I don’t know about you, but all I ever heard about my twenties was that they were supposed to be “the best years of my life.”
As 30 is on my very immediate horizon, and as I look back on the last ten years, I see so much joy, but I also see challenges that I never expected. Over the course of the years I found myself wishing that someone had given voice to the feeling of being lonely and lost when they told me the myth of their twenties. I wished someone had shared with me that although at times the path looks overgrown, you must have faith that it is still there.
So here it is: a love letter to all of my twenty-something friends.
No one tells you that your twenties are hard. No one tells you that in one moment you feel elated in the discovery of yourself, and in the next you’re wondering where you’ve gone, or if you ever really had a hold of yourself at all. They tell you that these years are “the best of your life,” and to not “squander your youth.”
There is something invigorating about these years. At their best, they teach us the confidence that we may have lacked in our teens and the humility that we could have used in high school. They reveal to us that there is no one right way of being, and that the space in our teeth need not be closed up.
In them we find that we can love again, we can move through the bad to get to the good, we can envision a life divine. There is the safety of moving out of those awkward college years, and there is the comical scape-goating of moving towards 30.
So with all of these beautiful gifts filling up our bags, why do so many of us feel so lost in our 20’s? What is in it for us to keep traveling farther and farther down as the tower of our youth begins to crumble?
I think the answer lies somewhere in the fallacy that we are no longer in the beginning—it’s as if we’re towards the end, somewhere far behind where we “should” be. I “should” have my life in order, I “should” have a career already, I “should” be stable.
The only “should” truly worth should-ing is “I should simply be loving.”
Maybe this lesson comes later. Maybe we are in the middle of our beginning, the evidence of which is that we still have the stubbornness of our youth keeping us from seeing ourselves as what is: a being in progress.
It is true that we are scraping off the remnants of our childhood, but I can’t help wondering whether we’re sloughing off the right parts. It would seem that we’re actively getting rid of our openness, our ability to give freely, our enchantment with the world, our en-souling of every possible thing. What it feels like we’re choosing to keep—the jealousy, the fickleness, the neediness in tantrums—hardly seems progressed at all.
At least it doesn’t seem that keeping those qualities in order to get ahead is worth giving up the rest.
Perhaps this is where Faith comes in. Not necessarily Faith in a God, or in a set of rules, but Faith in the understanding that those moments of clarity that we get amidst the chaos do not disappear when the chaos begins to overwhelm.
These moments can act as a guide to turn towards and believe in even when we feel most dark. As we add moments of clarity to this light, it grows larger and we begin to see that the light and the dark can exist side by side—that neither needs to win over the other.
It is the brightness that shows us the possibility of shadow, and it is the darkness that shows us the possibility of light.
In the Ramayana, Hanuman, the servant of Lord Ram, is tasked with bringing a ring to Ram’s beloved Sita who has been stolen by the demon king. The ring is meant to be a symbol for Sita that although Ram might not currently be at her side, he has not forgotten her. She is in his heart always, and he is on his way to get her back.
So… how is this story relevant to those of us who feel that we are no longer held by the Universe that we thought we knew? For some, the help come from the obvious parallel is between the Christian notion of being held by God and that the Divine has never left your side. But for those who do not believe in a God or an afterlife, or a life in between, there is a parallel between Ram and the entire Universe.
Perhaps more importantly, there is still the parallel between Ram and your highest, most authentic self, which is always there.
So have faith—we are not lost. We are not headed towards some dark and desperate end. You have not dropped out of your deepest Self.
As Ram Dass says, “[You] are simply awareness dealing with the dilemma of incarnation.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard