Warning: adult language ahead!
When I was in my twenties, it felt like I was riding wild horses, and I was hoping I didn’t go over a cliff.
~ Chaka Khan
Lately, “this is the 20s” has become my mantra.
I feel so grateful, so often, for having friends who are 30+. Hearing tales of their 20s, the struggles they experienced, and the ways things got easier—or simply just changed—once they stepped into the next decade of their existence, never ceases to soothe and remind me that things will be different.
When I’m swallowing huge chunks of self-doubt, and inhaling panic about what my life looks like or where it’s seemingly going, I bring myself back to their stories. I remember that this thing I’m experiencing, is just the twenties.
I’m not failing at life, I’m wholeheartedly succeeding—it just feels a bit fucking confusing.
I do often find myself counting down how many more years of the 20s I have left, though. It is hard not to literally wish my next four years away, because the last six years have been bonkers. There have been so many incredible moments, but there have been so many ridiculously hard and painful ones too.
I don’t feel 26. I feel about 103.
I find it hard to believe that everything I’ve experienced has fitted into just 26 years. As much as this is exhausting, it is also reassuring. I see how much has happened in such a short space of time. I see how completely different things are from six years ago, or even just three.
I can only imagine that this change will continue. That six years from now, things will look very different to what they do today. I hope so. My 30+ friends tell me this happens, and at the moment, they know more than me.
My inner critic has various elaborate and convincing theories, as to how rules or life patterns are different for me, and that things are going to be how they are now, forever…but there is nothing that makes me any different to anyone else that has transitioned from the 20s to the 30s, and then to the 40s…so whether I believe it or not, things will get easier.
They have to. Even if just a little bit.
The thing I love most about my generation—and something that rarely gets recognized—is that we’re fucking hustlers. We make it work. We get that money. We’re innovative and resourceful. The odds may be stacked against us and yet we still find a way to triumph.
~ Ryan O’Connell
The 20s feel like a right of passage.
They feel like the toddler years of adulthood. They’re the time in which I’ve found my feet and am learning to walk down a path I’ve chosen, even if I sometimes wonder where the fuck I’m going. It’s the time I’ve found my voice, and am learning to speak—truly speak—for the very first time.
They’re the years in which I’m learning to embrace the art of therapeutic tantrums. The years I’m continually discovering what I need around me, in order to thrive and flourish. And I’m learning how to find it for—and give it to—myself, rather than just feeding myself with whatever is nearby or whatever’s been handed to me by the people closest. They’re the years I’m learning it’s safe to be authentic—to share the whole of me. My sorrow and my joy, my pain and my beauty.
I’m beginning to develop relationships based on compassion, mutual respect, and understanding, rather than just befriending the nearest cool kid. I’m learning to soothe myself with creative expression—sometimes messy, sometimes articulate—when I realise life doesn’t look how I wanted it to.
It has also been a time when childhood and early-adult trauma has surfaced, and the animal of anxiety and depression has reared its peculiar head. It’s left me feeling isolated, nutty, and different from everyone.
But I’m not.
I’m healing from a traumatic youth, but I’m also just being 20-something. And one day, I’ll find myself as a 30-something, offering soothing words and tales of my experiences, to someone my junior. Because despite the feeling of being almost continuously lost, I know I’ll look back on these years with compassion and warmth. I’ll be able to see them as vital chapters of my journey, vital versus of my life song, without which I would be incomplete. Chapters or versus, that are here to make me, not break me.
The thing that has blown me away this whole time, is how much I’ve grown. And how much I continue to.
I will allow myself to daydream about stepping foot into the 30s, because it makes this time feel a little bit more manageable—I know it’s not forever—but when my critic is bashing me over the head with a story of my supposed failings, I’ll continue to flip that critic the bird, and remind myself that, “this is the 20s”.
And when I hit 30, I’ll have a massive banner at my party that says:
“I made it! Thank fuck for that.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Amani Omejer/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Luca Pescucci/Pixoto