1. Paying bills
Okay, we’re out of our parents’ basements. And it’s expensive out here! We have hydro bills, gas bills, doctor’s bills, phone bills, rent bills, even water bills! We paid virtually nothing for the first two decades of our lives and now everything we earn is leaving our bank accounts before we even see it. But that isn’t necessarily bad news.
For the first time ever, we have enough money (even if it’s just barely enough money) to decide where we want to live, what we want to do and which lives we want to pursue. Want to move to New Zealand and live on a farm? You can! Want to go to the city and rent an expensive apartment you can barely make rent on? You can do that too! It isn’t easy and it isn’t always glamorous. But we’re finally purchasing autonomy, one credit card statement at a time. And when you think of it that way, it’s a little more empowering than it is stressful.
2. The shitty jobs we’re working
Okay so you’re life dream wasn’t being a Barista. Neither was mine. We all get stuck places we never really wanted to be in our twenties but it doesn’t mean we’re wasting time. Tedious jobs offer plenty of chances – to develop skills we didn’t know we had, to take chances we didn’t think we’d be taking and to thoroughly analyze what it is that we’d rather be doing. At the end of the day, any employment is good employment. And if your workplace pushes you to realize that you’re better than what you’re doing between 9 and 5pm every day, that’s sort of an awesome conclusion to come to.
3. The weird and unpredictable dating scene
We’ve all been on our share of bad dates – it’s no secret that it’s not fun and games. But how about we look at it this way: In about ten years or so, it is statistically probable that we will be settled down with the person we intend to spend the rest of our lives with. That’s a long-ass time! So take your chances while you can!
Date the wrong person. Have bad sex. Cry over the downfall of short-term relationships with your roommates and a bottle of wine. It’s insanity now but it won’t last forever. And once the bad parts are gone so are so many of the good parts – the first dates that leave us elated, the kisses we can’t get enough of, the thrill of meeting someone new who excites us to the core. As much as the initial stages of dating suck, they can also be phenomenally good. Dare I say it, dating can be awesome.
4. The friends we lose
It’s bizarre to look back at pictures of our freshman year of college and acknowledge that some of those people just will not be around when we’re forty. But it’s also, in some sense, relieving.
When we’re young, relationships center on who has free access to alcohol and who we sit next to in bio. When we’re older, relationships center on who shares our values and who understands us. We may lose the superficial friendships throughout our twenties but the ones we don’t lose grow – into meaningful, substantial relationships. The kind we really need throughout these tumultuous years. The kind that have real lasting value.
5. The passions we aren’t getting paid for
There is no feeling more frustrating than having a well of creativity inside of you that goes unacknowledged – except for having no well at all. Our twenties are the time when we are most creative, most inspired and, consequently, most frustrated. It may be hell to plug away at things that offer no tangible payouts but it’s a worse hell to ignore that burning need to create. If you feel it, that’s rare. If you harness it, that’s art. We need to start enjoying the fact that our twenties are when our brains are still incredibly active and sharp. Any work we create now will set the stage for creation in many years to come. And that in itself is a gift – anything we get paid for it is just a bonus.
6. Getting older
During our teen years, our brains were developing at lightening speed. Ten was very different from twelve was very different from seventeen. Then all of a sudden you’re twenty-five, it takes you three days to recover from a hangover and you’re sure your life is going to hell.
It’s scary when our bodies start to show their limitations. But it’s also sort of nice. Now that our hormones have calmed down, our emotions have stabilized and our thoughts have leveled out a bit, we’re capable of creating stability for ourselves where it matters. We can trust our own decisions. We can create our own futures. We can be reasonably sure of who we are and what we want, which are blessings we’ve never had before. Aging may bring the downfall of certain things but it allows for the rise of others. Confidence, for example. Decisiveness. Clarity. And all of those things are kind of awesome.
7. The transient nature of everything
Take it from someone who moved six times in 2014: Change is stressful. And in our twenties it’s happening all the time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the revolving door of jobs, friends, partners and cities. Life is eternally up in the air and eternally un-figured out.
And yet this is our best chance for positive change. By the time we’re settled down with serious jobs or long-term partners or children, our lives are not totally our own anymore. We may readily welcome that stability, but now is the time where we set the stage for it. When things go wrong in our twenties we have so much opportunity to right them. When we go down the wrong paths we have so much opportunity to turn back around.
So instead of complaining endlessly about life in our twenties, what if we took the chance to celebrate these years? Celebrate that things are messy now so they will be tidy later. That we’re confused right now so we can be clear later. That we are not just wandering aimlessly, we’re growing into the people we are going to become. And that’s scary. And messy. And awesome. And it only gets better from here.