1. You are never going to be the same person you were yesterday.
Changes are always gradual and almost imperceptible. The effects from sadness or happiness happens over time. It starts to shift your perception slightly, day by day. You will become more cynical but you won’t notice it at all until one day you will encounter something from your past — a simple pop love song, a happy sitcom ending — something that you might have regarded with earnest hope when you were sixteen, but now realize you’ve lost because you are no longer that same person. As every day passes, you lose a little bit of the person you were to become the person you are going to be.
2. Same old problems – but the way you deal with them becomes exceedingly complex.
Family problems, love problems, money problems, they might be slightly more serious but it’s all the same thing. They just have more layers now because you have experienced more life. If your boyfriend didn’t call, you’d fight, you’d get roses or you’d break up and that was done. If you stayed up past your curfew, you got grounded by your parents and you moved on. Today, you need to figure out whether it’s worth starting a fight with your boyfriend over the call when you know you’re going on vacation next week together and you guys are already talking about moving in. And you know he didn’t call because he had to stay late at work because his boss is an absolute asshole and while he wants to quit, you convinced him not to because you need him to make money to afford the apartment and vacation. And he’ll passive aggressively blame you for it, which is why he didn’t call, and these are issues you are going to have to talk through with him if you guys want to stay together. Roses or breaking up won’t help, you’ve already tried that for the first few fights. And calling your parents on their 50th anniversary only leads to telling them you aren’t coming home for Thanksgiving and it would have been close to a year since you’ve seen them in person and since the damage is already done. Not calling them will make it worse and yet calling them will only shed light on the fact that you haven’t called in awhile. The problems can’t be resolved with one gesture because it’s not just one thing anymore. The problems have strings tied to numerous smaller problems in your life and they all affect each other. Problems are now worked out over time and some problems never go away. Some of them just stay there and become a part of your life.
3. Appreciate the present because you can’t live in the past or the future.
You can’t turn back time. You can reflect on it, see how happy you were back then, imagine how happy you’re going to be. But at the same time you’re reminiscing on how great life was, you’re missing the chance to live today. One thing you can be sure of: if you’re looking back at the past with nostalgia and regret, chances are, you’ll be doing the same with the present too. Might as well start living and enjoying life now. Being self-aware doesn’t always mean being grateful and smelling every flower or loving every single second of life. It just means appreciating that today is today and there will never be a day like it again. Once it’s lost, it’s gone. Don’t be indulgent, but take a moment when you realize where you are and who you are today. Because ten years from now, you’ll want to access that moment again and be happy for all that you felt.
4. A purpose or direction in life will anchor you from getting lost or swept up in a sea of choices.
You will start feeling lost some time in your mid-to-late twenties. This is a transitional period in your life where you’re expected to make decisions that will impact everything about you. Your job, where you choose to live, who you choose to be with, what you choose to do. You’ll notice everyone else going somewhere and while you might be on some path, you aren’t sure if you want to stay on it. And you know that after a certain point, there’s no off-ramp or turning back. If you head down that road, you’ll have sealed your fate forever. Which causes you to keep turning back or switching paths, going around in circles because you don’t want to move forward yet. You aren’t ready to make a final choice. But jumping around careers or relationships is just delaying the inevitable. You aren’t going to suddenly know what you want if you never fully commit. Do as much as you can with what you have, doesn’t matter if it’s not the direction you thought you’d be taking. There will always be a chance to start over. If you’re afraid to have wasted your time pursuing something that wasn’t really you, you’ve already wasted time with your indecision. Know that you don’t have to love it all the time, and you might hate it sometimes but if you don’t hate it all the time, that’s good. Keep on doing it until you feel you’ve reached as far as you can, then you’ll see that there’s actually more steps after that. It might not the be path you originally wanted, but you’ve changed as well and you know a lot more now. It’s called growth and progress and you’ve gotten much further along than you realize. Your passions and your heart will instinctively lead you the right way. Trust it. Not doing something because you’re afraid or indifferent or lazy has just as serious an impact on your life as doing it.
5. The more you get to know yourself, the more comfortable you will be with being yourself in front of other people.
Around this time as well, you will be faced with many different social groups. New friends and faces will start to want to define you and put you in their convenient concepts of what you should be. The perfect girlfriend, roommate, best friend, daughter, wife, fiancé, or employee. It’s natural to act like what people expect you to be. If you were always quiet, they might want you to keep being the “quiet” one in the group. But you don’t have to. You can change. You have changed. Start thinking before you answer questions — and saying not what you think people want to hear, but what you really feel. A lot of people will be surprised and will in fact challenge you at times. They need you to stay the same so that they can stay the same, but that isn’t your prerogative. It’s okay that you might not fit in with the same people that you used to. It’s okay that people might think less of you. Your parents might be disappointed that you are calling or visiting less, but you need to be okay with yourself and know that you are the type of daughter that will occasionally upset her parents. And that’s absolutely fine. And once you begin to accept and hear these truths about yourself, everyone else will. You won’t feel any more guilt or awkwardness about pretending to be someone else. You will be able to say “no” to people with absolute ease. You will be able to finally do the things that you want and be with the people you actually want to be with. Don’t do or say things to fit in someone else’s life; you are living your own life, and you’re the star of the show. You write the script and you decide what you’re going to do.