There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed upon us in our 20’s to have it “all figured out.” College was essentially our free pass to live recklessly and absolutely destroy our livers along the way, and now that we’re in the “real world” we’re expected to have our shit together and own it.
Obviously, there are times when many of us feel inadequate. We experience anxiety when our mind wanders to things that we “should be doing”, and this inevitably leads us to focus on what we lack. We forget to recognize the good aspects of our life, and instead internally torture ourselves for not measuring up to where we thought we would be at this point in time.
As a 20-something, here are 4 things that we feel obligated to do (regardless of whether we truly want it or not):
1. Focus on our LinkedIn presence more than life itself.
Maybe it’s just me, but the term “network” irritates me to no end. As millennials, we are constantly told to make connections, wherever we may be. Don’t get me wrong – networking is an extremely valuable skill that every young person (or any person, really) should learn to possess. However, we also get so tied up in exchanging business cards that we focus less on what we can actually gain from the experience.
Sprucing up our LinkedIn profile is encouraged, but losing ourselves in the process isn’t. After all, the best connections may be made when we stop trying so hard.
2. Meet a ton of new people outside of our usual social circle.
Nothing like graduating to make us realize how few friends we have, right? Once we leave college and take separate paths, we start to drift away from people you were once close with. (Plus, we begin to realize that the only thing we had in common with most of them was our shared love for day drinking.)
The problem is, once our friend groups get smaller, we feel that we need to get out there and meet people. We’ve thought to ourselves something along the lines of, Why do I only have 3 go-to friends to hit up for happy hour? What kind of monster have I become?
However, sometimes it’s refreshing to realize that the people we’re always with aren’t friends that we simply hang out with out of convenience. These are people that we can have genuine conversations with, and know that we can always be real with no matter what.
If we genuinely want to meet new people, we should. We could join a meetup group for young professionals in the area, or go out with a co-worker just to meet some new faces. However, we also don’t need to feel pathetic for being comfortable with your small group of friends. At the end of the night, we ultimately want to be with people that we can truly be ourselves around anyway.
3. Establish emotional security before it’s too late.
Even though we know we’re not out of time just yet, as time passes we grow increasingly nervous that we’re never going to find someone. Maybe we’re only dating casually or not dating at all. Either way, the lack of emotional security terrifies us because we’re scared we’ll be waiting forever.
We used to screenshot and laugh with our friends about the engagement announcements on Facebook. However, as they become more and more prevalent, we worry that we’re actually the ones who people are laughing at.
It’s important to remind ourselves that it’s not a race, and we don’t need to feel the need to settle down just because other people are. Keep the future in mind when meeting someone new, but don’t stay too fixated on whether or not the person is “marriage material.” We are still in the stage of understanding what we truly want, and the only way we can find out is by trial-and-error.
4. Enjoying life to the fullest because “we’ll never get these years back.”
Our 20’s are so confusing because we’re expected to reach a certain level of maturity, but are also told that we’re “so young” and should live it up while we still can.
We feel pressure to travel more or to throw ourselves into activities that divert from our usual routine, because one day we’ll regret not taking that chance. However, we often end up feeling disappointed either way. We either refuse the opportunity and are angry with ourselves for it, or we take that chance and it’s not as fulfilling as we hoped.
Although the letdowns and meltdowns are impossible to avoid in our 20’s, we can eventually learn to be okay with them. Perceive them as part of the process, and remember that doing “what we’re supposed to do” won’t necessarily align with what you want.
In the end of the day, don’t forget that none of us actually know we’re doing – we’re all just pretending like we do.