I never like telling people my age. It’s usually met with disbelief about not being older. (Although recently, I have encountered a few people who thought I was younger than I am.) I often feel like my age is not a reflection of my experience, and I don’t want to be dismissed because of it. Growing up, I was always younger than all my peers, and I mostly still am. Yet somehow, I have always felt that my life experiences allowed me to have greater depth than those same peers in many respects. Perhaps it was growing up fast due to having siblings significantly older than me, and one who I am significantly other than. Or perhaps it was having to be independent earlier than most. But I have always felt older than I am. Still, I can honestly say that my twenties have been a whirlwind thus far.
A lot of things have gone wrong – horribly, terribly wrong. I sometimes look around my less than perfect, (and these days) often messy apartment, and feel it is an exact representation of my life. My twenties have been chaotic and disorganized and unexpected – like a lot of people. I still remember how scared I was on the morning of my college graduation, almost two and a half years ago now. I had never felt so uncertain in my entire life even though I thought I had plans. Little did I know, that moment would mark the beginning of an uncertain period of my life. Sometimes I feel like all I’m doing is fighting through one uncertainty after another; one thing after another. I feel like I’m constantly running a race, or maybe swimming and trying to keep my head above water. I feel like I’m taking steps forward and having to take those same steps backwards. Every day, I feel like I’m fighting.
I’m good at fighting. Random too-much-information story about me: I came into the world fighting. My mother loves to tell the story of how I’m the baby that she almost lost. And my parents – strip away their education and titles and very put-together demeanor – and you’ll find some of the greatest hustlers you’ll ever come across. So fighting is in my DNA. I know how to pull the sleepless nights and to keep on truckin’ even when things look bleak. And I know what it is to fail even when you’ve given something everything you’ve got; and to have to pick yourself up with no time for respite. I know what it is to be at your wit’s end as to what tomorrow will bring. And I know what it is to hang on by a thread, by your last sliver of hope; to hang on when all you have left is a Hail Mary.
But I also know that even when I have failed, that Hail Mary never failed me. And if you have enough perspective, you might realize it never failed you either. Because no matter how many times we’ve hit rock bottom during these years, if we’ve awoken the next day, we’re already doing better than we can possible imagine. These years are hard and uncertain. And every day that you are able to get out of bed and go into the world and learn something, and create something, and be useful and kind to someone – no matter how small, no matter how insignificant – you’re doing really well. And on those days where you can’t muster the strength to get out of bed because everything just looks like it’s falling apart, stay in bed as long as you need to. Because on those days you’re just getting stronger to be able to continue the fight when you’re ready.
And fight you will, because in order to survive and thrive, you must. But things will get better, and if you look around you, maybe they already are. Maybe you’re smarter, maybe you’re more fearless, maybe you’re more confident and less worrisome. In some small way that you don’t even realize, I promise you’re doing better. And those small ways will one day turn into something big, and you’ll look back at how far you’ve come. You’ll realize that those weak moments were really some of your strongest moments. You’ll realize that all the fighting was preparing you for something much better; something that you might not be able to see right now.
But keep fighting because no matter where you are now, you’re not dead; and that means you’ve still got some fight in you. And as long as you keep fighting, even if it feels like that’s all you’re doing, even if this is hard to believe, believe you must, that these years will get better in time.