When I think back on my 20s, they almost don’t feel real.
They seemed to have happened centuries ago and just last week, at the same time.
Past tense doesn’t roll off my tongue easily when it comes to that age (jeez, I sound ancient!), since my brain got stuck on the idea of being forever 27 – who can blame him?!- especially since so many changes and lessons of that *decade* have barely settled in and started to bloom inside of me just the other day.
Maybe that’s what our 30s are for. To reap the benefits of our younger self. To feel the seeds come to life and sprout.
But that still doesn’t solve the mystery of our 20s.
Some place their money on adventure and say that our 20s should be about the discovery of new places. New people. Love. Finding out what you want and what you’re made of.
Others say that our 20s should be about fun. Friends. Travel. Hooking up. Livin’ la vida. Partying ‘till dawn. Every. Damn. Day. Basically, your 20s should be the beating heart of YOLO.
Then, there are the serious types. The ones that say you should “do the right thing”, like pursuing an academic path. With honors, of course. Working 189 hours a day at your first job ever. Hustling. Doing anything it takes for that corner office in your 30s or for the honor of becoming the youngest *insert fancy job title* ever.
In a nutshell, by the time you hit 30, you’re supposed to have tasted everything life has to offer. Make all the right decisions. Have everything figured out. Leave no stone unturned. No person unkissed. No regrets.
Signs that you’ve made it?! A wedding, a mortgage, a commute, … a burn-out?!
My 20s looked nothing like I wanted them to be back then. They were full of indecision. Shame. And pressure. Tons of pressure.
It felt like everybody else got the memo on how to do things, but me. Like I accidentally skipped the class about “how to do life” in middle school and now I’m in the dark.
My friends found their “soul-mate” and started planning their dream wedding. They all got hitched before they turned 25. Got on the baby making trend, immediately. By the time I got over the hangover from their receptions, I was in the middle of a booming baby-shower tour.
In the meantime, I was desperately trying to save my very toxic relationships. It hurts to admit it, but for the most part of my 20s, I was focused on changing others, instead of yours truly. The hard truth: I’ve wasted my time on people that didn’t deserve it. The pitiful part: I thought I had to do it. I had to make a relationship work. At all costs. Because the premise of me being the only sad single gal at every event made my skin crawl.
When I was 23, I got my first big break, career wise. I wasn’t going to squander it. I was committed to do whatever it takes to prove people that I could make it. So I dived head first into an insane 12 hour a day work schedule. Sleep soon became a commodity I no longer could afford. Going out? Seeing friends? Having fun? Eating lunch? Strange things that were not on my to-do list. But anxiety, panic attacks and chronic fatigue soon came to be on it.
I had to quit my job. Return to my home town. And break it off, for good this time, with my boyfriend. I was 24, single & jobless, living with my parents again. No badass babe makes it big from that scenario.
For the longest time, I thought I was doing something wrong. That I was broken. That I’m missing a built-in feature and that I was running out of time. It was like looking at massive surf waves in Hawaii, seeing everybody else gliding on top of them like it’s no biggie, while I didn’t even know how to swim.
It never occurred to me that 20 something are baby grown-ups that are just learning to navigate life on a trial and error basis. It never dawned on me that the error part was something you should go for instead of avoiding.
I continued dating the wrong people, until my heart couldn’t take it anymore. Until being single felt like a blessing. I learned how to be comfortable by myself at weddings, parties and dates. I read every self-help book I could lay my hands on. I sucked at yoga, but did it anyway. Landed a bunch of terrifying interviews and got a cool job in an industry I knew nothing about.
Most importantly: I stopped searching for a predefined path and started embracing my mistakes.
As far as my platter of personal experience goes, that was a game-changer.
Once I stopped chasing everybody else’s shoulds, I was able to breathe again. My head was above water, for the first time in a long time. The waves didn’t seem scary anymore. My heart was light. My head was high. Living life on my weird, off the right path, euphoric and tender terms was a hell of a lot better than following other people’s footsteps.
That right there is the only wisdom I have when it comes to making the most out of your 20s: make them your own.
Take good parts and live them to the max. Take the bad ones and figure out the lesson behind them. There always is one.
Don’t let anyone trick you into thinking you’re off track, you’re out of time or chances. Everybody’s journey is different, unique and equally valuable. Your 20s are for YOURSELF. Make them look, sound and feel like you.
Invite some turbulence in. Make room for mess. Be opened to the unexpected. To the not so perfect emotions. And momentary thrills. Say yes to road trips with no destinations.