Have you figured it all out? Of course not! Its NOT what they told you would happen after college, truthfully, your twenties comes with its own brand of WTF?
Maybe it’s a Quarter Life Crisis (#QLC), or just that awkward stage in life when you’re not a kid anymore, but adulthood still feels out of your grasp.
After all some of you may already have the career you hoped for, or even found the love of your life! It’s even possible that you’ve purchased and home and started a family. On the other hand, you could be one of the other twenty something’s who are stuck in a dead-end job, wondering what the heck you’re going to do with your life.
No matter where you are in life right now, there is a new level of anxiety and stress you experience in your 20’s as you navigate the “real world” on your own. It seems like we wait our entire childhood to be an adult, and the first 10 years of it are like riding the bumper cars.
Imagine, you get into the bumper car and think:
I got this!
No, this way. Smash!
That way. Smash!
There is nowhere to go.
Which way do I go?
A study in the UK found that 86% of 1,100 twenty-something’s suffer from serious anxiety and stress: a fear that they’re not doing enough with their life. All too often, I hear about the pressure to succeed or a sense of a lack of accomplishment.
Have I really done anything with my life?
Then there is the all too familiar dark shadow of debt and the rocky roads of relationships. And you can’t help but ask:
Why is this happening to me?
When I was about 8, my mom gave me the book, What’s Happening To Me?, a literally graphic “tell-all” about puberty. It was shockingly embarrassing and humiliating at the time, but it sure did give me a lot of information about the changes I was going through.
But where is the What’s Happening to Me 2.0 for making it through your twenties?
It seems like we go through just as many, if not more, changes in our twenties. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, financially, professionally, and personally. And the decisions we make in our twenties are way more important than the ones we made when we discovered hair in our armpits.
And to make matters worse, Millennials, you are soul and career searching in the midst of a global economic crisis and job shortage. Its the School of Hard Knocks, only amplified!
You must be thinking: Will it ever end?
For goodness sakes, you did all the right things.
Here’s the Checklist!
Followed your passion
Got a mentor
Managed your finances
Got a job
Went to school
Didn’t go crazy
*If you checked off at least 5 of the items above, be assured, you’ve done the right thing.
And in spite of it all, you still feel uncertain and insecure!
Because you are tasked to enter adulthood and establish a steady independent life of your own in the real world!
There is always uncertainty when doing something you have never done before. And this time, you are on your own (even for those of you who are living at home).
So the highs are much higher and the lows are much lower. Trust me, I waded through my own turbulent seas in my twenties:
- After 6 years of education and training, I realized a goal I had set for myself at the age of 16. I got my dream job, teaching ESL abroad!
- Met a guy, fell in love, and got married.
- Started my teaching career back in the US, in a university based ESL program. And was promoted to a full-time instructor only after two years.
- While teaching abroad, I was assaulted and treated for PTSD.
- Married the wrong guy, and spent the better part of 4 years battling to end the marriage. And accumulated a significant amount of credit card debt in the process.
- Held down three jobs to meet my monthly expenses, because my full-time dream job paid crap!
And wouldn’t you know, through it all, I eventually found my sense of purpose and learned how to live a fulfilled life.
You see, your twenties is the time to create your own guide to life. It’s the time to develop skills for daily living, gain a better understanding of who you are, and what you want from life. Use this time to build a foundation for your adult life (being over 18 doesn’t automatically qualify you; your twenties are the warm up laps).
Here are some best practices for negotiating your twenties:
1. Know when to stand alone and when to ask for help
How? If you feel like your drowning, reach out for help. Don’t let pride get in the way.
2. Be adventurous!
Be willing to re-invent yourself, and develop eclectic skills and sensibilities; you don’t have to be one thing.
You don’t even have to go far; just explore, meet new people, try new things.
5. Make plans!
Complacency is easy to come by so make plans; plan for the weekend, plan for the summer, just make plans.
6. Be self oriented!
This is a time to focus on you, who you are, and what you want. Remember it’s not the same as being selfish or self conscious; don’t compare yourself to others, its a complete waste of time.
7. Get Found!
Become self-aware; understand the values that drive your behaviors, find your blind spots and areas of growth, accept feedback from others, and challenge yourself to be better.
8. Talk less, listen more!
We don’t know what we don’t know. You might miss it if you are talking and not listening.
And maybe the most important practice of all is to ENJOY! Your twenties is a unique and fruitful time in your life, and meant to be a bit of wild ride.