“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” — Robert Frost
I’ve always loved this poem by Robert Frost, mainly because what he said eloquently describes what I think most brilliantly captures the decade that is our twenties. The life we choose, at its core, stems from the decisions we made in our past. Like Frost, we stand at a crossroads, making decisions based on what we know – what we’ve learned – perhaps from our childhood or adolescence, through lessons and heartbreaks that have stuck to our ribs like tangy barbecue on the Fourth of July. The path we choose to walk down is indicative of our future.
Here’s what I think about that.
I think your twenties are full of shit that make them less enjoyable. Honestly. How many of us have made jokes about experiencing a quarter-life crisis when we realize that we don’t have it all together by the time we’re 25? We look at our twenties as a sort of mile marker; we should have the cool, retro, artistic apartment in New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. We should have the romance; the boy, the girl, the whoever the fuck you want to love because finding love shouldn’t be this hard? We should have the money to be able to afford the lap of luxury or at the very least, a new blouse, Starbucks on your way to work and enough to splurge on a fancy Mexican dinner. We should have it all together, all figured out. But then 26 happens. And 27. And then, on the cusp of 30 like me, you’re sitting back wondering, “How did it all go so wrong?”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t compare myself to the girls I went to high school with. I do. I wonder how they’ve stayed in perfect shape when I blossomed up four pant sizes since graduation. I wonder how they can afford a house when I had to put back a velvet rust-colored comforter for $50 at Target last night. I wonder how they have enough interest to start a family and how they can afford to go on cruises and spontaneous trips and the list could honestly go on for infinity because social media is, if anything, a super lit highlight reel. It seems so unfair, when I think about it but my life is the result of my decisions.
Like Frost, it’s easy to look backward and see where it all went wrong.
But you can always look for the light. I think when someone tells us to look to the light – to look toward the future – it feels like a sort of cop-out. It’s like our current feelings and current financial and emotional woes are being dismissed, tossed out like yesterday’s garbage. But in actuality, it’s really fantastic advice. You need to look toward the light because when you’re in the thick of a situation, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. It can be hard to think there is a way out when we’ve climbed so far into the rabbit hole of misery and self-deprecation.
There comes a time when you’ve hit so low and your value and impression of your life seems so dark and incomplete that you have to take accountability for what’s gotten you to this point. I look at my life and the fact that I had to put away a $50 comforter last night, not because I couldn’t afford it but because I didn’t have the wiggle room to buy something that I didn’t need this second. I already have a comforter. A nice one; it’s white and cozy and it’s just lightweight enough that in the summer, it feels nice against my sunburnt skin. I didn’t need to buy a hot, oversized velvet comforter in the early days of August. Putting it back wasn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of growth, a sign of maturity, a sign that I’m becoming less reliant on credit cards because my debt has already outlined my future.
A future, mind you, that I don’t want. A future, mind you, that I don’t have to have.
Those vacations, the apartment, the family – I’m the reason I don’t have them. I made a lot of foolish choices in my early twenties that blossomed out of heartbreak, low self-esteem, and boredom. My friends were credit cards. My boyfriends, new stuff. And nothing ever made me happy. I always felt devoid no matter how much stuff I bought. It never made me happy but I choose to grow from it. I choose to enter the next decade of my life, the next phase of my life, wiser than how I left it.
I think we all make decisions that we’re not proud of and sometimes those decisions have to define our life for a while. But I refuse to think that our twenties are inherently good. I think we have to choose to MAKE them good. I think we have to look at each heartache as a moment in time that stings – a lot. I think we have to stop being focused on what the other girls are doing on social media because guess what, social media is a complete and utter farce. Anyone who claims to have it all together, doesn’t. Anyone who claims to be happy, or “living their truth,” isn’t. Because people who are happy, and put together and living their truth don’t have to announce it. And even so, it’s impossible to be happy and put together and focused on what GOOD can come out of something tragic one hundred percent of the time.
Looking for the light isn’t trying to look for the good in every situation; it’s about realizing that the light is already inside of you for when life’s got you down, for when you’re comparing yourself to someone else who seems to be living the life you want so desperately. It’s for when you’re telling yourself the bad words that have occupied your mind for way too many months, maybe years. It’s for when your heart is broken and you think you need someone or stuff or trips or goals to define you, to fill that hole and make you feel like you’re worth something. Goddamnit, you ARE worth something. You’re here and you’re alive and you’re waking up in the morning showing up for the life you want. You can feel it, see it, taste it and my God do you deserve it.
You can always look for the light because you are the light; it shines through your essence and glows out your fingertips and through your cheeks and glistening smile. It’s enough to make you realize that hey, maybe some decisions in your life haven’t been the best but all you can do is learn from them, put in the work and change what you want to be different. You don’t have to look for the good in every situation. I’ll be the first one to tell you that sometimes there are certain situations that have no greater good. Like death, like losing someone you love – there’s no good in that. There’s no lesson to be learned there. Life is cruel and ugly and disgusting.
But you’re not.
You’re the brightest soul in the room, even if you don’t realize it. But you will. Your twenties are kind of crap but they really are a road diverged from yellow wood; whatever decisions you make will define your future just like those you don’t always have the possibility of turning to regrets the further you trek down the road. Pick and choose what you’ll regret.
And don’t let anyone – yourself included – dull that light within you.