22 Things I Thought I'd Have Figured Out By My 22nd Birthday

by Laura Meyers

I have to say I hated my 22nd birthday.

You’re not 21 and fun anymore, and you’re most likely wrapping up your college days.

You’re swiftly approaching that dreaded “real world,” which has been a mythical land for as long as you can remember. These are all the things that went through my mind the day I turned 22.

I’m really not sure what Taylor Swift was talking about.

When I was a naïve, teenage girl, I pictured my 22-year-old self in a different, much more stable place. I had assumed all the bugs in my life would've been worked out, and I would be on the fast track to success.

I was wrong. (Shocker.)

Here are 22 things I (falsely) assumed I would have figured out by my 22nd birthday:

1. My career:

You know that scary moment when you realize the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” no longer applies to you because you’re actually grown?

It hits hard.

When I started college, everyone told me it was acceptable to not know what career path you wanted to head down. Clearly I took these words to heart, seeing as I’m equally unsure now as I was freshman year.

The difference now, though, is I can’t walk into a job interview saying, “I’m really not sure if I’ll like this position, but I’m broke and going to take what I can get.”

I have a feeling my future employers won’t have the same comforting reaction as my college career counselors.

2. Relationships:

Facebook friends of mine are getting married. Married.

I can’t even commit to the $29 dress I purchased for this year’s birthday celebration.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the concept of committing to someone for the rest of your life at such a young age, I wouldn’t mind taking part in a relationship that lasts longer than a year and a half.

3. Complaining:

I’ve definitely gotten better at this one, but I still find myself sitting in bed, thinking about how difficult my life is.

Meanwhile, I’m attending a private university, living in a nice house with all my friends and receiving calls from my incredible family who miss me dearly.

What on earth do I actually have to complain about? It’s a gross habit I definitely need to kick to the curb by 23.

4. Being happy when someone else gets what you want:

It’s considered very childish and immature to get jealous, so I figured I would overcome this attribute some time ago.

Yet, here I am, calling my ex’s new love interest ugly, and cursing out the kid who was offered the internship instead of me. I’m really hoping I don’t stay this green-eyed monster forever because, honestly, green isn’t even my color.

5. When to stop eating:

Self-control is a beautiful thing. It’s also a beautiful thing I lack.

When I want something,  it’s nearly impossible for me to turn it down. This is never more evident than when I’m around french fries.

It doesn’t matter if I’m not hungry, if I’m embarrassing myself or if they’re leftover on someone else’s table at a restaurant (okay, I’m exaggerating), I simply cannot convince myself to pass them up.

6. When to stop drinking:

I feel like this one is self-explanatory. I’ll spare you the gory details.

7. When to stop talking:

I’m not shy and I love to talk. This can be a great combination in many instances.

But in others, not so much.

I thought the expression, “She put her foot in her mouth,” would have stopped regularly applying to me by now, but I am sadly mistaken about this one, too.

8. Procrastinating:

You know that awful feeling you get when you should have started the project you were assigned a month ago sooner than the night before?

And you know how, no matter how many times you get that feeling, you still wait until the night before to start every single project you’ve ever been assigned?

Yeah. When do you learn to stop doing that?

9. Caring less:

It’s very easy to exude confidence, while at the same time, let things eat you alive.

I’ve really never been one to shake things off quickly, but I thought I would improve at this with age. However, I still spend too much time overanalyzing arguments with friends, and stressing over the insults people throw at me.

One day, I’ll learn stressing only makes it worse.

10. Caring more:

I have always envied those people who are wildly passionate: the people who spend hours on an assignment simply because they enjoy doing it. I'll always look up to the dedicated singers, dancers, painters, athletes and mathematicians.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed doing anything other than lying in bed for an extended period of time, or pouring myself a second cup of coffee.

At what age do I get to find my passion?

11. Accepting myself:

I frequently criticize my physique.

I keep wishing I were thinner, more toned, had better bone structure or clearer skin. I’ll blame all the damn pretty people around me for that.

But I also haven’t gotten to the age where I’ve accepted my personality, either.

Not a day passes when I don’t want to tweak something about myself, and I can’t wait until the birthday comes when I can say I’m completely comfortable with who I am.

12. Accepting others:

As hard as I am on myself, I can be equally hard on the people around me.

By the time I graduate college, I hope I will have learned that nobody on this earth has the right to pass judgment on someone else.

13. Letting things go:

Moving on from the past is certainly important, but what I'm referring to here is different. When I say I still haven’t figured out when to let things go, I mean the little things.

Oh, my roommate didn’t wash her dishes? I should definitely set her bedspread on fire.

My mom accidentally shrunk one of my sweaters in the dryer? Legal emancipation.

14. Being independent:

I am (technically) a full-grown adult.

Who would have thought I would still be calling my father every time I fill out a tax form, or I would still need my mother to schedule an oil change appointment for my car?

This is honestly more embarrassing to write on paper than I thought it would be.

15. Patience:

Being punctual is one thing. Being irritating is another.

One day, a friend of mine will show up to lunch seven minutes late, and I promise I will still greet him or her with a smile on my face.

I’m just not there yet.

16. Spending money:

I’m cheap, I said it.

I hate spending money and I always have.

It’s great I don’t have a shopping problem, but at this point in my life, I was really hoping to be okay with replacing the stained Target purse I’ve been carrying around for the past two years or the size zero jeans I bought when I was 17.

On the other hand, I have no problem treating myself to a $25 meal and martini at Bar Louie, biweekly. Clearly, I still have some financial prioritizing to do.

17. Competition:

For someone who really isn’t good at anything, I sure do try to be the best at everything. From the minute I could walk, I was challenging my sister to race me around the backyard.

Humans are all headed to the same finish line, and I thought, by now, I would understand it truly doesn’t matter if I’m first or not.

18. Shopping:

I’ve always joked I don’t really have style. But at this point, it’s not really funny anymore.

I hate shopping malls and I’m no good in them, but I thought that was just a phase that would eventually pass.

It didn’t.

As a result, my closet is seriously lacking. I don’t have the funds to hire a personal shopper, so it’s probably time to get it together.

19. That whole “wanting children thing:"

People always say a girl’s motherly instincts kick in eventually. But while I do enjoy taking care of others, I simply prefer those "others" to be my friends or golden retriever puppies, not children.

The thought of babies in general frightens me, not to mention the thought of having one of my own. I was banking on the fact that my 20s would bring about some sort of longing for children, but that hasn’t been the case thus far.

Sorry about your future grandchildren, mom and dad.

20. Keeping it cool:

I’m not a chill girl. I never have been.

I overthink, overanalyze and over-organize. I was hoping to get a little more "go with the flow" by 22, but I’ll keep working on it.

21. Table manners:

My mother once told me I was never going to have a husband because of my atrocious dinnertime manners.

She’s unfortunately correct.

I eat entirely too fast, occasionally chew with my mouth open and am nearly positive I’ve never eaten a meal without spilling on myself.

22. Myself:

My biggest challenge to date is figuring out who the hell I am.

I’ll think I have myself pinned down one day, only to be completely surprised the next. Maybe we all just need longer than 22 years to solve our own puzzle.

I read a quote once that went something like, “Nothing will ruin your 20s more than thinking you should have it all figured out.”

I sure hope that’s true. God bless us if it’s not.