It’s surreal to me that I’m 24 years old. When I was 16, I used to think my mid-twenties were so far away that I didn’t have to worry about what it would be like, but all I knew was that I would be a fully-functioning adult and have my entire life together. When I think about how naive that mindset was, I can’t help but laugh.
My twenties are not at all what I thought they’d be, but it’s been nerve-wracking and beautiful and scary and exciting and weird and difficult all at the same time. Mentally, you’re stuck in the memories of college and still trying to adjust to having a full-time job, all while trying to juggle the expectations of family and friends around you. You’re told that now it’s time for you to act like an adult, and you have to start taking care of those around you rather than be taken care of.
Does anyone else have that one “scary age” in their mind? That’s what 24 is for me. I can’t quite tell you why, but it’s because that’s when everything starts to change. Change is the only constant in life and I know that, but it’s one of the most frightening ideas to me. If you want to find out the lessons I’ve learned so far on how to navigate your 20s and how to keep putting one foot in front of the other all while balancing a million different commitments, keep reading. I’m NO expert (I want to emphasize the word “NO”), and I know I’m only 4 years in, but 4 years is still a long time. I want this post to serve as a helpful resource to those of you going through your 20s and not knowing which route to take, but also serve as a reminder for myself to always keep these words with me. Whatever your reason may be to read this post, know that everyone’s in the same boat.
#1: Before you say yes, think about it
This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past few years. Whenever someone has asked me to do something for them or commit to something that might be a good cause, I immediately said yes in the past. My new goal is to change the “just say yes” mindset to “before you say yes, but think about it first.” It’s awesome to want to say yes to good causes or friends that need your help, but sometimes it’s important to look at what you can really handle first. It’s better to say no and balance other commitments you’ve already made, rather than say yes and not be able to balance yet another piece of food on your already-full plate.
#2: No one has their life together.
In the age where social media dominates perspectives, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in how good everyone else’s lives look. But the truth is, no one really has their life together. Every single person you meet is going through their own set of problems and issues that they’re not putting on full blast (because who wants to post an Instagram picture about disease, death, and getting into a fight with your parents?). Whenever I’m going through something that feels like it’ll never get better, I think about the fact that no one actually has their life together, and everyone is dealing with another obstacle that they need to cross on a daily basis. Whether it’s trying to figure out how to make it one more day or making time to go buy groceries while also juggling a packed schedule or going through something tough mentally, everyone has something they are trying to surpass. The underlying subtext here is that it’s not about the problems, it’s about how you solve them. It’s about how you keep solving every single problem after that and come out thriving. Imagine taking a calculus test in high school or college. Usually, each problem has the same solution, but there are different routes you can take to get to the solution. I try to apply this same mindset to my life.
#3: Your “rock bottom” may be someone else’s Mt. Everest
This is something I realized not too long ago. You spend so much time trying to achieve your biggest goal or biggest dream, and you finally make it there, but then months or years later, you start to feel like you could do so much better. Sound familiar? That’s because our minds are constantly craving a new challenge and a new experience. The grass is always greener on the other side….. or is it? The other side is going to have a whole new set of obstacles, new challenges, and wonderful new experiences. It’s so tempting to think about “what could be” and get into the thought process of how to climb another step on the ladder. But lately I’ve realized that it’s important to appreciate the hard work it took to get to where you are now, because that was pretty damn amazing too. It’s important to remember how it felt when you achieved your goal and you felt that sense of accomplishment, because other people may be praying to have what you have now. You may feel like you can do so much better, but for others, it could be the top. Don’t disregard your progress.
#4: There’s beauty in the struggle
If you know me, you know this is my favorite quote of all time. I have a painting of it hanging up in my room, so I can be reminded of it at every minute of the day (thank you J. Cole for being the absolute best). The reason this quote means so much to me is that I feel it in my core – there’s truly beauty in the struggle and ugliness in success. Your struggle defines who you are and who you are is the foundation of everything else you build on in your life. It’s easy to disregard yourself and the journey you went through to get to TODAY, this current moment. I know it because I do it all the time. It’s like a rollercoaster. Before you get on the rollercoaster, you feel the nerves set in. You get on it and you wait for the wheels to start moving so you can get it over with. You reach the peak of the roller coaster and think this is it. But the beauty is in the fall – the elated screaming and laughing and the rush of endorphins that gets you to stand in that line again for an hour. So get on more rollercoasters, take more chances, and know that when you do fall, you’ll get right back up again.
#5: Follow what you love
I’m a firm believer in the notion that you will be good at doing what you love. If you aren’t interested in what you’re doing, you’re inevitably going to have a harder time getting through the days, and that sense of accomplishment won’t be as satisfying. If something isn’t making you happy, it’s not worth it. Create more room for the good in your life by finding where you feel happiest. Before I created this blog, I realized how happy I felt when I was writing, making content, and running marketing campaigns. It led me to believe I could have a “side-hustle” in blogging, and now it’s something I look forward to on a daily basis. It feels so amazing to find that one genuine comment or that one person you can actually impact with your words – and that’s why I do it. It doesn’t have to be full-time for me, but as long as I’m following my happiness, I know I’ll be fine.
#6: Create opportunities that you want to see
This is something that has really impacted my life, ever since I was in college. I remember wanting to be a leader, but not finding any avenues to do it. Then, I had an epiphany. I decided to follow what I loved and created an entire organization in the business school that was designed to help other students become ready for the corporate environment. To this day, it’s something I’m so proud of because I left my legacy at my school. I’ve applied this mindset to everything I do even after college, and it’s what has gotten me to where I am. The lesson here is that doors won’t just conveniently open for you whenever you want. If you want something, plan for it as much as you can, meet the necessary people it takes to put it in action, and build it. Whether it means starting a business or a college club or finding a job, it’s something you have to create for yourself, without expecting people to open doors for you.
If I could go back and tell myself (or anyone else under the age of 21 reading this) anything, I would say that things are going to get better. I’d also say that things might even get worse, but I’ll be strong enough to walk through those storms. It’ll be a perfect storm, where a combination of circumstances will create a beautiful mess of both good and bad, highs and lows. It’ll lead me to places and people that are the best for me, and it’ll be the best time of my life. So it does get better, and it’ll keep getting better. In the end, I’m happy to have walked through the rain and the thunder, because they all made me into the person I am today, writing this post.
I’m excited. I’m more excited than I am scared. And that’s all you can ask for right? I’m excited for the good things and I’m excited for the obstacles that will lead to more good things. That’s the beauty of all this. Being more excited than you are afraid – that’s when you know you’re really living. To be honest, this post took a turn that I didn’t even expect, but I’m so so glad it did. Let me know if this helped you, and tell me your stories.
— An Amateur