While I shamelessly enjoyed Taylor Swift’s song “22” as much as the next person (or the next person after that, or maybe the one after that…), when I was 22, I rarely recall feeling that carefree and excitable about anything– much less breakfast at midnight. I was too busy trying to figure out how to get a job and why I ended up at home after college. I felt less “happy, free, confused, and lonely” in the best way, and more “confused, lonely and under-accomplished” in the most average way. (Well, not all the time… but still. 22 was not exactly a shower of glitter and good times).
But now that the post post-college years are almost over, I feel like the panic is slowly subsiding. I’m finding a clearer direction in my career path, coming to terms with straying from the beaten path, and finally learning to be more comfortable in my own skin. So for all those current 22 years olds neither eating breakfast at midnight nor falling in love with strangers, here some assurance for the years to come:
1. Happiness can be found in the suburbs.
Who says you have to move into an apartment in the Big City after college to be happy? Oh yeah, everyone. Sure that would be great, but city living isn’t always an option for the jobless and directionless, or even gainfully employed yet loan-burden college graduates for that matter. So if you find yourself living at home for a bit, don’t feel like a dummy. While living at home over the past 2 years, I’ve done some pretty interesting things in terms of “figuring it out”. I’ve written for a local newspaper, volunteered with teenagers, worked at a job I hated and worked at another job I hated until I finally found a job I like… all in the ‘burbs. Sure, there was less “breakfast at midnight” and more “breakfast at 6:00am before driving an hour to work”, but still. It was all in the name of getting to where I’m at now. #noregrets. (for the most part).
2. Deviating from your freshman year career goal is okay.
While veering off the beaten path for the sake of veering off the beaten path is one thing, doing it because it feels more right than staying where you are is quite another– and more admirable, I might add. Not that foregoing medical school for a Bohemian writer lifestyle or something is the best idea, but at some point, you have to think about how you’re spending your days. If studying anatomy and microbiology for hours at a time makes you happy or at least accomplished, then way 2 go. But if it’s makes you nothing but miserable and fat from all the stress-eating, I’d think about whether the time and stress is worth the end result. Whatever it is you debated, there’s never going to be enough time in the day to explain your reasoning to everyone. As long as you’re actively working towards some goal more than you’re complaining, then keep on keeping on. The opinions of others, whether real or imagined, eventually won’t matter.
3. Your own skin is fine skin.
Although you might live it up some nights at 22, I’ll bet there’s also a few nights where your pack of insecurities outnumber your pack of friends… . Not that I’m over all that, but at the brink of 25, I’m finally okay with not needing to please everyone. In terms of actual skin, I’m more than okay being pale in the winter and making due with the occasional pimple. But more importantly, I’ve discovered things about my non-skin, non-material parts. I’ve found the sooner you begin to accept your parts for what they are, the easier it is to focus on the bigger, better things ahead. Once you realize this, figuring out your life will become more enjoyable and less of a struggle.
While I hope 25 is sounding pretty good right now, I hope it’s also obvious it’s no end all-be all age of growing up. Your twenties really are weird and confusing. No one seems to know how to act like a “grown up”. However, after a few years of living through them, they get easier. So if the age of 22 isn’t as fantastic as T-Swift says it is, not all is lost. Experience and the years ahead promise a less-fleeting form of happiness.