I like my life so much better now, on the cusp of 28 than I did back when I was 21. I mean, sure, I make more money and live on my own and can choose (and most often do) to eat day old Domino’s pizza for breakfast. But, for many reasons, I genuinely love being on the cusp of 28 because your early twenties are just so fucking exhausting.
I spent most of my Friday nights at the bar with my girlfriends wearing skimpy dresses and heels I couldn’t walk in and basically devalued myself all so a guy I DIDN’T like would ask for my phone number. I wasn’t out to get laid. I was out to get attention. I was also to get verification that I COULD get laid if I wanted to – that men DID find me “attractive” only to find that they saw me and thought I could be bang-able.
I had a lot of self-esteem issues when I was in my early twenties and I can attest that to a traumatizing relationship I endured as a teenager. I graduated from my teen years believing that I had a lot of things wrong with me and only a man, who was 5’9” with greasy hair, a musky goatee and the smell of whiskey sour on his breath could cure my delusions. Back then, I needed a man to help me identify my self-worth. If they only texted me at 2 AM asking me what I was doing, then I was okay with that. I’d always press for more though. I’d ask them, “When are we hanging out?” and the answer was always, “Soon baby. I’m just so busy.”
Tell you what, girls. If a man you’re into texts you back saying “he’s busy” dump him right then and there. Anyone who genuinely likes you also genuinely wants to be there for you. That person will make the time to be with you. End of story.
I was so desperate for love back then that I settled for the kind of love I thought I deserved. It’s cliched but so very accurate. I belittled myself to the unhealthiest degree. I spent time at bars on Friday nights in dresses I couldn’t breathe in, in shoes that made my ankles swell, all so my parents could pick me up completely sloshed at closing so I could wake up with a hangover Saturday morning and a twinge of regret because how I was acting wasn’t really how I wanted to live.
I wanted real love. I wanted the kind of love that I convinced myself I wasn’t ready for because past relationships with dramatic souls told me I wasn’t deserving of it. And like a fool, I chose to listen.
So, now, on the cusp of 28, with a loving fiancé, in our beautiful home, with two darling cats and a love that doesn’t judge if we choose to spend the whole weekend in pajamas, farting loudly on the couch beside another, I’m thankful for those rum induced weekends when I was 21, and naive, and hopeless. I’m glad that 21-year-old didn’t succumb every time that blinking text message at 2 AM asked me what I was doing.
I’m glad that 21-year-old didn’t enjoy the bar scene because it’s what made me branch out to start doing activities that meant something to me (and weren’t so centered on finding a boyfriend to define me). I’m glad that 21-year old thought she couldn’t find any better because the time it took me to finally come to terms with the kind of love I wanted out of life, was the first step to truly loving myself. And forgiving myself. And coming to peace with my mistakes. And accepting all my flaws in between.
I want you girls to know it does get better.
You don’t need a relationship, or buzzed words and whiskey breath to help you come to the conclusion that you’re worth value. You will find that person who looks at you and sees everything they could ever possibly want in another person. They’ll look at you and see warmth, and beauty, and comfort, and forgiveness, and most importantly, they’ll look at you and they’ll see love.