Surely, there should be an extra category post-young-adult and pre-adult titled, "confused-AF-and-not-sure-how-to-fix-myself."
If you're 23, sitting in an apartment that you share with three other roommates that you're not even sure you like; contemplating eating a peanut-butter sandwich & sipping an IPA for dinner; and penciling into your calendar, "break up with boyfriend" for next Saturday... I think you might find comfort in some of the following real-life decisions I made:
At 19-years-old I said, "I want to be married by 23."
At 21-years-old, I moved to South Africa and told the executive director of the nonprofit I was volunteering for that, "I'm quitting college and moving here to start another nonprofit on the other side of Mzamomhle village."
At 22-years-old, I walked into my professor's office at Minnesota State University, Mankato and said, "I am going to write a novel within my first two years post-graduation."
At 23-years-old, I wanted to commit my entire life to running ultra-marathons and winning all of them. All of them.
At 24-years-old, I was fed up with the swimsuit industry and heavily researched starting my own swimwear line for athletic women who can't seem to lose the, ahem, coconut milkphat.
At 25-years-old, I was living in Boise, ID. By this time, I had worked as a wilderness therapy instructor, carpenter, program coordinator, director of a nonprofit, barista and freelance writer but I did not accomplish a single thing like I said (or thought) I would.
Not a single thing! Not one.
But what did happen, instead, was pure magic: I had to let go of all of it.
And pick up something else. Something new. Something yellow. Something blue.
Those years were tough. It felt like constant let-downs. I moved to Idaho when I was 22 years old and questioned a lot. Questioned the faith that I was raised with. Questioned what type of person I'd want to spend forever with. Questioned who I was. Questioned where I belonged. Did I even belong anywhere?
If you are between the ages of 22 to 25, I can tell you this: It won't make sense.
And that's completely okay.
I shed a lot of hot tears during those years. Like, uncontrollable, pathetic, embarrassing, ugly-cry, the-world-is-over tears. Over things that I barely ever think of today.
Here's the thing: The chances are, if you're reading this, you live in North America.
The chances from there increase that you've recently graduated from college.
And from there, the chances increase to an even greater amount that you had an idea or a plan of what you would accomplish with that $98,000 piece of paper stating that you graduated.
All those years spent studying, cramming for tests, researching topics, making new friends, experimenting with relationships, learning a new campus, failing a class, switching majors, stealing food, and finding the quietest nooks to study in are abruptly just over. Over.
I don't think I ever had one moment in college where I thought, "Ya know, someday, I won't be a college student anymore..."
It felt like those days would last forever because you're living in the moment.
And now you're all well-equipped and shipped off into the world like, "Go get 'em," with a little slap on the tush and a note pinned to your jacket that says "hot lunch for Billy today."
Here's my advice:
1. They Say Try Everything In Your Twenties: Try Everything In Your Twenties
I remember standing on a ladder holding a staple gun installing windows on a home in Sun Valley, ID and just smiling thinking, "Welp, they said to try everything! Here I am... trying everything..."
Did I become a well-known carpenter and build multi-million dollar homes? No. That's not the point. I built relationships and challenged my brain to learn something and get outside of myself. And when you feel like you just can't stop thinking about that guy and why he doesn't like you (or does he?) - a staple gun is a great remedy for distraction.
2. It's Okay To Feel Lost. You Are.
It's your time. Only your time. Own it with both shaking hands and unsteady footing and maybe a broken compass. Ask yourself what your 35-year-old self would want you to experience during this time. Traveling to Bali? Do it. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail? Of course. Starting a brewery? Yep. Learning to line-dance? Yes. Making coffee? Training hunting dogs? Deep-Sea Diving? Say yes to your own adventures.
3. What If You're Alone?
You should be. Not forever - and you won't be alone forever - you should enjoy being single. You know why? Because those are the times you'll discover the most about yourself. This is the time where you build the person you want to become.
4. It's Not Going How You Thought It Would.
Let me just reach through this screen and give you one big hug and tell you it won't ever go how you planned. It will look different. It will be unexpected. You might not be okay with that at first - but one day you will. And you'll be happy it turned out different from how you planned. It will be even better.
5. Sit Down And Smile
This is my favorite meditation. When you feel overwhelmed and like nothing is going your way - take ten minutes every morning and sit, focus on your breath, close your eyes and smile. It's actually a scientific trick - smiles promote happiness. Even if there isn't really anything you feel "happy" about at that point in time.
6. Write It All Down.
Tell me how you really feel: that should be the question your journal is asking you every day. Start with that question and answer it. Truthfully.
If you're feeling like you haven't accomplished enough, my God - please watch some Gary Vaynerchuck videos on Youtube.
7. Enjoy it.
These years are special because they are reserved for you. Proudly walk out of that relationship. Happily walk into the next. Move cities. Take risks. Get to know you.
Because, as cliche, as it is, there isn't another you. There just isn't. And your one and only job at this point in your life is to discover more about yourself.
Find what brings you peace and pursue that with all of your heart. And when your heart changes, and you find new passions, accept them as purely as the first.