5 Stages Of Grief: How Millennials Reach Acceptance In Uncertainty

by Caroline Nelson

A year ago, my best friend and I were sitting across the table from each other at dinner. I was bragging about my job, and she was bragging about her boyfriend.

We were both so excited and happy to be in the places we were. We couldn’t believe our good fortunes.

Fast-forward to one year later: Over another dinner, she confessed she and her boyfriend broke up. I confessed I was terminated from my job.

A lot can happen in a year.

But if I'm really honest with myself, I hated my job. I didn’t like what I was doing or the company I was working for.

I turned into someone I didn't recognize, a completely negative person.

I don’t know the details of my friend’s relationship, but it probably wasn’t perfect, either. However, I had a job, and she had a boyfriend. Between us, we had the pieces of the puzzle that, according to "Friends," make you a whole, 20-something person.

Now, we’re lost, we don’t know how to read the maps, and there’s nobody to ask for directions.

I think the first step to surviving this “growing period” is admitting we're not going to have the answers.

It’s tempting to compare ourselves to each other, but we need to admit and realize we're all struggling.

There's a way to thrive in your 20s, but first, we have to find acceptance.

1. Denial

College was really good to me. Whenever I visit my college town, a part of me wants to sign a lease and stay. However, life doesn’t end after college, and college can’t last forever.

We're all in denial.

We're in denial the weekend is over. We're in denial we might have gained weight since high school. We're in denial we're happy being single.

We're in denial we're going to save money and be responsible adults. We're in denial we're going to cook this week.

Sometimes, living in denial is like entering the coolest and most popular club. However, it’s last call, and the last song has played.

It’s time we stop living like this.

2. Anger

There's a lot to be angry about when you're a 20-something.

We're pissed about those unanswered calls from employers or potential lovers. We're pissed at those dates who don't look like their dating profiles.

We're pissed at the fact pizza doesn't make us skinny, and that if we party hard, we'll pay for it harder the next day.

3. Bargaining

We are a generation of bargainers. I see my friends do it all the time.

They bargain their standards of love for someone to sleep next to at night. They bargain their health for outrageous beauty standards. They bargain their sanity for their jobs.

It’s not worth it, and it’s not healthy.

The only bargain you should want is free guacamole at Chipotle. We don’t live in a fantasy world.

4. Depression

I've cried more in the past year than I have in my entire life. It’s been really hard, and there are days when getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing to do.

It’s difficult for someone like me to realize I sometimes don’t have the energy, simply because I'm emotionally exhausted. I scroll through my friends' social media profiles, and there’s always a new engagement, a new job or even a new city.

I stare at my cat and cry.

It’s emotionally exhausting and depressing to go on date after date, only to desire someone unattainable. It’s taxing to go to a job every day that you don’t love, simply to pay your dues and bills.

The main source of my depression is comparing my real life to other people’s social media lives. I see friends who have great jobs, friends who have loving SOs and friends who just seem to sail through their lives without complications.

Social media has made us compare ourselves to each other more than ever.

Our generation is unique because when we sit at home on a Friday night, we know what we're missing out on. Countless Snapchats and Instagrams remind us we're not adequate.

If we want to move onto the next stage, we have to learn to accept people's lives aren't what they post.

5. Acceptance

It came very matter-of-factly to me one day, as I was running. My dream job is most likely not right around the corner. There are a lot more rejections in my future, before I get an acceptance.

I’m probably not going to be married by 25. I’m lost. I’ve had these thoughts before, but it’s time to accept them.

Hindsight is 20/20. If I knew then what I know now, I would've never accepted that horrible job, and I would've continued at the small PR agency I was interning at.

I would’ve done a lot of things differently.

I have visions of a wrinkly and grey version of myself saying, “I wouldn’t change a thing.

The mistakes are what got me here today, and it’s all been worth it.”

Until then, it’s time I accept what life has in store for me right now.

The fact is, my life isn’t terrible. I have good friends and a fun position on a presidential campaign, and I’m training for a marathon. It could be a lot worse, and it could be a lot better.

Perhaps the acceptance is accepting the hard work needed to make it better.

We need to accept the never-ending résumés out there to find that “perfect” fit, and the never-ending dates to find the one you're going to grow old with.

Acceptance is hard, but it’s going to be worth it.

To all you 20-somethings out there struggling, it’s time to look at your life and accept you can change it. But it’s going to take hard work to get there.

If it's too hard to accept, the best advice I can give you is to get a cat. A cat and pizza make everything better.