1. Turning 20: A New Beginning
In my experience, turning 20 was a major milestone. It felt huge and sentimental and bizarre. It’s the end of your teens, your adolescence.
But it also encompasses a new beginning; a new phase of life that is dynamic and transitional. A phase that comprises progress and growth as we come into our own.
2. Your 21st: That First Legal Sip.
Turning 21 is the more obvious and classic call for celebration. A party that unites friends together as they watch the birthday guy or gal sip their first legal drink and officially declare young adulthood.
While I’m not much of a drinker (I’m too much of a control freak), I had a cosmopolitan (which is very strong by the way) and a shot of soco lime on my 21st birthday, paying tribute to Brand New’s “Soco Amaretto Lime:”
‘We walk around this town
Like we own the streets
And stay awake through summer
Like we own the heat.‘
3. College Life: Moments You Savor.
Depending on personal circumstance, you may find yourself in undergrad in your early 20s, or you may even attend grad school in the years that follow. Whatever the case may be, certain college experiences are unforgettable.
I attended SUNY New Paltz as a freshman, and while the dorm life wasn’t exactly for me, I have a soft spot for Main Street. For the charming quads and historic architecture. For the purity and sweetness in the small town air.
And though I transferred to Hofstra University and no longer lived in a dorm, I still experienced moments I’ll always savor. Forging friendships that lasted past graduation. Feeling giddy when spring arrived and sunlight lingered after five pm. Sprawling on the grass while devouring frozen yogurt from Red Mango. Having crushes that worked in my favor — or did not work in my favor — either way, it’s a life lesson. Reading Irish Poetry and embarking on interesting courses in journalism and psychology — some that challenged me, some that inspired me.
4. Graduation: Believe In Yourself.
While your parents cry as “Pomp And Circumstance” plays and you walk onto the field or stadium, symbolizing the end of your college career, a bittersweet pang may linger through the ceremony. A sense of surrealism echoes through the sea of caps and gowns, too. You’re done with school. You made it. You’re about to get your degree and enter into ‘the real world.’ Even though it’s always cheesy and cliche to hear ‘the follow your dreams’ advice, you snatch onto that ideal as tightly as you can. You believe in those words. You believe in yourself.
5. Career Paths: Honing In On What You Want To Do.
In today’s world, internships are as commonplace as drinking caffeine in the morning. Which is to say it might even be expected to garner internship experience for your resume before you land a job. Even though this can certainly induce frustration, it also allows you to pinpoint what you’re seeking.
I realized I didn’t want to work in particular environments. I realized I didn’t want to go back to school for a master’s degree in mental health counseling because I’m already prone to anxiety as is. I realized I wanted to just write. I realized, later on, that writing for a living isn’t too easy or too lucrative. But at least I tried. And I least I can still do it and hold onto that pretty big part of myself.
6. Adventures: Now’s The Time To Do.
Your 20’s are a time where you probably can dip into a savings account and book a trip. It’s a time where you can get away with staying up till four in the morning (though at 27, I value sleep at a higher level.)
In your 20s, you can seize opportunities to do a whole lot more because you may still be in the in-between. You may not be planning a family and you may not be tied down to a specific commitments.
7. Heartbreak: Crisis=Growth.
I’d be remiss to write this list and not include the romantic aspect that is often embedded in your 20s. And while heartbreak is sad and confusing and lonely and deeply painful, it also leads you on the path to something beautiful. Once again, personal growth ensues. Once again, you learn.
You learn from the past, and you learn what it is you are looking for as you move forward. After a serious relationship, it took me a long time to feel a sense of closure. To feel ready to really and truly fall for someone else. And when I did, it didn’t exactly align all that well. It was probably more on the unrequited side of things, which always feels like you’re trying to muster that one deep breath but can’t; which always feels like a wound that won’t stop bleeding.
But it does stop. And it opens your whole being up to the possibility of someone new. Someone who is inherently right for you. I’ll never forget the day my psychology professor wrote the following words on the board: Crisis=Growth.
8. Friendships: The Ebb and Flow of Friendships And Embracing Your Authentic Self.
I think those that know me know I’m quite famous for expressing this sentiment. That your 20s are renowned for ever-changing friendships and friendship groups. It’s a time where you grasp which individuals you’ll remain in touch with and which individuals are toxic to be around (they don’t have to be bad people, of course; it just signifies that compatibility is no longer present.)
It’s a time where you may find yourself in various friendship groups that serve a wonderful purpose at one point in time, but then life happens, and the purpose may shift and dynamics may alter.
All of this can be hard. And even lonely. There were days where I felt pretty down about all of these truths. However, the silver lining is that you are staying true to yourself and embracing what feels honest and emotionally healthy.
9. Try New Things: Live As Much As Possible.
Your 20s are a time where you can try new things. Try sushi if you haven’t yet (I am addicted to salmon avocado rolls…seriously, though). Try a cuisine you never had before. Try other experiences that are non-food related (hah.) In all my nervous glory, I auditioned for a small role in a community theatre play this past fall, because I wanted to reignite an old childhood dream, an old love for the performing arts, even if it was only in a very small way.