I’ve honestly been hesitant to write this type of post because I feel like it’s so overdone and cliche. However, I have seen soooooo many former students and players on social media share memes, quotes, and introspective statuses about not being where they want to be and they are in their TWENTIES. I’ve been there and this post is for you.
To the girl in her 20’s,
I see you. I know that you have been told your whole life, by most people, to finish school, get a job, buy a house, get married, have kids and that pressure is heavy. I know the emotions that go with it. You feel like you’ll never get there, you don’t know when (or if) you will meet the right person. You question almost every decision you make. I’m here to tell you this is normal. While some of your friends may seem like they have it figured out-they don’t. I know how hard it is at this phase of life to see the big picture and trust that God and the universe have a plan… but they do.
Here is one story. I was engaged before to a wonderful man. The thing was, I think I knew from the moment we started dating that he wasn’t THE man. But, he was blonde, from the Eastern Shore, very intelligent, had a successful family, and more. He was who I thought (and was often told) was the perfect one for me. I expressed my concerns over the years to friends and my parents, but they all told me it was nerves and we were perfect for each other and I would always be taken care of. I’m not going to lie. During our relationship, I wasn’t always good to him. I did love him, but not enough. It wasn’t enough for either of us. We were both compromising. We both liked to do our own thing, but rarely did things together. I thought I liked that I was able to be my independent self, but then I started to think about when we had a family. This wouldn’t work.
One day, I found the courage and ended the relationship, however, I was STILL so unsure, he and I dated almost a year off and on. I now feel terrible that I wasted so much of both of our lives. Here’s the thing. I didn’t grow up with money. I’ve always had to struggle and work hard. The idea of always having a safety net (he worked really hard but also had a family with secure finances) had always been attractive to me. I also had this immature, weird recurring dream in my head of walking in a mall with a blonde little girl (more on that later). But his blonde hair, these dreams, our similarities, and outside pressures kept me there. Until I let it all go. I realized I didn’t need someone to take care of me. I had taken care of myself for most of my life. I could work 3 jobs if I had to. I could adopt children. I’m great at figuring life out. One thing I knew, I never should compromise.
This story has plenty of twists and turns but it’s all in the past and here is the point. Fast forward years later. When I met my husband, I knew. Oh, there were plenty of ups and downs to get there, and still are, but I knew. I knew I would raise children with him. I knew he would always be there for us. Neither of us had money, heck we went into our relationship with plenty of debt on both sides, but I knew we would make it. We both worked hard and loved kids. We both believed in sacrificing when needed. Nothing had been handed to us. Together we work towards our goals and today have three beautiful children.
You will never have a fairy tale life, but you will have fairy tale moments. I promise everything you are going through is leading you to where you need to be. You just haven’t been through enough yet. I can vividly remember the times where it has hit me in my 30’s-I’m right where I should be. No, this isn’t every day. But there are moments. This is part of growing up, you get wiser, you find the answers, you learn who you are and what means the most to you.
So don’t be discouraged. I don’t regret anything in my 20s. The lessons I learned have made me who I am today. I am confident. I have faith. I know when to say yes and when to say no. I have a voice. I do not compromise.
Here is my advice to you. Whether you are in a relationship or not.
1. Travel the world.
Not just all-inclusive (although that’s great), but the WORLD. Backpack in Europe, hike a mountain, learn to ski, drive cross country, visit villages in Central America. Take that mission trip to Africa. Go to Australia. Once you have that secure job and that family of your dreams, these things get harder. These are the times you find out so much about yourself.
2. Spend your money on experiences.
Jump out of an airplane. Don’t drink every weekend (although occasional weekends are good). Take trips with your girlfriends. Take a trip with your mom.
3. READ to learn.
Not just the sappy love stories that make you think you aren’t where you need to be, but REAL books. Nonfiction. Atomic Habits, 75 hard, The Miracle Morning, Love Does, Dave Ramsey. Learn how to invest in yourself and plan for your financial future. Those sappy ones are still good too, but add these in.
4. Take risks.
I’m not saying unprotected sex and taking a 2 am uber alone. But risks that get you where you want to be. Something outside of your comfort zone. Maybe there is a business you want to start. Now is the time. A class you want to take. Now is the time. Dabble. You are only worried about yourself right now. One day there will be others relying on you-spouses, children, employees.
5. Learn what feeds your soul.
For me, it was always working out and walking in the sunshine. Kayaking. The beach. Reading curled up before bed. For you, it may be working with animals, swimming, church. Feed your soul now.
6. Spend time with any elder family members you have.
In my 20’s I only had my grandmother and great-grandmother left. Boy did I cherish them. I only wish I would have asked more questions about lessons they learned in life. They have the experience. I guarantee you they will tell you some of the same things I have.
7. Take care of your body.
Learn to eat right. Stop focusing on being thin and focus on being healthy. And when I say healthy, I mean physically and mentally. And with that comes #8.
8. Go to therapy if you need to.
There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health and working on blocks that are keeping you from where you need and want to be. In fact, I believe everyone should go to therapy and wish it was more accepted and available in our culture. Now. This does not mean dwelling on your past every chance you get. Find someone who can talk you through it and get you over any humps to where you want to be.
9. Recognize not everyone will understand your journey.
This is a time in your life and the lives of your friends where you are all changing and finding out who you are. You may lose friends and distance may be created but as you go into different phases of your life, you will continue to make new ones. This one is tough and gets easier as you get older. Don’t let anyone hold you back because of what they want or what they think you should do.
10. LIVE your life. I mean really live.
If you’re not happy. Change it. It may take a bit, but you deserve to find happiness. This doesn’t mean there will never be hard times-remember that’s how you learn and grow. Embrace the journey (cliche I know) and know that all hard times come to an end and usually there is something better as a replacement.
So now at 39, I know who I am and who I want to surround myself with, no compromising. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with people I don’t care for, but they don’t get my free time. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m confident as I try new jobs and work on this new journey.
I’ve now been married for over 12 years, together 14. We drive each other insane. There have been good times and bad times, but there is no one I’d rather do this life with. We’ve both changed careers and supported each other through those changes and more. We work together to raise our three children, and the kicker-we are both brunettes but I have a little blonde 3-year old princess running around. Life is funny like that.
So if you are in your 20’s, keep working, keep striving, and enjoy life. It will all come. Don’t rush it and sure as hell don’t compromise.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11