We’ve all been told the same thing about life in your twenties.
They say they’re the best years of your life!
A time for trial and error.
A time to try new things, make mistakes, and fall in and out of love.
We’re basically promised this time to enjoy being young; that we can skate through our twenties trying to find ourselves without too much external pressure.
But am I the only one calling bullshit?
Does anyone else feel pressure and judgment coming from every direction?
I think it’s a two-part issue.
First, my generation is totally different from the previous generations before us.
Our parents and grandparents were having kids at a younger age, which meant they had to support their families sooner. In their twenties, they had to jump into a career to make a living.
My generation is waiting later in life to have kids. So now we have all this free time to enjoy our twenties like we’ve been told to. It’s our time for self-discovery.
Things have changed.
We’re putting a lot more importance on our happiness, personal dreams and desires. We’re starting families later in life, we’re traveling the world, we change from job to job trying to find something we truly enjoy. Many of us refuse to get a job purely because it’s a way to make a living (because if you think about it, making a living and living are totally different).
But many family members or older influences in our lives see us as non-committal, lazy, or “afraid of responsibility.”
Don’t get me wrong, some people my age are definitely all of those things. But maybe some of us haven’t conformed to the “have a family, get a desk job we hate, buy a home” life track yet because we don’t necessarily have to at the moment.
I wish people would accept that it’s just a totally different era.
The constant questions Millennials face from older family members are exhausting!
What are you going to do with your life?
You need to be done with all this traveling and settle down!
When are you going to meet someone and start a family?
You’re so smart! Why don’t you do something where you can make more money?
These questions persist from all directions as soon as college is over. Many even get this rundown as early as eighteen. This sense of urgency pitted against us is enough to make our head explode.
I think its OK to not be in a rush. Many people need to hear that.
We have the rest of our lives to work. We will find a job and work and support ourselves and be fine and dandy until the day we die. Because that’s what people do.
But I’m in my twenties. Let me be in my twenties.
Most of us don’t come out of the womb knowing our life’s purpose is to be a doctor or a lawyer. I wish I had that luxury.
So, let me try stuff.
Let me travel now instead of later, because I can.
Let me be single and focus on myself, or let me take leaps in love that you think are crazy (because that’s what every movie ever has told us to do).
Let me bounce from job to job and cross things off my list so that I’m getting closer and closer to a job that utilizes my skills and that actually makes me happy.
Please stop making me feel guilty for living my life on my terms.
Family can put a lot of unintentional pressure on us, but they do it because they think they know what’s best for us. They think they know what will make us happy. It all boils down to that. They just want us to be happy.
So, if they want you happy, do yourself a favor and do whatever it is that will truly bring you happiness.
You want to quit your job and travel around the world?
You swear you’ve met your soulmate and want to elope?
You want to spend every dime you have starting a business?
It sounds best to you to test out a few different jobs before picking the right one?
Or do you want to sell all your possessions, live in a yurt in the middle of the jungle, and spend the rest of your life roaming around naked?
If this will make you happy, then do it.
You’re the only one who has to walk in your shoes.
And if you have no idea what to even do, that’s OK too. But don’t let fear of making the wrong decision stop you from moving in any direction at all. Just do something! If something sort of kind of interests you, try it out! If you hate it, quit, and start again. You’ve got all of your twenties to start and stop and try again.
Hell, you’ve got your whole life for that.
The second influence contributing to this “life in your 20’s paradox” (I guess that’s what I’m calling it now?) is the growing reach of social media.
It’s easier than ever for people to know your business and compare you to everyone else they see. Friends are judging one another over their “perceived” accomplishments, putting importance on their definition of success. It’s twisted.
Not only do we deal with these external pressures from people comparing our progress to others on their news feeds, but thanks to social media, we’re constantly dealing with our own internal judgement – whether we mean to or not.
Every day we see people getting engaged, having kids, getting promotions, traveling to gorgeous destinations, having fun with their friends, and we can’t help but think we’re missing out.
Add this to the pressure we feel from our relatives, and we can’t help but question ourselves.
“Is there something I’m doing wrong?”
“Am I the biggest loser ever?”
“Everyone else is getting married, what’s wrong with me?”
“I wish I had the money to do that.”
And that’s not cool.
People are already judging us, we can’t do it to ourselves too.
We’ve got to stop getting sucked into this social media trap and focus on our own happiness and our own successes. We’d all feel ten times more confident in whatever path we’re taking if we didn’t have a news feed in front of us to compare our lives with.
Different things are important to different people. We all have different priorities. Some of us move quickly and some of us take more time. And that’s OK.
So, to all my fellow twenty-somethings out there who can relate all too well, here’s my advice:
Just do what feels right for you.
If you’re trying to consistently move forward and better yourself in one aspect or another, then you’re on the right path.
But don’t let pressure from others rush you into making a decision that you’ll be unhappy with. Only you know what’s best for you.
And remember that our lives will never be figured out.
Life is constantly changing and adding new challenges and obstacles. Get comfortable with that now.
When faced with new problems, make the choices that are best for your happiness and feel confident in them. As cliché as it may sound, the best way to live your life is with no regrets.
The last thing you want to do is wake up one day and wish you would have done something different.
We will always face pressures and judgments for the rest of our lives. Practice ignoring these forces now, so you’ll be even more prepared for the future.
You don’t have to rush through ‘the best years of your life’ because someone told you to. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
Follow your heart and know that you’re going to be fine, wherever life takes you.
Trust in yourself.
When it’s time to sink or swim, know you’re going to swim.
Whatever life throws at you, make the most of the moment, and just make choices that you’re going to be happy with.
That’s the best way to live.