This year I’m turning 25.
The pinnacle age for having your shit together and some sort of clue where you’re going with your life. Or, as I like to call it, a year of unnecessary self-imposed stress eating.
In life, there seems to be this misconception perpetuated by the fears of this generation and the one before it. The myth that at some point you’ll reach the finish line. If you follow the exact steps and check all the boxes along the way you’ll get there – you’ll arrive. There’s absolutely no mention of feeling lost in your twenties.
Unfortunately, the sad truth is this way of thinking means you waste your life away trying to get to somewhere that doesn’t exist. Trying to arrive – but never knowing where to.
I spent a lot of time in my early twenties getting caught up in fears of the future (anxiety) and disappointments of the past (depression). Focussing so much on all the noise that I forgot to enjoy the part where I just lived. These days I try to spend as much time as possible celebrating the present and living in the now.
The most damaging thing I’ve ever learned is the ridiculous notion that everyone seems to have a clue what they’re doing. You leave school, go to uni and then the day you graduate at the exact moment you’re handed your scroll you have a lightbulb moment and the next sixty or so years of your life are mapped out. It’s that simple.
Well, I’m calling bullshit. Yup, I said it.
And that’s not the only thing.
Uni is for everyone
Uni is not for everyone. This is coming from someone who spent four years studying a degree she absolutely loved. Studying for my masters was the push that sent me over the edge. Looking back it is so clear to me that I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it. But more than that – going through uni is not the only way to get into your desired career.
That is unless your dream career is something like a doctor. In which case disregard everything I’ve just said and get yourself one of those shiny, beautiful *expensive* degrees. It’s probably unwise to have someone operating on the masses who’s only scalpel knowledge is from marathon watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Seriously though between college, apprenticeships, starting your own business and just climbing your way up the career ladder there are so many other options. Hell who even says you need a job at all? Possessions will only drag us down.
Okay quick, someone stop me I’m getting carried away.
Perfectionism is a good weakness to have
Perfectionism is a toxic byproduct of anxiety, which serves as a breeding ground for procrastination. It’s impossible to go through life without failing at something. Maybe something as small as a test at school or maybe even something bigger like a relationship or a business. By failing you pave the way to move forward and the vulnerability that comes with accepting that will set you free.
In a world where it’s very easy to project a one-dimensional portrait of your life choose to stand out. Choose to be authentic. Not just for yourself, but for the countless others who are going through this life afraid to speak their truth because they think they’re alone in it.
I’m not perfect by any means. I used over-achieving as a way to prove my self-worth. And here’s why that was so damaging. Any time I didn’t live up to those standards I was left in an existential crisis. Who am I if not my perfect work?
Well, I’m human – like you, and everyone else!
That’s cool though, the alien life had it’s downsides anyway…
You need to grow up
I still use the alphabet song. I count on my fingers. And guess who owns a stuffed toy that she adores and takes with her on all her trips?
*Spoiler alert – it’s me.
My teenage years were pretty turbulent due to my mum suffering, and then passing away, from a long term illness. In some ways I feel like a piece of my childhood was prematurely taken from me. I was forced to grow up and make decisions that I never dreamed of having to make.
Suffering from loss puts a new lens on your life and you realise that your reality is thousands of pieces of glass precariously held together. At any moment one or a number of those pieces could smash. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that. It certainly doesn’t get any easier.
My experience with loss changed my outlook on life and changed me as a person. I was no longer a carefree teenager, but a teenager who spent much of her life preparing for the worst to happen. I’ve worked hard to turn that fear around and become someone that I’m proud of. Not for fear of what will happen if I don’t, but for the joy of what will happen if I do.
Now, I wholeheartedly believe we should embrace those aspects of our personalities that keep us young and carefree. Yes, you need to take responsibility for yourself, your actions and the impact that those actions have on those around you. But being a kid is brilliant and I hope you never lose that childish spark. It is a gift.
What it means to live your truth
Gabrielle Bernstein once said, “there’s nothing sexier than your authentic truth”, and she’s right. The amount of joy and love you will feel when you live a life of your choosing is unbelievable. How do I know? Because I’ve tried living a life by other people’s standards and, not only was it stressful as fuck, it just wasn’t me.
After a lot of hard work, my self esteem is in the best shape it has ever been. I no longer feel the need to apologise for being myself. I refuse to suppress the confident, loving, badass young woman I am.
Living your truth also means checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling.
There’s a difference between spending a few days in bed to feeling like there’s no point in ever getting out of bed again. You have to get super intentional about building your self-awareness. If you’re feeling stuck journal, read, meditate, do yoga. Strengthen your mind and body. Most importantly know when to ask for help. A bubble bath and a glass of Prosecco are not going to magically heal your clinical depression.
I desperately wish we lived in a world where mental illness wasn’t surrounded by cultural stigmas of being “crazy” or “psycho”. I wish we were part of a society that didn’t use mental illness as an insult in relation to behavior we can’t understand. That didn’t view suicide as selfish, but instead a desperate cry for help. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. I believe in time we could be.
The reality is these illnesses don’t set us apart, but in fact link us together.
Your life’s true purpose
If you’ve ever spent time feeling lost in your twenties there’s a high chance you’ve spent time wondering about your life’s purpose. Getting transfixed on what you should be doing or why you’re here. I know I have.
Then I learned something.
There really is no shortcut to having it all figured out – because the truth is IT doesn’t exist.
Feeling lost in your twenties is not only normal, it’s needed for progress. At different periods in your life, different things will be your calling and that’s totally okay! Worrying adds no value to your life and it certainly won’t solve that existential crisis either.
Stand firm in your beliefs, but be open to hearing new ideas. Take the time in your twenties, thirties, forties and beyond to pursue things that fill you with joy. Invest in yourself. In hobbies, travel, love (both romantic and platonic) and, most importantly, laughter.
Happiness doesn’t exist on a stand alone basis. Through the polarity of fear, we learn what it is to feel joy. Acknowledge it for what it is. Surrender to it – but don’t get stuck there. In other words, don’t beat yourself up if your life doesn’t look exactly how you expected it to.
Every moment that has gone before has led you to this moment right now.
And you know what gorgeous?
It’s time to stop wishing your life away.
This beautiful moment is exactly where you’re supposed to be.
What about you guys? Have you ever spent time feeling lost in your twenties? What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Let me know in the comments!