In one week I turn 23 years old. That’s in 7 days. 10,080 minutes. 604,800 seconds. And, don’t they say, nobody likes you when you’re 23? Thanks, Blink 182.
But, do you want to know what else nobody likes? Nobody likes to tell you how hard your 20’s can be. Yes, I am still young enough to go out and drink until 2 a.m. and, sure, I don’t have a family or a mortgage. Hell, I don’t even have a car payment (#bigcityperks). But man, life is still throwing me some curve balls.
Before now, life has been pretty prescribed. Elementary school. Middle school. High school. College. Class at this time. Sports (or if you’re me, student government) at this time. Babysit at that time. Study. Get a grade. Pass your class. Look for a job. Graduate. Move on. Start your job…
Suddenly, though, the path ahead isn’t paved – and you’ve got to figure out the direction you’re headed in on your own. And while you may have people guiding you, there’s no one there to tell you exactly how it should be done. Instead, you’re told there’s no right answer, and you’ve got to decide for yourself what lies ahead. And what happens if you mess up and decide you’ve gone the wrong way, or made the wrong choice? Sadly, it’s no game of Monopoly; there’s no get out of jail free card.
Nobody tells you that it’s scary. It’s scary to make these choices and to venture into the unknown with little to no safety net. You embark on your journey into the “real world” at such a young age. Suddenly, the bubble you’ve been living in for approximately 21 years is burst. You take your first real job. You hope you listened well enough in school as you sit in meetings across from people twice your age. You hope you don’t make a fool of yourself or sound too much like a “millennial,” all too often perceived as narcissistic, gadget-obsessed fools with their heads stuck in the clouds.
You hope you’re not seen as too young to know, but reality is, you are young. And there’s a lot of life you’ve yet to have experienced, so therefore…you might not know, simply because you haven’t lived it. But that doesn’t mean you’re dumb, or does it?
This decade is a hard one to navigate. And nobody seems to tell you that. You teetering between being a child and a full blown adult, navigating a fine line that you may not even want to cross. Seemingly overnight you’ve gone from a few homework assignments and essays to bills and errands and real life work tasks (no more hypothetical problems anymore). How are you expected to do it all, and more importantly, to do it all right?
And there in lies in the real challenge. You’re not expected to do it all right. And, chances are, you probably won’t. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make the wrong choice. You’re going to have to change your mind and pave a new path for yourself. Sometimes, in doing so, you’ll let people down. Sometimes, you will get hurt. But, in the end, you’ve got to make the choices that put you on the path towards your own success. And, what is success in life but being the happiest version of yourself? Yes, you’ll want to make money to live off of, and yes you’ll want that good ol’ American dream, but at the root of it all, if you’re not happy, what is any of it worth?
Note, though, that I write this not necessarily believing every word above. That is, I am in the midst of the struggle myself. Yes, I am certainly enjoying life – I have a great job, I live in a wonderful city, I have an amazing family, wonderful friends, a great boyfriend – but I still get worried. I worry about the three quarters of my life that lie ahead. I wonder what I truly want to be when I “grow up,” all while hoping I don’t ever really have to grow up, teetering that fine line we do in our 20’s.
But, I write what’s above believing deep in my heart that the best is yet to come. And that I can find that ultimate happiness if only I remember that it won’t happen overnight. And there will be hurdles. And I will trip over said hurdles (klutz by nature) and fall flat on my face. But, if I can pick myself up, if I can wipe the dirt off and keep moving, what lies ahead will be wonderful, if I only remember that the journey to get there won’t be perfect, as nothing ever is.
23, I am scared for you, but I am ready. Let the countdown begin. (And please, greet me with a pitcher of margs.)