Bereavement Notice: Mourning the loss of the beloved 20-something years (June 19, 2005-June 19, 2015). It was a wild 10 years. College and graduate school were completed. Took some left turns, but found a fulfilling writing career. Found a wonderful man. Maintained friendships with friends, siblings and even became friends with parents. Traveled the world but never overcame the fear to fly. Had a lot of fun, on some occasions one too many cocktails, and every summer spent plenty of nights in Gull Point and Dewey Beach. The 20-something years were a blast, but they are now peacefully laid to rest. No time to repeat, only happily moving forward. The 20-something years are survived by all the great memories, photos and social media documentation, as well as the 30-something years and the infinite future. Donations and gifts of good will and positive energy are asked to be sent to the party welcoming the official birth of the 30something years. RIP 20s.
As you can gather from the obituary above, in a little over a month, I am turning 30.
But before we forge into the 30-something future, we have to have a formal send off to the 20s…
I think about all the changes that happened in my 20-something years. Such a short amount of time, in the grand scheme of life, but riddled with change and self discovery.
Changes that are prevalent in this formidable decade: style changes, education changes, location changes, relationship changes, career changes, family changes, friend changes, even tolerance changes.
Almost everything has shifted, yet, some things have stayed exactly the same—which is a either a breath of fresh air or a colossal disappointment—it depends on where you stand.
Turning 20 seems like a distant memory of a young naive girl, who thought she knew it all.
At 20 I was facing my final year in college. I thought I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer when I graduated. I thought I knew exactly what kind of man I wanted to marry. I even thought that my student loans didn’t matter too much, because lawyers make great money, and down the road it wouldn’t be an issue. I thought I knew exactly where my life would be by 25.
I thought I was sure of everything…
Turning 25, I accepted that many of my expectations were false and that many of my goals were not what I wanted. I had changed. I didn’t want the same things my 20-year-old self did. I struggled with that. I guilted myself for that.
By 25, I hated the idea of practicing law. I was unhappy with every cookie-cutter man I dated. I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in five years, let alone how I would pay off my student loan debt.
I wasn’t sure of much, but I was sure about writing. So I wrote. I wrote this blog. I wrote for newspapers. I wrote essays in graduate school. I even wrote for glossy magazines.
Through that writing, I started to find myself. Not the pretentious person I thought I was “supposed” to be at 20. Instead, I found (what I believe) was the first glimpse of my real self. The one I really liked. The one that I accepted, even though she hated law school.
By 29, I like to think of myself as a more refined, tough chick, who accepts that I have a lot to learn. Who knows that sometimes listening is more important than talking, but that writing still trumps them both.
I am now a woman who can wear the “hat” of a professional, but still needs the shoes of a girl who knows how to party. I can be silly and cut lose as easily as I can be serious and practical. My writing outlet turned to a career of published work, journalism, and a professorship, so I can show all those know-it-all 20-year-olds how to write. Maybe it will save them, too. If not, at least their mothers will be able to appreciate a properly formatted sentence in her Mother’s Day card.
In the past decade, I have battled heavy legal books and filled empty computer screens with lovely words. I have been a punching bag, a shoulder to lean on and an ear to bend—just as often as I’ve needed the bag, the shoulder and the ear. I have been absolutely certain and I have been utterly lost. I have felt the praise of highest honors and the desperation of not making the cut. I have welcomed nephews and a niece and I have said goodbye to all of my grandparents. I have learned to hate hospitals as much as I am grateful for them. I have learned to hug the people I love a little tighter and a little longer.
I have neatly folded loss, disappointment, “what could have beens,” uncertainty and fear into piles, and gingerly packed them into the personal baggage of my life.
But, I wouldn’t change a thing.
We need to be faced with real life decisions, lose some sleep, and pick a route to charge down. We need bad dates, mistakes and heartache. We need to be startled and feel off center, so we know how to ground ourselves. We need scares and prayers and hands to hold in the dark.
In fact, I truly believe it’s the disappointments, the harsh realities, the failures, and the unexpected events that shape us into who we are.
I also believe that 20-something is the first time when life really gives you a good smack in the face. I always liked a quote that said, “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.” I think this is true for all 20-somethings—we’re all out there, newly testing the hot waters, discovering our strengths.
As my 20-something years come to a close, what I’ve learned is that there is no magic formula or definitive path to follow.
There is no resolution or ending.
It’s a learning process. School’s out and life is on.
We need to be reminded to reflect and slow down, but ultimately the goal is that of self-discovery. You have to be happy and you have to live a life you’re proud of. You are the only one staring back at yourself in the mirror each morning.
I’ve learned that we have to take the time to understand ourselves. We cannot be frightened by the sounds of our own silence. We have to love being with others as much as we love alone time. We have to like ourselves, and be good to ourselves, because if we’re not, no one else will be. When we do that, we can begin to achieve our own personal peace.
It will be different for all of the 20-somethings, for we are all struggling to find our place and prepare for our future.
We are facing unbearable truths that as we get older—so do our parents, aunts and uncles. And as excited as we are about the future, that truth makes us long for the comfort of the past.
We forge ahead anyway. We try to push the truths of age and ending childhood into the backs of our minds and strive to make memories—hopefully even a difference. We attempt to overcome the stereotypes of the “supposed tos” laden on our generation.
We try to take new paths, but hold onto the past. We seek adventure, but also comfort and familiarity. We try to avoid failure, but know that we have to take big risks. It’s a giant contradiction—we’re old enough to know that, but we’re still young enough to hope that we will do it differently, so we try.
Ironically, just as we start to feel confident about our place and purpose as a 20-something, we remember that change is the only constant thing in life.
Before we know it, we’re 29 and we realize 30-something is just around the corner.
So, I can honestly look back at the changes in the past decade and appreciate my 20s. I finished school. I found a career I love, where I honestly feel tired and fulfilled at the end of the day. I found a man who loves me, who I genuinely and infinitely love in return. I have travelled the country and even the world. I have understood the joy of adding to a family and the loss of losing a family member. I have experienced true friendship—real, middle of the night panicked phone call, on my way to help even if you insist not to friendship.
I have experienced the change when dinner with my parents isn’t what I do when I don’t have plans. Now, its special time I have to plan to have. They have morphed from “guardian” to “friend” but always remained “parents.” (It’s an odd shift we only begin to understand as 20-somethings.)
And just as important as relationships with others, I learned to accept myself.
I pride myself in the piece of me that is “not like everyone else.” It’s something I struggled with at the start of my 20s. However, it is now what defines me as a person, and is what I’m most proud of at the end of my 20s.
So to my dear 20-something years, I want to thank you for being good to me. For being honest. For teaching me lessons I wasn’t ready to learn and for teaching me lessons that I needed to learn. For dragging me through the dumps so I could appreciate the view from the top. For making me scared, for pushing me outside of my comfort zone. For making me stand in awe of people, places, views, and life itself.
For all of those reasons, I can appreciate where I’m at now and how far I’ve come.
I feel grateful for all the people who are important to me and helped me along this wild, 10 year roller coaster. don’t expect the next 10 years to be smooth sailing, but maybe knowing that piece of reality will make the bumps more tolerable? I guess we’ll just have to see how it plays out. Either way, I’m excited to see what lies ahead.
So bring it on, 30-something!
Author: Lana Morelli
Editor: Emily Bartran