Being in Your Twenties Sucks — Confessions of a Frustrated and Confused 24-Year-Old

Posted on June 25, 2012

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When you’re in middle school, you’re informed that high school is a “rough place,” but that it’s fun. You start off at the bottom of the food chain again, but by your senior year, you’ll probably have had your first boyfriend, your first kiss, your college picked out, and the assurance of what you’re meant to do with the rest of your life, a.k.a., your major at college.

Absolutely none of those things happened for me.

When you’re in high school, everyone offers words of wisdom about college. It’s going to be the time that you “find yourself.” You’ll make your best friends there. You’ll get educated, prepared to enter the “real world” when you’re finished. Often, for people like me who attend a private Christian college, you’re informed by many who have gone through a similar system that you’re bound to find your other half at college, and most likely will be engaged by the end, ready to be married following graduation.

Absolutely none of those things happened for me.

When you finally graduate college and enter the workforce, most of the advice stops. Or at least so I’ve come to find. Yes, parents and mentors will counsel you about your first job, or instruct you about moving into your first place.

But I’m telling you, even with the advice, nothing really prepares you for your twenties. It’s a time in life that I personally believe is misconstrued more than any other time in life. And perhaps I am biased since I’m living in that time of life. But when you watch movies or go out and see these young, hot, and happy young people treating life like it’s a party every night, or constantly view  young people finding love on screen, or succeed at following their dreams, I can’t help but look at all of it and just scoff.

Being in your twenties SUCKS.

It’s probably the most transitional time in life. And yes, I say that being only in my twenties, but really . . . I look at the different times in life. When you’re a middle schooler, a teenager, a college student, your life is more mapped out; more planned. Your twenties is the first time in your life you’re forced to make your own decisions, and they’re such big decisions. They’re all the big Ws — WHAT are you doing with your life? WHERE are you going to live and work? WHO are you going to spend your time with (or in some people’s lives, WHO are you going to marry)?

Hmm, let me reiterate what I was thinking before: being in your twenties sucks. Most people in their twenties have yet to be established in all the major areas of their lives.

I say all of this not to say that any other major time in life doesn’t suck, or that when one leaves their twenties and enters into his thirties, that suddenly his life is well established and he’s finally hit that point of success in the important areas.

To take a personal turn, I will admit that I haven’t “done” life the way my parents or my teachers or even how past me would have imagined. I went to college immediately following high school graduation. I changed my major four times, never really settling on what I wanted to do with my life. I graduated a semester early, went back home and lived with my parents for about a year and half (probably the longest year and half of my life), saved up as much money as I could, and moved in my own place at 23.

Only weeks after I graduated college, I started my first post-college job. I still work there today, 2 1/2 years later.

Since then, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, ones that no college professor, admissions counselor, parent, pastor, or friend warned me about. And maybe some of them could have, but let’s face it, I went in dark. So future college graduates of America (and everyone else) reading this, take note:

