The 20-Something Struggle: The Truth Is, Only You Can Make The Right Choices For You

by Mel W.

You’re 18 and you just graduated high school. You have a lifetime ahead of you.

There are so many things you have yet to experience: drinking (or more of it), relationships, turning 21, Las Vegas, road trips, living on your own, traveling and, of course, figuring out who you want to be.

You’ll start college in the fall, or maybe you’re on some other track after high school. You have a significant other, or maybe you don’t. The point is, you're told you have time to figure it all out. This is the time to enjoy yourself and enjoy looking forward to your twenties.

Flash-forward to college. Maybe you’ll major in nursing... no wait, psychology... no wait, nursing... no wait, business. You’ll think, “My undergraduate major is really pertinent to whatever I want to do with my life" (lie). Eventually, you major in something and school becomes your job.

The only thing you have to worry about is passing your tests, making friends, dating, experimenting (whatever that means to you), having fun, maybe managing a part time job and slowly setting up your future.

College debt? Well, when you get your degree and start your career immediately after graduation, “You’ll pay that off in no time!” (lie). “You have time,” they say. You sort of agree with them. “Yes, I am still young and I don’t need to stress myself out. I still have to finish school before I graduate and search for a job. College is preparing me for a career!”

Flash-forward to post-graduation. Face it, unless you majored in engineering, accounting or nursing, for example, your Bachelor’s degree in whatever liberal arts major you earned isn’t getting you too many job offers. There are thousands of you who just earned your BA in communications or psychology, and the phone isn’t ringing off the hook to propose job offers.

The fact of the matter is that while, yes, you went to college and you have proven to society that you are an intelligent human being (even though getting a college degree doesn't necessarily have merit on how intelligent you actually are), you suddenly realize that your dream career is not as tangible as you thought it would be.

Despite having a degree, for the majority of us, you still have to network, develop skills, get even more schooling and start at the bottom to get to the top of wherever you want to be. In the meantime, you need money; you start working anywhere that's hiring, or maybe you go directly into a masters program. Remember, you still have time.

Flash-forward once again, and now you’re on the verge of being in your mid-to-late twenties. That relationship you thought was going to last a lifetime? It blew up in flames. Those friends you talked to every day? Some have moved away and now you keep in touch only ever-so-often.

You finally got that big-kid job. You have been working at it for a year or two, and holy sh*t, you are officially an adult. You wake up, go to work, come home exhausted, go to sleep and repeat. Hopefully you do some fun stuff on the weekends, dread Monday and repeat.

Then the anxiety slowly settles in. The job you have been working at that was semi-relevant to your degree, you now have zero desire to continue. Maybe you’re content with your job, but you are still single. Or maybe you’re on the verge of finishing graduate school, but still have no definitive path or direction. Maybe you’re in a relationship, but still don’t feel like you have developed a career or a passion and don’t feel financially stable.

You’re also starting to understand who your real loyal friends are. That part can really suck. In one way or another, we can all relate to each other because we are all floundering in some way. The common denominator between us is the uncertainty about the future.

I don’t know why we believed them (the elders who have their sh*t figured out), but while parts of our twenties were fun, it has also been terrifying. Now, our doubts are about our love life, our friends and our careers: Will I be single forever? Do I want to marry this person? Do I want this to be my permanent career? What the f*ck am I good at? Am I even good at anything?

There is constant doubt about who we are and what we want. Now, we feel like all that time we thought we had is dwindling, even though we are technically still so young.

The Bad News: The struggle is real and unavoidable. There are moments of stagnation and transition. Life is boring and then extremely petrifying. You will or have already experienced heartbreak. You will or have already experienced loss in one facet or another. You will panic at some point.

The Good News: You are not going through this alone. When you look at someone you think has it all, remind yourself he or she is probably struggling in some way, too. If you hit rock bottom, remember, the only place you can go is up! You can and you will make it through this.

The first step in getting your sh*t together is awareness that you want change. Next, understand you are the only person who can make that change for you. None of us have our sh*t together, but by now, hopefully you can look back on the past five to seven years and realize that those struggles or mistakes you have made turned you into the person you are today. I now believe things happen for a reason, and while I also trust that you make your own luck, some things are just meant to be.

You will never know if you make the right decision when it comes to life. You have to jump in, feet first, and just pray everything will be okay. There is no flashcard with the correct answer on the back. Your intuition is your best source of navigation. Going through my own struggle, I have realized that being honest with myself with what I truly want, finding my passion and dreaming BIG are all I can do for now.

All you have is NOW, this present moment. Go get what you want.

Photo via Love & Other Drugs