I only wish that our 20s really did come with a brochure. A specific pamphlet with colorful photos, a tour package and a waiver—if brochures can ever come with waivers.
Back in high school, I thought that people in their 20s had it all together. I saw them as “hip” adults: old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway. They always seemed to know what to do, where to go and how to get there. And it seemed as though they never had to ask for permission to go to amazing parties, the way our own prom dates had to be pre-approved by the parents.
When I was in college, I could not wait to graduate. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun then or anything, just that I was sick of papers and requirements and quizzes and grades. I mean, come on, we were all subjected to endless exams and essays for over 10 years. And they got in the way of all those social events and adventures and travels that we all dreamt of at that point. Not to mention earning your own money. To be free of the limitations of weekly allowances, wow.
So now I’m in my 20s, and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I’m still lost, my salary goes into one hand and promptly goes out the other to pay bills, there’s a lot of unspoken pressure to be successful as soon as possible, and I have no idea how to get there.
I’m not as smart as I thought I would be at this point. I still make a lot of really stupid mistakes, and I wish I really did have a waiver to wave in people’s faces telling them that being halfway through my 20s doesn’t excuse me from making really idiotic decisions and that yes, I’m in my 20s but I’m still human!
I used to think that people at this age had amazing superpowers. They were perfect people at a perfect time in their lives. Or maybe, it’s just me. I’m screwing up my 20s because I never got to attend the same seminar that everyone did, instructing them on how to behave and what to do.
So now I know that being 20-something isn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. And my 30s is probably not going to be all “thirty, flirty and thriving” as Hollywood once told me. It doesn’t really matter anymore.
If a brochure did exist, it would probably tell us this: You will make mistakes and do stupid things for as long as you live. What matters is how we use these to make us better people. At the same time, we’re young enough how to right those things that we did wrong—and to decide which of these wrongs matter enough for us to correct.
Being 20-something isn’t an all-access-pass to an instantly perfect life—and maybe that’s a good thing. Because now more than ever, we can be as crazy as we want, make those insanely risky career choices, fall in and out of love, go to all the most awesome parties—and learn. Learn how to be a better 30-year-old than you were in your 20s. Learn to be a better 40-year-old than you were in your 30s. Keep learning. Keep enjoying life. Keep becoming better and brighter.
Most of the time, I think “YOLO” is an over-used but under-comprehended concept. But we really do live only once—and we’ll only ever be this young once. So go, grow and glow! Make the most your 20s. And one of these days, maybe we’ll learn enough to know what to include in the imaginary brochures we’ll be handing down someday.