  • That Boys Like Girls song about how the “first one hurts the most”  — they’re absolutely right. Whether you fell for someone in high school or college or whenever, that first break-up will hurt you in ways almost nothing else is capable of emotionally hurting you. The great news is that whether it takes months or years for you to recover, you will. And when you do, you will look back on the situation with much more clarity and gratefulness that you didn’t end up with that SOB.
  • Everyone who starts a new job is nervous for the first week, minimum. No one entirely knows what’s going on, and when you don’t know anyone going in, it’s that much more nerve-wracking, especially if you’re the kind of person who desires to be liked by the people around you.
  • Great friendships take years to establish. You think this would be a given, and not something to be mentioned for people in their twenties starting off after college, but it really goes along with starting a new job. I never expected to be great friends with people at my work, but it’s incredible what 40 hours +/a week in the same building can do to you and other people. Unsuspectingly, you’ll find you’re friends with people you never imagined saying much more than “hey, can I borrow your stapler?” to.
  • Don’t love so hard. Let me explain: Currently, I’m a cynic, so my viewpoint is a bit skewed. But you have to appreciate my self-awareness, right? Well, the more you love and care about other people, the more painful it is when things don’t work out. The higher you climb, the farther you fall. Don’t hand out your love and trust easily; actually, don’t hand it out at all. Make rare exceptions and pray to God that whoever you decide to place your love and trust in will not break your heart.
  • On the point of love and friendship, never get too close to people, specifically at work or your apartment. Seriously. If things fall apart, it becomes only awkward walking into your apartment, trying to jam your key into the hole and hide in your apartment from the neighbor you used to be friends with. Same deal at work. My philosophy is that your closest friends ought not to be at your work, church, apartment, or any other major place you spend large quantities of time.
  • Living by yourself is incredibly lonely and incredibly worth it. I speak with experience. I did the college thing with roommates, and I worked hard to find a roommate following college so I could save money. Yes, there are major moments when I feel all alone. It can get depressing. But it’s worth it for all those nights when you’re crying your eyes out from a break up, or you want to watch a movie at 3 in the morning, or you want to have an intimate conversation over the phone.
  • You will lose money just by buying food. The most expensive food seems to be the individual portions that fit single people like me nicely. However, I tend to save money by buying things in bulk. I also end up throwing a good deal of food away. I’m still seeking to balance this area better, but it’s difficult.
  • Paying off your credit card every month is completely worth it no matter what. A lot of the people I work with are in their thirties, and I must say, it seems like each of them have their own story of going into debt in their twenties. They all make more money than I do, but some have side jobs while others continue to bury themselves in more debt. Debt is never pretty, no matter what form it comes in.
  • Don’t stop working hard because you’re not in college anymore–if you have a dream, don’t let people convince you it’s out of reach because you’ve graduated and that’s that. I’m still dreaming, I’m still hoping, I’m still praying. Yeah, I’m not where I want to be. I’m still at point A, and point B is really far in the distance, almost completely out of sight. But it’s there. And from what I’ve heard, those who have hope are far more successful than those who do not. That, and a great work ethic. And a refusal to give up.
  • You have to break your normal cycle every now and then. As a high schooler and college student, you’re constantly switching gears. New classes each semester, summers off to work low key jobs, and the fall season to welcome new possibilities. Once you start working, whether it’s a 9 to 5 or completely random hours every week, you get into a habitual process that will wear you down and depress you at some point. Randomly take a day off with nothing planned, or treat yourself to a mini road trip just to “get away.” Everyone needs to get away and get lost in thought. I promise you’ll have a lot of days like that.
  • Too many girls base their self-worth and dreams on getting married. Don’t be one of those girls. I’ve decided to break that habit. I used to be one of those girls. Now I’m 24 and grateful that I’m not hitched, celebrating my 2 year anniversary this year like many of my high school friends. It’s not that I dislike these people or their choices, or that I think each of the girls care only for marriage. But I think most of them do. And I’m thankful I didn’t meet that special guy at age 17 or 21 like many of them did. There’s more to life than getting married, and from what I’ve seen, after a few years, a lot of these girls realize they wanted more than just marriage, but the means to achieving much within their marriage is significantly reduced. So if you want to travel, get more education, work towards a big career, or just spend time getting to know yourself, making great friends, spending time with your family, and exploring the playground of life, I salute you. Cheers for wanting more than a man. Men are great, and I believe every girl deserves a great one to spend the rest of her life with if she so chooses, but come on, girls–want more out of life than a man! You ought to expect more from life than a guy. You ought to respect yourself a little more than to have such low expectations for your life.

Many of my friends have offered the greatest advice by simply living their lives and making big mistakes I hope to save myself from. I’ve seen divorces and torn marriages, huge debt, money spent and wasted, dreams forgotten and dashed, and depression and confusion set in. Unfortunately, I’ve made my own set of mistakes all by myself too. It happens.

To conclude, being in your twenties sucks. It’s not the crazy, awesome time many people make it out to be or how television makes it look. It’s incredibly difficult. At least I’m warning you :)