.” Or the “I’m going to take out the garbage this time so my roommate will do it the next time.” Probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that one of the most selfish habits is acting with expectation—doing or saying things to try and get the receiving party to do or say what you want. Expecting other people (especially those you aren’t close to) to mirror your behavior is just down-right soul crushing.
I still sometimes find myself jumping to take on additional assignments at work in the hopes that my colleagues will like me even more than they did before, and at the end of the day all I’m really left with is more work on my plate. This is particularly frustrating and disappointing when it comes to relationships. What I’ve realized is this: you can train a dog and maybe even a small child, but grown folk will do and say whatever they want and you cannot control any of it. Know and understand that everyone is their own person, with their own opinions and attributes, whether you like it or not. The only thing I can control is the way I choose to interact with others, not the way others interact with me and the rest of the world. Let people be people and either take them or leave them!
Lesson 3: “You cannot think/wish/dream your way to clarity, you must engage.” – Melina Renee
Daydreaming is fun and all, but when you come to, you’re right where you started. There are lots of people walking about this earth not having a clue as to what their purpose is, or what they even enjoy doing for fun. I was one of them. I’d think about and imagine all of the things I might be interested in for hobbies, for example—photography, videoing, writing, lifting weights, traveling, hiking, etc. The problem with thinking is that you’re not doing. The problem with not doing is that you’re not learning. While I could vividly imagine myself enjoying shooting and editing video, after actually having do it, I learned that editing video is horrendously tedious and just not my cup of tea. After working as a radiologic technologist in nuclear medicine for a few years, I learned how painfully repetitive it is and that I dislike doing things that are repetitive. The more I did, the more I learned.
If you don’t do, you don’t learn. I learned that I could sit in my room and think/plan till the cows come home and still be confused and having gotten nothing done. You simply don’t know what things you like and don’t like until you engage with those things. Only then will you get closer to your dreams and life purpose. Engage in and entertain your interests, and you’ll really surprise yourself.
I didn’t mention how far into my twenties I actually am—I’m 27 years old (so, basically almost 30—yikes). Being out in the world and interacting with others has taught me a hell of a lot about myself and about how to navigate society as a whole. I’m glad I learned these lessons, all of them on multiple occasions and in different ways. If I could tie this post into a neat little bow it would say to DO YOU: no one knows what they’re doing so don’t worry about them, don’t try to control situations/people, and get to know yourself better. What have you learned in your twenties?! Let’s chat in the comments!