While growing up, I had the added advantage of having a half-sister who was twenty-two years my senior. It was like having a second mom, but without the scolding and lecturing, just the good stuff. Imagine having a fountain of knowledge present at your side, waiting on your beck and call.
We aren’t all that lucky, nor did I really listen to half of the stuff she said to me. At the time, I was too busy thinking I knew everything to really take into consideration what she was saying (which I now wish I had). Aside from many regrets of not listening to everything she said, I do remember one thing that was constantly on repeat throughout my teenage years.
Around the time I was fifteen or so, she started dropping hints about my twenties. I thought it was a little weird, considering I was only fifteen, but she was smart and often repeated herself (causing these little sayings to get stuck in my brain).
“Your twenties are the most exciting but weird time of your life” she would say. “You’ll be surrounded by people and friends who are at very different stages in their lives. You’ll most likely feel very lost.”
Okay thanks, but how does that help? How was that supposed to prepare me for apparently the most confusing decade of my life? I would snarkily reply. Sometimes fearfully reply. But her answer was always the same, that it was completely okay to be lost and confused in your twenties, it’s exciting and thrilling and can be also the most lonely time of your life. But it all works out. You were supposed find yourself the most at this time.
Okay but HOW was this helping? At the time these supposed words of wisdom left me feeling even more confused and unprepared to enter my twenties. How could it be okay to be lost and confused? My life as I knew it was governed by friends, family and the daily requirement to go to high school. The routine was the same, and from what I could see, all of my friends and I shared the same routine and seemingly goals.
Of course, you don’t see it until you’re in the thick of it. Absolutely lost in the rhubarb. It seemed like life as I knew it jumped off the deep end. I definitely did feel lost. But did I feel lost because I didn’t know what I was doing myself, or because I couldn’t keep up with what everyone else was doing? I had friends who never went to college and did nothing, but also had friends who never went to college and were thriving way more than I was. I had friends who went to college and were bottoming out, and then I had friends who went to college and were already talking going to grad-school and being offered excellent jobs in their field.
I had friends who had children, friends getting married, friends ending high school relationships, friends getting pets. There were friends starting businesses, friends going broke. Friends travelling the world and living their literal best lives. Friends who were a source of untapped potential and sadly had no motivation and drive.
It was the strangest thing I had ever seen. We had all just come from the same routine, and had managed to manipulate the outcome a thousand times over. So this was the lost feeling we were told about. The part where you don’t exactly see where you fit on the spectrum of success (and then get a little older and realize the spectrum of success is completely an individual spectrum personalized to you).
And then comes the part (that no one really mentions but is definitely a phenomenon) where your friend life becomes a revolving door. Some friends stay, some come and go as they please. Some linger and fade out, some friendships blow up and leave shrapnel in every piece of your life. I can honestly say year to year my friend scene always looks a little different, but the comforting fact is there are people who enter that door and manage to keep rotating with you.
Then we obviously have to consider jobs. Who knew I would end up having several part-time jobs, volunteer gigs and then eventually what I call my big girl job? That big scary job you go for after you get your degree to make start to make a debt in 4 years of student debt? That’s pretty scary. And then realizing this may not be your permanent home in the job world? Also scary. Don’t even get me started on the lingering thoughts of going back to school to FURTHER your education to find a better permanent job home!
Now we can’t forget about the dating scene. Theres the bar scene, which can be its own battleground within itself. Theres the world of online dating, also scary. Theres the possibility of meeting someone in a picture perfect movie setting (running into someone head on in the grocery store and falling madly in love). Then, your ever evolving the friend group has its own set of friends-of-friends who you’re suddenly exposed to. Then theres breakups, moving in with someone for the first time and the looming possibility of marriage. Nightmare material.
Wow, okay, so my life right now actually looks NOTHING like I pictured it would. Weirdly enough this is okay. Weirdly enough, the path I ended up taking was a path I’m GLAD I had taken. For every moment of uncertainty, there was a moment of relief as the plan unfolded. For every moment I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough in comparison to others I knew, there was a moment of comfort as I reassured myself that it wasn’t a contest, this wasn’t a race. Success wasn’t measured by a super elite job or a six-figure salary, success was doing what made you happy and what made your life worth living.
Your twenties may look a little bit like a rollercoaster ride, with plenty of highs and lows. Your twenties may not feel like you’re where you are supposed to be. And that is okay. The decade of the twenties is a time of mass transition. You are just figuring out yourself and what the rest of your life is going to look like. This is the first time you’re calling the shots and figuring out what it’s like to navigate the adult world. Theres more room for freedom, decision-making and trial and error. You are essentially mapping your way into the adult world, which is big and scary.
So, if you’re feeling lost. Or you feel like maybe you’re not doing as much as everyone else around you is, or maybe you think you have no idea what you’re doing at all, here are some reminders that you’re doing the best that you can in the place you’re at.
Don’t compare yourself to others, it’s not a race
You’re doing your own thing at your own pace. It’s not a competition. As long as you’re heading down the path you want to go, you’re doing exactly what you should be. Remember that social media is a highlight reel, and people are reluctant to post their struggles.
You’re in a period of transition
Often, when things are in transition they kind of look like a bit of a mess. This can also be what your life looks like. It’s important to stop and take a breather, and remember to not be so hard on yourself. Will your life always look like that? Most likely not. Visualize a house being moved into. Messy, boxes everywhere, to-do lists a mile long. But, when things start to fall into place, the house gets organized and moved into. And then it looks like a home. This also applies to your life.
Success is a measurement created by you
To be successful means a lot of different things to different people. Does you leading a successful life mean you’re happy? Does you leading a successful life mean you have a million dollars? Success is defined differently to each individual. Your success may not seem like success to someone else. You need to sit down and define what it means to be successful for your personal self, and work towards what goals are going to get YOU there.
Most people do not feel entirely comfortable in their twenties
Most people are trying to figure themselves out. Most people are trying new things and sticking with what works. There is trial and error, as well as massive growth. I can assure you that you are not the only one who feels this way, even though it feels like an alienating process. I encourage you to chat with people who are close to you and share these feelings.
You’re doing a great job
Life does not come with a set of instructions. You are creating a path for yourself that did not exist the day before. You are creating a life for yourself that you will love and enjoy, and there is no wrong way to do that. You are doing great, and you will get there.
It’s okay not to be okay in your twenties. It’s okay to feel lost, to feel like you’re going nowhere, and to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. This is completely normal. It’s also okay to feel like you DO know what you’re doing! It’s okay to be thriving and in a good place! Everyone’s twenties look different, and you just need to forge your own path, wherever that may take you!
Did this post help? Do you have any personal stories of feeling lost in your twenties? I would love to hear in the comments!