Sometimes I think we forget to be thankful for the struggles we have in our twenties. Don’t get me wrong – I know we face a lot of hard questions every day: What am I supposed to do with my life? How am I going to pay off my credit card bill? Where’s the nearest brunch place that has bottomless mimosas?
But what we need to remember is that these issues are so much better than the ones we faced in high school. I’m finally in a period now where I’m okay with being the real me – even if I don’t fully know who the real “me” is yet. Our twenties are about learning, self-exploration, and leaping into unknown territories.
It’s scary, but at least we’re free of the stifling, small, claustrophobic atmosphere that is high school, where everything is about your social ranking and the size of your jeans. My younger sister is 18, and every moment that I spend around her is a reminder of how happy I am to be where I am, and how badly I wish I could show her that it’s going to get better for her.
So hopefully these life lessons will help my sister and other unhappy teens, and remind my fellow struggling twenty-somethings that you’ve come such a long way.
1. Eventually it’s going to be about the quality, not quantity, of your friends.
High school is terrifying. Walking the halls and saying hi to people is what makes you feel normal and accepted. An Instagram photo means nothing unless there are dozens of likes. This is what your life is like now. But eventually, you’ll learn that it’s not about having as many friends as possible. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who add texture to your life – people who make you think and laugh and feel good about yourself. The ones who will help you move when it’s 90 degrees outside or come over at 11 o’clock at night when you’re upset. Trust me, your happiness increases once you learn how to sort the treasures from the flakes.
2. Someday you’ll love someone for their soul instead of their social status.
Right now you’re drawn to the guys who are no good for you. You want someone popular, because getting attention from a cool guy in high school is what makes you feel alive. But he can only tell you you’re hot so many times before the high wears off and you realize there’s nothing going on inside that skull. When you’re older, you’ll learn to fall for the guy who loves your freckles and thinks you’re funny. You’ll start to search for someone you can actually have a conversation with, and someone who challenges you to be the best you can be. That type of deep connection will make you feel so much more fulfilled than popularity ever did.
3. Once you leave high school, you’ll have more of a choice in who surrounds you.
High school gives you a limited choice in the types of people you associate yourself with. Once you’ve found a group of friends, you’re usually stuck for 4 years. Sometimes you’ll feel trapped and unhappy, like you have nowhere else to go. Just hang in there. When you get to college and beyond, you will meet hundreds of people who you actually have things in common with, instead of just people you take pictures with to prove you were at that prom after-party. There are no nerds or jocks or popular kids in your twenties. There are just people – drunk on the beauty and excitement of life, and just drunk in general.
4. No one cares about what you’re doing, as long as you’re happy.
Kids aren’t actually busy in high school – they don’t have bills to pay, laundry to do, and meals to cook. So they have nothing to do but obsess over what everybody else is doing. You’re scared to explore some of your passions out of fear of what other people might think, but don’t worry. Soon enough you’ll be in the real world, where everyone is too busy with their own life to give a shit over whether or not you want to take up some weird hobby or join a strange club.
5. Don’t let them rob you of your spirit – you’re almost done.
There are some girls in your high school who just live for making others feel inferior. Don’t let them get to you. They’re in every high school that’s ever existed. But one day their looks will fade, and then they’ll have nothing left but their repellent personalities. In college and the real world, your spirit, your passions, and your interests will be celebrated. Keep chugging along, because soon enough, you’ll be in an atmosphere that allows you to flourish the way you’ve always wanted to.
Your twenties will be hard too. You’ll go through heart breaks, you’ll be overwhelmed with responsibilities, and you’ll no longer have a path carved out for you like you did in high school. But the struggles you’ll go through in your twenties will make you feel more alive than you ever have before. So hang in there – every day you are getting closer to being the person you’ve always wanted to be.